Walking thousands of miles for ‘Just a drop’ – Day 25

Alex Mason

Tieton Pass – Nannie Ridge Trail junction

14.3 miles 4035ft up. 3084ft down.

An attempt to read my book ensured I was asleep early. It was really cold but at 2:30am when I woke up needing a wee it wasn’t too much of an ordeal to get outside.

6:30 came and I needed another wee. Quite an achievement considering I hardly drunk anything yesterday. It was raining and grey and I heard no movement from the others. By this time I had been lying down in my tent for a good 12 hours. We spoke about what to do. The weather didn’t look promising but we decided to give it until 8am to see if the sun came up an removed some of the cloud. I tried to read but ended up falling back to sleep.

At 8:30 we decided it wasn’t going to get any better. It wasn’t really raining but we were in grey cloud. I couldn’t just lie here all day and Drake was restless too so we decided to pack up and move on out. I started with all my layers, and Strings was working his trash bag rain coat, but I soon got too hot and had to delayer.

The morning was basically an uphill climb to the Knife Edge. The Knife Edge is in the Goat Rocks Wilderness and is one of the most anticipated and most beautiful parts of the PCT. And for fit northbounders, after miles of Oregon trees, start to feel like you are closer to the landscape of the Sierra again.

We went through meadows and forest and my coat was on and off several times as the weather tried to make up its mind. I met a nice nobo called Moon Shadow, she was all smiley and positive about crossing the knife edge with no views. We made our way up and up, water everywhere, flowing down the hillsides, falling from the sky, leaking out of our bodies…

Drake and Strings stopped to filter water and eat, I carried on as standing still meant getting cold but I was sure they would catch me and pass me on the uphill very quickly. I met a nobo who told me he was ‘surviving’ and he warned me of thunder storms predicted for 3 o’clock. Only 2 miles to the top. I should be up and over by then.

The next 2 miles was very slow. I crawled up, stopping to take pictures and make a little video on the way up. The weather continued to get worse all the way up. It rained heavily on and off. The wind howled past in gusts. The cloud surrounded me covering up the steep drops to each side. Some people say they aren’t as scared in bad weather because they can’t see the drops, but I think it’s worse in the cloud and fog.

I got to the turn off for the stock alternate route which Vince and I took last year, unknowing at the time that we hadn’t actually been over the Knife Edge. There was a big snow field to cross on the alternate and it didn’t look that appealing. The very last thing I would want to do is cross it on a horse!

I decided to go up and over the knife edge, there was probably little point to doing this as there was absolutely nothing to see, but it was a matter of completing what I hadn’t done before. There was never really any decision to be made. I was still crawling along and I still hadn’t seen Drake or Strings. I had a feeling they may take the stock route.

I carried on up, it was very steep and rocky but very achievable and not really scary, or certainly no scarier that anything that had preceded it. At times I felt like I could be in Wales, in fact I have done something very similar to this in very similar weather in Wales.

The weather was pretty awful. The wind was blowing in from the west and it was battering my cheeks. My waterproofs were doing a good job of keeping the wind off my body and the wind brought water with it and it continued to rain heavily on and off. My mood lifted when there was no wind and rain and it was actually quite enjoyable in those in-between moments.

Eventually I was at the top and I met a couple of people coming up the other way. They asked me where the Knife Edge was. ‘You’re on it’ I said. Oh, is that it? I thought it would be scarier.

I’m not sure what it is people expect from this, maybe calling it a knife edge is misleading. It’s a walkable path, it’s not going to be a edge you have to balance on, any more technical and ropes and special equipment would be required!

I didn’t hang around for long. There was nothing to see and it was cold so I kept moving, as quickly as I could down the rocks and through some small patches of snow. I met a group of 4 girls siting at the junction to the stock alternate. I asked if they had seen two boys. No they hadn’t.

They asked me if I had any maps of alternate routes because one of them hurt their hip and wanted to bail early. I couldn’t really be of much help so I wished them well and carried on. I could wait for the boys but I wasn’t convinced they were behind me and I needed to keep moving to stay warm. I headed off in what I thought was the right direction and then I lost the trail. I checked my gps, I had gone wrong somewhere, I crossed over some loose rock to try and get back on the trail, slightly fearing I was about to create a huge rock slide. I tried to unlock my phone to check the gps and it was so wet nothing would work. I had a slight panic. Eventually I managed to dry it enough with my sleeve to get it working. I saw footprints in the snow field and aimed for them. I saw two figures above me where I went wrong and yelled and waved. I though it could be the boys. Then two more people appeared. It was those girls. Now they probably think I’m mad. Oh well.

I moved quickly across the snow as the rain got heavier. I continued to descend and I began to get really cold.

Unimpressed with the rain I considered for a moment setting up camp to escape it, but I thought continuing to descend was the better idea.

I saw a nobo and he asked my name, when I told him he said ‘a guy in front said I would run into you’. He described him as mid thirties with a white cover on his pack. I asked if his name was Drake and he said yes. So now I think they are in front of me. Although I didn’t think Drake had what could be described as a white cover on his pack and I don’t think he looks mid thirties. Maybe he was talking about Will?

I carry on and if they are in front of me I will try and catch them. I also realised it took me 5 hours to go 8 miles. Not good! So I sped up on the nice smooth downhill part of the trail, stopping only to take pictures of the wildflowers. I passed a couple more people heading north and asked if they had seen two boys. No one had seen them. Maybe they are behind me after all.

I carried on and made the long gradual climb up to Cispus Pass. You can see the trail for miles stretching out in front of you. I looked hard but could see anything moving. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anyone out there though, my eyesight probably isn’t good enough to see them anyway. There was a lot more water this year, a lot greener and a lot more wildflowers. The sun tried to come out for a bit and I even saw a couple of patches of blue sky.

As I went over Cispus pass I started to think about where I was going to camp. There was a spot in 3 miles or one in 8. I was not going to make it 8 miles so I decided to call it a day early. And I was cold and really hungry. I had hardly eaten all day, just sugar really. The right side of my face was really hot. I couldn’t be sunburnt. Then I came to realise it was probably wind burn.

On the way I saw a really cute Aussie boy – ‘Just Sam’ – he was a nobo thru hiker but didn’t want a trail name because he thought they were stupid. He recognised I was British straight away. We stopped to speak for a while, I found out it was his 24th birthday today, he was fed up of Americans not getting his humour, he shipped all his cold weather clothes to Stehekin and was regretting it, he couldn’t comprehend why I was doing the trail again but he understood me wanting to do the Te Araroa.

He hadn’t seen my friends either so I’m now convinced they are behind me. I was in camp by 5:30. Priority number one; get warm. Priority number two; eat. I ate a small bag of Cheetos which barely touched the sides but then I struggled to finish my beef stroganoff mountain house. My stomach was making all sorts of odd noises. Again I hardly drunk anything today.

I thought the others may find their way here but it’s 8:30 and I’m on my own. Either they have passed me or they stopped sooner.


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water.

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