Day 254: Forester Pass


Direction: Southbound 

Trail location: 1883

Cumulative miles hiked 2019/2021: 2552

Cumulative miles hiked 2021: 535
Miles hiked today: 13.1
Elevation: 10353

High/low temp/humidity: 70/51/25

Spinning on the turntable: The Struts: Everybody wants

Peak bagging: Peak bagging or hill bagging[1] is an activity in which hikers, climbers, and mountaineers attempt to reach a collection of summits, published in the form of a list. This activity has been popularized around the world, with lists such as 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, the Sacred Mountains of China, the Seven Summits, and the eight-thousanders becoming the subject of mass public interest.

We’ll return to the topic of Peak bagging….

A nice, easy uphill climb

Yesterday I positioned myself about two miles up onto Forester Pass with the exact goal of making the climb this morning just a little bit easier. With a little extra push yesterday I’ve decreased the climb today from about 5.5 miles to about 3.5 miles. (I should have done another mile yesterday!)

The climb up started easily enough. I was definitely hiking “up” but it wasn’t too difficult a grade, perhaps 6%. Easy enough!

…And then I began to climb, and climb, and climb.

Overall, I found the climb up to Forester Pass to be a bit on the brutal side. I’m not really sure why, but my hiking speed was total garbage. I’m not sure why my hiking speed was so slow, I ate like a king yesterday.  I didn’t sleep great, but that’s kind of the norm.

Check out the trail below!

As I approached within about a half mile of the summit I could see five hikers behind me that were also working their way up the mountain. If there’s one thing I really hate, it’s being passed right before a summit. So I tried to push on the gas petal just a little bit. The gas tank was fairly empty! Three of the hikers, all in their early 20’s, passed me within about ten minutes of the summit. I slowly, slowly, pushed on to the summit. I didn’t think the trail was too bad. Steep certainly, but not too concerning for safety.

It was a bit crowded at the summit, with about seven other hikers all spayed out on the rocks like dollops of wet glue. I noticed two hikers getting ready to leave, so I just hovered near them and waited to claim their rock.

This is as high as this trek will take me

Chilling at the summit

Right after I hit the summit, Noelle sent me a Garmin message that the National Forest Service closed all forests in California today and that the PCTA says everyone must get off the trail. Guess it has something to do with the forest fires? As far as exiting the trail, well…..I’m not so sure about that. I’ll look for a Ranger and talk with them and see what they have to say.

I did a personality, skills, aptitude, rather tedious test a few years ago.  It indicated that I like rules and I’m a rule follower…when the rules make sense to me. When the rules don’t make sense to me, I’m not a rule follower. Well, these rules make no sense to me. I’m going to keep moving south.

A distant lunch location! I decided that I’d like to hike down to the trees to eat mu lunch. Perhaps, just perhaps, that was a slight overreach. I was thinking it’d take me about an hour or so, but it actually took me closer to three hours. I found a nice tree to sit underneath and stretched out my legs a bit.

I was going to swing by and talk with the the Ranger, but the ranger hut being a 1.2m round trip off trail didn’t really encourage me to take that path. If they wanted everyone to get off trail, post a note!

A tree minus the bark

I’m starting to spot different kinds of trees, like this one that has no bark. It’s beautiful.

It’s amazing how quickly the scenery changed on this side (Southern) of Forester Pass.

So, Forester Pass…and the JMT Passes in general. While it might not be a popular opinion, I think that many of the JMT hikers are really searching/seeking a Peak bagging experience more than they are a backpacking experience. To me, while the mountain peaks are each different, they’re also incredibly similar. I think that once I saw one or two of the major passes, I really experienced all that I was going to experience with hiking through the passes. They’re steep, it’s hard work to make it to the top, and my feet will hurt. Rinse, repeat. I don’t think my overall experience would have been that different if I’d done two summits and stuck with lower elevations after that.

I didn’t run into ANY hikers who were honestly seemed all that jazzed up about climbing the mountain passes. Yes, there was enthusiasm about reaching the summit, or bagging another peak, but not that much excitement about climbing the passes. So I guess that leads me to wonder why we’re all tearing up and down the passes like we’re on fire?



  1. Heidi Halverson

    If you stay above the tree line I don’t think the forest fires are much of a hazard.

    The photos are awesome, but without a person or animal it is very hard to judge scale. Generally it looks like steep moonscapes. It’s not exactly beautiful, though.

  2. What A Baby Would Say

    Forester Pass – from the north! Pretty cool, and an achievement in and of itself.

    • mcgarveysan

      I had some guys tell me that they were impressed with my climbing speed. I laughed pretty hard at that one. I was darn near at a crawling speed on the final leg of this climb. They were impressed with my age compared to their ages, but didn’t know how to express it in a different manner, so they may a compliment about my speed. I’m pleased to have this climb done. It was one of the climbs where I knew that this was a “one and done” event.

      • Heidi Halverson

        13 miles at high altitude with a full pack is impressive. Your assessment of your achievement seems to discount the effect of altitude. It’s a huge factor, probably moreso than weather. Less oxygen wears on you.

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