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Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

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Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby MN2CAPisco » Wed Dec 09, 2015 2:36 pm

I’ve been sitting on a few trip reports for a while, so with the winter season bearing down and an apparent storm dampening my mountaineering plans this weekend I thought I’d reminisce by writing one up.

I spent the weekend of 8/13-8/15/2015 initiating a few friends into the joys (and pains, as they’ve frequently complained to me since) of backpacking and easy cross country travel. Disguised as a backcountry trip to investigate the quality of the finned swimmers in the lakes, I brought them and a well-traveled backcountry friend from Cottonwood Pass up through Miter Basin in southern Sequoia National Park.

We left Thursday night to catch some acclimatization prior to the hike, camping in style in the Alabama Hills. One of my uninitiated friends brought his 6-person tent that likely has a square footage similar to that of the Taj Mahal, which was nice aside from the gusting winds that made it an exercise in frustration setting up. Accordingly I wandered off to take Milky Way shots while they figured it out…what a good camp mate I am.

ImageSummer skies provide an excellent view of the center of the galaxy, and the Alabama Hills is quite the place to view it from

We got our few hours of sleep before breaking camp early to get to the ranger station first thing to ensure we got our permits for the trip. I was hoping to avoid what happened the last time I tried to obtain a permit in Lone Pine, when the ranger put 16 numbers in a hat for the groups that were there first thing, and my Midwestern roots showed while I patiently waited to be the last to draw a number. I was number 17, either due to a counting error or someone drawing twice. Not wanting a repeat incident, I elbowed my way in and drew a lucky number 3. Victory!

The trail to Cottonwood Pass is a simple upward jaunt through barren, dusty timberline territory, selected for its high trailhead yielding relatively little vertical gain. Rounding the pass, passing the impressively low water levels of Chicken Spring Lake, a view across the Kern River opened up to some sweeping views to the area I had travelled a few weeks prior to the 2015 HST Meetup in Kaweah Basin. Fond memories.

Image This timberline twister holds down the foreground, with the Kaweahs peaking out to the right

We followed the PCT out to the intersection of the Siberian Pass trail, then continued toward Lower Soldier Lake where we set up base camp. This well-traveled trail turned out to be more a continuous line of dry moondust than traditional trail, but we managed to trudge through to our destination. After scratching our heads at the bear box (we are good citizens and carried canisters anyway) located about a half mile from any of the lake campspots, we nearly circumnavigated the lake before finding a suitable spot for our three small tents. There must have been a convention in town Friday, though they all cleared out by Saturday night.

ImageThree goofballs admiring our basecamp at Lower Soldier Lake

We actually found the most reliable swimming critters at base camp, where our campsite serendipitously was the premiere spot on the lake. Naturally I pulled in the trophy for the weekend, because I am very talented. Also humble. Did I mention handsome?
ImageThey told me to hold it out in front so it’d look bigger. Even that trick didn’t work on the puny specimens any of them pulled in

A 360 to give a better idea of the surroundings:
https://www.360cities.net/image/view-above-lower-soldier-lake-california

A pleasant night’s sleep had us ready on Saturday to rock out with a full day off-trail up Miter Basin, which proved to be one of the most enjoyable I’d had in the Sierra in over two weeks. Yes, I was very spoiled this summer.

https://www.360cities.net/image/twilight-at-lower-soldier-lake-california

Arriving at Sky Blue Lake, we stopped to enjoy a nice lunch before making our way around probing the lake for inhabitants. Some moderate success was found, though it was mostly just a perfect day enjoying the pristine surroundings. Oftentimes since my through-hike in 2013 I’ve spent too much time trying to sprint through the mountains to capture as much in as little time as possible. That didn’t happen during this trip, and I wouldn’t mind carrying that through to future trips here and there.
ImageMiter Basin affording classic Sierra views

After getting our fill of Sky Blue, we decided to navigate further up the basin to the base of Crabtree Pass, where a high lake rests waiting for infrequent company. Despite its apparent lack of living things to catch, it was a well worthy spot to sit and enjoy the deep blue-green color and extreme clarity of the lake as well as the impressive surroundings.
And another 360:
https://www.360cities.net/image/unnamed ... california

https://www.360cities.net/image/overloo ... california

The return was similarly pleasant, especially when the eagle eye of one of our group allowed a chance sighting of one of the Sierra’s most elusive creatures, the bighorned sheep. We got to watch a pair of these fascinating animals ascend in two minutes what might take us twenty or more to complete after they spotted us.
ImageHate seeing them go, but was fun watching them effortlessly leave up the steep rocky slope

