Date: June 15th
Started: Bighorn Plateau (772.7)
Ended: Tentsite (786.0)
Total Miles: 13.3
Achievements: Crossed Forester, Posthole Master
After a night of eating calories to lighten our packs now that we will make town one day early, while adjusting to 11,400 feet, we packed up.
Turns out that I was right to sleep higher up. The approach to Forester Pass was easy. We had little difficulty getting to the snow fields. We used both our ice axe and microspikes to move quickly. At the lake up there was still frozen, we took a more direct route.
It all seemed easy. Too easy. You see, Forester is a bit tricky. We followed the trail, but we really didn’t know what we were looking for. We’ve seen pictures and videos, but none of that puts it in perspective.
Even this photo doesn’t do it well. That white patch of snow at the top is the pass, but it is about 1,500 feet up.
The technical climb was exhausting. At 13,200 feet, my pack weighed a metric ton, but I did not suffer and high altitude issues. I could not run far without loosing my breath, but I could walk just fine.
After a hour of technical climbing, the Fish Tank and I celebrated after crossing the pass with a yell that echoed for miles.
But, you see, Forester still had some tricks up her sleeve. Turns out that getting down was much more dangerous that climbing up.
To get down, we had two choices. We could take the high road where the trail was. It was a combination of rocks and postholing. The other choice was to glissade, a controlled slide down the mountain using your ice axe like a rudder and brake.
We decided to take the high road. That was a mistake. I went through a couple of times, including one where I fell completely. My legs were wedged under a boulder up to my chest. It knocked the air out of me. I had to take off my backpack and climb out backwards. I was just asking to break an ankle. I ended up glissading anyways. Fortunately, I’m from Wisconsin, so sliding on my butt in snow is no big deal.
It took three hours to get to a snow free part of the trail, so I could assess my injuries.
I played catcher. While it looks bad, after a game, my legs often looked like that. We hiked down to 9,900 feet to a campsite where we could make a fire and dry off for the night.
Forester got the last laugh, but as I have now passed over the highest part of the trail, everything is down hill from here.