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#16077 - 07/06/11 12:33 PM High SIerra Trail
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1479
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
This is sort of a pre-report report. Leaving BOS at 7 am tomorrow for San Jose, Fresno, SEKI and Crescent Meadow. Expecting to run into two or more WHA folks (WHA-hoos?) on the way, and lots more at the Portal. Hitting the HST Monday, and in the meantime sorting out reports of treacherous creek crossings, undercut snow at Kaweah Gap (may be among the first over that pass this year), winter-damaged bear lockers, etc.

WIll be flying my WHA Freak Flag (green only) and hope to meet many more . Hope to see you on the hill.

My SPOT Me! will be activated Saturday.


Edited by saltydog (07/06/11 12:39 PM)
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#16078 - 07/06/11 12:52 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
wazzu Offline


Registered: 06/20/10
Posts: 319
Loc: Orange County, CA
Good luck and best thoughts for a safe trip.

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#16143 - 07/08/11 10:43 AM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: wazzu]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 932
Loc: Richmond, Virginia

WHA-hoos?
University of Virginia has first dibs (Wahoos)

Happy trails for salty - we are counting on a great trip report.

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#16161 - 07/08/11 03:41 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1247
Loc: Atlanta
Have a blast Salty! Hope to catch up with you on the mountain or around the Portal at the end of your trip. Stay safe.

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#16622 - 07/20/11 02:31 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
dethMarch Offline


Registered: 06/30/11
Posts: 18
Loc: SLO
Just returned from HST:

7/14: Left Crescent Meadow with 4 adults, 6 scouts. Mehrton Crk. was ankle-deep, and one of our crew had a spill, so we ended up camping at 9-mile creek. There is a bear-box there. We had met a couple of young ice axe bearing hikers telling us they could not get across an ice-bridge at Precipice Lake, but I wasn't sure what they were talking about.

7/15: Lost one adult due to heat exhaustion coming up out of Buck Creek. (we were able to have him ride out with the BPM supply mule train, for a "small fee" . . . ). Last mile between Buck Creek and BPM is pretty steep - but the rest of the HST to Kahweah is pretty much that way. We had to stay at Bearpaw. I think there were 3 maybe 4 bear boxes there. Here, we met *saltydog* - he was on his way back from the gap. It was great meeting him, and talking. I hiked up to the lodge to talk with our fallen comrade, and by the time I got back, saltydog had left. His plan was to catch the shuttle to Visalia, and then rent a van to Lone Pine, and catch a day-pass. I hope he made that.

7/16: Hiked to Lake Hamilton. The waterfall is. . . dicey. You need to stay to the left, on the other side of the fallen log. Hamilton had a big grey bear box, and at least two smaller brown bear boxes. 4 of us hiked with just water snacks up to the gap in the afternoon. The weather was very foggy. We were able to squeeze UNDER the tunnel formed by the ice bridge at the Hamilton Tunnel. (it was about 15' wide, ice at our backs, running water and boulders on our chests). We crossed quite a few smaller snow fields, up to just below the little feeder lake between Hamilton and Precipice, and there was a large snow field. In the fog, we were uncertain that we could find the trail after that, so we turned back.

7/17: Morning was sunny and clear, so 4 of us day-hiked again, attempting the gap. The Hamilton Gorge Tunnel ice bridge had partially collapsed, and we were able to scramble around the boulders below the trail. This would permit backpacks.
In the sun, we were able to pick up the trail, but then it was lost again. Navigation in sunlight was more obvious, and we climbed up a ridgeline/cornice of snow that ran from the outlet stream of Precipice to the base of the peak of Mount Stewart. Following this ridge, we passed Precipice - 100% frozen over, and then followed the gully, about 1/2 mile, filled with snow, (slushy suncups - did not seem undercut), all the way to about 100-200' below the summit of the pass. Up there, it was more clear of snow.
I got a view of the Big Arroyo valley. 9-Lakes Basin is completely frozen over, and the river coming out is clear, but the ground is covered with snow well past the "sane" crossing by the waterfall. Further downstream, it was too hazy, so I couldn't really tell if it was flooded, or snowed-in by the little lake, but the Eastern approach to Eagle Scout Peak was pretty much solid snow. (that was one of our goals).
Since the valley looked do-able, but probably not within our time-frame and at our experience level, we decided to take our information back to the rest of the group and take a vote.
We hiked back down to Hamilton, and found the rest of the ice-bridge pretty much completely collapsed (no more cave, but now, easier to scramble around below).

Another group of 3 hikers, one was a pretty experienced snow camper, and had some snow shoes - was wanting to try the gap on the 18th, headed to Whitney. We told them it was worth a shot.

7/18-19: Hiked back to Crescent Meadow: there are campsites at Mehrton Creek! Only ONE bear box we could find. You need to do some climbing up the boulders to get to them.

I hope that this information is helpful to future hikers attempting to approach Whitney from the West this season. It seems that the assumption I made when I left was pretty much correct:
That conditions are just on the cusp of changing, and are currently in-between passable and impassible, and really depends on your skill-level, and schedule. I can't really say how things are past the Kahweah Gap though. Every single sunny day, the snow and ice melt more.


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#16627 - 07/20/11 03:32 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: dethMarch]
AaronMB Offline


Registered: 03/09/11
Posts: 5
Loc: Visalia/Fresno, CA
Thanks for this. I've been watching eagerly, as I'm supposed to head out on the HST next week, on the 29th, for my first run at Whitney.

I don't think this was as positive news as I wanted to hear!

What do ya'll think another week will do? (I realize it's your best guess.)