Arriving back at camp we were thoroughly satisfied from a successful day, and were treated to a nice purple sunset before the Milky Way made another impressive showing.
ImageRipples in the calm

I even messed around with a little timelapse while I slept, though I’ll have to figure out some way for the battery to go longer in the future: https://www.instagram.com/p/6jTsHmDVB3/ ... tlettroger

Sunday we packed up and retraced our steps back to Cottonwood Pass, content from a great weekend in the mountains. The first timers did have some complaints of sore legs and feet on the way back, which I’m supposing I felt too but am just accustomed to pushing through that as a necessary evil to pursue this passion of mine. We celebrated with Mojave Red and the best burger in Lone Pine, and during the drive back they must have forgotten the pain enough, as we discussed where next summer’s trip would be taken.

Image



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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby edhyatt » Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:03 pm

Nice report.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder :whistle:
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby balzaccom » Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:17 pm

As an enthusiastic amateur astronomer with way too many telescopes, I just want to tell you that your photo of the Milky Way is absolutely spectacular--about the best I have ever seen.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby MN2CAPisco » Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:12 pm

balzaccom wrote:As an enthusiastic amateur astronomer with way too many telescopes, I just want to tell you that your photo of the Milky Way is absolutely spectacular--about the best I have ever seen.


Wow, many thanks for those very kind words! I got pretty lucky that night for certain, though this summer in general I had a lot of fun with it having gotten a much better camera. I'd say some of the best I've seen are over on the High Sierra Photography board, if you haven't seen it yet there's a cool thread here: http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=12702

edhyatt wrote:Nice report.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder :whistle:


I'm assuming you're referring to the "did I mention I'm handsome" quip. :D Somehow I found a lady that not only believes my narcissistic joke of a comment to be true, but puts up with my trips to the mountains. For her they're too frequent, but for me they are not nearly frequent enough. :cool:
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby Rockyroad » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:06 am

Cool timelapse, entertaining prose and awesome photos. Looking forward to your other trip reports!
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby Bluewater » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:03 pm

I love those panoramas! Thanks for posting your TR and photos, it helped with the cabin fever. . . and that group shot taken from above SBL is awesome.
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby sekihiker » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:05 pm

I guess every fish I've ever caught is a minnow.
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby dougieb » Thu Jan 28, 2016 2:02 pm

I went out to Miter Basin using this same approach back in late May of 2015. We got snowed on one night and I woke up terrified that it wouldn't let up. [-o< The walls of the tent were heavy and caving in and I had no idea if we'd be able to get back down to soldier lake the next day. Fortunately everything melted off by noon the next day and it was just gorgeous that morning. When we did leave, we came down the grassy ramp that leads you down to lower soldier lake and as we came around the corner we saw an entire herd of bighorn sheep within 30-50 feet of us. There must have been 20 of them and they stopped and locked eyes with us. I was taking my friend on this trip and he had never been to the Sierra (he's from Germany). It was my first time seeing sheep like that and I told my friend that it is incredibly rare to see so many so close. It was a very memorable moment that I cherish. I'm so glad you had an opportunity to get out to the area and that the sheep were out there to greet you!
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby richlong8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:30 pm

Very nice trip report. I have that same pic of the snag overlooking Siberian in one of my trip reports. Were you using your Trail Pix tripod on this trip. What camera equipment do you use? Thanks again for the report. Richard from Bakersfield.
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Re: Miter Basin Trip 8/14-8/16/2015

Postby MN2CAPisco » Tue Feb 02, 2016 8:22 am

richlong8 wrote:Very nice trip report. I have that same pic of the snag overlooking Siberian in one of my trip reports. Were you using your Trail Pix tripod on this trip. What camera equipment do you use? Thanks again for the report. Richard from Bakersfield.


Thanks Richard! I did bring the Trailpix with me on this trip, I tend to use it mostly for the 360 panos to keep the nodal point of the lens in one spot, or when I'm not able to find someplace to set the camera with a small Ultrapod. For other gear I use a Sony mirrorless NEX 5T with either kit 18-55mm lens or more recently a Tamron 18-200mm. For panos and astrophotography I have the 8mm Rokinon fisheye.

Hope you got to enjoy it too, but Bakersfield was beautiful yesterday! Snow on the full horseshoe and clear air to see in any direction. Making me daydream of high mountain escapades at work meetings, though to be fair that happens regardless.
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