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#29217 - 11/21/12 01:58 PM 111 Days In The Sierra
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
This year it was difficult for me to write anything at all. I just had the feeling that nothing was interesting enough to be worth reading for anyone. I struggled to think of anyway to write this story down but I decided instead of doing each day and posts of 20 days at a time like last year I will do a story of each week and keep it a bit more basic. I don't know when or how much time will pass between each updated week but here is the first.


June 1st 2012, a number, a designation for a calendar, just another year down the cosmic lengths of the 4th dimension. Flowing down the filthy freeway of highway 99 in the oppressive summer heat zipping by countless people with their own stories I stared at the range of mountains rising from the valley floor. That is of course what I could see of them through the disgusting muck of what is called human "progress". It had only been 8 months since I had returned from my last big journey in the great hills rising before me yet my soul felt heavily fatigued. 8 months was more then enough to continue the degradation that was occurring within me. I had spent the last 8 months back in a life that offered me nothing but took everything. Even the ambitions only a year before that had the potential to spark new life within me no longer held any drive. The only thing that made sense to me any more was to continue one desire that held within my heart which was further exploration of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Since the summer of 2009 I had spent more then 200 days roaming the great range and it had done little to satisfy my need to see more so I had spent the last many months working out logistics of a hike that for most people would be the ultimate life journey. For me on the other hand it was just a continuation of what no longer seemed to be anything other then what I could call my real life. The mountains where the only real home I knew and I soon would be back within their warm embrace.

WEEK 1

MAP

Winding and bouncing up the old Mineral King road the temperature slowly dropped while we climbed away from the valley below. If all went well I would not be dropping below 7,000 feet more then a few times in the next 140 days of Sierra travel. It wasn't until the sight of Oak trees were replaced with beautiful healthy species of Pine that I was able to have any real emotions about what was about to transpire. Like my other trips of this nature the over all scope of what lay before me was so immense that my mind could not take it in. I could not feel excited until I stepped out of the Jeep as cool fresh air and the sweet smell of pine hit my nose. The sound of fresh running water and the long happy call of the Douglas Squirrel sounded near by. It was then that I knew I was home.

I had never reserved a permit before and like every other year it was time to go pick it up. I was afraid it would be a very long process since I was starting within Sequoia National Park. The Mineral King Ranger Station turned out to be far more primitive and they did not have a computer system. When I informed the Ranger of my 140 day plan he gave me a piece of paper to write every day down. This clearly was going to take some time only made worse by the fact that many lakes I was going to camp at had no name. I had only got about 5 locations into it when I decided on a better solution. I had my entire itinerary printed out in my pack. I got that and the Ranger was able to photo copy it making the process painless. As for any reaction to my huge trip he seemed largely complacent.

I got a site at the Cold Springs Campground and my ride headed on home. I got set up and relaxed. Almost every item I had this year had been replaced and I had at least one item I had never carried before in the back country and that was a Samsung Galaxy 5. As I sat and considered this it suddenly hit me hard that I had forgotten the USB cord to charge the damn thing. I also had a separate small MP3 player that I had forgot the cord also. I hadn't even hit the trail yet and I was already planning for things to be brought to me. Not such a good start.

Strapping on my pack for the first time was a heavy burden with 14 days worth of food which was more then I had ever carried. I had on the other hand got my base weight down to about 20 pounds so it was not the heaviest pack I had carried. I began up the road to the trail head that was about a mile away. Before too long I was breathing quite heavily as the sweat came on. I was a heavy 245 pounds and had done even less this year around to train which was a common theme for me. Since I have never driven before I didn't have the luxury of driving to a near by trail or general good hill to climb and simply walking out the door and going for a walk is far less appealing. The end result is weeks of really hard work before I get back into decent shape.

Making my way up the steep road and into Mineral King Valley I was in an extremely good mood to be back in the Sierra. What could possibly lay ahead was anyones guess. My first point of interest was Franklin Creek. I was anxious to see what it was going to throw at me. Last year I had crossed it on July 5th and it was the most dangerous crossing of my 2011 trip. Reaching it I was delighted to see that it was an easy ford or even not one at all as while I put my shoes back on two other hikers came along and hoped across without getting wet. I just didn't take the time to even look close enough to see it could be done. I then began leap frogging with these two hikers as we both had trouble tackling the constant up hill battle. The Mineral King Valley was not the lush green paradise it had been the year before. The winters death grip was still clinging to the area. A Bald Eagle soared over head as I slowly made my way up the hill. By the time I was closing in on Franklin Lakes I was beat. I normally never wear sun glasses in the Sierra unless I am on snow and it seemed unusually bright outside. Oppressed by blinding light and completely depleted of energy I got my first good look at the lakes. I had already been given advise as to where better camping is on Franklin so I pushed beyond the dam area to mid lake. The down side of this was that there were no bear boxes. For some reason they had been located below the dam in a viewless campsite. So I had a whole crap load of food that was not in my bear barrel and no where to store it. I began to set up my tent and to my dismay I had left my tent stakes in the campground below. I now had no tent for the next two weeks until I could have some more brought to me with my cords. A large population of Marmots was patrolling the area but I did not think anything of it yet. I had spent some time talking to other hikers when I went back to my camp to notice one of my new water shoes I had left on the ground like I always do was completely gone. OH YOU LITTLE BASTARDS! I exclaimed! I began the hunt and finally saw my shoe under a huge rock. I crawled underneath it and got my shoe back to find it was chewed up. For the next many hours I was under constant assault. I had to guard every piece of gear I had. I felt completely helpless laying out in the open with no protection from the Marmots. Finally I pulled out my garlic salt and dumped a great deal of it on the ground which the Marmots happily fought over leaving most of my stuff alone. One of the other hikers had the Marmots chewing up his sleeping bag while he was in it trying to sleep! This year I made an attempt to cut weight in allot of ways. One of them was to replace my 6 gallon kitchen sink system that weighed 11 ounces with a 10 liter bucket that was 2.8 ounces. My first trip down to the water which left me out of breath when I set the bucket down at camp it immediately dumped over. This just isn't going to work I thought so another piece of gear put on the list of things I need to replace. The night was frigid and I was not able to stay warm very well.

Waking up the next morning I was covered in a good layer of condensation. I began the now new again routine of the daily pack up. One of the other hikers I had talked to came over and offered his tent stakes to me so I wouldn't be completely exposed out here which I later would be quite grateful for! I began up Franklin Pass and picked apart the trail in typical trail worker fashion. Closing in on the top I was already beat. The last couple of years I had not gone straight to high altitude and I could certainly feel the lack of oxygen. Once I had puffed my way to the top I had my first sections of snow to cross for the year. Nothing challenging though and before I knew it I was making my way down admiring the aesthetic rock formations littering the sandy slopes. A cold breeze was blowing which little did I know would be the theme for this entire hike. Maybe it was my own jinx as they call it since after my previous years hike I thought how I hardly had had any wind at all in 2010 and 2011 which I thought was odd considering it was the mountains. This year looking back I cannot recall a day that I did not have wind. Although the distance from Franklin Lakes to Forester Lake was only 5 miles by the time I was climbing the last gentle slopes to the lake I was completely out of energy. At this point I was glad I had played it smart and only planned 5 miles a day to begin this hike. Reaching the lake I found a couple wonderful camp sites in wide open forest areas. An orange hue had long covered the sky from a fire raging in the direction of Golden Trout Wilderness. Little flakes of ashes rained down as I got set up in the quiet solitude. I had left the people behind at Franklin Lakes and I would not see another human again for 6 days. I stripped down and actually jumped all the way into the lake which to my delight was quite warm in Sierra lakes standards. Generally I am a cold water wimp and getting all the way into the water happens perhaps twice in a 3 month period on the trail. Doing so on day two left me hoping that this may be a theme for the year. Looking back... ha ha! yeah right...

Leaving the area it was a quick hop over the hill and down to Little Claire Lake. This lake had me a bit intrigued because the regulation page attached to my permit said no camping within a 100 feet of Little Claire Lake. But wait? Your not allowed to camp within 100 feet of any body of water if the terrain allows for it. No closer then 25 feet period. As I stood at the lake it was clear that the terrain was not an issue. I suppose the violations were just so bad that a special notation needed to be added...

Dropping down the first switchback I began to leave the trail. I was on my way to Amphitheater Lake and I thought I would do a bit of a lake tour by moving West to Lake 10,569 and then North East past a smaller lake and on up to Amphitheater. However I didn't get very far before a mix of cliffs stood in my way offering fine views of the canyon. I scanned carefully but trees obscured any solid promises of a doable route. I was so green on this 3rd day of hiking that I did not feel like meandering around these cliffs looking for a route so I went back to the trail and on down. Before I had switched to the bottom I bailed off and began up Soda Creek. Navigating up this canyon was a major mix of terrain ranging from difficult creek hoping to slightly bush whacking to steep tiring hills. Plenty of beautiful cascades kept things interesting as I pushed on up. The closer I got the more snow that was scattered on the ground making things a bit more difficult as I climbed through the nasty half dead black stained willows that as you rub on them they leave you covered in crap. I was in bit of a pessimistic mood being so worn out by the time I reached a level area that was strikingly beautiful in it's simplicity. It served to rejuvenate me for the final steep push for Amphitheater. As I climbed clouds began swarming in at high rates. In about 20 minutes blue skies gave way to grey cloud cover. I reached the lake to find it almost completely frozen over. Freezing winds were blowing as I began looking for a place to set up. There were very few locations but I managed to find a flat spot. I sat for some time staring at my next goal which was Crystal Pass. It did not look good. I used my monocular to carefully study every piece of it. I could not see a single approach that would not put me on very steep snow slopes intermixed with steep smooth slabs. Before long I could no longer consider it though when the clouds completely engulfed the area. It was freezing so I got in my tent and tried to stay warm. The winds picked up more and more and before I knew it snow began ripping down. It was becoming a full blown blizzard out as I laughed to myself about losing my tent stakes. Without the ones that nice hiker had given me I would of only had the choice to pull out my tent and climb in it like a bivy. For the next many hours the storm showed no signs of letting up as the winds ripped around 40mph. I only had a 32 degree bag and tonight was supposed to be about 19F without counting wind chill factor. It clearly was a matter of survival mode at this point as I put on every shirt I had and wrapped the rest of my clothes around my feet. All night long the winds never let up. Several times my trekking pole fell down and the tent collapsed. After 3 or 4 times I gave up and thought it was probably better for the sake of my tents survival to leave it down. Other then my sleeping bag being 32 degrees it also was too small. At one point I tried to zip it up but after an hour or so I realized that the lack of loft from my body smashing into it was worse then just using it quilt style. But even quilt style it was not large enough to completely close off over my head so I always had a draft. Any rolling over also required me to adjust it behind my back.

