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Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

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Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby tanngrisnir3 » Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:48 am

I grew up backpacking, camping, rock scrambling and generally going all over hell and gone in the northern Sierra, and am quite comfortable with heavy packs, class three and spending my entire time off-trail.

I'm trying to plan a first trip for my wife. We're both semi-pro photographers, but she's never been backpacking and who has iffy knees and occasional vertigo. She REALLY wants to experience/shoot some of the more famous basins and/or canyons in the Sierra, and because of her relative inexperience and issues, I'm looking for advice on the biggest bang-for-buck area to try and get to.

I'm thinking 6-7 days in total out and back from the trailhead with a destination that we can camp at and dayhike around. 10 miles a day tops.

I'd love to get out to Kaweah/Ionian/Finger/Milestone Basins, but I realize that that's simply not going to happen for some time, and possibly not with her.

I believe Bishop Pass would be very doable for her, but not necessarily, say, Lamarck Col or something similar. Similarly, doing an up-and-back of, say, Cloud Canyon or somewhere similar would be doable.

Dusy? Evolution? Palisades? Humphries? Pioneer?

Given that the weather and the light are right, again, this is all about the biggest potential photographic payoff for her, rather than exploring for me.

Thoughts?



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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:07 pm

I'm trying to plan a first trip for my wife. We're both semi-pro photographers, but
she's never been backpacking and who has iffy knees and occasional vertigo
.
I'm thinking 6-7 days in total out and back from the trailhead with a destination
that we can camp at and dayhike around. 10 miles a day tops.


With 6-7 days worth of food her pack is going to be quite heavy, especially for someone
who has never backpacked before.
Altitude may be another issue.
What work out regimen are you planning for her during this off-season to prepare her
for backpacking? Has she ever had to deal with swarms of mosquitoes? Because that is
what you'll be contending with in Jun/July, and any earlier you may have to deal
with another obstacle/hazard, snow.

Taking her on day trips, then introducing her to short backpacking trips like Little
Lakes Valley, 20 Lakes Basin, or Cathedral Lakes, and then longer ones might be a
better plan in the long run.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby JWreno » Tue Sep 23, 2014 2:36 pm

A shorter beginner trip I would recommend is hiking into Glen Aulin in early June when the water is still flowing heavily and before the crowds are there. Spend a day with the camera gear and lunch and hike down from Glen Aulin falls all the way to Waterwheel falls and back.

Instead of planning longer trips just find a beautiful area to base camp from. Day hikes from the base camp would allow for carrying more photo gear. I would't feel comfortable taking someone on a 7-10 day trip without trying them out on 2-3 day trips first.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby balzaccom » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:23 pm

I am also going to vote in favor of a slightly shorted and lighter trip.... because you are not taking her on a single backpacking trip, you are hoping to convince her that a longer trip might be even more fun. I took my wife on a short trip the first time---an easy hike for a few miles, a base camp that was quiet and isolated. And plenty of time to relax, enjoy herself, and feel like she was on vacation. ON the drive home from that trip she admitted that she liked it. A lot.

The next day we turned right around and did four more days in Yosemite.

As any good performer knows---the secret is leaving them asking for more!

Spring may be a bit early for any high altitude trip anyway, but once the high country is open, look at something like Echo Lake out of Tuolumne Meadows. You can hike there in a few hours to start, and permits are relatively easy, since the trail is partly cross country. And when you get there, you have astonishing views and lots of areas to explore, like Matthes lake:

Image


or just look back at Echo Peaks

Image

If that don't convince her....
Balzaccom

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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby mort » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:55 pm

tanngrisnir3 wrote:I grew up backpacking, camping, rock scrambling and generally going all over hell and gone in the northern Sierra, and am quite comfortable with heavy packs, class three and spending my entire time off-trail.
Thoughts?

Hi tanngrisnir3,
I've done almost the same thing, but long ago. You need to accept that you will be carrying a huge portion of the weight. OK?
Then I'd say by all means, Bishop pass, as you said. But do the loop the other way. This is all on trail, but passes through the finest scenery. The first day out of North Lake, Piute Pass, I have found to be nicer than Bishop Pass. So you need to figure out some kind of car shuttle or pick up or something. North Lake is only a few miles from South Lake, but you don't want to hike that.
Depending on what winter brings and the weather you have - this loop is always amazingly beautiful and often breathtaking.
You can see Evolution Valley, rightly considered one of the finest views in the world. Muir Hut, and some pretty photogenic mountains, like Goddard, and ridges, like the Black Divide. Down to Le Conte Canyon, Big Pete Meadow is a favorite place of mine. Planning your last night in the stars high up Dusy Basin - its as close to heaven as you can get.

