I woke up to my coldest morning yet. Not only was my water bottle half frozen, but my Carnation Instant Breakfast was the consistency of a milkshake. After packing up, Jewel Thief and I headed out. In no time flat we came to a creek crossing which actually had to be waded. The slow parts of the creek had ice crystals floating in them and my toes felt like they were instantly frostbit.
The trail dropped down to the south fork of the Kings River which we ended up having to ford multiple times. After the initial crossing, the trail followed the river up the valley to Mather Pass. The pass itself was visible from quite a distance; the trail was buried under snow as usual. We picked our own route up the pass – rock scrambling the first 2/3 and climbing a wall of snow for the final part. We actually ascended to the left of the pass to avoid the corniced lip of snow.
Descending we took our time as the snow was particularly hard to walk on. Thankfully, our cold night kept the snow firm late into the afternoon so there wasn’t much postholing. After we dropped below treeline, we had our first multi-mile section of snow-free trail in about 100 miles. The trail descended, and then wound up in a forested valley with occasional open meadows. In the last such a meadow we made camp and prepared to make an early start on Muir Pass tomorrow.