After a long cold night the sun rose but the winds were still ripping. I climbed out of my tent into absolutely freezing winds and examined the scene around me. A good layer of new snow was on all the surrounding peaks and my camp. Every single creek that had been flowing down from the surrounding peaks was now frozen in time. My water bottles and the lake were also frozen solid. I needed water bad so I went down with my ice axe and beat through the ice which had frozen over about an inch thick. Looking again at Crystal Pass I decided it was too dangerous to proceed. My only choice at this point would be to cut foot holds in solid ice as I made my way up. I briefly considered climbing the Eastern ridge of Sawtooth Peak but I decided turning around and going back down Soda Creek and around on the trail was the better choice. I very slowly packed up my gear as things were slowing down with the onset of hypothermia. Once I got off of this plateau the winds weren't a problem as I made my way down Soda Creek and back to the trail. It was a rather uneventful hike down canyon in the cold air. Seeing all the iron filled spring ponds I knew now why it was called Soda Creek. After passing a difficult downed tree and nearing the junction I set up in a basic camp and considered my route ahead. Once I had finished this jaunt around Mineral King I would be heading out to Kaweah Basin and I knew all the lakes were still going to be frozen. After the episode at Amphitheater and considering I am a person that likes to do laundry and bathe every other day the thought of frozen lakes for days on end was not appealing at all. So ultimately I decided the best thing would be to burn my extra food right now and then proceed with my next section early and then do a trip to Kaweah Basin. So even though I had lugged it for the last 4 days 6 days of food was thrown on top of my camp fire.

Other then down trees these trails were uneventful. Passing Lost Canyon Creek I checked the bear box. Hmm, Fuel, Camelback, food, crap. Nothing unusual there. Up over and down the hill I went as I got my first glance at Red Kaweah from this prospective. What an awesome peak to be on I thought. After passing the lowest Big Five Lakes I took lunch as the icy wind blew on me. Cold...always cold. Cold at night, cold all day. Just a cold world around me.

Passing the second lake and then to the largest the trail took me straight into a camp site. I considered it heavily but decided that there was just no good location to set up my tent so I began making my way around the Northern shore. Nothing... Then it was back onto what was left of the trail and on to the upper lake. I was certainly not going any further then this lake so I began major scan mode for any place at all to set up a tent. Nothing... I went up and then back down as I made my way around the lake. Not a single F**king place to set up I exclaimed. Not even a place to just lay your body with no tent! Finally I found a flat enough spot with over grown grass buds that I began hacking out with my ice axe. Sometimes you simply have to make your own camp. As the sun set I sat on a rock and thought heavily about what these regulations mean. I always thought that Sequoia like Kings Canyon had a blanket 10,000 fire elevation rule but that wasn't true. The paper said that Kern River drainage areas were 10,400 feet. Was this one of them? This whole area does drain into the Kern. But wait it says that Big arroyo areas are 10,000. This does drain into the Big Arroyo before the Kern... I sat and tried to understand the wording of the regulations and debated on making a fire since I was at 10,240 and it was cold. I went back and forth until I finally decided to have one.

I left directly out of my camp and began up the slope of what I am calling 5 Lakes Pass. The slope was highly intermixed with small shelves, talus fields and grass ramps. After lots of heavy breathing I was on top. The over all view was fantastic. I went left off the top into a choke point that was a single class 3 move and delivered me out on easy snow slopes to the bottom . I went between the 2 upper lakes so I could see the Kaweahs from the South Western shore. I then instead of picking up the trail followed the shore line almost to the outlet and went out on the Eastern slopes to get a view down which was well worth the effort. Once I had taken the trail down to the lower lake I went around to the Ranger hut hoping to say hello but it was too early in the year for a Ranger. After making my way back I went past the last lake of the area and on down to where it was time to leave the trail again. Making my way up this nameless creek was at first easy as I picked up a decent use trail but before long I lost it and continued up the creek which led me into a narrow choke point and forced me higher up the rock faces. After a few difficult creek crossings I was closing in on my destination of Lake 10,410. Now before getting here I debated on making a fire. That damn 10 feet was killing me. 10 feet! But 10 feet below the lake was a sign marking no fires above this point. This was both a let down and a nice thing to see as this meant that the fire I made the night before was not illegal and this area was indeed 10,400 feet.

Since the outlet of the lake would have to be forded and I was on the South Side I made my way around that side of the lake. My initial surprise was that I had been told this lake was completely boring and not worth visiting. I however thought it was easily the nicest out of the Little Five Lakes. Despite enjoying the views once again I could not locate a place to camp. I climbed way up the South Eastern slopes of the lake to find nothing. I kept going around the lake without luck until I was almost on it's western shore where I began dangerous post holing through SUV size rocks. The only positive side was that this shore offered nice views of the Kaweahs. Once on the West side I was back in the trees yet still nothing. I did find an illegal fire ring but there was not a single place to lay your body around it! About half way around the Northern shore I found lots of nice camping after over an hour of searching. While sitting in the cold I stared up at Red Kaweah as it completely called to me. I needed to summit! I had the fever and I was going to add it to the list while heading for Kaweah Basin. I went for a waist deep dip in the lake which was cold on an industrial scale.
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#29247 - 11/27/12 09:39 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
ruckustrx11 Offline


Registered: 07/18/12
Posts: 37
Loc: San Diego
Awesome week 1 report. I enjoy your trip reports as they are always well articulated. I cant wait to read about the rest of the trip.

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#29301 - 12/03/12 07:44 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 69
Loc: Denver, CO
Thanks for sharing, Rogue. I'm looking forward to reading more about the adventure this year!

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#29646 - 01/20/13 02:06 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Sorry that I have taken so long to put any work into this story but I have been really busy. I'll try to accelerate the process significantly.

WEEK 2

MAP

Leaving Lake 10,410 was an easy task while following the Northern shore this time around. I wanted to avoid following back down the outlet through the pinch point of the cliffs so I hooked wider between two tarn lakes and down some grassy slopes to where the use trail could be picked up. Over all it was extremely smooth and what I would consider the proper way to get to and from this lake.

It was another quiet morning grinding down the rough trail containing damage from the winter. 6 days had passed since I had seen another person traveling new terrain for me. I wondered just how long I would have gone without seeing a person if I had been heading for Kaweah Basin. As I hit the bottom I had to ford the Big Arroyo which was not difficult but so cold that I was in severe pain by the time I reached the other shore. After passing the old Ranger cabin and hooking up with the High Sierra Trail I was back on familiar terrain . The grind up canyon was slow and uneventful as I kept an eye out for some typical compositions I like to photograph. Stopping at the large cascade before the switch backs I took a photo and then realized a person was getting water from the river. I paused as this odd scene was laid before me. It's not every day you see a human after all...

Although I find myself eager to speak with the first person I see I typically find you never have the opportunity which was the case here. The allusive specimen went back to it's mate far from the trail corridor and I continued on my way.

Tackling the partially covered switch backs was not too difficult as I admired the typical sights of 9 Lakes Basin . Topping out and starting down the area was flooded making the travel a bit messy but beautiful. I couldn't make good progress because I was snapping so many photos. Precipice Lake was mostly frozen and I took a couple notes on camp sites in case I wanted to stay up here as I returned in a few days. Although it was time to drop down endless switch backs the amazing beauty of this mountain side was still one of my favorite and it kept me in good spirits. Rounding a corner I caught sight of two guys sitting on a rock. I thought maybe I would be able to speak to them but they were off trail facing away from me so on I went without a word. Down, down, down I went through the tunnel and into the humidity. The vegetation of the Southern slope was putting out a very oppressive amount of heat. But again the views did not let up as I hit the bottom and wandered into a camp to relax. After awhile three guys came down the hill which were the ones I had passed. One of them said to me "glad we are meeting under better circumstances". I had no idea what he meant... Turns out he had been taking a crap in the snow (and using the snow to wipe his butt) when I came around the corner. I guess I looked right over his head because I never saw him. Probably for the best considering such a major contamination of the water supply in progress.

Waking up in the morning I found a nice buck waiting for me. It watched me intently as it was highly trained in humans habits. I walked out to the forest to drain the bladder as the buck followed me the whole way. It stood about 10 feet away from me and licked it's lips in anticipation of the delicious bounty which it attacked the second I walked away. Back at camp I found my trekking pole had been dragged 20 feet away and was all slobbered up.

I began the long trek to Lodgepole. My paper written plan was to go to Merhten Creek for the night but I would just see how it went. I had hiked this section of trail about 7 times so I knew it all well. Down past Lower Hamilton, past the falls, up the hill, down the hill, cross the bridge, climb to Bear Paw Meadow where they were starting to set up for the season. Reaching Buck Creek I took lunch under the bridge which is one of my favorite break spots. Unfortunately I ripped my pants on a piece of rebar so this time it didn't treat me so well. I never did patch that hole...

As I went up, down, left and right I knew I would make it to Lodgepole which helped me along thinking about a cheeseburger. By the time I was closing in however I was beat. The major heat had taken it's toll on me and I had to put it crude yet comically a major case of the red ass. Throw in some chafing and raw blisters on my heals and I was not a happy camper. I hobbled to the bus stop with only one major thing on my mind and that was I wouldn't be able to take a shower since they closed at 5pm "I thought they did".

Reaching these resorts and resupplies often is a funny experience because everyone thinks your done. Or they might ask "are you coming or going?" I'm coming and going was always a nice reality on the trail. I have to admit it was always a bit odd feeling turning into some sort of celebrity as soon as you answer how long you are out for. The whole crowd begins intently listening to what you have to say and everyone has a question which never bothered me to answer no matter how many times I was asked.

I wasn't all that happy to be climbing on the bus that was completely packed shoulder to shoulder since I am a more courteous person and I don't like smelling like an ape for their sakes. Once in the camp ground I did the typical routine of standing in a line of cars on foot. I originally had not planned to stay an extra day at Lodgepole at all but since I had cut out my layover day at Lake 10,410 and I got in a day early I decided to stay for two nights. To my delight the showers were open until 8pm at this time of year. I spent some time talking to a couple while I ate and they invited me back to their camp so I spent the rest of the night chatting with them.

I spent all of the next day just relaxing and stuffing my face. I called my grandmother and aunt which are the two who most enjoy meeting up with me whether it's to bring me my cords or give me a ride so I scheduled that for the following day. When they arrived we had lunch and I got all the items I needed. I also took the opportunity to send home my ice axe. That evening as I sat in my camp studying a map a backpacker was crossing the road. He saw my tent and came over to chat. His name was Blake and turns out he was a PCT thru-hiker that had never spent any time in the high Sierra. What are you doing over here I asked and he told me how he was in a small group and one of his friends needed to get back to Visalia so while at Cottonwood Pass and not knowing the area they decided to hike the 50 miles back to Kennedy Meadows and then hitched around the Sierra. Really!? I said. You know you could have hiked about 4 miles down to the horseshoe Meadows trail head and hitched down from there? Well they didn't and he sure was going to let his friends know when he got back! He currently was wondering about how he could get back to the trail as quickly as possible. I gave him allot of insight into the different trails and how quick it is and also how scenic they are. Ultimately he decided to hike with me on the High Sierra Trail.

The following morning we got a late start and began on our way. It was already hot and I had let Blake lead at first but his pace blew me away so he ended up letting me lead which had the effect of pushing myself harder in an effort to maintain a good pace making the hike more difficult for me while I was still getting in shape out here. Meeting Blake was one of those things you wonder if the universe meant for us to cross paths. I just happened to be the guide he needed for the area and he currently was in the thick of a major disaster in his life. The sort of thing that leaves you at a cross road where the following weeks will determine the course of your life. I could relate to allot of his problems and being a person with such personal turmoil I was all too happy to be an ear for his pains and fears and offer what wisdom I could. We arrived at Bear Paw Meadow at last light closing our first day on the trail.