Now what do you mean by spring? I was up by Piute Pass/Mt. Goethe last May. Everything above about 11,000 ft was still under snow and we had snowfall 3 out of 5 days. And one afternoon it was blowing pretty good, and about 25 degrees. But it was unbelievably beautiful. But the first of June it was over 100 degrees in the city of Bishop.

-mort
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby tanngrisnir3 » Tue Sep 23, 2014 7:44 pm

Thanks, everyone!

I should have made mention of some salient things you've pointed out:

A. We've been all over Yosemite and esp. Tuolumne Meadow on day hikes, but only with camera backs. That includes (my fave) the 20 lakes basin, back up in the Buttermilks/Horton Lakes area, day hiking around (below) Whitney, in and around Horseshoe Meadows, Laurel Canyon/Mammoth and other places like that. Again, all day hikes, no overnighting except in TML tent cabins or at Motel 6s in Bishop or Mammoth.

B. She can suffer through mosquitos and has in the past.

C. I'm 6'3, 250 and train a lot. Carrying a bunch of weight in not a big deal to me. For her, however, I totally derped and didn't consider her training. Therefore.....

D. You all have made me realize, however, that 6-7 is far too ambitious, given her inexperience. I think perhaps 4 days max to see how she takes to walking under weight, going up the lower passes, etc...

Now I'm thinking about overnight for a few days either out of Sabrina or South (or North and the Tamarack/Wonder area), checking out as many lakes as possible and using that as a test run. There's easy access, not radical climbing and a lot of places to set up a base camp, given that we do it late enough for snow not to be an issue.

THEN if she likes that, maybe making the hump over the ridges and getting into the real backcountry.

Thanks again, everyone.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby tim » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:45 pm

Miter Basin is good in terms of bang for your buck. Relatively more accessible at the beginning of the season (this was July 1 in the heavy snow year of 2011 when everything further north was still buried: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6526). And four days would be just right - you can camp at Lower Soldier Lake and day hike from there. However, you do have to be OK with the altitude.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby dbogey » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:19 am

I think that Sierra's in whole have a lot of photo opportunities and in my own opinion, and I love taking photos, that I would pick 2 or 3 places and day hike into them. I just came back doing the North-South Lake route and there are tons of beautiful places along that trail. Some of my best pics are right over Dusy Basin.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby Dave_Ayers » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:41 am

You might also consider hiking into the Minarets area from Agnew Meadows. There are campsites past Shadow Lake along the JMT a bit over 5 miles in after perhaps ~1000 feet of climbing. The 1st day would be easier and lower than hiking out of South/North/Sabrina Lakes. The 2nd day you could move your base to Ediza, Garnet, Ruby, or 1000 Island Lake and day hike from there. The whole area is terrific for photography.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby oleander » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:08 pm

Hi. I've taken several newbies (or near-newbies) out backpacking the past 4 summers. I have about 30 things I'd tell you in the way of advice. But I'll just share the most important three, IMO:

1. Your first trip out should be one night only. (Max: two.) Remember that she is testing out a particular combination of equipment, footwear, clothing, etc. for the first time. The pack might not fit great. Etc. Your second trip out should also be just one-two nights. She gets to test a slightly revised equipment list. Only then, on Trip 3, should you consider going out 6-7 days.

2. Ratchet everything back by several orders of magnitude. Daily miles; altitude; amount of climb per day; expectations. I now plan just 3-5 miles/day with a newbie and no more than +1000 feet, maybe +1500 if I'm super-confident in the person. This includes athletes. I'm perfectly serious. Even athletic people have a lot to adjust to. They scoff when I say we're only going 5 miles. But then it takes us till 4 pm to go that 5 miles, they're exhausted, and at the end of the day they admit relief at the short itinerary. I think some of their exhaustion is more mental than physical, given their excellent condition. But whatever the reason, I've seen this happen over and over with so many different people. I am still surprised, every time.

