Creek Crossings – Tuolumne to Sonora Pass

Mile 944: Delaney Creek

June 8th, 2017: Afternoon Crossing. Kicked snow steps down to a log spanning the creek to keep feet dry. About 75 yards upstream. Fordable at the trail crossing, below the knee. -Beta

Mile 947: Tuolumne River

June 8th, 2017: Gigantic river overflowing its banks. Two bridges followed by a stone walkway. Stone walkway was underwater about knee deep. Easy ford, but slipping would have stiff consequences. Had to kick steps to get up onto the snow bank on the opposite side. -Beta

Mile 948: Tuolumne River (Second Crossing near Glen Aulin)

June 8th, 2017: Bridge intact, rumors that the bridge had collapsed were false. Had to ford four foot deep channel to get off of bridge. Another option was a scramble to the left just after the bridge up onto some rock slabs to bypass the ford. Just after this crossing the crippled bridge on the side trail to Glen Aulin camp was visible. The crippled bridge is NOT part of the PCT. -Beta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile 956: McCabe Creek

June 9th, 2017: Late morning crossing. Around mile 955, the trail starts to trend steeply downward toward the confluence of McCabe and Return Creeks. We attempted to traverse toward McCabe as level as possible to intersect the creek as high (upstream) as possible, then head uphill from there to find the safest crossing. We came to the creek about 0.5 mile upstream from the trail crossing. Walking uphill was very steep and exhausting. About a hundred yards higher upstream, there was a log spanning the raging, steep creek. It was a bit wobbly, but a very big log. A slip would’ve most likely been fatal. The two guys I was with opted to stay on their feet with crampons and tightrope walk across (however shakily…). I chose to sit on the log and scoot across the main rapid section, but had to stand up from the seated position in the middle. One of the hairiest crossings we did in that section. I went down to the actual trail crossing afterwards. Steep snow banks down into relatively low depth whitewater. I’m not confident we found the best crossing for McCabe. -Beta

Mile 957: Return Creek

June 9th, 2017: Late morning crossing. I had reports that a fellow hiker had been swept away in this creek, lost his backpack, and had a pretty harrowing experience getting back to Tuolumne. He had attempted the crossing at the trail, which looked almost chest deep and had serious consequences not far downstream. 200 yards upstream from the trail crossing, there was a widening in the creek with a 10 foot long ford just above the knee to an island, then a quick knee-deep spot right before the step-out point. A slip at that point would’ve been recoverable.

Moonshine Pete decided to jump across Return Creek at a narrow point about 150 yards upstream from the trail crossing! We threw his pack to him once he was on the other side. I don’t recommend this method for most people out there… he seemed more sure of his ability to jump across obstacles than wading them.

Return Creek is a classic example of how exploring upstream can drastically change the difficulty and outcome of a crossing. Here’s the full story of the hiker who lost his backpack during the crossing:

For those of you that have been following along, unfortunately my Pacific Crest Trail journey has come to an abrupt and very dangerous end, where I can say I am truly lucky and grateful to be alive. Here’s what happened. At about 1,000 miles into my hike I was hiking alone in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when I came across a particularly treacherous river crossing. The flow was strong and the water was past my waist. As I was fording the river my footing gave way under a lose rock and I was swept into the current. I began rushing towards a waterfall and couldn’t swim out with my 60 lb pack on so I ditched the pack and was able to swim out of the river before I hit the waterfall and rocks. Unfortunately my pack and all of my belongings are lost forever in the river and probably washed up somewhere in Southern California now, but I didn’t drown so it was worth it. The realization of being stranded in the middle of nowhere, alone, in snow covered mountains with nothing but the clothes I was wearing on my back quickly settled in. Given no one knew I was in trouble, and there was so much snow this year there was no trail to follow, the only way I would survive was by backtracking my own footprints in the snow for 15 miles to try and get to a remote shelter I stayed at the night before, where I could wait and hope for the slim chance someone would come by in the next few days. I made it back 7 of the 15 miles before nightfall, which brought sub-freezing temps, while I had no shelter and wet, cold clothes. It was cold enough where if I fell asleep I probably wouldn’t wake back up, so I had to do jumping jacks and run in circles all night to keep from freezing to death. Once the sun came up I started tracking my day old prints again. Unfortunately if I were to lose my tracks, or if a snow storm were to roll in, I would lose all chances being able to navigate back and of survival. Twice I did lose those tracks however, and leaving it up to fate I decided to follow some deer and coyote tracks I came across, which miraculously lead me straight to my tracks both times. Luckily the weather was clear, and even though I had lost my glasses in the river, I was able to track myself back 14 of the 15 miles I had done the day before. At this point the sun had melted away the rest of my prints. I knew I was within a mile or two of the shelter I hoped to find, but I had no idea which direction to go, and no tools to help navigate (My map, compass, phone, etc. were all lost to the river). After climbing up 3 different mountains that I thought may be the right way, I came back down to the last track I could find and began losing hope, realizing that I was probably going to die out there. I wouldn’t be able to last another night in the freezing weather without food or sleep, and no one knew I was in trouble – there would be no rescue or rangers looking for me – I was officially lost in the mountains without any leads. Then I got lucky. As I came to terms with my probable death by freezing or eventual starvation, I heard the humming of machinery. Then the classic backup beeping noise you hear from big vehicles! There was people somewhere here in the middle of nowhere! My heart jumped and adrenaline shot through my veins. That day, at that hour happened to be the time that the state decided to send some giant bulldozers to start plowing the back country road that runs through the mountains and near where I was, although it was covered by 10 ft of snow and still was closed. I saw the trucks emerging out of a valley miles away across a snow plain and past the Tuolumne River. I needed to get over to them and make sure they saw me before they left. I sprinted across the plain and dove into the giant river and began swimming across. Somehow I swam through the current and got to the other side. The water was freezing, I definitely had hypothermia. I ran up to the bulldozer, finally realizing I wasn’t going to die at 25 in the middle of nowhere in the mountains! I got a ride in the giant bulldozer for miles out of the mountains and got to a ranger station.