The whole Kaweah Gap area from just beyond Bear Paw Meadow over the pass is what I consider the highlight of the High Sierra Trail. This could be considered a bad thing since you reach it early on a thru-hike of it. No matter how many times I hike it the views never get old. This time around it was especially fun bringing someone along that had never seen these sorts of views.

We began up towards Hamilton Lake in the oppressive late morning heat. I was once again struggling to maintain a fast pace with a hiker that had already been on the trail for over a month behind me. By the time we were grinding the final steps to Hamilton I was hurting. The heat was terrible but luckily it was about lunch so we took a dip in the lake and sat on the shore in the shade as Blake marveled at Hamilton telling me it was one of the nicest places he had ever been. We were joined by a family as we sat for the better part of 2 hours on lunch. My goal for the day had been to actually cross the Kaweah Gap or at the least stay at Precipice Lake but my schedule was flexible enough that when we debated on staying at Hamilton for the night it was no big deal to me.

We took up camp next to 3 young guys that were doing the High Sierra Trail. Most of them had little to no experience backpacking. Their most notable piece of gear was a full hookah setup complete with replacement glass bowls just in case. Although I had a great time hanging out with all of them well into the night they had a few habits that were less then satisfactory with backpacking. One was that they would leave their bear barrels and bear box open while they went off for long periods of time. Complete with food scattered all about. The second and worse to me is they had dumped a massive amount of rice out into the lake. All down the granite shore line that everyone enjoys was a streak of rice for about 50 feet. This couldn't have been a worse place to dump such a thing because it was on granite so no going into the mud and there was no moving water meaning that rice was going to stay there until a poor Ranger wades out knee deep scooping it up. I told them that a Ranger would probably fine you on the spot for doing that but as I will note later it had no effect.

The grind up the Kaweah Gap was once again extremely laboring trying to not stop with Blake hot on my heels. We leap frogged a bit with another guy we met at Hamilton by the name of Riley. The three of us topped out on the gap together and then split up on our way down. From here the smooth grind down this canyon was a breeze. Once again the camping plans changed. I had planned to go to Moraine Lake but since I was going to the Kern Hotspring next we said why bother pushing on and stopped at the Big Arroyo junction which Riley was also camping at. It was pretty early so we had lots of relaxing to do. I had introduced Blake to wild onion so we spent some time foraging for and cleaning a pile of them to eat with dinner. The first rain drops of this trip began to fall but luckily only last for a minute or two.
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#29658 - 01/22/13 12:03 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7740
Loc: Fresno, CA
Nice reporting Rogue P. Pretty amazing that you hiked out the High Sierra Trail, and then back in.

Here are two pictures you took that I missed last Sept. when I hiked the trail.

Looking west toward Valhalla, with Hamilton Lake on the right. You can see three legs of the HST before it reaches Hamilton Lake, and then again far beyond and below as it crosses the granite on its way to Bearpaw.

Full size


The fuzzy-antler buck is a treat, too.




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#29659 - 01/22/13 08:26 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Yeah there weren't many options for going to Lodegpole. I planned hiking the High Sierra Trail again because a friend wanted to come along that had never done it but then he dropped out. That is why I shifted the plans from climbing Whitney to climbing Mt. Russell.

Lodgepole is a good resupply location but I am running out of new places to see around it. I might need to wander through Crowly and Box Canyons.

Another year or two at this and I will be planning almost entire hikes going back to the best places. I suppose that might be an interesting route to see when all is said and done.

I also never mentioned in the trip report that the deer I reported on was still there waiting for me as I got out of my tent in the morning on the return trip. He is keeping the wilderness clean of urine. :grin:


Edited by RoguePhotonic (01/22/13 08:30 AM)
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#29705 - 01/24/13 09:39 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7740
Loc: Fresno, CA
How did you like that Hexamid Solo tent from Zpacks? Did it hold up for the whole trip?



Sounds like the storm the first week was pretty crazy, too. Is the tent noisy in the wind?

Second question: What mapping software are you using to create the nice maps of your route?

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#29707 - 01/25/13 10:09 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I was happy with the solo plus all around. The only down side is it's not free standing. As for wear and tear the zippers failed at about the 2 month mark like they always do. In the high wind storm my trekking pole poked a hole through the bottom pad it stands on but that isn't a big deal.

The worst bit of wear is the fabric has certain points where a line runs through it but it's not a seam. Many locations began to fray apart at those lines. I'm not sure why but I am going to repair it with some cuben tape and hope it will last another major hike.

The noise is probably about the same as any other tent to me.

The mapping software is Mapsource with the 24K West maps. It's kind of a pain to make those maps as I take about 8 screen shots of the map zoomed in and then crop the edges off from the computer. Then I take the images and stitch them together with Microsoft ICE. Then I used paint to hand draw the route taken.


Edited by RoguePhotonic (01/25/13 10:10 AM)
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#29744 - 01/30/13 01:26 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
WEEK 3

MAP

Packing up in the morning Riley took to the trail long before Blake and I. As we ground up the long hill side leaving the Big Arroyo I felt heavily fatigued. I just didn't seem to have much energy and Blake shared the same sentiments. I think both of us were in a poor mood also. After we had topped out on this hill we took a break over about an hour and half having deep and relatively negative conversations. I suppose it's nice to have another head to input into the deeper philosophies of life. Reaching the junction that takes you either past Moraine Lake or directly to the junction beyond Sky Parlor Meadow I gave Blake the option of going either way. I told him I could meet him at the junction if he wanted to hike past Moraine Lake. Since I had never taken the Eastern route I wanted to and he ended up joining me. This ultimately was a mistake as this route was completely boring, hot and dry as we climbed over down trees in a small burn zone. I thought this route would at least give you some views of Sky Parlor Meadow but it does not. I certainly will never take that way again!

Beginning down I was zoned out when I suddenly heard a rattle to my left as a fairly large rattlesnake let me know he did not like me. Startled I jumped back and admired it since it was the first rattlesnake of this trip. Being just over 9000 feet it also was the highest I had seen a rattlesnake.

In 2010 a trail crew had told me this section of trail was getting a reroute to avoid the burn zone but I could not see any evidence of it. The grind down this long hot trail was everything I had remembered. By the time we hit the bottom of the Kern Canyon I was beat. Approaching the drift fence we met another rattlesnake in the middle of the trail marking the 2 rattlesnakes I would see for this entire trip. We arrive at the Kern Hotspring with Riley setting up camp. We joined him once again and were the only 3 people at the spring.

This was my first trail layover day. Riley went on his way and Blake hung around awhile thinking he was going to head out today but ultimately he stayed for another night. In another odd twist we were joined by another man that happened to be a counselor in the field of issues that Blake was having so we sort of had a back country private session.

Come morning Blake had wanted to get going earlier then I wanted to so he took off ahead on his way to Whitney and his own destiny. He would be the final person to hike with me for any length of time on this hike.

As for me I was still on a casual hike so my goal for the day was only to hike the 7 miles to Junction Meadow which I arrived at in only about 3 hours.

Leaving Junction I was a bit worried that I would not be able to reach Wales Lake because of it being about 3700 feet up and I still didn't seem to be getting into shape but I was able to make it well up Wallace Creek to where the use trail crosses a meadow outlet by lunch. This area was infested with mosquitoes which was one of the first locations for this to be true so far in the trip. I continued along easily until I had scaled the final granite slabs to Wales Lake. The sand showed no one had been to the lake yet this year and was a decent place to set up camp. The wind was ripping though which made the epically cold dip in the lake that much worse.

Heading out to climb Mt. Russell I had picked what looked like a small ledge that could take me to the more level terrain towards Tulainyo Lake. When I reached it however it turned out to be a wide ramp that made getting past the steeper slopes a breeze.

Slogging along and slowly up I finally reached the harsh terrain of Tulainyo Lake. The area did not seem to support camping of any kind. Perhaps if your lucky you might find a rock big enough to fit your body. Hooking towards Russell / Carillon Pass I had to cross a single large snow field that was extremely cupped. This early in the day it was mostly solid so I made good time across it. Arriving at the base of the pass the way up seemed fairly straight forward. I began hoping up the rocks very quickly sometimes making using of all fours like a monkey. The talus was beautifully stable and the right size to have fun running up it. Nearing the top some class 3 had to be climbed with some loose rock but without trouble I was standing on top. I had been speaking to myself out loud about the beautiful views when a head popped up near by. I was slightly disturbed suddenly since I had been so in my own world and I never expected to see someone. I set out up the ridge with the couple not far behind. I tried to set a good pace which was a mistake because while climbing a large rock I slipped bashing my knee and scratching a wrist. After a few moments of major pain I kept going up. Slowly I made my way up the ridge with many difficult maneuvers with decent exposure. Closing in on the false summit the climb had become much steeper. By the time I had huffed my way onto the summit I was greatly disappointed to see the real summit. My GPS showed more then 14,000 feet for this point. After the last ridge traverse I was finally on top around lunch time enjoying a fine views on this clear day. The couple that had been following me up finally topped out and took my photo. They quickly went back down as I sat and relaxed. Finally it was time for me to go so I retraced my steps back. While climbing along a slim rock dislodged and fell bashing me in the ankle leaving a bloody scrape cut. After I was done groaning I made my way back to the pass and down to the lake. The snow field was more difficult later in the day but I still made ok time on it. As I made my way down the nice class 1 terrain the wind was ripping with a fury. Suddenly I stumbled. Stumbles occur so often while hiking that they become second nature. You stumble, correct your near fall and keep walking like nothing happened. Due to this I was half way to the ground before I realized I did not correct myself. I smashed hard onto my left arm bashing the crap out of it and scratching my wrist up. For the third time I fought off the pain picked myself up, dusted myself off and went on my way although I considered myself lucky that I did not break my arm. Arriving back in camp with with 2 scraped wrists, 1 bashed knee, 1 bashed arm and one bashed and scraped ankle I couldn't be happier, besides my solar charger had brought my media player back to 100% power while I was gone!

I made quick work getting back down to the High Sierra trail. As I reached Wright Creek I ran into the 3 Hookah carrying guys from Hamilton Lake. We had a nice chat and I gathered they had stayed at Junction Meadow the night before which was my destination for the night. Again I was in camp at this location early. I held my hand over the fire pit and plenty of heat was coming out of it. Down at the creek a large amount of couscous was dumped into the water along the shore. Yep I found their camp! Still not changing their habits. Later a couple set up near by and I had a chat with the guy and he was a man I had met before known around Lodgepole by the name "Yogi". The two of them had been out since around the 22nd of May and were planning to do 120 days in the Sierra so I wasn't alone out here. He also gave me some ideas of a way he liked to cross the Whaleback which I would use later.

