Well it took 3 and a half years but this trail report is now complete. Thanks to those of you who actually took the time to read the whole thing. I'm sure not all of it was interesting but hopefully the times it was made up for the in-betweens. WEEK 16 MAP
The route from Cecile to Iceberg is a rather tedious talus / scree scramble. A use trail is worn in the steep hillside to ill effect. The result is very loose scree and sand where I have fallen and almost fallen many times. The views however do not disappoint after the toil of getting to the North shore.
From here I dropped down to Ediza
and then down Shadow Creek to the JMT super highway and once again hiked past Garnet
and 1000 Island Lakes
on my way to Davis Lakes. I carefully studied the foot prints on the trail leading to my lake and decided that no one was at it which made me happy. Getting there
I was not surprised that once again nearly every lake on this range is beautiful. I laid out in the open for the night as very high winds pounded me all night long.
Leaving here I rounded the Southern shore and climbed up to get a look at the upper Davis Lake.
From here I crossed a small saddle to the NW and dropped down past Rodgers Lakes
and on up a drainage here until I topped out slightly above the largest of the Marie Lakes.
Another beautiful if not desolate lake but luckily the shore line was easy to navigate and it was easy climbing up to the next of the Marie Lakes.
I tried to round the SW shore but coming around a bend I was completely stopped by a large ice wall
so I scrambled up the slope which was not difficult but the rock was turning back into Ionian Basin so it was rather tedious.
Arriving at the unnamed lake
below Rodgers Pass an icy wind was blowing heavily. I scanned the area for a place to camp but there was pretty much nothing. A couple rough patches of ground that were hardly big enough for a body were scattered around. After carefully checking the area I picked a spot next to a large rock that I thought might help cut some wind. I began picking rocks out of the space and after about an hour of work I had cleared a patch just big enough for my body. I took a freezing dip in the lake and contemplated the ridge ahead. The route I had placed on my GPS showed Rodgers Pass slightly South above the year round snow field. It did not seem logical to me and I knew by the terrain that I could not scale the ice field. A slight feeling at the back of my mind told me to just turn around and go over Donohue and to hell with this path. It just didn't feel right. I decided to push forward though and take the more logical option on the North side of the ridge which of course actually was Rodgers Pass. I finished my book in the icy cold wind, burned the rest of it up and fought off the cold all night.
The morning brought no rest from the cold as the wind still blew. I wore my gloves as I hiked to stay warm. Although Rodgers Pass from a distance looked like a tedious talus climb it actually was quite easy and it took no time at all before I stood on top.
The initial drop was easy enough but before long I was in the thick of a scree / talus nightmare. It was once again a highly unstable slope that demanded major caution. I constantly had to plan my route in front of me based on the nature of the slope. A physics puzzle game really. Any route could be taken but which way would avoid starting a major landslide. I took steps and kept my gaze up above as more then 25 feet away the slope would come my way as I moved. The view
kept me company and I snapped plenty of photos. "Damn these gloves" I thought as taking the lens cap off with them was very difficult. Since it was warm enough now I took them off.
After a long difficult descent the slope was finally losing it's steep grade. The rocks were larger talus and I was 50 feet from the bottom. Looking back now I realize I was over confident. I had let my guard down. I stopped meticulously picking my way and was moving too quickly. What exactly happened I will never know. One minute I was walking along and then a rock seemed to have rolled on me. I was completely airborne falling flat on my back with my head facing slightly down hill. I impacted firmly on top of a rock that bashed into my whole tail bone region. Immediately I was extremely dismayed. I have always had problems with my tail bone to the point where I often while laying on my back in bed I would lay on top of my hands to elevate my tail bone off the ground because of pain. I could hardly have hit a worse spot. As I began to get myself up I noticed my hand
was covered in blood. I'll never know what I impacted my hand on but the damage was done. I knew immediately that it was bad because of how the flesh looked through the blood. As I was getting myself up right I began going into a familiar state of shock that I have experienced before. After a couple times being injured I associated the condition with your brain thinking your more injured than you really are. I immediately tried to fight it and thought I should get to the water to wash my wound and that the hike would help focus my mind. Unfortunately as soon as I stood up my vision flashed black and I could hardly stand from dizziness. I stumbled a few paces and sat down on a rock trying to focus as hard as I could. It was no good! I'm going down I thought. The world began to fade with my ears ringing, sweat began to pour over my entire body, my vision began going white to the point where I could hardly see and the dizziness took me to the point of passing out. In a last desperate attempt to control the situation I pulled out my camera and began recording a video log
of myself. I talked to the camera about what was happening and it helped to focus my mind. Slowly the world came back. I at first was going to hold my hand up to help slow blood flow but not wanting to cover my arm in blood I simply let it drape. As I result a large pool of blood had formed at my feet during this ordeal. Looking back at this video there was a frame showing blood running down a rock where I fell and generally splattered all over the place.
