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Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborted

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Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborted

Postby Randyhol » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:38 pm

Our very first ever backpacking trip. Years of dayhiking, finally convinced my wife to camp out. This trip a year in the planning. Took but hours once out there for it to turn into a total bust.

Sunday Sept. 13- Hike in from the Fernandez Trailhead northeast of Oakhurst and Bass Lake. Lots of smoke from Rough Fire. Set camp at Lower Staniford Lake. Camp site selected was clearly the best and most used location. Figured it would be a great spot to do several planned day hikes. Got up in the wee hours to answer natures call, found skies totally clear, bursting with stars, not a hint of smoke or clouds. A great sign.

Monday Sept. 14- Morning starts with no smoke, broken clouds, great promise. Head out to Lillian Lake with plans to do some cross country to other lakes. Drizzle starts, continues to increase as we first don rain jackets (did not bring pants, forecasts even a day before departure had no hint of rain), then pack covers. Rain continues to fall and increase. We abort the day hike plans, head back to base camp to find our site now a lake. Tent vestibule under water, main tent in 3 inches, inside saved by bathtub sides. We realize we have no option, given the lack of any other site option at this lake, to break camp and head out. All spare clothing in vestibule totally soaked, as we had not anticipated or planned for rain. Wife starts to get hypothermic on the hike out, but we make it to Lady Lake with high, flat, safe site. Pitch tent, get her into warm sleeping bag with emergency space blanket, and double up with my bag as additional cover. She finally warms up. Rain abates enough for us to cook a warm dinner, rain starts again heavy just as we are cleaning dishes. Into the tent around 8pm, the next 15 hours non-stop medium to heavy to torrential rains, moderate to storm force winds. At one point during the night I thought we were having an earthquake the winds rocked the tent so hard.

Tuesday Sept. 15- Awake to continued rain. Everything pretty much totally soaked. Wait 3 hours or so until a break finally seems to come. We decide to abort plans to stay another day, break camp, head home, totally dispirited.

The good news, if any? No mosquitoes! And as a friend has said to us after hearing our tale, we "took one for the team" in terms of having brought the rain that helped with the Rough fire. You are all most welcome!

So, with this as the maiden voyage, will my wife ever go out again? Most certainly. If we can coordinate dog sitters, we will try this trip again in a week or so.

Oh, did I mention we had a lot of RAIN on this trip?
Randy Holliday



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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby rlown » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:45 pm

Any pics? It would be nice to see the hole you set your tent in. Now you know to set it up on somewhat higher ground.
At least your bags were still usable. Very nice or you would have been out earlier, and your packs heavier.

You have to look at the Monsoonal flows as well, as they can make the Sierra nasty, weather-wise.

Thank you for bringing rain to the Rough fire.. :)

And think of what you learned on that trip.. really priceless for future trips.

Thank you for sharing!

Russ
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby maverick » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:04 pm

Hey Randy,

We were on the eastern side of the Minarets conducting our search when we got hit by that same storm, had the same experience as you did with our meadow flooding, which is mostly due to the drought (dry) conditions. Ritter, and some of the Minarets, got a dusting of snow.
Have camped in this meadow several times, and several years back, during a big monsoonal storm, and had no problems with flooding at that time.
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Randyhol » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:07 pm

I am new to this board and need to sort out photos once we get home. Still on the road. Agree that we learned lots of very useful lessons on this one. High kudos to my wife for being so positive throughout.

Pictures in a few days.
Randy Holliday
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Randyhol » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:16 am

Morning.jpg
Staniford Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Monday Sept. 14. Such promise, 9 am shot our first morning. Several hours later, we returned to find "Lake Holliday".
Morning.jpg (79.82 KiB) Viewed 258 times
Lake Holliday.jpg
Our campsite, dubbed "Lake Holliday", transformed from dry sandy flat to this in about 2 hours. All this from rain, no runoff from any adjacent creek beds, etc. Water simply would not percolate through the soil.
Lake Holliday.jpg (84.99 KiB) Viewed 258 times
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:24 am

My tent has ended up a boat a few times too. Easy to say "user error" in selecting a location, but what constitutes a small basin that does not drain, is not always obvious. Those nice sandy flat spots that you always see are really there because they are locations perfect for pooling water- that is how the sand got deposited! Sometimes even a convex surface may have an underlying concave rock base that pools water. Setting up on a slight slope provides drainage- the water runs under the tent and does not pool. Best is a flat spot high on a ridge. Also, impervious surrounding surfaces can quickly flood the ground. I took an urban runoff class once and we calculated the impact of a quarter inch of rain running off roofs and pavement - amazing effects on flooding! It looks like your campsite had surrounding granite. During a high-intensity night storm, I have even gotten dressed, put on rain gear, got out of my sleeping bag and stuff it and sat up on my sleeping pad to ride out the storm. Keeping your sleeping bag dry is really important.

