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TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

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TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby copeg » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:44 am

The long drive to the trailhead gave me a lot of time to think, and at 4:30am strange thoughts can enter my head, like hiking all the way to Harriet Lake from Isberg trailhead in a day. I knew it was a possibility, but a stretch relative to my more attainable goal of Sadler, or even McGee Lake above. The closer I got the trailhead, the less I thought of my destination and more of just getting on the trail, which I was around 11am.

I made my way through the forest and up through the Nitch, taking a lunch break at Granite Creek. Before long I was passing Cora Lakes and heading up Granite Creek past Knoblock Meadow and beyond.

Hanging Horseshoe near Cora Lakes
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The weather was beautiful, with a slight breeze and on and off clouds, making the hike through the canyon that much more pleasant. I made Sadler Lake by mid-afternoon. Across the lake were a group of boys having a great deal of fun at the expense of peace - I moved on quickly. A short time later Isberg Lakes were in view. With plenty of gas still left in the tank I found myself climbing above the lakes towards Long Mountain. The forest below prevented me from getting a good look at what was to come, and as I climbed higher I finally got good sight of Long Mountain and the ridge to it's west. From this vantage point, the ridge above looked easier than the saddle just west of the peak itself, and based upon my map seemed doable on it's North side as well, so I aimed toward it.

Take three steps, stop, and catch my breath. Take three steps, stop, and catch my breath. I could tell I was coming from sea level, the thin air and long day were taking their toll, but I finally reached the top of the ridge - a spectacular view worth absorbing for longer than I did - the cold wind pushed me into hiking mode again as I traversed the north side of the ridge, high above the lakes below.

View west from Long Mountain Ridge
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A short time later, several rocks started moving just in front of me. Was I loosing it? The chirps provided a sanity check, and I realized I had stumbled across a flock of Rock Ptarmigan. Very approachable, I dropped my pack and got out my camera gear for a closer look. The birds seemed to just melt into the landscape: the four I initially saw were now three, the fourth of which - only a few feet away - I did not find until I spooked it as I stood up to leave.

Rock Ptarmigan
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On my way again, the cliff below did not seem like it would subside. Scrambling across the talus mixed with trundra, I finally reached the tarn above Harriet and followed it's outlet creek down through the red rock. Plenty of time left in the day to fish, eat dinner, and lounge before the day gave way to a beautiful sunset.

Harriet Lake Shore
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Dusk at Harriet Lake
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It was hard to get up the following morning, but I finally inched my way out of the tent. After some breakfast and coffee, I walked around the lake, fishing here and there.

Sigh...
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Red Peak
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Packed up and ready, I started my way towards Blue Lake Pass. After cresting the first hill, I looked down to notice a party of two shortly behind. The terrain flattened a bit before the climb started again. With a slow but steady pace I climbed through the maze of talus, following the route I had scouted from below. I finally reached the top of the pass, joined a bit later by the two hikers behind.

Tarn below Blue Lake Pass (center)
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Ridge leading to the summit of Forester Peak
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Pack back on I started my way down. I knew I should continued traversing further east, but was tempted to drop down a more directly to check things out. As I did, I found myself at an impasse - a steep, wide, and slippery slab of granite at the base of a gully turned me back up to choose a safer route, which I found a short time later.

The rest of the day was playtime. I fished Blue Lake, explored the saddle between Blue and Rockbound Lakes, explored the upper part of the basin, and stared down into Bench Canyon for what seemed like hours. After an early dinner, I watched the sunset then hit the sack early.

Afternoon at Blue Lake
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Earth Shadow
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Milky Way
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The morning sun hit my tent early, and I was quickly up for some coffee, cereal, and fishing. Places like this are always hard to leave, and after stalling all I could I packed my things and hoisted the pack. Up and over the saddle to Rockbound, I was surprised to see the number of camps about. At the lakes edge, someone approached explaining there was an Outward Bound group at the lake. I didn't spend much time there, rather headed down Long Canyon in a slow but methodical stroll.