Finally pulling myself together I moved down to the water. It was hard to walk from the pain in my tail bone region. I washed the blood off in the lake and tried to stop the bleeding. I thought my skin looked a bit odd in a couple places but I thought it was just from the cut. I didn't know at the time that it was rocks in my wound. I used an antiseptic wipe, applied antiseptic cream and bandaged the wound up good. I already knew at this point that my injuries were too severe to keep hiking. The reality that my hike suddenly was over was too strange to comprehend fully. At the moment it was all about the easiest way out of the wilderness. Unfortunately there was no easy way to go. I was stuck in the middle of horrible cross country terrain in a remote basin. The only clear route was to make my way down the Lyell Fork to the trail and make my way out over Volgelsang Pass.
My original plan for this area was to head for the outlet of this lake and down to the others. My map however showed what looked like easy terrain if I went around the North side of the lake and straight out of the basin. I got everything on and began to hike. Stepping up at all was painful and I took a short stride. Small shore line obstacles made the journey right from the start difficult. By the time I was getting closer to the other side of the lake my finger hurt badly. The only thing my medical kit was missing that could have been useful at the moment was pain killers. My bandage was already becoming soaked in blood. Although the situation sucked I couldn't help but stop and admire the view
and snap a couple photos. Once I had rounded the lake and reached the next smaller one the Western shore did not look good. It was a bit of class 3 rock. I began to move Eastern around the smaller lake on a much longer route but as the terrain became frustrating I turned back and in a very painful move traversed the class 3. I then made my way to the West a bit and was stopped in my tracks by a small cliff about 15 feet high the entire length of the navigable terrain. Damn it! I looked up and down and although I know I could have made it down normally in my current condition it was just impossible. I turned back greatly dismayed to the smaller lake and went over to it's South shore to a small saddle. Cliffs! More Cliffs! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!. There was no choice. I had to make my way back over to the large lake and to it's outlet. By the time I had gotten there I had blown two hours getting to a location that would have taken me 10 minutes from where I had fallen. I began moving down the outlet on tricky terrain. It was about 1pm and I hadn't eaten lunch yet so I gave in and found a place to sit. That was the only positive thing that I actually was able to sit if I could find the right rock. I began to eat but I did not have an appetite. Dwelling on my wounds again the state of shock began coming on. I fought it off by singing a song I like and focusing my mind solely on it. Not being able to eat anything I didn't rest long and moved on. Slowly I made my way down the outlets between lakes over difficult rock.
Every move hurt and this terrain was easily as bad as Ionian Basin or worse. What a place to be hurt I thought. As I moved along the outlet of the 3rd lake down I passed another balloon. I stopped but could not muster the strength to pick it up and pack it out. Not much further once again I ran into a mess of cliffs. The only real way down looked a bit dangerous. Once again pissed I made my way down. I passed between two small lakes here and off to a long lake facing North and South. Could I just walk around the lake and be done with it? Well of course not. Cliffs surrounded the area and I was forced to climb up high and make my way through annoying intermixed terrain. Worse was the need to take a crap was creeping up on me. How I was going to pull that off was beyond me. From here it was time to go down to the lower meadows which was my goal for the night. And what did I find in my way other then a very large talus field that was difficult and quite painful to navigate.
After fighting every step of the way in constant pain I reached the first larger meadow
as the sun set. I looked everywhere for a camp site but could find nothing. I pushed on to the smaller meadow and finally came onto a small camp that would have to do. I hardly had time to do anything before the last of the useable light had faded. I had a fire but it's smoke steadily blew over the only location to sit in the camp so I had to stand. Getting water was a very painful experience. I groaned in pain both from kneeling down and far worse from standing back up.