After fording the Kern I began up the Kern-Kaweah River trail. Once again I did not have much energy and the heat was oppressive. Most of this trail was irksome at best and I did not enjoy myself at all. A nice view or two did show themselves and while trekking along I was slightly startled by a large bearded face smiling at me. The Gallats Lake area didn't impress me like I had hoped but it was certainly a welcome place to be after the miserable climb up to it. Finally it was time to leave the trail again and I picked a random location to start up canyon. The easy cross country travel through this meadow ridden valley was great but the mosquitoes were pretty thick when ever the wind would let up. Here and there were bits of a use trail but they never lasted long. Reaching the slope leading to Lake 11,400 the terrain shifted from smooth valley meadows to harsh loose rock that was much slower to navigate. Reaching the lake it turned out to be much nicer then I had expected. That is the scenery was. The camping situation on the other hand was non existent. I checked all about and finally settled on a small spot that was just big enough for my body. A cold breeze blew most of the night ending my third week in the Sierra.
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#29937 - 02/20/13 05:11 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
WEEK 4

MAP

After a chilly night I began out towards Pants Pass. I had long decided to take the Southern ridge saddle and not hike up the East Col. which looked like a steep lose scree mess. The area had about 70% snow cover and the initial progress was easy on harder packed snow. Unfortunately I ran into many sections of knee deep post holing that slowed my progress significantly. After allot of huffing, puffing and cursing I finally reached the end of the snow line and made my way up to the ridge which offered beautiful views down on the Kaweah Gap. From here it was an easy 100 yards or so to dump onto the actual saddle of Pants Pass. Looking down the East slope of this pass and considering how easy the South Ridge is I couldn't imagine why anyone would go this way other than to say you had done it.

Beginning down the lose mess was immediately proving to be allot of fun. It was the type of scree that you can just mash your foot in hard pushing into a nice step. The only danger to this was keeping an eye out for areas that might have a rock just under the surface that will cause you to slip. After a couple hundred feet down riding the scree happily suddenly the whole hill side began to go on me. I looked up to see that besides all the scree this section was filled with large boulders and they were also riding in the slide. I quickly began to run across the slope while riding the avalanche. Thankfully I got out of the path of the slide and it stopped after another 20 feet. After a few good chuckles I continued down. At one point another slide took off on me but not as dramatic as the first. As the slope curved left and then back right I fell onto my butt and I was in another mini slide which I did everything I could to stop because my trekking pole was lodged in the rock above me. Finally the scree mess gave way to more manageable slopes and I made my way over to the small lake below the two Lion Rock Passes. From here both looked like an easy climb. I hooked directly left and began angling up the slope. This pass was nothing more then picking your way up a mix of grass ramps, small talus fields and large glacier polished slabs. I made it on top of Lion Rock 2 Pass in time to sit and eat lunch. As I began down the snow cover was about 90%. The snow cupping made it no good for a nice slide to the bottom. Instead I began sliding down being beat up as I went. By the time I was far enough down to continue on foot my hand was bleeding from the ice crystals on the surface of the snow.

I made quick work down the rest of the pass and began to angle to the right following the drainage. When it ended at a steep cliff side I looked down it but could not see far enough to judge if this class 3 route could be taken. Not wanting to have to climb back up I hooked left and began down the slope on the South shore of Lion Lake. This route took allot of micro route finding down small shelves that were littered with smaller lose rock. Without any real difficulty I was strolling along the shores of Lion Lake. I crossed the outlet and found a nice large rock to lay out on for the night. A local Marmot eyed me with great suspicion but decided I could stay for the night. I took a miserably cold dip in the lake and began down the outlet towards Tamarack Lake in an effort to find some vistas. I did find a camp site but nothing that great for views. Closing the night a cold wind was blowing hard. Maybe it had always been blowing since the wind never seemed to stop for this trip. My Western Mountaineering Summerlite was a bit smaller then my Versalite and nights like this I was reminded of it as I could never fully close off the draft and as I would roll and adjust a couple times the wind blew my bag off me completely. ARRRGGG!!! stupid wind!!!

As I set out around the Northern side of the lake I began angling up towards Lion Lake Pass before I was below it which worked out well enough. Yet again this was an easy pass on it's South side following small glacier carved sections of rocks lined with grass. By the time I had reached it's top however the icy wind was ripping over the ridge. I hunkered down and took a break before tackling the slope below. Once again it was about 95% snow coverage but this time much steeper. The early morning snow was hard packed and I could barely maintain any footing. I was outside my comfort zone at this point and wished I had my ice axe. This was the only time on this trip I would feel this way. I slipped once and had to use my trekking poles to self arrest. Once again my hand was bleeding this time due to digging my finger nail into my skin. I could barely stand back up so I began a system of lowing myself down by stabbing my trekking poles into the snow at about my knee level and then lowering my body down some. When I had made it far enough to resume on foot I began angling across the head wall of Cloud Canyon. What at times was a pleasant scenic climb turned into a miserable nightmare of post holing. First it was unstable snow where you never knew if you were going to hold or fall in slightly. Then knee deep snow which was extremely difficult to move forward in. Then the snow gave way to thigh deep post holing and I could no longer walk. Cursing, kicking and fighting in despair I was forced to crawl on all four using my trekking poles in front of me in an effort for solid ground. Inch by inch I made my way up the slope until I was swearing I would never ever EVER!! come back onto this head wall with snow! RAWWWRRRRRRRR!!!! The last 50 feet of progress probably took me 30 minutes. Finally like a ship wrecked refugee I staggered onto the lose rock and stumbled up to the ridge line offering wonderful views. As I made my way up the ridge the icy wind continued to rip with a fury. 50 yards or so before being below Peak 12,345 I found the old mining trail and followed it along then bailing off to make the summit. Despite all the hardship the views did not disappoint. Checking the register I was the first to sign it for the season and I began down to the West. Not very far down the ridge line I spotted a mine adit near by so I climbed out to it on some difficult scree slopes. It was a shallow opening with snow and ice inside but had some interesting mine relics inside. I climbed out the rear opening but it did not lead anywhere interesting.

Back on the ridge the trail was easy to follow and I made my way down admiring Deadman Canyon once again. Moving down the North side was a slushy and muddy mess but was not difficult. I passed by another mess of relics where any other evidence of the mining was covered in snow.

I began angling across the head wall but it proved more difficult then I would have thought from all the times I have seen it. It was a mess of soft snow fields, micro cliffs and slick water covered granite. After longer than I would have liked I crossed over the trail here and began up towards Horn Col.

Climbing this pass was easy as proverbial pie especially compared to last year when it had been all snow. After plenty of huffing I made my way on top of the 3rd pass for the day. The year before I had climbed along the talus on the North Ridge but this time I dropped slightly down onto the granite slabs and made my way along the talus here. It took a bit more caution as the talus was sitting directly on top of smooth granite slabs and could be easily knocked down hill. After the last slopes down I was back at Lonely Lake again. I set up in the same camp as the year before and closed a difficult yet rewarding day.

Leaving camp I was a bit torn on the best way to Pterodactyl Pass. I considered hooking out around the bowl in front of me to avoid loosing altitude but after more detailed surveying of the terrain I decided that dropping directly down and crossing was the best way to go. After a few steep granite slabs and crossing by some mosquito encouraging tarns I was on my way up. This past couldn't be much easier. Zig zagging along granite avoiding all talus and with little effort I was on top. From the pass I hooked right moving North West in a wide arch avoiding more intermixed terrain littered with some tarns. The area had more nasty mosquito pits and for one of the first times on this trip I was mounting my head net. The Tablelands are an unusual place to travel. A wide expanse of barren landscape offering some vistas but generally is dull to travel. Easy yet irksome at times. I would mostly regard it as a connector zone that is best traveled quickly. After zig zagging and going over the small ups and downs I reached the edge looking down on Table Meadows. As I made my way down this steeper bit of terrain I saw a man below making his way up. I figured our paths would cross but he seemed to make a point to stay away from me so I continued on my way down the valley.

Traveling down the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River proved to be a bit more difficult then I might have expected. The terrain was so mixed with granite micro cliffs and brush that I followed the creek through several more difficult areas which would not have been possible in higher water. Finally after an uneventful stretch I hooked left and over a small hump to get my first look at Pear Lake. I began left across this granite area until I was walking on some steep slabs. I wondered what I must look like from a distance. Arriving at the lake however I found it to be abandoned. I had noted the poor Ranger cabin that for some reason and been placed far below the lake. I wanted to go down and say hello but I was too lazy. I got set up and wandered around taking pictures as a few more people began showing up. I quickly learned this area was a repeat of Franklin Lakes as the Marmots began assaulting my camp so I could have no rest. I attempted to teach a Marmot not to chew on my solar panel by stopping it every time it tried to do it. After the 15th time the Marmot wandered off to terrorize someone else's camp.

As I made my way out of the area I heard that familiar deep sounding call. As I came around the corned I finally caught my first view of the culprit. I was completely amazed to find that it was a Grouse! A STUPID GROUSE! For the last four years I had been hearing that call and never knew what it was. I had been asked by countless people what it was and I had asked countless people and no one had an answer. It was nothing more then the mating call of a Grouse... I marched along quite happy that such a long running mystery had been solved.

As I reached the creek that runs between Emerald & Aster Lake I spotted a Deer and her two babies. I watched them for a bit as they happily grazed. Then suddenly one of the fawns plopped down into the grass. I chuckled to myself that the poor little thing was so small it could not get it's head above the grass but time passed and it did not come out. I stood and watched as the curious mother searched the ground where her baby had fallen. She was upset and began digging at the ground. This went on for about 10 minutes when I realized that I was going to have to do something so I took my pack off and approached the mom slowly talking to her softly. The baby was crying and she clearly did not want to leave as by the time I got to where it had fallen she was about 6 feet away from me. I looked down to see that a deep cut water channel was running through the grass. The fawn was up to it's neck in water and was caught under some roots. I could tell it's struggle was futile and it would never make it out alive. I reached in and with a scream from both the baby and the mother I picked the poor thing out and set it into the grass. The mother had backed off 15 feet and just stood and stared at me cold. The fawn stayed collapsed in the grass shaking both from fear and the freezing water it had spent the last 10 minutes in. I stood and waited as the mother made no move towards her baby and only stared at me like I had killed it. Finally after about a minute the fawn slowly got to it's feet and the mother immediately was excited to see that her baby was ok. They went to each other and she began cleaning her baby up. The mother and I exchanged one last glance and I got my pack back on and resumed the trail. I was so moved by the experience I could hardly express myself. It became one of the best experiences I have ever had hiking the Sierra.

As I neared the junction that goes to The Watch Tower I was confused to find a rough trail leading off into the forest. I thought it was the junction I wanted although it was not marked. The trail did how ever have cut logs on it. I followed it for about a hundred yards and lost it completely. Maybe this was a reroute or some trail used by trail crews I thought so I back tracked and found the proper way. As I reached the Watch Tower I climbed the steeper sides of it from the trail and got some views from the top. From here it was all down hill to Lodgepole. Before I got there however I ran into a mother, her daughter and niece. They chatted me up a bit and were amazed with my hike. They offered to feed me dinner and gave me their camp site number.

Reaching Lodgepole I again considered the idea of how long I would stay. And for what ever reason I decided to do two layover days. That night I joined the 3 girls at camp for a nice dinner and exchanged stories.

The following day I kept running into them again everywhere I went like we were stalking each other. They fed me dinner again and we did a hike to Tokopah Falls which was one of the only hikes I had not done in this area.

