DAY 13 - Duck Lake to Red’s Meadow

Distance: 17.3km (10.7mi)
Hiking time: 06:34hr
Elevation gain: 878m (2,880ft)
Total people met: 4
‘The panorama from Mammoth Crest rivals any of the entire High Route.
So isolated and high is this airy ridge that the viewer has the impression of
staring at the landscape from an airplane’ - Steven Roper

Elevation versus Distance graph for the section from Duck Lakre to Red's Meadow for the Sierra High Route

We woke up early and excited. Today was the day we would head into Red’s Meadow to get our resupply, take a shower and enjoy the long awaited cheeseburger. We both were also super exhausted and we felt how tired our legs were. The first part of the trail went up, not too steep. Nevertheless, I was short of breath for the whole section. My legs were weak and I couldn’t catch a good breath. Although our pack were the lightest they ever were during this entire trip so far, it was strenuous. After the first ascend, we fortunately knew that most of the day would involve going down. In fact, we would reach the lowest point since day 1.

After reaching the first pass, the way down was steep but we could find a good path to go down. There is a lot of loose debris but it’s manageable. The view is very nice and were slowly descended. I was slowly finding my rhythm again and the hiking got easier. However, overtime we had to walk up, even for just a couple of meters, I really felt my legs. They were so tired and had no energy. It was the same for Zeno and at some point we decided that we had to do a rest day at Red’s Meadow. One day were we just rest and don’t move. We never hiked more than 2 days in a row yet along with such heavy backpacks. It was time for a rest. We could spare 1 day, we didn’t want to stop for much longer. We felt like we were failing, not doing the whole trail in 12 days but in 13 days. After a couple of hours, we were fine with the decision, we didn’t want to take an risk of getting injured. In addition, my two blisters on my feet were hurting me a lot as well, Ibuprofen it was for me.

When we arrived at the last Deer lake we saw a man doing yoga by the water. It was so calm and beautiful, we kind of wished of having done that as well. We talked to him for a while. He was on a 5day trip with his friends, he was in hid mid 40s. We mentioned that we were doing the SHR and he never heard of it, although having spend a lot of time in the sierras. It was great exchanging stories with a like-minded fellow. We fully filled up our water bottles here, as this was the last source of water for the remainder of the day (until reaching Red’s Meadows). Just below Deer Lake we found a great spot for eating our cereal breakfast. We hadn’t had it before, as it was a cold morning and we opted for a snickers instead. Here, the sun was already out and we sat on a big boulder enjoying the breathtaking view in pure silence.

Now, it was time to walk along the crest for a while constantly moving slowly downhill. The vegeation changed from the typical sierra talus / stones and forest to a more sandy environment. At some point we were at a drop-off and could see the beginning of the city of Mammoth Lakes on the right site. Seeing a city was such a rare sight on this trip and it kind of feels wired. You are directly more disconnected from nature but appreciate how in sync you felt before. At the drop-off we carefully and slowly ascended down by traversing diagonally down. At times it was a bit tricky to find a good path, but the key here is to not drop down to fast. The last section was very sandy and for about 100m we slided down this mountain covered in little stones. It was so much fun but so dusty. My shoes were full of sand and stones afterwards and as my shoes were already falling apart a lot of sand was under in between the goretex layer and the sole. Weeks later there was still sand coming out.

The next section was very beautiful and relaxing. It was mostly flat through a nice forest. The temperature was getting warmer and warmer as we dropped down in elevation. We advanced pretty fast along the flat section and reached our final descend for the day. Now we were back on a trail and switchbacked down to the valley. A huge fire killed all of the trees here in 1992. Some rangers were repairing signs and transported tree logs with a horse. The closer we got to Red’s Meadow the more excited we got. Finally, we reached the campsite and picked up our re-supply. We sat outside on a bench with all of our stuff and were happy and soo exhausted. The people at Red’s Meadow were all so nice and there were some PCT people around. We got rid of our trash, repacked our backpacks and enjoyed a long hot shower, what a treat.

As the campsite is about 10min walk from Red’s Meadow, we decided to have our burger first before settling our camp. While planning our next 8 days, including the rest day, Zeno pointed out that we should get the latest weather report, just to see if the temperature would drop again, and it did… We were sad and frightened. Could we handle this large temperature drop? Are we prepared for it? Is it safe? We were both silently weighing the answers and were both afraid and saddening of the final decision that might come out of it. We decided to first get a burger to not get hangry (hungry + angry). It tasted great, but somehow not as good as anticipated.. I guess if you’re looking forward to it for such a long time, your expectations are getting too high. Once we had our camp set up, we got a new extended weather forecast and it didn’t look good. To be 100% sure our GPS weather report was accurate, I went back to Red’s Meadow and asked the guy from the store if I could check the weather report on his phone. I noted down the values and went back to Zeno. There, in this moment, we decided to aboard the rest of the trail. The forecasted snow and minus 18C were too cold. It wouldn’t be safe to head further and the outlook didn’t look better.

We were both very sad, but at the same time so proud of ourselves. We were hiking for 2 weeks straight, with our heavy backpacks, navigating in an unknown terrain for the first time while being in high altitude. No one could take this experience away from us and all this made us feel great about our decision. As partners, we grew even stronger, we were totally in sync through the whole journey. I couldn’t image a better person to have done this with.

Ann-Lauriene walking on a trail along the ridge heading towards Mammoth pass.
Near the Mammoth Crest. 

View towards Mammoth Lakes City.

Last section before reaching Red's Meadow. The destruction from the fire in 1992 is still visible.
Getting our resupply, slowly realising that the weather was getting too cold to continue.

Now, I don't need to wear my wedding ring anymore :)

Last camping spot at Red's Meadow :(