-Beta

June 26th, 2011: Late afternoon crossing. Crossed a couple hundred yards upstream from trail crossing.

Mile 957: Spiller Creek

June 9th, 2017: Afternoon Crossing. Swift and waist deep at the trail crossing. Hiked uphill past several possible crossings, had to hike almost a mile to get to a lower flowing ford, about mid-thigh deep, 20 feet across. A fall would’ve been recoverable. One of our deepest fords and one of the longest hikes from the trail crossing, although the elevation gain could be used to our advantage on the other side of the creek. -Beta

Mile 962: Matterhorn Creek

June 10th, 2017: Morning crossing. Waist deep, 30 ft across, and swift at trail crossing. Hiked reasonable uphill about 3/4 mile to a widening in the creek with many shallow islands. Ford was just above the knee and fairly swift. -Beta

June 27th, 2011: Morning crossing. Knee deep and easy.

Mile 964/965: Wilson Creek

June 10th, 2017: Snowbridged in many places. Technically the trail crosses this creek several times. -Beta

Mile 973: Piute Creek

June 11th, 2017: Morning crossing. Basically a swamp for several hundred yards. Multiple logs spanning sections of the “creek” near the trail crossing. Managed to find a way through all the downed logs and water to get to the other side with dry feet. A ford would’ve been safe, albeit cold, chest-deep wade at the deepest point. -Beta

June 27th, 2011: Afternoon crossing. Long, belly deep ford across slow moving water.

Mile 980: Rancherita/Kerrick Creek

June 11th, 2017: There had been reports of another fellow thru hiker who had gone down in Rancherita/Kerrick several days earlier. Once we approached the creek (which is about four miles upstream from the trail crossing), we dropped our packs and headed further upstream (looking for all our crossing options) for about a quarter mile where we found two very large snowbridges. We then returned to our packs and headed downstream across steep snowfields ending in a drop off into the raging creek below. This was the scariest part of this crossing for our group. About three miles upstream from the trail crossing, there was a large snowbridge where we crossed. After that bridge there were four or five other massive snow bridges across the creek. We actually ended up crossing Rancherita/Kerrick three separate times on snow bridges for ease of navigation. The last snowbridge was about 1.7 miles upstream from the trail crossing. Other viable options for log/island crossings were all about two miles (or further) upstream from the trail crossing. The north side of this creek IS traversable along its entire length with some short scrambling sections. Cross as early as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another example of the importance in selecting creek crossing locations carefully. “Summit fever” is very real with creek crossings when you’re faced with hiking way out of your way to stay safe.

Here’s the full story of our fellow thru-hiker’s traumatizing experience with this creek. This whole experience could’ve been avoided by walking 3.4 miles out of her way to get back up to a snow bridge that she was aware of. Creeks aren’t dangerous, our decisions are dangerous. After all, every creek starts as a trickle if you hike uphill far enough. -Beta

July 1st, 2006: Afternoon attempt. Ford attempt at the trail crossing resulted in a close call. Upstream crossing found and forded without incident.

July 28th, 2011: Late afternoon attempt. Upstream spot with some logs attempted and ended up in a swim to the other side. Another account says a log was found to cross the creek.

Mile 983: Stubblefield Creek

June 12th, 2017: Morning crossing. Crossing at trail was very deep. Greater than six feet. A quarter mile upstream, two tributaries can be crossed separately. The first tributary via a log spanning the whole creek, then a short, shallow (below the knee) wade across the second tributary. -Beta

June 28th, 2011: Morning crossing. Slow moving but very deep attempt at the trail crossing. Hiker swept away in the current (but was able to swim across safely).

July 29th, 2011: Morning crossing. Crossing at trail not possible. Log crossing used about a quarter mile upstream.

Mile 987: Falls Creek

June 13th, 2017: Afternoon crossing. Trail crossing appeared maybe waist deep and slow moving. Stayed on the east side of Falls Creek until a very shallow wade appeared about three miles upstream of the trail crossing. It’s worth noting the getting across Tilden Lake outlet, while traversing the east side of Falls Creek, was the more difficult crossing. Not a big creek, just tricky. Falls Creek was almost 100% under snowbridges around 4.5 miles upstream (all the way to Lake Dorothy) from the trail crossing. I would’ve stayed on the east side of the creek for longer if I knew that beforehand. Could be done with dry feet. The east side of Falls Creek is traversable the entire way up the canyon. -Beta

June 28th, 2011: Afternoon crossing. Hiker stayed on the east side of Falls Creek (with the PCT on the west side) and paralleled the creek upstream until a snowbridge was used to cross back over to the PCT.

July 1st, 2006: Late afternoon attempt. Chest deep and turned around to wait until morning.

July 2nd, 2006: Early morning crossing at trail crossing. River had lowered overnight and ford was waist deep. Relatively easy.

Mile 999: Cascade Creek

June 14th, 2017: Avoided the crossing by staying left at Dorothy Pass and traversing the left side of Bonnie Lake. There were many snow bridges over Cascade Creek still. -Beta

Bonnie Lake, the feeding lake for Cascade Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29th, 2011: Morning crossing. Creek was waist high. Normally there’s a wood bridge crossing, but this account missed it (or it wasn’t there, or fully submerged).