The Sierra. Thirteenth Stretch: Silver Pass, VVR Junction to Fish Creek.

As I continued to lower myself further and further, moving past the point of return, I prayed my foot would find the rock before the prow of snow broke off... sending me into the dark hole under the ice that had been carved by the forceful stream above.

Fighting the pushing force of the water at my back, I lowered and lowered... but my foot wasn't making contact with the rock yet! I felt panic flood my brain. I was too far over the edge to get back onto the platform, but I couldn't find the damn boulder I'd spotted from the side! Had I overestimated the distance down to the rock?!

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The Sierra. Tenth Stretch: Muir Pass, Middle Fork Junction to South Fork of the San Joaquin River.

The silhouette of the large, grey lion stood out against the white backdrop of the snow-covered mountainside behind it. The cat was slowly walking high on a ridge above us about 200 yards away. It was going in the same direction we were... it was walking what appeared to be the same speed that we were...

It's head was low, looking down toward the valley where we were. Was it... watching us?

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The Sierra. Fifth Stretch: Rock Creek to Tyndall Creek.

Looking out from my tent in the crisp morning, there was no sign of Amped stirring.

"Good," I told myself, "poor bastard needs some good sleep after yesterday."

The night had been below freezing, but probably still 10F to 15F warmer than the previous night. I had slept well and it looked like Amped had also slept well. This was good news, but I knew the next night might not be as... *ahem*... "warm" at the higher elevation and that would be the night before summiting Forester Pass, the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail at 13,200 feet.

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The Sierra. Fourth Stretch: Lone Pine to Rock Creek.

Looking out from my tent in the crisp morning, there was no sign of Amped stirring.

"Good," I told myself, "poor bastard needs some good sleep after yesterday."

The night had been below freezing, but probably still 10F to 15F warmer than the previous night. I had slept well and it looked like Amped had also slept well. This was good news, but I knew the next night might not be as... *ahem*... "warm" at the higher elevation and that would be the night before summiting Forester Pass, the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail at 13,200 feet.

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The Sierra. Third Stretch: Diaz Creek to Lone Pine.

My alarm woke me up to gentle winds whipping the tent in the soft blue morning light. I sighed out loud in relief. Another brutally cold night had passed, somewhere around 15F. I had spent the night trying to avoid cold spots in my too-small sleeping bag. What a mistake. The entire night consisted of me waking up every 45 minutes to check my phone, praying the time had flown past and it was close to morning.

My prayers were thoroughly unanswered.

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The Sierra. First Stretch: Kennedy Meadows to Olancha Pass Junction

I finally opened my eyes in the cold tent and sighed in irritation, letting out a visible column of breath.

I'd been awake for what seemed like hours. Hell, maybe I'd never actually fallen asleep. I adjusted my position in my sleeping bag for the twentieth time. Well, it wasn't my sleeping bag. I'd swapped out my 30F bag for Melanie's 20F bag, but it didn't feel any warmer... I was just barely able to fit inside the bag, so I was pushing into different parts of the sleeping bag, compressing the down and creating cold spots.

The 20F night wasn't helping.

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