When all was said and done it was time to get moving again. I took the trail towards Silliman Pass and ran into a couple that where headed the same way but were much slower than me. As I had learned in 2010 this trail was uneventful as I went past Twin Lakes and over Silliman Pass. When I reached Ranger Lake I began looking for a site with a Bear Box since I had heard there was one here. I couldn't find it though and settled with an ok camp on the Northern side of the Lake. I had long taken a dip in the lake, ate my dinner by the fire and retreated to my tent to escape the mosquitoes as the last light of the day was coming to an end when the couple I had run into earlier came stumbling into camp. I offered them my camp which they accepted. By about 1am we finally went to bed.
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#29952 - 02/21/13 05:27 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Whitney Fan Offline


Registered: 12/02/09
Posts: 213
Loc: Las Vegas
Your experience with the deer is one of the most inspiring things I've ever read. THAT is a SPECIAL moment, for sure.

Only ONE incident like that any 20 or 30 years is ENOUGH to make life good.

(Only thing that could have improved the experience might have been a cold IPA after it?!)

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#29953 - 02/21/13 06:24 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Yeah that was a good day. Talk about being in the right place at the right time to do something good.
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#30012 - 02/26/13 06:56 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Rico Offline


Registered: 02/26/13
Posts: 6
Loc: 805
Hey Rogue- thanks much for the posts. I'm really enjoying your week-by-week installments about your solo Sierra adventure. Really nice pics as well. But I'm intrigued. I'm fortunate if I can get away for a long weekend let alone 4 months in the mountains. How do you pull it off? I recognize that question may be too probing for a public forum, and if that is the case, feel free to tell me to mind my own business and I'll just continue to live vicariously through you.

Regards,
Rico

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#30014 - 02/26/13 07:50 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Lol I have never understood why people are so private about their financial situation. Or get upset about being asked anything. You can ask me literally anything you want and I don't care. If I am uncomfortable answering then I will just say so with no harm done. ;)

Basically the way it has been possible for me is I have continued to live with family to alleviate the need to pay a mortgage or rent for a place that I am not even occupying while I am gone. If I did not do this then I would probably only be able to do one of these hikes every 2 years so that I could save enough money to pay everything in advance. Then I work in construction doing acoustical ceilings and my uncle owns the business I work for. This has allowed me to take off for however long I want and still be welcomed back without any change. Then of course I have no wife/kids/girlfriend or anyone that makes wandering the mountains for months a problem.
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#30022 - 02/27/13 05:11 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
WEEK 5

MAP

The three of us after a late night parted ways late from camp. As I made my way through Sugarloaf Valley I was reminded how horrible of a trail it is. Just sandy and hot with almost no views. At least I was not choking on smoke like I had been in 2010 when wild fires were raging near by. Slowly I slogged along taking note of all the bear tracks in the sand and by the time I reached the Roaring River Ranger Station I was beat. I was happy to learn from other Rangers that Cindy was supposed to be arriving on this day but when I got there the cabin was still shut down for the season.

She never did make it as I made my way up Cloud Canyon the following morning. Like I had remembered the hike through Cloud is mostly uneventful. It's major beauty is isolated into primary locations such as Big Wet Meadow. I was just glad that the mosquitoes were not bad and I could enjoy myself more as I had to make a couple typical ford locations. When I was getting closer to where I planned to leave the trail I was keeping an eye out for Shorty's Cabin. My GPS map showed a waypoint for it but it was not accurate. Ultimately I never did see it and just went on my way. As I began off trail it wasn't so easy right away. I had to find my way through some wet marshes and then climb through some mild brush mixed with talus. Although my goal had been to try and reach Glacier Lake I knew it was futile. My energy had fizzled out and I was ready to stop for the night. I found a giant flat rock that was about 7 feet above the ground and only had one access point to get on it which was a small rock bridge. I decided this would be a good place to lay out for the night. Ever since I had left Wales Lake my filters seal was broken where the pump handle was. I had left it out in the sun while I climbed Mt. Russell. I decided to try and use my lighter to heat the glue in an effort to seal it again since every time I pumped water it would shoot water 15 feet. This back fired on me though and the whole area warped and the filter was dead ending any further water treatment for the rest of the hike.

That night I decided to make a fire on the rock since it was unlikely that any black stain on it's top would be seen by any other hiker going through here. I danced around on the rock under the stars listening to music wondering about my physical condition. It was day 30 on the trail and I did not seem to be getting into shape like other years. Maybe I am just getting old I thought but after this day it was like a switch was flipped and I found my energy. An energy that would continue to grow for the rest of this hike.

The rest of the way up Cloud Canyon was easy and scenic. As I reached an old mining area I began searching around for mine relics. Drums, glass jars, a bed frame and a strong piece of aluminum that I first though was foil but it was hard to bend. It had letters on it but all I could make out for sure was OWD. When I had seen all I wanted to see I started making my way up hill towards a low point on the Whaleback. It had a brown mess of rocks on it which was what Yogi at Junction Meadow had told me about. I assumed this was his location for crossing so I began up. The views of Cloud Canyon where wonderful from this prospective. As I reached the brown rocks it was a nearly vertical section of class 3. The rocks where loose and demanded allot of caution because there was plenty enough exposure to kill you. After a couple difficult moves I reached the last ramp to the top.

Beginning down there was a bit of nearly vertical class 3 but it was all solid rock this time which made things allot easier. After lunch on the hill side I made my way down to the basin below and on down to the small lakes. When I reached the area where the terrain gets much steeper I began angling to my right in an effort to not lose too much altitude while I pick up the trail again. This was not the easiest task as I walked across steep faces of granite slabs. At one point I made a difficult jump around a corner and my pack hit the rock face nearly throwing me down to my demise.

When I picked up the trail I immediately ran into 4 people which startled me. I had an odd exchange with them since they didn't seem to understand what I was doing out here. I made quick work the rest of the way to Colby Lake and did some fishing for the first time on this trip. I had picked up a roll of line and a couple lures at Lodgepole and was doing some bootleg fishing using my trekking pole. It was a bit difficult to get the hang of this type of fishing but it worked just as well.

Moving North it was a fairly easy task to cut around into the drainage of Talus Lake. Although plenty rocky the travel continued to be easy as I passed a small unnamed lake and then on up to Talus Lake. I continued around the Northern shore and up the talus to near the pass. After passing by the the small tarn I sat on the pass looking at the terrain below. From way up here I spotted what looked like a nice camp site so I pulled out my monocular to examine it and other locations more closely. Continuing down this pass was a bit more challenging in terms of planning your way. A great deal of slabs had to be navigated and zig zagging down narrow grass slopes proved to be the key. Once I had reached the bottom I found the campsite I had seen from above and it seemed like a nice place to stay for the night so I got set up and went for a swim in the beautiful tiny lake near by. I then began exploring down along the larger meadow some. The North side was a particularly wonderful place to be and the familiar feeling of being in a place you belong came over me. If anywhere in the Sierra was worth coming back to Table Creek was certainly one of them.

The following morning I began making my way up towards Thunder Ridge Pass admiring all the beauty around me. This was another easy stretch of terrain to travel. As I got closer to the pass a small cut trench was on my left and I made the mistake of not entering it. Instead I stayed higher up and got stuck on a plateau of micro cliffs. Fortunately as I was almost to Thunder Ridge Pass I was able to drop down and begin up the pass. Although the pass itself was easy grass ramps the rest of the area was an aggressive looking mess of moraine. I had on my mind the fact that somewhere in this general area a WW2 fighter plane had never been found. Where are you hiding yourself I thought as I jumped up over the pass and began down the other side. Looking down I was happy that although this pass was solid talus you have the advantage that no route find is necessary but after only 15 feet down a rock rolled on me and sent me smashing down bashing and cutting my knee. I also took some cuts to my wrists and slightly sprained my ankle. I sat down to fight off the pain and gathered myself again. The more I continued down the more I realized how bad this pass really is. The talus was hauntingly unstable/stable. I touched a 3000 pound boulder and it took violently off smashing down the hill in a thunderous crash. Every step down I never knew which rocks were going to hold and which ones would take me out.

When I reached the level talus field below I saw a familiar sight again. A pile of animal droppings that looked like Horse. I had seen this so many times in these crazy locations. What the hell and how is a horse wandering around up here? Later I would finally come to the conclusion that this is bear scat. Their early season diet of mostly vegetation produces scat that looks allot like a horse. Even so it was an odd place for a bear to be wandering.

As I approached the cliff sides looking down on the 3 lakes below I hooked hard right and picked up a talus slope that took me down to the shore line. After I made it across the first lake I found a large rock to hide half my body under and eat lunch. As I laid here the Marmots were letting out their scared chirps. After about a minute I realized that they sounded too upset to just be scared of me. I began looking around until I spotted the culprit. I coyote was making it's way along the lake and up the hill to where ever it was going.

As I dropped to the final lake I had a hard time getting through a large talus field over grown with willows but finally I was down and rounded the lake to enjoy the final look at these three beautiful unnamed lakes.

Crossing plenty of small talus over to Cunningham Creek what did I find? Well what else but more beauty? Now it was time for the final push so hooking up grass and granite slabs I closed in on South Guard Lake passing more horse looking bear scat. When I arrived I first began searched the South West shore for a place to camp but had no luck so I moved over to the East shore. Here I found a few spots that didn't offer much for me. I decided it was time to bring one of these patches up to a livable standard so I started clearing all the rocks out of a dirt patch until it was big enough to set up my tent.

I set out to do some fishing but had no luck at all and concluded that this lake had no fish. A few drops of rain fell marking the first rain since the Big Arroyo 19 days ago.

Even though my ankle still hurt from the day before I set out to climb Mt. Brewer. I went around the South East shore and came to a snow field running into the lake. I joked that I bet this damn thing is hard as a rock. I stuck my foot out and pressed on it. My foot immediately slipped out and I almost fell to the ground. Not only was it hard but it was solid ice! I was forced up hill on some difficult rock faces but after some trouble I made it past it and continued up some drainage ways to the East. Up top I began moving more towards Brewer but hard packed snow made it difficult. Once I had topped off my water at the tarns below Brewer I began scrambling up the talus like a monkey using all four limbs. I enjoyed being so nimble and feeling so good as I made quick work up to the ridge. At one point I found myself in front of a nasty bit of rock that required a vertical class 4 climb. When I had finally reached the top it was difficult to pick out which block was the summit. The one a bit more to the East looked higher so I began working out across this difficult ridge. I dropped onto the North side of the slope and had to shimmy slightly inverted along a cliff face. When I reached the furthest East side of the ridge I found orange peels all over and searched for any sort of summit marker or register without luck. I decided to give this summit block a try so I set up my camera to record a video and climbed on top of it. The rock was only a few inches wide and I thought about standing up on top of it but decided it was probably best not to so I just sat on it. From here I still could not tell if this was the high point so I made my way back across to the high spot on the West side of the ridge. Once I had climbed on top of it I could tell for sure the other block was the summit. Climbing back down this rock however was intense since the hand holds were almost non existent and my boots did not help me much.

Finally it was time to go so I began angling down the South East slope towards Brewer Pass. When I had reached one notch that I thought might be the pass it was a class 5 chimney climb so I figured the real pass was further South. The rest of the way down the sand slopes was easy enough and on back to the tarns while talus hoping. This time I decided to go around the North shore of South Guard Lake so I passed the small lake below Cinder Col and on down. This idea proved to be a bit more difficult though since I immediately was faced with steep granite slabs that were not that easy to cross. Then when I reached the West shore a large snow field in front of a cliff face blocked my way so I was forced way up the hill and back down again. Finally I crossed the outlet and wandered back into my camp victories over another peak.

