Oliver, Lucky Hat, and I have found that waking up at 4 am and then getting on the trail by 4:30 works well, since then we only have to use our headlights for about 30 min before it is light enough to see. And so today, we did just that, leaving camp at 4:30 to begin our ascent of Pinchot Pass.
Pinchot pass is not technically a very challenging pass, just a long tiring slog uphill on ice almost the entire 5 miles to the pass. We saw many people on the way up to the pass, more than I have seen on the trail since we climbed Mt. Whitney.
It seems that the Sierras are set up so you hike through a valley up a mountain pass, then through another valley, and repeat the process, probably having something to do with how it was formed by glaciers.
There was only 4 miles of downhill hiking after Pinchot Pass, before we started uphill again. At the bottom, we hit a river and looking at our guide book, we saw that we could instead of crossing it twice, just walk on the edge of the river and follow it to where it met back up with the trail. It was about 2 miles before we found the PCT again. We took a short break at the juncture.
One of the campsites we were thinking of staying at was only .1 of a mile up the trail. As we hiked to the campsite, it turned out to be just a few clear spots of dirt around trees. We called it a day, even though it was not yet noon.
We camped about 3.5 miles from Mather Pass, which is supposed to be one of the most difficult passes in the Sierras. The plan is to do a big day tomorrow, and if possible, make up for the super short mileage we hiked today.
Oliver, and I set up our tents right next to each other to form a wind break and it gave us a nice little place to relax. Lucky Hat found a place out of the wind down the hill from us. He has been Cowboy camping for the last three weeks or so since Mt. Whitney, as he wanted to have a place to put his gear. Cowboy camping is when you sleep out under the stars without a tent.
The hard part of getting to camp so early is that you want to just sit and eat, but due to our limited supplies of food, that was a temptation we had to fight.
Around 5, I had to refill my water from a stream a couple hundred yard from our tents. On my way over, I slipped and slid all over the snow and was very glad that we were not hiking this time of day.