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Kakuzõ Okakura, The Book of Tea, 1906

Four years have passed since I last walked the Pacific Crest Trail. I still can’t get it out of my mind. This year, 2023, I made a momentous decision. I returned solo to the High Sierra in central California to walk the John Muir Trail (JMT) in one of its highest-recorded snowpack years.

I didn’t do it the easy way. Unsuccessful in securing a JMT Permit, my Plan B was to apply for a PCT Permit, which predominantly traversed the same route. The only catch is that I had to walk 300 more miles. In January, I secured a 500-mile (800 km) PCT Permit.

This would see me start the PCT walking southbound (SoBo) from Chester to Lone Pine. I started on July 23 and finished my hike 7 weeks later exiting down the precarious 99 switchback Mt Whitney Portal route on September 9, 2023. I successfully crossed the Sierra Nevada Ranges, the John Muir territory I so longed to see in 2019, in one of the highest snowpacks ever recorded.

The PCT hadn’t changed one bit. It still knocks you about mentally, physically, and emotionally. The logistical challenges continued. It tested me physically more than ever before. Age may have played a part, but I recognised the drama of falling through a snow bridge, being gored by a torn limb from a fallen fir tree and nearly dying in a snow blizzard near Mt Whitney’s peak. I was lucky to survive. Emotionally, I remained strong. I had to be brave, cautious, level-headed, and clear-thinking if I was to get out of there alive.

Watch this space for more stories as I continue to digest the second part of my PCT journey. I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you soon.

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