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#39834 - 08/20/14 12:21 PM Miter Basin to Whitney and north
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Please enjoy this report as much as we enjoyed the trip.
Harvey


8/5 - left cloudy, rainy, smoky Mammoth Lakes for the Cottonwood trailhead. We made good time on the easy trail, reaching Long Lake but contemplated going further. So we gulped a fast stomach-bloating liter of water each, and took three bottles each to New Army Pass for the night and next day. There are some semi-protected campsites and a good headstart at the pass for Langley the next day.
picture 5692



8/6 - Mt Langley day. Hiked the easy part, then dumped our packs under a rock ledge off to the right of the trail. This allowed a lighter summit day without our loads as we were not fully acclimatized. The 6-8 ft tall new cairns are useless as Karin had warned. If I remember the sequence, the first two are totally unneeded. The third (or maybe it's the fourth) is misleading. Off to its left is a gap requiring a 3rd class move, straight beside it is a narrow, slanted slot going up, again requiring some scrambling. We did come down that way, but going up we instead first veered to the right, then looked for the next cairn. None seen! The next one cannot be picked out from the other rocks on the skyline when viewed from below. So we just zigzagged and detoured to the left toward the small pinnacles.
picture 5698


then swept right along the cliff line to the top. No one else there. No sheep either .I have only seen them once before (at the northern Mono Pass). Dan thought the view was better than Whitney, but I thought otherwise and would not bother to go back again, except maybe as a dayhike from Cottonwood.
picture 5708



On the way down, the many use trails were seen, and it was finally possible to see a cairn from the higher vantage point. A trail crew was working, so I explained the problem of cairn-seeing as more difficult on the way up and why not add another one? They had plans to do that, but not where it was needed or where I suggested. Something about needed permits, environmental studies, Acts of Congress or God. We retrieved our stashed packs, then headed down the first chute to the right - toward the highest Soldier lake, via intermittent use trails
picture 5702


As Karin had suggested, we did not descend to the lake, but stayed at treeline under the Major General and headed just a tiny bit into Miter Basin. Our glorious campsite at a small tarn had the full view of tomorrow. As Dan said with this obscure idiom, 'we have seen the elephant.'
picture 5721



8/7 - followed Rock Creek on the true left bank, crossed it, then scrambled up to Sky Blue Lake by going over to the left of the waterfall,
picture 5726



The next picture looks back at SBL from above.
picture 5743



Lake 11,129 was ahead and above SBL.
picture 5741



Climbing above Lake 11,129 required some fun . We switched back across the 'rock dam,' across the outlet, and then all the way to the right side of the lake. We kept too close to the shore and had to scramble through one brief, exposed third class move. A fall there would have dropped us into the lake. An easier and safer route would have been to stay high all the way across the 'rock dam,' then dropping down to the lake's right shore all the way over.
picture 5745



Above Lake 11,129 we headed left toward 'the phone booth' but it might also look like a 15 foot tall porta-potty, obscure in this picture, but there were plenty of other landmark rocks to choose from.
picture 5753



Before long we were at the top of Crabtree Pass, looking over into Crabtree lakes.
picture 5757
picture 5760 Dan
picture 5765 Harvey







The route down is not so bad. Class 2. Okay to do at age 63 with a titanium knee.
picture 5767



Looks worse from this angle, but it is not
picture 5769



As we set up our tents, a group of nine Scouts and leaders passed through. We were stunned at their accomplishment. They had camped at Sky Blue Lake, gone over Crabtree Pass, climbed the dreaded Sandhill, looked around Arc Pass, then went past Discovery Pinnacle on to Whitney summit and return. It was after 6pm as we watched them returning over Crabtree Pass, headed back to their campsite. An incredibly long adventurous day! Their TR is posted elsewhere on the forum.