Leaving South Guard Lake I angled out towards Longely Pass in an effort to not lose much altitude which put more obstacles in my way yet worked out well enough. The initial climb was a steep slope of rock and sand which was tiring but once you fight your way beyond this you have an easy stroll to the top. When I got there I looked up at South Guard and debated climbing it. I wanted to bag the peak and it was an easy climb to the top but in the end I was simply too lazy. The top of the pass had a cornice all the way across. The North side extended all the way to the cliff faces and the snow looked too steep if it was very hard packed. I made my way to the Southern end and was able to climb down below it. I began traversing across the pass under the cornice which was mostly easy but could have been uncomfortable for others due to the fact that some of the slopes were loose sand and were close to vertical cliffs. If you fell you would mostly likely go over the cliff to your death.

Once I had gotten to the North side I began down the sand slopes which were a breeze to just ride down to the bottom. After passing by the small lake below I reached some slopes that could be taken down to the primary lake. I debated on them but from here I could not see the North shore of the lake and I had no idea if it could be taken so I decided to stay up higher until I was about half way around the lake where I found some grass ramps down to the shore line. After admiring this beautiful lake I began making my way to the outlet. Before I got there however I reached a slot of terrain that headed down which I decided to take. This proved to be a pleasant way to go as I picked up a couple areas that seemed to have constructed switchbacks. Most of the way down was easy although I made use of hoping along the creek to avoid some snow and major talus which would not have been possible in higher water levels. After plenty of micro route finding choices and small bush whacking I found myself standing on the shore of Lake Reflection. As I stood there for some reason I felt so incredibly peaceful and found the lake so beautiful. A wonderful feeling breeze was hitting me and the sound of the waves splashed on the shore. I felt like just laying down and soaking up the sun without a care in the world but I had a camp to find. Moving along the North shore it had plenty of cairns to follow which was a bit pointless in my opinion because the choices were few where one could climb along the granite faces. When I reached the outlet there was one camp with no one home. I got set up near by as a couple came walking across the log jam. Talking to them a bit they were out for a two weeks and already had climbed every single peak in the whole area including further South to Midway Mountain. Apparently they also had a second camp set up at East Lake to climb peaks down there. Certainly they had way more stamina than I ever will!

I spent the rest of the night fishing but could not catch any fish worth eating.

WEEK 6

MAP

After taking one last look at Lake Reflection I began out on the log jam that the other two hikers had crossed the day before. I did not make it far though before I said "the hell with this!" It was just a bit too sketchy for my liking so I began down and around the outlet lake where the crossing was much easier. I continued down the valley making an attempt to follow the use trail that was here but I ended up losing it. A bit further down I must have made some wrong choices because before I knew it I was climbing through thick willows. And man do I mean thick! They were over my head and I began getting pissed as I fought my way through with a horrible amount of effort. At times I could not tell if I was even on the ground but finally I punched out and continued on easier terrain. After one or two large talus fields I finally picked up a decent enough trail that took me to East Lake. Another delightful lake to enjoy but now it was time to trudge down to Bubbs Creek. About half a mile before the river crossing I spotted a decent size black bear across the creek. It did not see me as it wandered along. I wanted to test how wild it was so I called out to it "hello Mr. Bear!". It looked up at me without a care in the world and just went on with scratching it's neck and rubbing it's butt on a tree. Clearly a bear used to seeing allot of people.

After dropping down the last bit to the crossing I got there just as a man was getting his shoes back on. We sat and talked for 30 minutes and he told me how this was his first time in the Sierra and that when he began to cross the creek, not knowing what to do he tossed his shoes across to the other side and one bounced back into the water. When I told him that I just tie my laces together and sling the shoes over me he could only say - "I didn't think of that". Resuming the trail it was time for the long slog down canyon as the temperature got much hotter. Before I got there however a man came hiking up the trail. "Don't I know you I asked?" After a brief moment we remembered. "Oh yeah! your the man that gave me your tent stakes at Franklin Lakes!" 36 days later and they were still serving me well.

After the 14 mile trek I came wandering out at Roads End. Although I would have loved to get a ride to Cedar Grove for the night I decided to bootleg camp in the same location I had the year before.

Come morning I made the 5 mile walk to the resort. To my dismay the bridge was still out! What!? Still!? Damn! I had one advantage though and that was that the river was low enough already that fords could be made easily. Sadly when I asked about using the electrical outlets under the counter they said nope I cannot use it. After a couple bad dealings with some people the manager decided to get rid of all liability and not allow anyone to charge anymore. I knew that I could use the visitor center in the Sentinel campground but again because of that magic word of liability the Rangers will not allow you to leave your stuff over night.

After doing laundry and getting a shower it was time to call my family. Like the year before my uncle owed me plenty of money before I left so it worked out again to have them bring me a resupply and the money. I was going to make the call when I was informed that all communications in the valley were down and since it was Friday they would not be back up until Monday. So I was just stuck! I spent the next couple of days hanging out with the Rangers and just reading while spending way more money then I wanted to. Finally on Monday the phones came up and when I picked up the phone about 12 dollars of change came pouring out of it from all the people who wasted their money trying to call. I ended up giving it all to a young girl who said she had 5 dollars to last her the rest of the week. After arranging the package for the next day I could only keep waiting.

After getting my package my aunt said how my dad wanted me to call him and that he wanted to do a hike. We had already discussed the fact that since he only has the weekend off that it would be impossible for him to do much with me and she could offer no more relevant information so with dread I made the call. My dad always had a tendency to ramble on about nothing at all with no regard to the fact that I am feeding change into the phone and need to communicate information quickly. This is exactly what happened as any time I would try to tell him about anything interesting that had happened out here he would cut me off on some random bit and after less than 10 minutes I ran out of change listening to him going on about how he is way better than me in any kind of route finding or wilderness travel. We never did manage to get much information communicated about him wanting to hike other then he has the weekend which of course I already knew. It may have been less than 10 minutes of communication but the exchange left me irritated every time I thought about it for the next month on the trail. That would be the last non business phone call home on this trip...

Come Wednesday it was time to get away from this place and all the chaos. So with the largest load I had carried of 15 days I set out back up the trail to Roads End. While there I took a break and went to the Ranger booth. Remember me? I said to the cute young girl working the station. "Yes... If you keep at this your not going to have anywhere left to explore!" she said. We talked for an hour or more and then it was time for me to get going again.

By the time I reached the bridge crossing the South Fork it was burning hot out so I jumped into the river to soak myself for climbing the switch backs which worked beautifully. Some where close to Charlotte Creek I set up for the night.

The next morning I began up the West side of Charlotte. I didn't get far as I saw a couple on the other side going up also. I yelled over to them "I didn't think I would see anyone else going up here!" After I was able to make them hear me it turned out they had no desire to go up Charlotte Creek but were Rae Lake Loop hikers that had just seen me hiking and followed me like sheep.

Right away the steepness of the slope was kicking my butt. The high heat was also killing me. Further up the slopes were so steep and mixed with light vegetation I could barely stay on the side of the slope. Then the walls began to close and I found myself back in the middle of a nightmare bushwhack! I fought through getting more angry and slowly losing my sanity. I was out of water and although the creek was not that far below me it was impossible to reach. Finally after more misery then I care to remember I got to the creek and was able to get water again. Good times ahead right? WRONG! The slope from here was so steep and so over grown that I had to use the branches to pull myself up the hill while trying to get myself through the nightmare. WHY DO WE DO IT!!!! WHY!!!! I yelled. CAN ANYONE HEAR ME!!! NOPE!!! Because no one is stupid enough to come up this damn creek but me!!! ARRRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!

By the time I got through a 30 foot section leaving the creek I was all cut up and the scab on me knee was ripped open. Looking over at the East side of the creek it looked like it had better options for getting through but not much. I began angling higher up the hill in an effort to get away from the brush which slowly worked and the slope gave way to annoying yet manageable Manzanita. After crossing the creek coming down from below Gardiner Pass I popped my head over the steep banks to see a tarp stretched out. Once again the sight of people caught me off guard. As I was making the last steep push I heard a loud rumbling sound and I thought it was thunder finally since I had not heard any yet but it did not stop. I looked over across the valley to see dust clouds all the way down a slope from a good sized landslide. When this area leveled out I found a nice camp site to the end day as a mild rain washed over the area.
_________________________
FlickR

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#31315 - 05/09/13 09:03 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I have been working 7 days a week for like 2 months. And at this point I know I will never finish this before I go back into the Sierra.

Week 7

MAP

Continuing up Gardiner Pass was proving to be an easy task as the slopes were not very steep. Suddenly I came out on a massive avalanche area that was staggering. It easily was one of the largest I have seen in the Sierra but luckily for me the primary bulk of debris was further down the hill so traveling through it proved to be easy. After I had crossed over it and entered the forest I picked up what was left of this old trail that could be taken to the top . From here I had the choice to hook wide around some large rocks to my right or enter a steep small chute with a metal box smashed at it's top. I took the chute and after about 15 feet it met up with the switchbacks that took me most of the way to the lower lakes. From here the trail was so faint that I saw no reason to even look for it anymore.

After skirting around the small lakes I began meandering down anyway I could. Because of other things that had been on my mind I was startled to see a pile of rocks sealing off a large rock. I thought it might have been someone's tomb but the other side was open. More like some kind of extreme shelter.

As I made my way down the final hill to Lake 9,530 I almost tripped on a big stretch of barbed wire. It was wrapped very oddly around the area in a manor I could not make any real sense of. Nothing more than a hazard now! After skirting around the lake close to the outlet I found an okay camp and went for a dip in the lake but was displeased to find a couple fresh water leaches on my ankles or at least that's what I thought they were. The whole area had allot of trash for being more or less a cross country location. While at the outlet a thin strip of silver was showing itself under a narrow water channel on the rock. It turned out to be a large knife that probably had been sitting there for many years. A bit too heavy for me to pack out I thought so I left it at my camp. For the first time on this trip I caught some fish and cooked them but my cooking method was not so great and I felt it was hardly worth all the effort.

What was left of the trail was close to my camp and began down the steep hill. Even though there were some switchbacks left it was steep enough to have a hard time not slipping. I doubted that this was once a trail but a use trail that developed after the actual trail could no longer be found.

Once I had hit the bottom and passed through a mess of talus I lost the trail and went straight out across the creek and began up some steep hill sides. After this initial climb though the grade stopped it's aggressive nature and made for nice easy up hill travel. Although at times I picked up a trail and cairns it was better to just make your own way. In good time I passed the lowest lake of the basin, the outlet lake and onto my destination of Lake 10,544 by lunch. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading and some fishing without luck. For some reason the fish in this lake showed no interest in my lures at all.

My next destination was Kings Col so I I back tracked past the outlet lake towards the Western slopes of the approach. Getting there first involved some navigating along granite shelves mixed with tree growth. Then across a cut water channel to where easy slopes begin up giving nice views of Mt. Gardiner . As I got closer I noticed that the class 3 rocks of this slope could be avoided but I did not bother. I climbed straight up their face until I reached the water channels coming down these slopes displaying some of the last flower beds this area would see for the season.

