Today there were quite a few river (creek) crossings. Many of them were just knee to thigh deep wades against the current flow a few of them were in really swift water.
YouTube video of creeks
I have done plenty of river crossings before, obviously in Scotland and on a infamous trip to the Inylchek Glacier in Kyrgyzstan. In Scotland rivers and burns will spate a few hours after heavy rain or during snow thaw periods. This makes them hazardous to cross but quite often by waiting a few hours ( or overnight) the burns flow will drop significantly to allow them to be forded more safely.
Here in the Sierras many of the creek catchments are quite large and after last winter’s record snow fall and the current heat wave creating maximum thaw, what would normally be fairly easy crossings are wades against thigh to waist high swift water torrents.
As a solo hiker I’m very much on my own when it comes to crossing all of these creeks which are swollen with the meltwater from the excessive snow in the mountains. Also it’s not just one creek your going to have to cross, it’s lots. One risky steps may be justifiable but add a few of them together and probabilities start playing on your mind.
It felt a little like being a lead climber when you’re on the crux of a tough route, already above your last piece of gear, which wasn’t that great. The holds you have aren’t great and you know you need to step up to find the next hold.As you step up all your thinking is there better be hold as I reach around this corner if there’s not I’m in big trouble!
When crossing these creeks once you’re in the main flow facing upstream with your walking Pole in front of you to lean on, your pack is on your back but not tied on to you. You know you have to take the next step sideways, and you also know that one slip means you will be in the drink and swimming.
But you have to take that step or you won’t get across. Today when crossing one of the creeks I certainly felt pretty nervous as I tried to sidestep my way from one side to the other and came back to the nearside as I felt I could fall in.
There are plenty of dead trees and debris which has been washed down the creeks to get pinned against or under.
After having had a pretty big crack to the head earlier today as well, I think discretion is the better part of valour and I decided it would better to come back and try again another day!
There have been lots of messages from people on the trail, via social media, about the creek crossing conditions. Only a couple of weeks before hand, these creeks had some snow bridges which trekkers used to get across. But now after the heat wave these have all gone. The long days and hot weather meant that snow melt higher up the valleys was massive and peak flows were occurring. Reports of people swimming across creeks didn’t inspire me so dropping out of the Sierras seemed like the best option for the moment.