8/8 - The rest of our trip was pedestrian in comparison to our trip through the Miter Basin. Of course, part of that was because we had been to both sides of Whitney multiple times before. We were tired and decided not to go with packs up Sandhill (although we should have considered a dayhike up a and back like the Scouts did) but instead lugged our packs out the Crabtree drainage.
picture 5781




then on to Crabtree Meadow, then up the JMT to above Guitar Lake. There were more people there than I had ever seen before on this my fifth time to Guitar Lake. You cannot see them all in this picture looking down on the lake, but there must have been 20+ tents scattered around.
picture 5797



We camped above the tarns, but not the ones immediately above the lake. The rocky bench above has streams and campsites. Dan's jacket got caught up in a dust devil, swirling round and round up to about 70 feet before it spit it out and dropped it right back down to his outstretched arms. This presaged an evening hailstorm, followed by a 27 degree night. (We later learned a couple had slept on the summit, 10 degrees).
picture 5798



8/9 - The only disadvantage of that campsite was that we picked one too close to the trail. The next day at 230am we heard "Hey, there are campsites up here!" I should have yelled back, "Yes, and there are people trying to sleep." You see, they needed an early start to summit Whitney with their packs and then descend east to the Portal. We on the other hand, left at a leisurely pace. With just day packs, we summited in 3 hours, hung around on the top for 2 hours, and strolled back down west to our untouched campsite. Another evening storm, but typically Sierra, only an hour or so.
This picture of the Whitney summit you have seen before
picture 5803



You can see on the way down that going back to Guitar Lake there is drainage coming from Hitchcock lakes and flat areas for plenty of less crowded campsites. Most of the west side backpackers are either unaware of it or don't want to climb up that last bit once they reach Guitar Lake.
picture 5832



8/10 - Our exit from the area was northbound on the JMT towards Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley. It turned out to be faster than we expected. We camped only one night, just north of Tyndall Creek hidden in the valley here:
picture 5848



Forester Pass as seen from the south on the skyline directly above the tent
picture 5850



That night there was a gorgeous blazing full moon. I needed blinders to sleep. I am not exaggerating to say that during the night, I uncovered my eyes, looked out the tent, and could not stare at the blindingly white moon. Then at 3 am all hell broke loose. We were pinned down in tents until 1100 am. Good thing I have little appetite up high, so it did not bother to miss eating. It looked bad up on Forester, but we left camp just before noon, hoping.
picture 5854



Before long, we encountered more hours of hail, sleet, and lightning. A few very tired and probably hypothermic older people were barely moving, and a loose llama was ruminating while hunkered down at the base of the pass. We would have bad weather a long time. The main storm was still going on. On the way down from Forester, it was apparent that this was not a typical 1 or 2 hr Sierra squall, but the better part of 18 hrs. We figured setting up camp on the wet water- flowing ground with increasingly damp gear (despite good gear) would not be fun that night or exiting in the same misery the next day as it appeared to suggest. Most we met at various campsites were miserable. We chose to be miserable a different way, at least staying warm, by not stopping but doing the whole 20 miles out. We had to frequently step off to the side of the trails that were flowing madly like streams themselves. So we went from Tyndall over Forester, made our final decision in lower Vidette Meadow, then climbing to Bullfrog lake where the sun teased us for a second
picture 5863



This made the decision to go easier. We headed to Kearsarge Pass. As we did, there were 2 minutes of strange rays of faint light piercing the clouds but diverging and rising from behind and above the ridgelines from the southeast-ish. It could not have been the sun, or alpenglow reflection off of cloud cover or a peak or wall. We considered alien invasion, but it must have been the rising full moon, but I have never seen anything like this before. As we topped out on Kearsarge Pass by headlamp, it became evident through the mist and a gap in the clouds. There was a short glimpse of the orange rising full moon through another break in the clouds. Success now eminent, we plodded on, reaching Onion Valley just before midnight with plenty of life left in our LED headlamps if not our bodies. For us, it was our planned goal anyway, we just got there much faster than planned. There were no rooms in the inn in Independence, so we drove on to Lone Pine. It felt good to flop into a dry bed at 2:00 am, asleep by 2:01 am. Next day we retrieved the other car, from Cottonwood, and had a burger at Dougs' Whitney Portal Store.
picture 5867



Dan went on to Susanville. I hung around the area, had a nice time with Doug, Earlene, Crazy Jack, Wildflower Betsy, walked a bit on the 1904 original trail, solo-hiked North Lake to Piute Pass and back with rubbery legs, and found the Alabama Hills Arch with Mt Whitney in view. Astronomers in the crowd can calculate the time of day by looking at the height and phase of the moon.
picture 5870


The 'end'
One horizon reached leads to another - Joe Tasker



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#39840 - 08/20/14 06:50 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Great TR, Harvey! And very well illustrated - thanks for taking the time to put this together. Not bad for an old dude with a titanium knee - especially that last day when you bailed. Epic day with the distance, weather, then a longer drive than you hoped for. Not to mention wandering llamas and alien-induced light effects. You were treated to quite a show.