Like Longely Pass the initial steep climb is then replaced by a casual stroll to the top but before I got there I thought I would walk over to the top of King Col Option 1. When I got there though it did not offer much for views below or a view that could give me an opinion on how difficult it might be so I resumed my trek to the top . When I got there I took note of a single set of foot prints that led into the Col. All I could think was "oh crap". The snow had retreated enough to not be a problem but it was so damn steep looking that I thought maybe this will be my last pass!

As I began down I just couldn't get any solid footing. The dirt was hard packed with small rocks to slip on. Then what larger bits of rock were sticking out of the dirt were crumbly lined with further sand. I did not make it far before the tracks that had gone into the Col. disappeared. That person was smart enough to turn back but I wasn't.

I slowly made my way to the rocks on my left in an effort to use hand holds to help lower myself down. This helped a bit but not much as I very nervously made my way down step by step. Kind of the way a cat moves when it wants to get out of a fight with another cat.

After what could only be called a horrible experience I reached the solid yet slick rocks below and put that pass on the list of "I will never do again".

Making my way down to the lakes below the talus field I crossed was a bit weird in the way it looked like it had a couple constructed switch backs. I could have been wrong and it was just a natural formation but it sure didn't seem like it to me. Finally at the lake the fat lady had sung and I sat to take lunch and gather myself again.

I then crossed around the Eastern shore of the first lake and then for what ever reason crossed the Western shore of the second lake . From here it was time to make the long drop to the bottom. As I started making my way down plumes of smoke began coming up out of the valley. Crap! I thought hoping that there was not a fire in my way since there was not a chance in hell I was going back the way I came!

The lower I got the more smoke blew over making for some interesting views of Castle Rocks . Choppers flew low over head and I wondered if they had caught sight of me coming down out of this area. Finally I could see the flames burning high up the hill side a mile or two down valley.

Once finally down I made an easy ford at the first location on Woods Creek I came to which sure felt nice on my tired feet. From here it was the last bit up valley to the suspension bridge crossing for the night. To my surprise no one was here but later two guys came out of one of the more secluded camp sites in the forest and offered me the use of their fire since they were having a trash burning party. I spent the rest of the night chatting with them ending another day.

When morning came it was a horrible sight to see. The smoke was so thick you could not see far and I was just choking on the stuff as I climbed up the trail out of this area. When I neared the Window Peak drainage creek I began searching for the best way to start up. Before I did however I ran into a group of men and had a brief chat with them. As soon as one of them learned that I was going cross country alone with no safety net he called me a total fool and had no interest in talking to me anymore so I went on my way.

Although the first initial bits of rock to climb here needed a bit of of route finding the rest of the drainage proved to be quite easy to travel. Slowly I made my way out of the thick smoke but still could not escape it completely. I passed what in high water would be beautiful cascades but were now only a gentle flow . The first small lake I came to was also displaying the lack of water for the season. From here it was a short climb up to the primary lake of this drainage which displayed nice glacial carved walls. When I left this lake I debated on climbing straight up the inlet but I decided to hook right and go up some easy dry slopes instead. Although this upper portion of the drainage has an aggressive rocky profile it's actually quite easy to travel. For me it was even easier due to the low water levels. I made my way up some small drainages until I came out at my destination lake . I first began looking for a camp site on the Eastern shore but I didn't go far before turning back and heading for the Western lake . This lake was another desolate place to be offering almost no camping. Finally I found a patch of rock I could lay my body on and fought off the high winds for the rest of the day.

Leaving the lake I began up the hill to the East until I was able to pick up a water channel of grassy slopes. I followed this until I could get out of it on my right. I took note of Explorer Pass thinking it looks quite steep from here and made the last gentle climb to White Fork Saddle . This pass did not offer much in the way of views so I quickly began angling left across some talus on my way to the ridge coming down from Peak 12,064. After getting past the initial rocky sections it was quite easy to make this traverse losing a minimum of altitude. Once I had reached the ridge I dropped my pack and admired the view. I looked at Mt. Ickes which I was supposed to be climbing today. Although nothing about it looked difficult the sheer distance of the approach from White Fork Pass was rather unappealing. We'll see I thought as I began the scramble up Peak 12,064. This ridge was quite rocks and sharp. It reminded me allot of climbing along Copper Mine Pass made out of rocks heavy with iron that were rusted. The peak offered nice views of the whole White Fork Drainage. I examined a small cairn on top and found the register. It was interesting to read showing that I was the 5th group to the top and the 9th person at all unless of course anyone else did not sign the register. This sort of interesting history instantly peaked my interest in climbing more remote unnamed peaks.

When all was said and done I retrieved me pack and made the rocky traverse to White Fork Pass. Like many passes from a distance it looked like a very steep scree nightmare but only the final slopes offered any trouble and I was on top for lunch. As I sat on this rocky ridge making the last consideration of climbing Mt. Ickes I decided at last that I would not. The climb from here looked like a several hour event and it did not interest me enough. Beginning down this pass I was faced with one of the types of terrain I like the least. Rocks too big to be called scree and too small to be called talus. The sort of rocks that offer no good footing and are too mixed between stable and unstable to let you relax and you make each monotonous step down .

Finally I was strolling along the desolate shore line below nicely lined with mixed types of rocks adding character to an otherwise dull landscape. I made my way over to the small tarns near by looking for any interesting compositions to photograph. I moved North to the other little lake on this bench and then further North up a small hill until I started angling down a bit through mixed trees and rock. I didn't really know the best way to Bench Lake but I kept moving in a NW pattern until I came out on some cliff sides offering wonderful views of Bench Lake . I was very happy that I had ended up here rather then going straight down the hill through the trees.

I had allot of trouble pulling myself away from this view point but finally I began searching closer for a way down. A couple steep chutes here seemed to offer a way. I settled on one with a strange pink soil surface that I had never really seen before. This may not have been the best idea as before I knew it I was in a very nasty class 3 chute that was reaching outside my comfort zone. Step by step I slowly made my way down meticulously picking my way through this technical descent until it dumped me out on an extremely unstable talus slope.

After all the trouble I finally found myself on the shore of Bench Lake which was as wonderful to see up close as it was from higher up. I set out around the Northern shore looking for camp sites as I went without luck. Half way across the lake I found a spot that had evidence of many illegal camp fires broken up. Still not satisfied and wanting to see the Ranger anyway I kept hiking on the trail until I was near the outlet and a man across on the other side called out to me and we had a chat. I asked him where the Ranger station was and he said that he could not find it. He said it was not marked and that his GPS had a marker for it but when it said he was 50 feet from it and still could not see it then he gave up. So considering this and the fact that I was at the end of the lake I turned around and went back to the spot with ash everywhere. I then took note of how my National Geographic map did not show a Ranger station for Bench Lake so I gave up on the idea of going to look for it myself.

While finding a place to put my solar panel I found a great deal of camp sites up the hill which were all unappealing and trashed. I may have enjoyed the beauty but camping at this lake offered me no enjoyment.

After snapping the reflection shot of the morning I took off North straight out of my camp. At first the hill began angling down amongst the trees and was easy walking but I quickly came to large granite slabs that I could not go down. Staring at the beautiful view kept me from getting frustrated and I started moving West along the slabs until I found a large run out of talus. Getting into it I had to get down some easy micro cliffs and then it was a stable talus hop nearly all the way down. At one point I ended up on some micro cliffs that was more in the lines of a class 4 climbing move but certainly could be gone around if you tried.

Reaching the South Fork it was a ford but just barely. The water was amazingly low for still being on the early side of July. When on the other side I began seeing relics that always fascinate me from older times in the Sierra. The typical tin, a tea cup and I found a tree that had markings on it from 18??. I thought it said 1886? but that seemed a bit old. I began towards the slope and was lucky that I came across the river right about where the trail begins switch backing up. What was left of this old trail began to tackle the slope with a fury and it was quite a labor to get up . At one point I lost it for a hundred feet or so of climbing but managed to pick it up again long before reaching the lakes above. Once there I sat and ate lunch looking at all the little unnamed peaks I would like to climb just to see what I might find on top.

After following the trail around the East shore I lost it as I began up the grassy slopes. At times I picked it up but made no effort to follow it since there was no reason to. Once near the small lake below the pass I was able to pick up the trail again and follow it all the way to the pass. I had an urge to climb Mt. Ruskin but I fought it off and began up towards Peak 12,176. In about 20 minutes I was on top . The register hadn't been signed in 4 years and there was at least one name in it that meant something to me.

The peak offered a nice set of views all around and once I had taken it in enough I went back down to my pack and started down into Lake Basin. Although a girl I met on the slope above the South Fork said there were a couple sketchy bits on this pass I generally did not find it to be of any trouble. I made use of the old trail until I dumped out at the bottom and began around the West shore of the lakes below. I had made this decision based mostly the time of day and the layout of the basin. It was getting later and if I had taken the East shore I would be taking photos into a setting sun so that was no good!

I made my way through the basin passing one murky lake at a time until I reached the L shape lake that was quite beautiful. From here I followed the outlet down which was a mixed way to go. In order to avoid very large talus I stayed on the North side of the creek which had me making my way down some small cliffs that were difficult but I managed to get down in one piece. Everything was great until I entered the trees and began getting assaulted by mosquitoes like a horde of angry bees! I marched down the creek not daring to stop until I reached Marion Lake . I made my way over to the Eastern shore and decided to stay in the same camp I had the year before. It was illegal since it was too close to water but the other sites near the outlet were not appealing. The next day I would learn that up the hill from this spot are a couple good locations.

Although I was happy to be back here it seemed just wrong that the mosquitoes were worse here then any place I had camped at yet and would camp at for the rest of the hike! What sort of treat is that from your favorite lake! That night it rained at 1am breaking the cycle once again.

The next day was my first backcountry layover day since the Kern Hotspring. I set out around the West shore taking photos and wondering why the lake was not half as blue as it was the year before. While exploring the area I was looking for something very specific. I had planned to look for it since before I began this hike and was delighted that I found what I was looking for. This however I cannot say what it was.

Continuing to explore I made my way over and up the inlet coming into the lake from the West. This dumped me out to where people have to choose which chute to take down to Marion . I decided I wanted to try and find the way into the proper chute furthest North that almost everyone misses but the only way I found to get into it involved one difficult down climb. After that it was an easy stroll down and back to camp.

While relaxing in camp I spotted 3 people just making their way down to the lake. I could tell even from the other side of the lake that it was 1 man and 2 woman. I went over and had a talk with them. The 3 of them were from Germany and had no idea at all that they were following the Sierra High Route. They had just wanted to explore some remote basins and saw the ridges that looked crossable on the map and ended up following exactly on the SHR.

A couple hours later 2 more people came down and I had a chat with them and finally near sunset 2 more guys set up camp at the lake and I sat and ate dinner with them. I certainly was not expecting to see 7 people on the same day here but it was a good way to end week 7.
_________________________
FlickR

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#41104 - 11/30/14 04:08 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I know this is certainly a long time coming but people have been bugging me to actually resume these things.