My bandage was completely soaked in blood and it had run out on my finger some. I had to plan properly a schedule for my bandages because I only had enough supplies to wrap it 2 more times. I washed it up with soap and water and made do with a worse wrapping than before. Once again I didn't feel much like eating.
Just getting into bed was a difficult task and I clearly could not lay on my back at all. Luckily I was able to lay on my side and stomach and get some decent sleep.
The following morning I was hoping for improvement with my tail bone but as soon as I tried to stand and I groaned loudly in pain I knew there was no change at all. After a difficult pack up where even tying my shoes was a chore I was on my way again.
The rest of the terrain to the trail was not horrible but had plenty of small obstacles that kept things irritating. Once there I'm not sure I had been more happy to just be on a trail. Finally "easier" terrain. It was a long slow and painful trek when I suddenly came up on a trail crew camp. I wandered in and asked if I could bum some medical supplies off of them. They had already packed them up but got them back out for me and gave me enough to cover redressing my bandage for a couple weeks. They didn't seem too interested in me so we kept our exchange to a minimum and I went on my way. Moving down the switch backs to Lewis Creek I nearly fell down a couple times which would have been no fun!
After about a mile and a half I ran into a Ranger who had already been informed by another hiker I had talked to that I had been hurt. He wanted to check out my injuries. I attempted to pull off my bandage but it was no easy task. The cloth was so completely dry caked into the wound that it was a horrible experience to try and pull it off without ripping the thing open. I just kept dumping water on it until I was able to get it off. Along with the bandage a little rock pulled out of the wound. The Ranger got on the Satellite phone with the primary doctor in the valley and of course the main concern was infection. The rocks in the wound only concerned the doctor more. After a very long exchange with spotty reception the Ranger got out his knife and helped dig two more rocks out of the wound and we dressed it back up.
He tried to convince me to hike out to the valley which was the direction he was headed so he could stay with me but I really didn't want to do so. It was allot further and a whole lot of switch backs and check dams. Ultimately with the simple question of "if I leave you are you worried at all?" and my response of "no". We parted ways.
I didn't know if I could make Volgelsang Lake on this day but that was my goal so slowly I made my way up and over the pass
and down to the lake
as the sun set. Despite being hurt I was in peak condition physically. The year before I had found myself going down hill after 80 days on the trail but this year it wasn't the case. I could hike up hill without ever needing to stop. Something that made having to go home just that much worse. Knowing that I was so ready for every route I had planned that still lay ahead.
At VoIgelsang Lake it had plenty of campers and was very cold. I'm not sure what anyone thought of me as I ever so slowly kneeled down in pain and groaned getting back up. Maybe he is just old is what they thought...
After another frigid and painful morning I continued on this rather dull section of trail passing more people the closer I got to Tuolumne. When I reached the junction in Lyell Canyon I ran into a guy I had camped with at Tuolumne the year before. Always the same trend of running into people again and again.
I made the final slog across my unplanned finish line and into the backpackers camp. I left some hikers rather agitated that I had no intentions of seeing a doctor when I got out. It's just not something I do unless it's literally a matter of life or death.
I painfully tore open the bandage on my finger and continued to monitor for infection while gathering a second opinion from a Ranger.
I called family for a ride and they tried to have me wait a few days until another member of my family had a day off simply because they would like to go. Finally I convinced them it was not a good idea to remain filthy in the mountains while trying to fight off infection so I secured a ride for the following day. Unfortunately for me I got the news that the last person I would ever want to live with me had moved into my house while I was gone. Wonderful I thought. Injured, hike over and home to a far worse living situation.
Meeting up with my ride and cruising down 395 once again I stared out at the great range before me. Only I had to marvel at everything I had done. 111 days ago I had begun this journey. So many wonderful days, so many horrible days. From the great peaks to the gateway passes I pushed forward. When I fell and bled I got up and kept going. When I was thrown to the ground harder I got right back up and kept going. I had walked for hundreds of miles across this beautiful but unforgiving range. It tried to kill me and customized my finger forever but wounds heal and fond memories last forever. And this range certainly has not seen the last of me...