Leaving Independence, CA, I had this idea of setting up to cross Glenn Pass first thing in the morning and Pinchot Pass in the afternoon. I knew that the general recommendation for crossing the Passes in the Sierras was to cross them first thing in the morning and specifically not in the afternoon to avoid post-holing. Already I was going against that recommendation.
Sitting in my tent close to Glenn Pass, I read about the next day's obstacles in Yogi's PCT Handbook and saw the words that made me nervous. Yogi has hiked over 19,000 miles including the PCT three times and wrote THE definitive book about hiking the PCT. Basically, she's in the upper echelon in knowledge about how to successfully hike the trail. I would guess that she's top two.
To paraphrase her paragraph, I read that she considers Glenn Pass the scariest pass on the PCT and that under no circumstances should you cross the pass first thing in the morning because it's too icy. Uh-oh! Just under the paragraph, Bink contributes in her book "I agree."
Yogi knows what she's talking about, but Bink really made me think twice. Bink has hiked over 45,000 miles on the PCT alone include 13 thru hikes. He also completed the first successful yo-yo (hiking from the Southern Terminus to the Northern Terminus and back to the Southern Terminus) of the PCT and used to hold the speed record. Bink I would also put in the top two in terms of knowledge about hiking the PCT. He's also probably a top 10 all-time thru hiker.
From the sources, I know the advice they provide is sound, but I'm all set up to go against their advice. I think and through and decide that I should at least go take a look in the morning, and if I have to, wait until the sun softens the snow to descend Glenn Pass. In my head, I move on feeling comfortable with my plan.
"Pathfinder?" I hear through my tent. I'm not alone. In Independence, I found out that Braveheart had the same plan as me, so we decided to hike together at least to get across Glenn Pass.
"Yeah," I cleverly responded.
"Did you see that Yogi and Bink advise to not cross Glenn Pass first thing in the morning?"
"Yeah." My cleverness continued to shine.
Braveheart in her tent did the same thing I did in mine. However, she hadn't gotten past the advice as easily as I did. I laid out my plan:
My plan was to simply hike over the pass, stop if needed, and chop in steps with my ice ax if needed. Braveheart didn't sound terribly convinced, but agreed to the plan.
By this point, I was prone to not following advice on the trail as I found that many people greatly exaggerated the obstacles. Actually, they just saw them differently from me. I approached all snow obstacles as someone comfortable with snow travel. For those who aren't, the same obstacles seem much bigger and harder. That explains why descriptions ranged from "You're going to die!!!" to "Bring extra Fritos." (credit to Sharpshin for making that astute observation and phrasing it that way)
Braveheart was ready to go in the morning before me (rare for someone to get an earlier start than me at that time) and took off. I followed not too long after and soon found myself on top of Glenn Pass looking at a stunning view. Braveheart started her descent, but I saw her sit down. I mistook that for nervousness and made sure I had my ice ax handy to chop in steps. Instead, she simply put on her MicroSpikes.
We made it down the backside and hiked mostly together down into a valley before starting back up to cross Pinchot Pass. The dreaded post-holing never occurred and we breezed past it. I even toyed with the idea of attempting Mather Pass that same day to get a third pass. That didn't end up happening.
Unfortunately, Braveheart went ahead of me to find a campsite for us and I never saw her again until after we finished the PCT. I really enjoyed the day I hiked with Braveheart completely disregarding the sound advice of knowledgeable people. In the end, I judged those passes as "Bring extra Fritos."
Watch the below video to see how impressive Braveheart actually is: