Vidette Meadow, looking towards Forester Pass
Vidette Meadow, looking towards Forester Pass

Despite being pretty wiped out from a long first day, I woke up feeling pretty refreshed and ready for another haul on Day 2 of our week long trip. This day’s plan would take us up and over Forester Pass, a 3200 foot climb from our campsite at 10,000 ft in Vidette Meadow.

Forester Pass is the highest pass on the Pacific Crest trail, and after only a day of acclimation it is no easy feat. And I hadn’t lost of a ton of weight from that heavy pack yet, either. But I’ve been over Forester before and knew what to expect, where the good rest spots were, where to refill my water, and how to enjoy myself on the climb.

Treeline, north side Forester Pass
Treeline, north side Forester Pass

David, naturally, took off like the mountain goat that he is while Pavla and I started up at a steady and enjoyable pace. We wouldn’t see him again for quite a while.

The first few miles are still under treeline and climb gently towards the pass, gaining about 1000 feet before emerging from the trees in a nice open meadow with yet more jaw-dropping views. It’s a nice warmup at the start of the day.

Meadows at treeline, looking back on the way we came
Meadows at treeline, looking back on the way we came

From this meadow the trail starts climbing at a steeper grade, finishing off the next 2200 ft in a little under four miles. We took more frequent rest stops to make sure we were in tune with our bodies and their response to the altitude. I usually acclimate well as long as I keep myself fed and hydrated, even when I don’t feel like eating or drinking. Forcing myself to stop every once in a while to eat and drink may have slowed us down a bit but I reached the pass feeling great!

View from one of our rest stops
View from one of our rest stops

Before Forester Pass there are several nice spots to stop and enjoy the scenery, but my favorite is the large unnamed lake just to the north of the pass. The water is crystal clear, cold, and refreshing. Junction Peak provides a spectacular backdrop to the deep blue water. From here you can see the final stretch of trail to the pass and it’s a good place to tank up on water before the last push.

A little slice of heaven before Forester Pass
A little slice of heaven before Forester Pass

The final push to Forester feels a bit long since the pass is in sight most of the way, but it isn’t quite the interminable slog I’ve experienced elsewhere (I’m looking at you, Black Rock Pass). Ahead of us, maybe by 30 minutes, we could see a solo hiker that we assumed was David. When we got to the pass he was nowhere in sight but we figured he had just kept going to fish the lakes on the south side of Forester.

Forester Pass is the low point on the right
Forester Pass is the low point on the right

We hung out on the pass for quite a while, chatting with JMT and PCT hikers who were also enjoying the beautiful clear Sierra afternoon. After a leisurely break we descended the southside switchbacks and stopped at what I call ‘Marmot Lake’ for another water refill. It’s the first lake below Forester Pass on the south side and it is marmot central. You need someone to guard the packs while someone else fills water! We didn’t see David here so we continued down the trail.

Back on Forester Pass!
Back on Forester Pass!
View to the south side of Forester Pass
View to the south side of Forester Pass

We didn’t see him at the next lake either, but shortly past it he came walking up the trail towards us. Turns out he had the burners on and was hours ahead of us. Instead of taking breaks like we did he just powered through. That guy we had seen ahead wasn’t him, so while we thought he was maybe 30 minutes ahead of us, he was much further and was worried about us enough to start hiking back! That tells you what a speed demon he his – Pavla and I actually made good time and were passing most other people on the trail.

Trail on the south side of Forester Pass
Trail on the south side of Forester Pass

Once we all reconnected, we continued along to Tyndall Creek crossing, a popular camp spot along the JMT. Instead of camping with the crowds, we walked another half mile and up to some small lakes below Tawny Point. Walking about a 1/4 mile off trail led us to a beautiful campsite where we settled in for the night.

Camp. Ahhh.
Camp. Ahhh.

Tomorrow we’ll head off of the JMT and away from the crowds.

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