Mile 720 to 743
Today is strategy day. Guitar Lake is at the base of Whitney, at least from the PCT side. Tonight I want to be close enough to Guitar Lake that I can make it there in one day. It is about 45 miles away. If I split the difference I need to do about 23 miles. At about that distance there is a campsite next to a water source on my map. I target that.
There are several steep climbs, but more threatening is the weather. Dark clouds dropping significant precipitation are all around me. It lightly snows, but not much is sticking. I meet a southbound section hiker. He tells me that yesterday PCT thru-hikers were turning back at Forester Pass because of too much snow. Forester Pass is over 13,000 feet, the highest point on the entire trail. It is a steep and narrow chute. This is a serious problem. Based on my current schedule, I should be at Forester in 3 or 4 days, depending if I climb Whitney as a side trip. I am hoping that 3 to 4 days of melting might be enough to break it open. But there is little to no sun.
Whitney is at over 14,500 feet high. If snow is a problem at 13,000 feet, Whitney may be a no go at 14,500. I am okay with skipping Whitney. It is a side trip, not really part of the PCT and I can do it some other time. But Forester Pass I have to get through or I am sunk.
Cottonwood is a side trail to Lone Pine I may have to use as a bailout. I am not sure how many zeros it may take for Forester Pass to clear.
I make it the 23 miles. Other than the section hiker, I have not really seen anyone all day. I set up my camp and quickly make instant mashed potatoes. As I lay here in my Tarptent it is cold, snowing hard, and it is sticking.