The best part of the HST Meetup for me was meeting and seeing some of the members in person. The first members I ran into were Rocky Road(Michael) and Oleander(Lisa) at the lowest Picket Lake on Wednesday, 7/22 about 1pm. Oleander is a remarkable and capable routefinder and all round woodsperson. Rocky Road just has this way about him, a very humble, nice, soft spoken guy, the type of person you want to be around. The 3 of us traveled over to Island Lake the next morning together. Lisa found a tarp tent close to the outlet stream that we were hoping was a fellow member. Later that afternoon the owner of the tarp tent, YubeRiver(Christina), and Hobbes(Karl) showed up together. Christina(Gazelle) seemed like a very competent climber, and was the only one of us who got into the meetup location on Wednesday, and was in position to catch the great shot of Kaweak Peaks Ridge and the lake that she posted. Hobbes is Hobbes, on the cutting edge of lightweight backpacking methods, very nice guy. I tried to travel with him on Friday, when we left Picket to come down to the Kern-Kaweah River, become separated, and never could catch him, only follow his footprints! Bluewater came in about 5-6pm Thursday, and it was amazing to watch and listen to him and Hobbes compare notes about building their own equipment, and comparing lightweight equipment, and doing various difficult routes. I thought I was doing pretty well at carrying 35 pounds for this 11 day trip, which included a liter of water, and camera stuff. I doubt either of those 2 guys were even carrying 25 pounds. I have a lot to learn. Finally, Rodger(MN2Capisco) and Andray came in about 730pm, all the way from Hamilton Lake. That was impressive. They both hail from my town, much aligned Bakersfield, California. They seemed like very competent climber/backpackers, and like all the members that showed up, very nice and fun to be around.
My itinerary for the trip was as follows, with a few photos, and I might post a few more details later, as others post their reports.
Thursday, 7/16: headed out from Cottonwood Pass trailhead @1115 and pulled into the outlet stream campsites of Soldier Lake late in the afternoon. Felt great, and weather was great.
Friday, felt very tired, weak, not well, assumed it was a lack of elevation acclimatization, and dawdled, rested, and read a book, around the area all day. Traveled a short distance down to the Rock Creek tarn, and setup a new camp, with plans to hike up Rock Creek to Miter Basin Saturday morning.
Saturday: Felt great again, must have been the altitude as I suspected. Hiked up Rock Creek to Miter Basin. The clouds started to roll in, and this was my first time in Miter, and might I say, it is amazing. I probably reached Sky Blue lake around 2 pm, looked at the incoming weather clouds, and my barometer, and decided it would be wise to get my shelter setup, and make sure my gear was dry.I camped on the east side of the lake, about a 3 minute walk from the inlet creek, so I would be in position to go up to Crabtree(Miter) Pass in the morning. I started fishing, walking past the inlet to a rock partway around the lake. I got in maybe a dozen casts, catching just a couple of moderate sized goldens, and a vicious hail storm come up. I retreated to my tent at 4pm, and stayed in there til the next morning, except a brief lull in the storm, in which I cooked dinner, and took care of personal business. This weather pattern repeated itself the next 4 days. So I would always get up early, traveled while it was "safe", and had a shelter setup by 3-4 pm to keep myself and my equipment dry. The real casualties were not just an overabundance of tent time, but being in Miter Basin, and Crabtree Lake basins, and having my fishing curtailed for big goldens because of the weather. The fishing for the trip was a clunker, but not because of the locations, just the difficulty of being out in storms fishing. I chose to stay dry. But the cloudiness added some color and beauty to the high altitude country that was devoid of snow. Saw no people on Saturday, except one day hiker below Sky Blue.
