Reaching the final switchback, we ran to the top of the pass, shouting for joy and waving our poles as another hiker, Wasabe, had done just moments before. The other hikers cheered, as we continued to do for each new hiker to crest the pass. We were all excited. At 13,200 feet, Forester Pass was the high point on our journey, the highest elevation on the official PCT.
We lingered on top for awhile. Sierra scampered up an even higher rock outcropping, while the rest of us relaxed, soaking up the sun, admiring the view, and enjoying the company of other hikers. But all too soon, it was time to go.
Sierra scooped up a handful of snow with a diabolical grin. "Don't start something you can't finish," I called over my shoulder as I scooped up my own fistful of snow. Thus challenged, we raced down the first few switchbacks, pausing only to hurl snowballs or reload.
We continued to descend across snowfields, past rocks and sand dotted with sky pilot and rock fringe, through alpine meadows filled with heather, down to the lower meadows populated with shooting stars, other wildflowers, and of course, mosquitoes. As we descended I began to notice clouds forming in the distance, white and fluffy at first, but growing darker and more ominous as they gathered.
We met Jeff with our resupply right after the first of the Kearsarge Pass trail junctions (10,710 ft). We planned to continue on together, climbing Glen Pass (11,978 ft) and dropping into Rae Lakes (10,550 ft). But as we climbed the switchbacks to the pass, the clouds opened and began showering us with a combination of rain and sleet.
With thunder off in the distance, climbing to the top of the pass might not be safe. We decided to turn back and camp. Hiking back down the trail was discouraging, but we soon found a dry place to set up underneath a foxtail pine tree.
The storm let up in time to make a late dinner and to dry out our gear a little so we would be ready to tackle the pass in the morning.