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#16636 - 07/20/11 07:36 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: AaronMB]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1479
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Just back from the road, so only a quick reply for Aaron, and a conditions prediction. We were at Hamilton a couple days before dethMarch (really great meeting him ) and the snow tunnel was as described and apparently on the verge of collapse. Which I guess it did, fortunately with no one in transit. Conditions to Kaweah Gap on the 12th and 13th were far worse than he describes a few days later. As of the 12th, a much stronger party than mine, with all the right snow and ice gear, backed off 500 ft below the gap, having had a wet, cold struggle with the snow tunnel. Intermittent clouds down to 8300 ft during that week made it even hairier: intermittent whiteout conditions.

Bottom line, between the 13th and 17th, there was extremely rapid melting and improvement. Although as of yesterday am, no one had made it to the portal via the HST, I would not be surprised to learn that the first parties have crossed Kaweah Gap by now, and by the 29th, it should actually be summer up there. I would definitely go for it, and not plan to take ice gear, unless of course you want to glissade the Chute

Most of the crossings are way down from two weeks ago. 9 mile has a doable dry crossing below the trail, and Mehrten has dry rocks in the AM. The waterfall crossing is too fast and deep at the trail, but not by much, so it may go by the 29th. Safest is ON the log about 20 feet upstream.

Probably the crux of your trip will be crossing Big Arroyo. Lots of snow still: I was going to look at crossing at the tarn about halfway between the Gap and BA Junction. Also check out progress of the Lion fire in the Golden Trout wilderness. It was choking campers out of the portal, and may not be out for weeks: it was lightning set, but is being managed for environmental improvement, not being fought to full suppression.

Be prepared to treat the deer at Hamilton like 100+ lb marmots. They will chew and TAKE anything with salt: wallets, pack straps, t shirts, trekking poles. This is no joke. there are a couple of 8-point bucks that will challenge you for your stuff.

Call the SEKI wilderness office, do not rely on their web posting, which is generally old and too conservative.

Have a great trip.

More later in a full TR.
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#16643 - 07/21/11 05:23 AM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
AaronMB Offline


Registered: 03/09/11
Posts: 5
Loc: Visalia/Fresno, CA
Thanks, Saltydog!

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#16666 - 07/21/11 06:58 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
dethMarch Offline


Registered: 06/30/11
Posts: 18
Loc: SLO
I've uploaded my photos from the trip to Flickr:

High Sierra Trail July 16 and 17 Kahweah Gap http://www.flickr.com/photos/53488169@N02/

The originals have GPS stamps (for what that's worth) but I do not know if flickr preserved them.

I wrote descriptions of where they were taken, and what I think I'm pointing at. We day-hiked up from Hamilton Lake on the 16th (when it was foggy) and the 17th (when it was sunny) and the difference in the two days was pretty dramatic. I hope that these are helpful.

If anybody sees us doing anything silly (unsafe) given the conditions/equipment/experience-level; please let me know, so I can avoid it in the future. I was a little bit lost as to what our limitations should be. I had some 16 year old scouts, who were enthusiastic, and not really deterred by warnings, or my recitations from "Freedom of the Hills". I don't know if I turned back too early, or if I went too far. Safety on boulders is usually pretty obvious to me. Snow seems to be a couple notches more complicated, with undercut sections, frozen/soft conditions, cornices, concealed bridges, etc.


Edited by dethMarch (07/21/11 06:59 PM)

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#16669 - 07/21/11 09:55 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: dethMarch]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6968
Loc: Fresno, CA
Thanks for the pics.

I really like this one. The two on the right look like "two peas from the same pod" smile

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#16677 - 07/22/11 08:14 AM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: Steve C]
dethMarch Offline


Registered: 06/30/11
Posts: 18
Loc: SLO
Yeah - but they're not related. smile We were all pretty stoked to have made it to Precipice Lake though.

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#32125 - 07/07/13 07:31 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: dethMarch]
dethMarch Offline


Registered: 06/30/11
Posts: 18
Loc: SLO
I don't know if anybody would ever read on this thread again - but just for sake of follow-up, two years later:

The man in the middle, hiked the whole HST last summer (2012) with his son and daughter, and summitted Mt. Whitney. I think, due to schedule constraints, they were forced to limit the trip to 4 days!!

These two boys (men) - both just turned 18. Both just graduated High School, both just earned their Eagle Scout awards, and last Saturday, hit the trailhead in Yosemite for the entire JMT, so they're going to summit Whitney eventually, anyway. The HARD way. smile Proud of these guys!

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#32127 - 07/08/13 07:48 AM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: dethMarch]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1479
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: dethMarch
I don't know if anybody would ever read on this thread again - but just for sake of follow-up, two years later:

The man in the middle, hiked the whole HST last summer (2012) with his son and daughter, and summitted Mt. Whitney. I think, due to schedule constraints, they were forced to limit the trip to 4 days!!

These two boys (men) - both just turned 18. Both just graduated High School, both just earned their Eagle Scout awards, and last Saturday, hit the trailhead in Yosemite for the entire JMT, so they're going to summit Whitney eventually, anyway. The HARD way. smile Proud of these guys!


dethMarch!!

Sure I read it! Congratulations, on finishing the HST, HS grads and the Double Eagles!

Great to hear from you. Sorry about the timing this year, though: I am hitting the JMT on AUgust 5, also SoBo from YV. Probably a tad slower than your guys: scheduled for 22 days on the trail.

Dog
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#32151 - 07/10/13 11:03 PM Re: High SIerra Trail [Re: saltydog]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6968
Loc: Fresno, CA
Great to hear about the accomplishments, dethMarch. Congrats to those completing the HST last year, and best wishes to the two on the JMT.

This is a good year for hikers -- no snow obstacles like two years ago.

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