On Sept 14 I was in the same storm with 12-hour night's worth of rain in Emigrant. And although the authorities tell you to set up on dirt, in the late season the dried grass/ short vegetation is quite sturdy and drains better, albeit slightly lumpy. I set up on a little high spot that was vegetated and had no problems. The little dry streambed nearby was flowing water in the morning.

Another danger to be aware of in a windy storm are "widow-makers"- dead trees that could be blown over onto your tent. Always look up before selecting a tent site. This is a very serious consideration in the Rockies where the bark beetle infestation has left so many dead trees - not as prevalent in the Sierra.
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Vaca Russ » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:14 pm

maverick wrote:We were on the eastern side of the Minarets conducting our search when we got hit by that same storm, had the same experience as you did with our meadow flooding, which is mostly due to the drought (dry) conditions. Ritter, and some of the Minarets, got a dusting of snow


Hi Randy,

Thanks for the report. Like Maverick said, we got exposed to this drenching rain as well. The rain gear I brought worked great!

Note to self: When it starts raining, transfer your camera from your backpack waist strap pocket to your rain jacket pocket.

Guess what? I get a new camera! :nod: :crybaby: :D

-Russ
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Randyhol » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:56 pm

Thanks to all for the insights. The site we moved to worked perfectly. High ridge location, vegetative floor, excellent drainage. Despite the torrential rains we never saw any pooling at this site. And we ensured we were nowhere near any "widow makers". We checked every tree in our radius to make sure all were healthy. We were well aware of the risk from falling trees given the amazing swaths of dead trees we saw all over the Sierra National Forest.

Going back next week for a "do over" try. Will camp at the same spot as we ended up at after moving from "Lake Holliday". And, will have everything in waterproof storage/rain protection, will take rain pants, upgrade jackets, plan for nasty cold weather. This should ensure we end up with historic high temperatures!! I can live with that.
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby windknot » Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:03 am

Hi Randy,

Sorry to hear about the weather causing you to abort your trip, but it's good to see that you kept a positive attitude and that (maybe even more importantly??) your wife is still interesting in giving it another try! I was out in the Sierra a bit south of you at the same time and we had a significant amount of snow at our elevation. It was my girlfriend's first Sierra backpacking trip and despite all of my efforts to make it the kind of first adventure that inspires many future trips, we ended up spending over 12 hours huddled in our tent listening to the snow falling around us and trying to stay warm. When we returned, I saw your trip report and pointed it out to her saying, "See? We weren't the only ones who were miserable this past week!" Some of the parallels between your experience and mine are uncanny -- I also ended up wrapping her in both sleeping bags and then sitting on her feet for hours in order to warm her back up from what must have been the beginning stages of hypothermia.

Hope your second attempt goes well! We did a dayhike the day after coming out of our backpack a day early (and sleeping in the much warmer but still chilly car) and the weather this day was much better: mostly sunny, and tons of layers to deflect the wind chill.

Matt
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby Randyhol » Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:44 pm

Matt,

Reading other trip reports it seems everyone anywhere in the Sierra had the rain storm on Sept. 14. We were clearly not really experienced or prepared, although we managed to muddle through. What was your elevation?
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby windknot » Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:42 pm

The snow started falling just before we reached the top of Italy Pass (12,200 feet) and so we dropped down to Jumble Lake at 11,520+ feet in order to find a suitable spot to make camp. When we returned over the pass the next day, it looked like everything lower than about 11,400 feet received "only" rain and not snow.
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Re: Trip Report- Ansel Adams Wilderness Sept. 13-15, aborte

Postby tie » Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:28 am

Sorry it didn't go so well.

My memory could be wrong, but I thought that the rain was forecast. At least in Los Angeles, we were getting rain in the forecast that weekend.

For Sierra forecasts, I usually use the National Weather Service's pages. You can get a point forecast for every location. (You have to zoom the little map all the way in.) I usually get one for the trailhead, passes and valleys. E.g., here's Hamilton Lake:

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.ph ... gqtZqarTdQ
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