After skirting the Goat Rocks for a bit, the trail rocketed up to the left side of Old Snowy, a mountain of 8000 ft. or so. The PCT used to go towards Old Snowy on a route called the Knife’s Edge, but now it shortcuts the mountain to the left. The old PCT route is still available as an alternate, with the option of summiting Old Snowy. There is some stupid debate among thru hikers whether the alternate is worth it or not. I wanted to do the alternate for the views, but I also wanted to keep my PCT hike as “pure” as possible. So I decided to do both ways.
I first went the actual route around to where the PCT and the alternate reconnect. I got some great views! If you look closely, you can see the top of Mt. Rainier in the distance.
I then backtracked and started up the alternate, which I realized is much tougher and involves much more elevation gain. As soon as I got going, clouds rolled through non-stop and the wind kicked up fiercely. I decided to summit Old Snowy anyway, so I dropped my pack and started hiking. Part of the summit approach is hiking, part of it is scrambling, and one section was a straight vertical climb up 10 feet of loose, jutting shale rock. It wasn’t bad going up, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sketched out going down.
I got the very top of Old Snowy and couldn’t see anything but the cloud I was in. Oh well.
I got down (slowly) and made my way to where the alternate links up with the PCT (still slowly). I realized the whole ordeal took over an hour and a half out of my day, so I began I haul ass to get down the mountain and finish the 8 miles into camp.
The only issues were that it was absurdly windy, and the ridgeline and trail was loose and gravely for miles. It looked amazing, but it was a pain to hike down. I definitely took a fall straight on my ass. I took a step and the rocks underneath my feet provided about as much traction as a handful of marbles.
Nevertheless, I finally made my way down the mountain until I got to my intended tentsite. It was packed, but luckily there was room and the hikers there were friendly.
Tomorrow I’ll do 10 miles to White Pass, resupply, and hopefully do another 20 miles. Hopefully tomorrow is a bit easier than today, but also just as pretty.
Main Photo: The Goat Rocks on August 25.