Sunday: I went from Sky Blue Lake to Crabtree Pass. I took the route that stays more to the left going up, following the inlet creek, avoiding the cliffs. Still I might say, Crabtree Pass is not trivial, not the easiest pass I have done, nor the hardest. Not a walk in the park. By the time I got to the top, the weather was really rolling in. I thought the way down was not near as hard as I have seem described in some reports. I saw a group of five young guys as I was eating lunch, at Upper Crabtree Lake, who were headed for the pass. I felt old as I watched them quickly scrambling up the slopes to the pass. I did not even make it around the lake before they were on top. I traveled down the chain of Crabtree Lakes to the inlet of the lowest lake,and this is an absolutely beautiful walk. I made a camp in a great natural location, and once again, just in time, and just ahead of a storm that raged all night long.
Monday:(7/20/15): This was a wet, dreary day from Crabtree Lake to the Kern River area, most of the day using the JMT and the HST. I did not have a pack cover, so I tied my Mountain Hardwear jacket around the pack to keep most of the rain off my backpack. I decided to go a little north of the High Sierra Trail junction with the Kern River Trail to avoid the crowds at Junction Meadow. An old guide said there were good campsites to the north, and there were. Mine was at the location of an old Shorty Lovelace cabin, with the roof off. An interesting anomaly about the JMT, especially: Dozens of people traveling. I tend to ask folks on the trail where they are headed to, etc; 99.9% of the people said they were headed to Mt. Whitney, usually camping at Guitar lake. I guess the vast majority in the High Sierra today prefer to camp in overcrowded, dirty, heavy watched and regulated areas along with others. Hmmh...not my idea of a good time.
Tuesday:Relatively short day from the Kern River to the Kern-Kaweah, using the Colby Pass trail, to about 9500 foot elevation. The route fords the Kern River(double channel) west of Junction meadow. The ford was not particularly high or hazardous, even though the rain was falling. The presence of much algae on the Kern shows how desperately this state needs water, a big water year, to flush these streams out with clean water. The weather was so bad I decided to stop, rather that go up the slippery, exposed 1000 foot slope to Picket Creek Lake in the foul weather that afternoon. The Colby Pass trail is beautiful, a marvel of engineering and design. I played around @ midday catching little fish out of Rockslide Lake, which is really just the Kern-Kaweah pooling up in the area of a slide, not a lake, by any means.I stayed at an old packer site on the Kern-Kaweah, which was flawed by some overzealous person dismantling a firepit, and leaving soot covered rocks all over the landscape. Needless, to say, I rebuilt the pit with the same rocks, and had a nice fire to get me warm that cold, wet evening. Yes, it was a legal location, not very close to water, only 9500 foot, more dead wood lying around than politicians who lay around resorts all year at the taxpayer's expense.
Wednesday: I climbed the slope up to the lowest Picket Creek Lake, coming out on the bluff above the lakeshore. Not necessarily the recommended route. Lots of class 2, with enough class 3 rock to avoid, or not, that it is quite taxing with a backpack. I arrived at this beautiful lake about midday, and I saw no point in moving over to Island Lake in Kaweah Basin. This lake was quite scenic in its own right. The clouds were rolling in, so I set camp up early,but it ended up being a false alarm. The weather pattern was finally ending, and there was only a brief shower that day. It was quite nice to see Oleander and Rocky Road showing up. I had wondered if I would be the only one, considering the weather. Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday were the best days of the trip to me, meeting the members, and socializing/exchanging info.
I took off Friday morning, tentatively planning on traveling with Hobbes to Shepherd pass, but it did not work out. I did not find the ramp that runs from the east side of Pickett to Gallants lake, and I lost him as well. He is very fast, and I am not. But I followed his footprints down the trail for a number of miles, never catching up, like a 3 legged mountain lion trying to catch up with a young deer. I ended up hiking the last 28 miles or so out to the car at Cottonwood Pass, split between Saturday and Sunday. Great trip, great members, I am ready to do it again...sort of. An August trip next year would be great, a more stable weather pattern, for those of those who typically only get one long trip a year. However, I do believe that I will be heading to the Shepherd Pass area in late August, or early September this year, wandering the south side of the Kings-Kern Divide for 8-10 days, and perhaps visiting Williamson Bowl. Milestone Creek basin, or Lake Wallace.