What is that peak in photo 5863, just behind Bullfrog Lake? Looks intriguing.

Time to start planning the next one!

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#39841 - 08/20/14 07:04 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Nice pictures and report, Harvey. Do you have a map of your route that you can post? (or maybe Steve can make one for us) I am still not quite familiar with all the outlying areas, so it is great to follow along with a map.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#39842 - 08/20/14 07:57 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Bulldog34]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Gary, yep, more than we expected. The combination of damp humid air and sweat under our raingear was not like the Sierra I know. That long wet exit day felt more like back east, as you know.

The peak with the sunlit spot behind Bullfrog lake might be unnamed(?). The view is looking west to where the JMT goes between that peak/ridge and Bullfrog. We had come up that way from Lower Vidette Meadow left to right ascending in that picture, then around the lake clockwise on the low trail toward the Kearsarge lakes. I have been through that area about 12 times, and prefer the high trail to Kearsarge Pass for its views, but there was not much of that on our day this year.

Bee, Steve has already posted a bunch with his Sandhill trip and his MR walk-off videos. I'll see if I can do map for you.

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#39847 - 08/21/14 06:03 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
mja Offline


Registered: 11/28/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Ohio
Fantastic trip report/pictures!! I believe the peak in picture 5863 is East Vidette mtn - great picture from bull frog lake.

Mike

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#39851 - 08/21/14 07:51 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: mja]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Originally Posted By: mja
Fantastic trip report/pictures!! I believe the peak in picture 5863 is East Vidette mtn - great picture from bull frog lake.

Mike


You nailed it, Mike. I looked it up on SumitPost and it appears that's it. Class 2 to 4, with many scrambling opportunities. Lotta sand and scree in the chutes, naturally. It just looks intriguing as a lone, pyramidal sentinel next to the lake.

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#39854 - 08/21/14 09:59 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Bulldog34]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Here you go, Bee,

two maps of the first parts of the trip. Try to ignore some of the smudged yellow. Just follow the black dotted lines drawn on there. Once on the second page you can see our camp date 8/7/14 at the highest Crabtree lake. Sandhill climb up to Discovery Pinnacle as a short cut to TrailCrest was an option we elected to decline, instead taking the low route out to Crabtree Meadows, joining the JMT to Guitar lake/Whitney that way.





CORRECTED MAP AUG 30 2014




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#39870 - 08/21/14 08:55 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Very nice, Harvey! And great trip report.

Your day of epic hailstorms was no doubt August 11, the day I encountered epic hailstorms going over Mather Pass. A few photos below.

Fun catching up with you at the Hostel before you left.

Some pictures from the same time frame, a bit North.

Mather Pass Approach, Evening of April 10



I could have made it up and over. But I decided to camp at Upper Palisades Lake that night. The clouds cleared, but then started to build again overnight. At 2 a.m., when I saw the amount of clouds building I got up and packed all my bear but my tent, thinking I'd get over by the full moon. Then lightning hit, followed by an epic 3 a.m. hailstorm. Back into the tent. Finally, at 7 a.m., I packed up the tent and went for it. Up and over went fine despite variable conditions. But another 5-6 thunderstorms hit over the next few hours, including 2-3 additional hailstorms.

Views from Mather Pass.




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#39871 - 08/21/14 09:44 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Thanks for putting up the maps, Harvey; it really helps me to follow along with the posts.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#39872 - 08/21/14 09:45 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Akichow]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I love "bad weather" photography; I have suffered through some mighty storms to take pictures smile
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#39876 - 08/22/14 05:44 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Bee]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Karin, I am sorry you had bad weather when popping over Mather for the view of the glorious Upper Basin. This is from 2012 and here is what it should have looked like:


Bee, there are some glorious after-storm scenes. This is Island Pass lakes and view of Banner Peak from 2005


Edited by Harvey Lankford (08/22/14 05:45 AM)

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#39877 - 08/22/14 07:48 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Beautiful pictures. Yes, I love after-the-hail-storm pictures.