View from saddle above Long Creek
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My intended route went via the unmaintained trail that leads to Chetwood Cabin. After crossing the creek and taking a much needed break, I miraculously found a use trail heading up into the forest towards the crest above, but found myself loosing the 'trail' more often than finding it. As I crested the saddle, the trail got a bit more pronounced - but the downed trees and meadows often swallowed the trail, and the distance between Chetwood Cabin seemed inversely proportional to the number of curse words uttered. Past the cabin, I met two hikers headed up the 'trail'. After a fun conversation one of them recognized the HST patch on my pack and introduced himself as Electra. Always fun meeting HST folks in the backcountry.

The trail out always seem to be longer than coming in, but despite the sore body made it to the trailhead by 3pm.

Still working on an ~10 minute movie...



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Re: TR: Blue Lake, 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby copeg » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:52 am

Would like to edit a bit more, but here goes anyway:

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Re: TR: Blue Lake, 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby The Other Tom » Wed Jul 29, 2015 10:08 am

Great report and pics. Thanks for posting.
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Re: TR: Blue Lake, 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby FeetFirst » Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:47 am

Wonderful report, pictures, and video. :thumbsup:
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby schmalz » Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:58 pm

Great report and photos as usual. I've been eyeing this area for awhile and your post is helping inspire me to pull the trigger.
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:00 pm

Hey, nice to see you got out! :)
Really enjoy the Afternoon Blue Lake shot, the green and blue is a nice contrast, and the view towards the Minarets is a classic. Cora Lakes, last time going by those lakes, these two fools were washing their horses in the lake, with soap suds all over, sheesh. :\
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby fourputt » Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:17 pm

Great pix and report. Guess you were out before the Willow Fire in Bass Lake that smoked up the southern sky Saturday evening.

I went in Friday to Sadler over Long Mtn saddle to Harriet, Merced Fork and fished Edna (!) Lake, and out via Post Peak and Joe Crane.

Small world: I met Electra and his buddy too coming out on Tues at the Niche.
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:01 pm

Nice close-up of the ptarmigan. Beautiful birds. I too earlier in month walked into a group of several in high marsh grasses near Purple Lake. Most as is their usual nature just moved a few feet away hoping I'd continue on without making them have to fly. Apparently many of those birds seem to not be too afraid of we humans as they are aware we are usually not likely to bother them. Sort of like ravens or pigeons along an urban sidewalk, only likely to scoot a bit out of the way. Believe its the only species in the Sierra like that.

I also very much like your Afternoon at Blue Lake pic. Nice choice of a smooth curving shore edge on a shore where wind waves provide a sandy lake edge bottom. Of course most of our mountain lake edges tend to have greenish brown bottoms from all the organics in the water (especially algae) so only these less common areas where waves clean washing back from a shore edge, show nice clean granite lake bottoms.

Many of my own images of high country lake shores feature turf edges as foregrounds because the green grasses add a wonderful color green to a frame and the grass itself looks like one of our well manicured urban lawns despite never having been mowed. It is at midday that sunlight entering more vertically from above then reflected off lighter hued shallow shore bottoms provides that effect. Key when looking for such situations is NOT to have any near granite rocks along a shore above water because they invariably will be too sensor hot at midday. However at a distance like in your image they work well because distance attenuates the brightness enough. I have a image from Bighorn Lake on Silver Divide also like your picture taken midday oriented somewhat south, with a similar look. A good example of a worthwhile subject that can be worked even at midday if one is careful.

David
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby Ballpeen » Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:28 pm

Hi copeg,
That was us behind you on the pass and at Blue Lake. Such a beasutiful day we had up there. Your photos blow mine away. We intended to invite you over for some whiskey but didnt see you at cocktail hour.

I'm impressed you made it out in one day. We tried our traverse of Long Mtn theory on the way out and we made it but it was sketch at times! We had a smoky night a Cora and were out the next morning.
- the 2 blue lake guys
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby gary c. » Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:31 pm

Great report and beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: TR: Isberg to Blue Lake 7/23/15-7/25/15

Postby copeg » Wed Jul 29, 2015 8:40 pm

Thanks all!

@fourputt Saw that plume of smoke as I drove out...yikes. Hope it didn't impact your trip too much...Edna - definitely on my list...(guessing by the exclamation point it treat you well)

@Ballpeen NIce day indeed! Great to meet you up there...don't know where I was at cocktail hour - so much to do up there, but would have been a pleasure! Would be very interested in hearing about that traverse you made...trip report please!
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