PCT WA Day 9 – Knife’s Edge


Walupt Lake Trail Camp (2265.6) to Mountain Camp (2280.5)

14.9 miles

I slept in and started my morning chores when I heard some noise from the neighbor tent. It was cinnamon oatmeal and breakfast essentials chocolate flavor for breakfast. Afterwards I packed slowly together and while I did so I asked Sunrise about her night and how her back was doing. She seemed to have a lot of pain. Anyways, she started hiking and so did I.

Still there – Mt Adams

Short after the campsite the trail started to climb up a steep mountain side. There were a couple of sketchy steps on grown rocks I didn’t like too much. Right next to a steep drop-off. Little did I know of how this day would turn out.

I cought up to Sunrise and hiked behind her for a while. She seemed to be very slow today. I could easily keep up with her and even offered to carry some of her stuff. She refused and maybe it was better as eventually she sped up on an uphill section and I stayed behind. Old girl! I needed to fill up some water and took a side trail to sheep lake. (Nearly every lake here is called Sheep Lake, very creative!) It was my first highlight of the day and maybe one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen!

Sheep Lake
Without a doubt very pritty, isn’t it?

After Sheep Lake the trail went on to climb Cispus Pass. Another highlight! Looking back I could still see her majesty Mt Adams and once I was over the first ridge new mountains came into view. The landscape opened up and it was a true climb up to a pass. Hiking in the sun my arms got burned. I should have brought sunscreen instead of DEET. However… once again I thought about that long sleeve shirt sitting in a box at a post office in Seattle. Silly me.

Climbing up Cispus Pass
It’s like Devil’s Postpiles
Still climbing up to the pass
Flowers along the way
The view back

After Cispus pass – with around 6400 ft not too high – I descended into another stunning valley and joined some hikers who were having lunch at a nice little creek with stunning views. I even managed to take a good shot of a butterfly. Don’t you think?

Lunch with a view

A tuna burrito and some water filtering later and I was good to go. I wanted to do another 15 miles today and use the good weather to cross the well-known Knife’s Edge.

Climbing higher and higher

The trail climbed higher and higher. Hiking turned into hard work instead of pleasure and the trail went through a very nice alpine valley. A large flat area with nice views of Mt Adams as Mt St. Helens in the distance. Lots of day hikers and weekenders seemed to come into this area. There was even a small tent city looking a little bit like the Everest base camp.

View back towards Mt Adams
View towards Mt St Helens

I actually felt like climbing Everest as the trail went up and up. The underground turned more into Rocks ad I remembered the words of a fellow Hiker: Goat Rocks: lots of rocks and no goats!

Rocky Goat Rocks

Ahead of me was a couple of men from Northern England. To be honest – I could hardly understand their English. They were running a YouTube channel and did the occasional filming and so it was no surprise as they let me go past them across the first and only snow field so that they could do their thing. After the snowfield I let them go ahead again pointing them into the right direction of the alternate route up Old Snowy Mountain. Already before the sign we went up a volcanic ridge that provided epic views of Mt Rainier, Goat Lake and unfortunately of the trail ahead.

My only snow crossing for this year!
Amazing views towards Mt Rainier
The junction of the Old Snowy Alternate

I am afraid of the heights and what I could see of Knifes edge from this viewpoint looked like a nightmare to me. Well… there isn’t a bus stop or a train station in the middle of this wilderness and so my shoes were digging into volcanic rock while I scrambled up the steep mountain behind the English guys. It was a hard climbs with switchbacks, drop-offs everywhere and on different volcanic rocks. I could pick my favorite and it turns out that I like the big rocks not the gravel or sand which could be good for a slide.

Scrambling up the alternate
View towards Knife’s Edge

It was hard to get up to the junction where some crazy people dropped their packs to scramble up all the way to the top of Old Snowy. For me the ridge was more than enough and there was still Knife’s Edge…

I took a break and basically waited for the English guys to go ahead. As soon as they were gone I shouldered my backpack and stepped on a thin volcanic ridge with deadly drop-offs to both sides. Hallelujah! Every step had to be accurate and there was no room for failure. And no room for fear of the heights. My hiking experience kicked in and I basically turned off my brain and concentrated on my steps. It was the only way for me to get down this mountain. Same as the uphill the downhill was a scramble with a chance to slide into nowhere depending on the changing underground.

Old Snowy
Let’s go on Knife’s Edge!

I had surprisingly good foothold at all times and there was never an out of control Situation for me. Afterwards I am kind of proud. The trail scrambled down to the original PCT but things didn’t improve. The trail stayed up on a windy ridge or crested along a steep mountain side. I was highly concentrated as I had some reasons to get down in one peace. It went on and on forever. The views of the surrounding landscape were incredible! Yet I stared at my feet and assessed rocks and where to step most of the time. It was exhausting.

Scrambling down on loose rocks
That’s were I came from
You cannot see the wind

Eventually the trail lead on a ridge with some vegetation, went around it and circled onto a high plateau. Knife’s Edge was done! Exhausted as I was I hiked about a mile to a campsite and set up camp. Unfortunately the underground is very sandy and it’s very windy up here. Might be the death sentence for my tent zipper that has problems closing since a few days. I love my tent the MSR Hubba NX but for some reason the performance of the zipper of the inner tent is very poor. This is the second time now I have these problems. And dear MSR, it is not funny if your tent zipper fails in mosquito country!

Finally – a bit more level

Other than that gusts of wind rattle my tent. Although the other guy at the tentsite mentioned that the wind would die down tonight. Well, maybe at 4 am? For now it’s rattling but I am ready to put some earplugs in and just go to sleep. What a day! I have seen some of the most incredible and stunning landscape of my hiking career and I have done some of the hardest hiking as well. Knife’s Edge. I think one time in my life is definitely enough. Good night!

Windy & sandy mountain camp
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