Onion Valley to Cottonwood Lakes — Page 10
The Siberian Outpost
- 5 Days & 50 Miles
- Onion Valley
- Kearsarge Pass
- Vidette Meadows
- Forester Pass
- Whitney from the West
- Crabtree Meadows
- Mount Guyot
- Rock Creek
- Siberian Outpost
- Chicken Spring Lake
- Cottonwood Pass
The 'Siberian Outpost' is a remote, high plateau —a long, sandy, waterless stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that we've been advised to avoid.
But our mission is to see the PCT through, not bypass its more interesting segments, so we drink a little extra water before leaving camp, then hit the trail, undaunted. Welcome to Day Five. Our plan today is to hike across the Siberian Outpost until we reach Chicken Spring Lake—roughly ten miles away.
Once there, we'll either camp for the night, or push all the way to the car, depending on how tempting the Carne Asada Plate in Lone Pine sounds.
After meandering alongside Rock Creek for about a half mile, I encounter a group of hikers who are emerging from their tents.
Bill and I aren't exactly paragons of cleanliness, but this crew is covered head-to-toe in ashy dust, making them look like coal miners who've been lost in the mines for a decade or two.
Their leader approaches me with a vacant, wild look in his eyes.
I'm momentarily terrified he's going to ask if we've come to rescue them.
But no, he's just saying hello.
I ask if they've come from Cottonwood Pass or Army Pass.
'No, no,' the man says emphatically. 'We came from Army Pass.'
I learn this is their second day on the trail, which leads me to wonder what they'll look like in another few days or so.
Meanwhile, Bill appears along the trail behind us, momentarily distracting the man.
I take this as an opportunity to resume moving, and with a hearty 'Good Luck!' to this ragged bunch, that's what I do. A little over a thousand vertical feet of climbing gets Bill and me up onto the Siberian Plateau. As expected, the few water sources marked on our map are all dry.
We are treated to a stunning view of Mount Langley's west face and the Corcoran Pinnacles to our east. Below Mount Langley is the green haven of Soldier Lakes—an alternate route that circles around the long, dry stretch of the Siberian Outpost.
The sparsely forested landscape now offers little protection from the sun, and the ground is indeed sandy. Though the plateau is quite flat, the sand slows our pace. The air is much warmer than we've encountered elsewhere, and the sand itself radiates heat upward.
Over the course of our trip through the Sierra, we've passed repeatedly through microclimate zones: wet, alpine, barren. Now, on the Siberian Plateau, we seem to have returned to the typical arid Southern Sierra landscape—hot and dry.