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#40013 - 08/30/14 10:45 AM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Akichow]
Phil B Offline


Registered: 09/01/12
Posts: 5
Loc: Newport Beach
Good report Harvey, it made great reading. I noticed that on your route map you went around the right side of Lake WL 3697 to reach Crabtree Pass, I notice on my Topo that the left side appears to be less steep, would your recommendation be the right side.
I,m heading into the Miter on 9/4, any information would be welcome.

Thanks

Phil

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#40018 - 08/30/14 01:20 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Phil B]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
phil

I think you are correct.

My map (drawn by imperfect memory and not on the trail) showed us going left as we approached the lake above SBL, known as lake 12,129, or in metric, lake 3697. I was WRONG.

When I look back at all the other pictures including ones not posted, I think we headed more or less straight up the drainage to the natural dam, so to speak, of 12,129. There was no difficulty anywhere along the route up to this point. Dan and I just eyeballed it and went forward. The only place we made a mistake was on the natural dam itself. We went to close to the shore trying to reach the east side of the lake. Instead ,we should have climbed higher and then dropped down to that shore. We ended up doing some boulder scrambling with a dropoff into the lake and boulders below. This can be avoided, I hope the picture already posted , number 5745, shows the area where Dan is heading toward those boulders .You can see the looser area ascending higher that we should have followed.

Above this 12,129 lake, there indeed was some zigzagging to the left first, and then back, as we approached the pass. I now think this was what I was thinking about.

None of this was difficult route finding. We had finished our previous day with a feeling of doubts, but awoke and accomplished the deed with a great spirit of adventure. There was by far our favorite day of the trip. You will have a great time. if you want some more pictures to help, you can reach my gmail at h dot lankford . Meanwhile, I will try to see if I can edit or re post a corrected map.

Harvey





Edited by Harvey Lankford (08/30/14 01:29 PM)

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#40029 - 08/30/14 07:06 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Ooh. I want to go to there.

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#40032 - 08/30/14 10:06 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
That post storm Banner peak shot is lovely, Harvey! If people still took photographs (the printable types) I would certainly frame that one smile
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#40033 - 08/30/14 11:10 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Bee]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7578
Loc: Fresno, CA
Harvey's picture is outstanding!

If you think the above is pretty, click this (it's the full-size view).

Bee, if you are serious about a print, it can be done. I just checked Walgreens photo and they will print a 16x20 for $16. (8x10 is only $4). Shipping for poster size is $5.

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#40055 - 09/01/14 02:20 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Steve C]
Phil B Offline


Registered: 09/01/12
Posts: 5
Loc: Newport Beach
Thanks for the detail on your maps Harvey, I am pretty much going to follow your route through to Whitney and then exit via the main trail.

Cheers Phil

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#40057 - 09/01/14 05:45 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Phil B]
catpappy Offline


Registered: 03/06/10
Posts: 120
Loc: acworth, ga
Harvey
Enjoyed the TR and pics. Glad everything pretty much held together for your trip. Miter Basin is splendid. My first visit to Whitney was via Miter Basin, the sandhill, and over Discovery Pinnacle in 07. Everyone should try this route.

Phil
We followed the left branch of the inlet stream that feeds SBL. We were aiming for lake 12129 but got a bit off route and wound up on the high ground between lake 12129 and the lake shaped like Africa at the base of Mt. Newcomb. This turned out to be not so bad. It was an easy traverse over to lake 12129 where we camped. On the retun leg of the trip we traversed around the Eastern shore of lake 12129 and Harvey is right. It is quite rocky with boulders the size of coolers up to washer/dryer size. Some of which moved a good bit when you stepped on them. Be safe and hope you have an awesome trip.

John

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#52591 - 02/07/18 05:59 PM Re: Miter Basin to Whitney and north [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Yoseman Offline


Registered: 01/24/18
Posts: 15
Loc: Pennsylvania
Harvey, is there a reason you didn't go up the dreaded sand hill instead of going all the way around to summit Whitney? and thanks for the very useful info it helps a lot.

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