WEEK 8

MAP

As I left Marion Lake I took the same path I had taken the year before. Up to the two small tarns and over a small saddle and then between the two lower lakes of Lake Basin. Climbing up the hill and nearing the small lake on it I ran into two guys making their way up. We chatted for a bit and started hiking together from here. This year there wasn't much snow to be crossed which meant a whole lot more talus hoping to the bottom. When we reached the shore line we began out around the South Western shore. When we reached a wall with what to me was an easy class 3 move one of the guys said he was not going to do it. He promised his wife he wouldn't! So ultimately he resorted to wading through the lake. When we were close to the outlet we stopped and ate lunch for quite a long time. I was supposed to be crossing what I call Observation Peak Pass today but after so much time I decided to stay and camp with the guys here at Dumbbell Lakes. We located a site on the Northern shore and I was amazed to see an illegal fire pit here considering there was hardly a stick to burn.

The next morning we just couldn't break away from chatting. By the time we finally got moving it was about 2PM. These two were heading down into Cartridge Creek from here. I would later learn that one of them had a nasty fall and punctured a 1x2 inch hole in his ankle all the way to the bone. It would then take him 3 days to get out of the wild.

After all the lagging it would required me to cut out the extra day I had planned for climbing Mt. Sill. I dropped down to the lower basin and made my way over to the longer lake here that had a nice NE shore line. Since I had no real information on this saddle I was going on visual navigation only. I made my way towards a cut in the rock lined with some willows. Getting there it was mostly easy yet the slope also had some Rose bushes to climb through which are always the worst. After one more difficult pitch the slope levels out by a small tarn lake. From here it was an easy stable talus climb to the top. I had never planned to climb Observation Peak but since I was here I figured why not.

I began scrambling up the West slope which had plenty of class 3 rocks to get over but mostly proved to be easy. In about 30 minutes I was on top. The view was certainly worth the climb and I took note of a few names in the register I recognized. Once I had soaked up all the views I made my way back to my pack and started down this unknown pass to me. It started as a mess of smaller loose rock but quickly turned to larger slabs of multi colored rock. Most of the way was really easy and when nearing the lake I began down a grass ramp to my left and it ended at some sketchy cliff sides. I knew there was a nice grass hill side the other way but I felt too lazy to walk the small distance back up the hill so I began looking at the cliffs more and decided I can do this. Big mistake! What started as a vertical class 3 climb quickly put me onto class 5 slabs. I had to retreat from a couple different faces I tried to cross and then to my dismay my water bottle fell out and went crashing down and off into the unknown. Damn it! I yelled! WTF am I doing out here on this damn cliff face when a nice grass ramp is right over there!!! It's right there!!! RaaRRww. Finally I had to resort to lowering my pack down by rope. When it came to a rest I paused for a minute to make sure it was stable. Yep it's good... As soon as I threw the rope down the pack tumbled over violently smashing down another 10 feet. I was a tea kettle starting to whistle! I got onto the slab slope that had no hand or foot holds of any kind and maintained a friction climb as long as possible before I could only slip and fall to the bottom. I retrieved my pack which was damaged slightly but my bear barrel was okay. After some searching I was able to locate my bottle and finish the descent to the lake. This was a beautiful area and a glacier smoothed slope across the lake really caught my eye. I had never really seen anything like it before. I took note of a very large pile of bear scat and found a wonderful smooth rock to lay out on for the night.

When I awoke I noticed the lake was putting on a nice reflection shot so I grabbed my camera and took a photo while still in my sleeping bag. One of the things I noticed about this lake was how completely pristine it was. Not a single sign of humans could be found around the area. Not even a balloon! I made my way around the Western shore until a small hump went into a tarn. I was told that this was a better way to get around to the outlet but this little tarn proved to be a bit difficult to get around since both sides of it had either micro cliffs or smooth granite slabs. Once I had gotten around it I began down the hill and quickly realized I was going the wrong way and hooked hard right up over a hill and down to the outlet area. From here it was pretty easy to move North over to the next small lake which was full of water fleas. Near this area I dropped my pack and started off to climb Peak 11,255. My driving force on this peak had been solely based on it's location on the map. It looks like it might be a great view point. The first challenge was moving North up a small hill to what I now call Adventurer Pass.

I started down the unstable talus to a point where I could cross along the slopes to my left. Unfortunately these slopes were very loose and difficult to travel. As soon as I could I began making my way up but the slope was so steep it was very difficult. I began making my way through a mess of mixed terrain with lots of small cliffs. I approached a V notch in a vertical wall and thought it looked like a 5.11+ but that I might be able to get up it. I began up but the holds were only the size of my finger tips at best and they were not squared off but smooth bumps facing downward. I only made it about 6 feet off the ground and decided this was no good so I retreated back to find another way.

After large talus fields, incredibly steep hill sides and more unstable rock I rounded a bend and was on a more casual hill side mostly covered in granite slabs. From here it was a much easier hike until I finally reached the base of the peak. I primarily stayed on it's Northern ridge as I zig zagged through sparse trees and loose sandy slopes.

When I reached the summit I was surprised to see a cloud of insects flying around on top. They looked like little wasps but they did not sting as I quickly found them climbing all over me. There was a strange smell coming out of a rock that they were most heavily concentrated around. There was a small cairn on top but no register. I left a small pill bottle with some paper in it but I had nothing to put into it to write with. Although the peak offered wonderful views it was not quite as good as I thought the view up Leconte Canyon might be. When it was time to go I began down the East slope this time and back tracked to the nasty steep slopes near Adventurer Pass. This time around I really wanted to avoid the loose steep slopes so I decided to try and stay higher up and make my way as close to the pass as I could get. This still proved to be very difficult and I finally ended up along a mess of cliffs. I picked a vertical land slide chute that was filled with loose dirt from recent slides. This had the effect of blasting me in the face with dust as I tried to make my way. The slopes around me looked like they could go at any moment but without incident I was down and went back to my pack. I sat and ate lunch as the weather began turning on me. I hadn't even finished eating before rain began to fall and thunder sounded right over my head. Luckily the main wave of the storm did not stay over me for long and moved on staying away from me for the rest of the day.

I began up the outlet to the East coming from an unnamed lake. One section involved some class 3 talus work as the rain came and went. The lake itself was a nice isolated spot that was humbling. The lake had a beautiful blue in it's depths. I went around the Northern shore and began straight up when I was about half way across the lake. When I topped out The views displayed all the fury of the storm raging in locations all around. I looked up at Mt. Shakespeare and knew I could not make the climb in this weather.

My next goal was figuring out how to get to the lake below. A large chute was leading down to it that looked doable but I could see from up here that the Western shore of the lake could not be crossed and since I could not see the Eastern shore I did not want to take the risk of climbing all the way down and not having a way around so I moved NE along a mass of granite shelves. Navigating this was not the easiest task but I found my way and finally picked up the slopes that would take me down to the shore line.

While making my way down I stepped on a rock with a bit of dead black moss on it. My foot slipped out from under me and in a unison moment I went falling to the ground while bellowing no! as my trekking pole went flying over the cliff side. After recovering I climbed down the cliffs to try and find my trekking pole. I could only see the tip of it stuck on a rock outcrop above so I had to drop my pack and climb up for it. When all was technically well again I began making my way down but doing so was difficult among all these small cliffs. Too many of the surfaces were wet with black moss on it making for dangerous trekking.

While climbing down this difficult rock face my trekking poles were causing problems. I could tell a patch of the slope below was mud so I went to stab my trekking pole into the mud and it hit a rock and bounced my hand into the rock face cutting it up some. Finally after the long battle I was down at the shore line. Looking at the lake it turns out the Eastern shore was also impassable so I made the right choice to avoid the chute.

I made my way to the outlet and then hooked hard right onto the slopes and began moving NE on mixed terrain towards a small saddle. Looking back at Peak 11,255 the slopes looked steep and nasty from this distance. Once I had crossed the small saddle it was time for the long tedious slog to the bottom. A seemingly endless mess of my least favorite type of terrain. After I passed all that mess I then had to push through small pine trees that were soaking wet leaving me wet also. Then the last bit of fun was moving through a mix of micro cliffs in a burn zone littered with downed trees. Finally I reached Palisade Creek and made the ford and pushed on looking for a camp. After a few poor choices I found a decent enough place and got set up just as the last of the useable light faded. It was perhaps the only time I can recall doing laundry in the dark.

The next morning I had not been on the trail long before it opened up and began to pour! It was around 9am which was pretty early for such a display. This made climbing the Golden Stair Case a bit more difficult since wearing a rain shell was so hot. By the time I had reached the top and was ready to begin up Cirque Pass the rain had broken long enough for me to eat an early lunch and get moving again.

There was nothing difficult about climbing Cirque. It's just a slight maze of zig zaggin along the terrain finding the easiest way to go. The rain continued to come and go offering stormy views of the Palisade Lakes. Once I had topped out I began down the slope a bit too directly. The proper way is to move East a bit before dropping down although I didn't know it at the time. This led to a few difficult class 3 shelves to down climb but before long I was at Lake 11,676 From up high I had seen nice DG pools near the outlet where I got set up, enjoyed the views and hid from the rain the rest of the night.

Come morning my next goal was Potluck Pass. What I read had told me to go to the left up some sandy slopes. These looked horrible to me. I did not know at the time that there was a nice use trail leading up them. Instead a small grass ramp was going up the middle of the pass and I decided to take that instead. There was only on difficult section class 3-4 but I made the top easily enough.

From here it's smooth terrain to the Barrett Lakes where I took lunch and then hiked around to the West side of the lake to get a view across at North Palisade. Moving on I began up Thunderbolt Pass which once again was easy enough. Grass ramps to granite ramps with some talus hoping but not much. The North side is a different story. First you are confronted with some car sized boulders which can be difficult to get through but then the rest of the medium to small talus is quite stable and an easy stroll. Then down a mix of shelves and you find yourself at the upper lake in Dusy Basin.

After another night sleeping on a rock I got up in the brisk morning air much earlier than normal Since the prospect of food was calling me. I made the trek over Bishop Pass and down to Parchers where I picked up 2 cans of chili 8 ounces of cheese, 2 bags of chips and two sodas and hiked down to Willow Campground where I managed to get a site since it was still so early. I ate all my food leaving me in a food coma. That night I enjoyed good company with other hikers who bought me dinner at Bishop Creek lodge. I spent the next day doing my typical layover routines ending week 8 and preparing to head into even rougher cross country.
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FlickR

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#41106 - 12/01/14 04:37 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1023
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
I know this is certainly a long time coming but people have been bugging me to actually resume these things.

well worth the wait. Many thanks for doing this.

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#41108 - 12/01/14 06:50 PM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 544
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
Hi Rogue,
Sounds like a bit of a rough week.

Love your trip reports, and photos. Have you considered an album of "just peaks", with gps data, so it could be seen on a map? Most impressive I would imagine. Many peaks up and down the Sierras.

John

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#41109 - 12/02/14 12:51 AM Re: 111 Days In The Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7740
Loc: Fresno, CA
I just love following your route on the map, seeing places where you crossed trails and routes I once walked. But your route is so incredibly rugged -- just heading cross-country getting from point A to point B.

If there is a trail part of the way, fine. Otherwise, you just go. cool If only I had lots more time, I would do a trip like yours.

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