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TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

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TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby rams » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:35 pm

A friend of mine wanted to climb a major peak in the southern High Sierra. I was happy he suggested University Peak, as I had a personal vendetta against that mountain for almost killing me with a rockslide in 2008. After battling the crux of the trip (Los Angeles traffic), we slept in the car just outside of Lone Pine to wake up to moonset over Mt. Langley.

langley moonset2.jpg
Mt. Langley moonset


After driving to Onion Valley, we settled on the University Pass route and made quick work of Robinson Lake where we scouted the beginning of the cross country travel and stared at random fish.
robinson lake.jpg
Robinson Lake

robinson lake trout.jpg
sushi


The snow didn't look that bad from Robinson Lake. Combined with the dry winter, we figured we were good to head over the pass without worrying about snow since it wouldn't be too smart to climb those chutes without some gear like crampons if they were filled with snow. Of course, once we got to the next bench above the lake, we saw that the chutes didn't just have a little snow, but would've been totally skiable.
university pass.jpg
University Pass


Did I just say it wouldn't be too smart to go through those chutes without some gear? I never said we were smart. We continued up and enjoyed having all those loose rocks give way under our feet. Fun! As we approached the beginning of the snow, my "friend" volunteered me to go first so I could kick steps into the snow and leave some nice platforms for him. Thanks! We inched our way up hoping not to slip. Occasionally, I would go against all instincts and look down. Scary for me in shoes, but would've been awesome to ski. As I started feeling "confident" about booting up the snow (but never cocky), I got to stare at the rock wall that almost got me back in 2008. As if I wasn't humbled enough already.
east face.jpg
east face of University Peak (almost killed me)


After spending eternity on the snow slope, we kissed the dry gravel on University Pass and finally got a taste of the views we wanted.
center basin from university pass.jpg
looking south from the pass

view from university pass.jpg
looking towards Owens Valley from the pass


Not that we were scared or anything, but we decided we didn't want to return down that slope. You know, it would've been too easy. In fact, it would've been so easy that we decided we'd rather take a huge detour down the back side of University to the John Muir Trail, around the back of the Kearsarge Pinnacles, up to Bullfrog Lake, then over Kearsarge Pass. Again, this wasn't because we'd be terrified of going down the chute without skis, but because we wanted a little challenge. Or something like that. We made it to just below the summit (300 feet or so?) before making what might've been the only wise decision of the day: head down the mountain instead of getting summit fever. Daylight was wasting, altitude sickness was kicking in, and the views were good enough from where we were.
view from just below summit.jpg
oooohhhh, aaaaahhhh


After taking it all in, we had the most fun of the day sand skiing down University's south slopes. The views remained awesome even as we lost elevation.
center peak.jpg
Center Peak from lower down on University


Knowing we had limited daylight to find the trail, our fatigue didn't stop us from running through the woods towards the river in hopes of hitting the trail. Luckily, it was much easier to find than we anticipated. With limited daylight and knowing we had to find another trail junction before dark, we snapped the last photo of the day looking up to what I'm assuming is the Center Basin/Forrester Pass area (correct me if I'm wrong).
jmt.jpg
view from where we found the JMT


As we raced as far as we could with daylight, we got to see East Vidette and Deerhorn Mountain show us why it's called the Range of Light. The rest of the trip was in the dark but that was strangely just as beautiful. We were exhausted, cold from the wind, and dehydrated despite having tons of fluids (and water treatment for refills). Did I mention my friend left his headlamp at home (mine was enough for both of us, though)? Still, seeing shooting stars streak across the sky above Bullfrog Lake and watching the moon rise to light up the Kearsarge Pinnacles as we approached the pass was incredible. Once we made it over the pass, it was smooth sailing and we were back at the car by 2 AM, where we slept after what ended up being an 18 hour day that covered...oh let's see...I'd say a million miles (give or take a few). Easy! As I type this, I have 7 new blisters on my feet and a newly-purple toe nail that I expect to fall off in the coming days. Happy hiking!
Last edited by rams on Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby ibSteve » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:20 am

Awesome story telling!
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby 87TT » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:30 am

Ditto, great read and inspiration to get out.
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby rams » Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:44 am

Thank you both!
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby regone » Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:20 am

Great post and phenomenal pics. Can I ask what type of camera you were using?
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby rams » Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:48 pm

Thanks regone! I used a Pentax K7 for the pics. Pentax has come out with a couple new generations since I got it (most recently K3).
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby Mike M. » Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:02 pm

Great pics and trail report! Stunning vistas from University Pass. Thanks for posting.

Mike
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby rams » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:48 am

Thanks for the kind words, Mike.
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby sparky » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:43 pm

I highly enjoyed this TR, almost as much as I enjoy hiking in the dark! Even better with a full moon :thumbsup:
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby iamchappy » Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:32 pm

BIG DAY! Cool to see the overview of Center Basin and the Bubbs Creek Drainage. Nice Post!
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Re: TR - Onion Valley loop 6/14/14

Postby rams » Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:42 am

Thanks sparky and iamchappy!
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