JMT Day 16

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September 4, 2002 40º-50º @BSH

I wasn’t even able to make travel notes this day because for the first time on the trip the weather became a major factor. We left camp 15 at 7:45, and I had noticed a lot of clouds at dawn. Rather unusual, as I had been keeping track of when clouds appeared in the sky, and it had been at various times in the afternoon, if at all. As we left Palisade Lake, we came upon Cheryl camped up at the upper end. They would obviously be a bit later starting than we were. We made Mather Pass,(me) (12,100′) by 9:30, a rather easy climb after all. That’s because we made it that way; finishing early the day before and tackling the tough ascents first thing in the morning seemed to be a good strategy. After the descent from Mather, in tundra-like flats, it began to rain. Just enough to get us to put our rain gear on, whereupon it stopped. I left my gear on, as the weather had now turned completely overcast and a bit cooler still, with the threat of precipitation. In fact, we hiked through various stages of rain and hail the balance of the day. We got to Lake Marjorie at 5:30. I didn’t want to venture the next pass, Pinchot, and the region of no hiking beyond, so late in the day with obviously deteriorating weather. We stopped at Marjorie.

Ascending Mather Pass
Me at Mather Pass (12,100′)

Camp at Marjorie was pretty brutal. The winds were high, and rain and sleet were periodically falling. I set up the tarp to protect us cooking dinner, then the winds, rain and sleet increased substantially. There were not many good camping places along this lake, and we both shared my tarp which was anchored precariously over a boulder. Even under the tarp, the wind was blowing so fiercely that water and sleet got into much of the gear underneath the perimeter of the tarp.

A couple of times in the evening we heard a thunderous crash, roar and rumble which was not thunder. It was a huge rockslide on the steep mountain face surrounding Lake Marjorie on the opposite side. We never could narrow down the exact location, as we could never see any rocks or dust cloud aftermath. But the sound, especially echoing through the lake basin, was unmistakeable.

The night was pretty brutal, as the winds were high, maybe 30-40 knots, all night long. Therefore the tarp flapped incessabntly, making sleep nearly impossible. I didn’t get more than a half hour sleep, and I suspect the same was true for Todd. On hindsight, I would have just zipped myself up in my bivy.