3. Don't expose a newbie to too many new things all at once in any one single trip. Each of the following is a lot for a person to get used to, and/or it's a worrisome limiter: More than 6 miles; altitude 11k+; weather (wind, rain); a "rough" rocky trail; off-trail hiking; untested equipment; shoes not tested yet with the full backpack; stream crossings (and I mean even the most Mickey Mouse crossings); snow crossings; a trip longer than 3 days; a severe bear or marmot problem; a physical limitation (knee problems). Pick a maximum of two items from this list. That's all you get to introduce in any given trip.

Two years ago I took a bunch of athletes - all new to backpacking (or they'd maybe done one-two trips before) - to Bishop Pass, with the hope that I'd get them off-trail to Barrett Lakes for a day. Massive fail. (I mean, it was my failure - a planning/expectations failure.) They could not do the miles. We made it in 4 miles, +1300 feet; it took 4-5 hours. The wind overwhelmed some of them - so they spent the first evening hiding in their tents while the remaining 2-3 of us cooked their food and filtered their water. One got severely altitude sick (at 11k) overnight, and we had to walk him out. (Has your wife been OK at 10,500+ feet? Some small percentage of the population simply ever can't handle being that high. Don't endanger her by taking her over a high pass on the first trip.) We never did any off-trail, are you kidding? On Day 3 we did finally make it over Bishop Pass, as a day hike. Their impression of Bishop Pass? Surprise that we had ever dared to take a full pack over that thing. It's rocky! It has drop-offs! It's extremely high! Thank god you didn't actually make us do that! I should note that these are people who regularly run trail-running races.

We'd prepped everyone thoroughly with two mandatory pre-trip meetings, a very detailed pack list, one-on-one help with their packing, etc.

As an experienced backpacker, you forget how many years you've had to learn and adapt, and how you may have started out. Don't make the mistake of thinking a newbie will adapt very quickly. If she does (and some minority do), it'll be a nice surprise.

In addition to newbie hiking friends, I have a number of regular backpacking partners who are relatively-to-very experienced at it. Six or seven people. All have at least some x-country experience with a full pack. Of those, there is a grand total of one whom I would even consider taking to Kaweah Basin.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 27, 2014 7:51 pm

I do not think 6-7 days is too long for a newbie, but the "up to 10 mile a day" is too much. I am thinking more of 3-4 miles a day. She will be learning as she goes, so you will need to teach basics along the way. This will take some time. If the purpose of the trip is photography, then you need to reserve the morning and evening best light hours for this activity only. Particularly on the east side, you need to get up at dawn for the sunrise shots, and save 4PM-dark for late light shots. This means you will likely break camp late (say 9AM or later) and set up early (3PM). You also need to spend time checking out the right place to be for the best shots. This really works well with a plan of low-mileage days or simply base camping. Your wife already said she wants to go for the photography; not to make miles.

I would keep her first trip to all trails while carrying a pack, and maybe some easy off-trail on day hikes. If you are doing low-mileage days, you need to go to an area that is drop-dead awesome from the very start. Minarets and Dusy Basin qualify. I am no expert, but I find that north-facing cirques hard to photograph, and some big-mountain areas are just close to get a shot. As much as I like First, Second ... Sixth Lake area, I find it hard to photograph. I also have trouble with early season snow at above timber peaks - too much contrast. There are some good photographers on this forum - maybe they can chime in on where they would take a newbie photographer.
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Re: Advice requested for planning photographic trip next Spring

Postby tanngrisnir3 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:11 pm

Thanks again for the prodigious replies and great advice, everyone.

And Elizabeth, you've pointed out some complete "DOH!" forehead slappers that I didn't even consider when making the post. Totally agree. This is something I've had a lifetime of being used to, and something she's never even tried, so why make it a marathon when it should be a Sunday jog?

As I stated, here's what I have in mind; I'd love to hear what you all think about it:

Visit the lakes just to the west of either South or Sabrina, not even approaching the ridge/passes/cols, and just concentrating on exploring them, having set up a base camp, and day-hiking around those same lakes with the camera gear, prepping for the best places for sunrise/set.

Two nights max.
Easy in/easy out.
Close to the vehicle should things fall apart for whatever reason(s).

That said, does anyone have an opinion of what might be better for photography? The lakes west of South Lake or those west of Sabrina?
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