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TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

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TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby irrfin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:27 pm

During the last 2 weeks of summer vacation I took my wife on a 2 week trip doing different loops in the HS, part HSR and part JMT. Week 1 was just me and my wife doing some of her first cross country passes. We looped from Bear Creek Diversion to Lake Italy, through the Bear Lake Basin, over Feather to Meridian, through French Canyon to the JMT Ranch. There we met my brother with a re-ration and a bucket we had sent earlier that summer. Week 2 took us South on the JMT, South up Goddard, cross country to Davis Lakes, Davis Lakes Pass to the JMT which we followed home to Florence Lake parking lot. I carried an alpacka yukon yak and a kayak paddle the whole 15 days. Pictures and days 1-4 coming later.



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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby irrfin » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:11 pm

I'm a semester NOLS graduate and was a trip leader in Maine during the summers in my 20's. We do trips as often as we can which usually depends on the availability of my in-laws with who we leave our 3 year old daughter. As a side note, she's already been a on a week long backpacking trip, the Kalalau trail which is another story in itself. Her first trip was a 3 night trip at 3 months old at Hetch Hetchy, my favorite place in Yosemite.

In early July 2013 I did a solo trip, a Bear Creek Diversion HSR loop using Dancing Bear Pass from Lake Italy through the Bear Lakes to Vee Lake past 7 Gables to the JMT and back. This new trip would be the longest my wife had ever done and the longest I had done since NOLS in 2013. I had originally considered Gemini, but using feedback from this community I decided Feather would be a better choice for my wife and the extra weight of carrying a pack raft.

Packrafting: I am an avid kayaker and compete nationally in kayak polo. I've always wanted to find a way to connect my love for backpacking and kayaking and when I saw this show called Motion on an internet TV station called LiveWell (both no longer exist, Motion said to be coming back on other channels), the host Greg used Packrafts to do some awesome trips. During many of my Sierra trips I've stood on the edge of gorgeous lakes and wished I had boat to go explore. For now, rivers and streams weren't on my radar. Even though I saw some interesting options like using the boat to float Evolution Valley, I thought that it would be an easy and stupid way to get hurt without a larger group and other, more experienced packrafters. At the same time, I was excited to be potentially one of the first people to kayak some of these lakes. I figure this much because I feel like no one else would be stupid enough to carry an extra 15-20lbs of gear just to go kayaking for the sake of kayaking. Later in the story the packraft plays a helpful role when tackling the Talus shores of Davis Lakes, but for now I'll focus on day 1-4

Starting at Bear Creek Diversion Trail Head in the High Sierra National Forest, we set out on the trail at 4pm after a long drive. On day 1 we made it 6 miles to a dry camp, passing up a great camp on the creek at mile 5. Next time we should leave home earlier as we had originally planned. Or build in an extra day where we drive out and car camp the night before. I knew were heading out late and breaking ourselves in with fully loaded packs. We pushed through past the last and gorgeous creek camp overlooking a small granite falls into a generous swimming hole, climbing the cliffs above the creek to a dry camp after fully loading up with H20 for that evening and the next morning. Spirits we low as my wife would have preferred having the water to wash off in. Looking back I would have split it up day 2 and stayed next to the creek.

Day 2 we head East to the JMT junction which we follow south. A few miles later we head up and East following the Hillgard Branch 7 miles through to lake Italy at around 11000ft. It was a 12 mile day with full packs and at least 10 hours hiking. When we arrived at lake Italy it was almost dark and after not seeing anyone for hours there was a group of 8 and another group of 4 hidden among the rocks. The elevation definitely made an impact that night so we decided to change our route plan and ditch Puppet Pass for another trip. Day 3 would be a rest day. My wife was pushed to her limit and upset for taking us on what she calls another one of my "death marches".

On day 3 we woke up late and the groups had cleared out. We had the lake to ourselves. In the early morning the water was like glass and I should have been more proactive instead of sleeping in as the wind picked up as I finally got around to inflating the boat. I took out the packraft and enjoyed kayaking and sailing on lake Italy, a lake probably no one in modern history has ever kayaked (no one else would be crazy enough to carry an extra 15 lbs just to kayak at 12000ft). The packraft changed the trip into a new type of adventure and I'm so glad I brought it even though my pack started the trip around 60lbs.

I was able to set up the umbrella and catch the wind just right and sailed down the whole length of the lake, though I had to paddle back through the wind it was worth the trouble. I got to see the lake from different angles I would never have had the energy to do on foot. It felt liberating but also mystical like I was engaging in the ancient spirit of the lake in ways modern humans never had; maybe no human ever had. I sailed the whole length West to East and then paddled back to camp along the southern shore. My wife was very happy to have a day off and she would need it because day 4 would be a ****.

Day 4 involved a cross-country pass at 12000ft over gaint mega-boulders trying to kill you. We would head up the hill south of Italy, cross on the western side of a rocky alpine super puddle, Jumble Lake. We carefully crawled over giant rocks and rock talus slopes with class 3 scrambling. I had done the same pass a few years back so I knew what we were getting into but I'm not sure my wife fully understood until she was in it. She did a great job and held it together all the way through. For the 2nd time I made the mistake of using the western side of Jumble Lake; next time I would use the Eastern side where we saw numerous groups heading to Italy pass. I like the challenge of the route we used but with the extra weight of the packraft you can imagine it was even more difficult and dangerous than usual.

Crossing Dancing Bear Pass we head east from White Bear Lake to Black Bear Lake where we set up camp at 11700ft. I kayak another beautiful lake and walk on an island I assume has never been walked on by humans (they would have to be crazy to swim all the way out there and might get hypothermia in the process; anyone ever swim out to the Island in Black Bear Lake?). We get a gorgeous sun set for our efforts and get ready and rested for feather pass in the coming days. On day 5 we would move camp to Bear Paw Lake where I would do some more kayaking before we head over Feather pass on day 6.
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby irrfin » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:31 pm

The Pictures from days 1-4
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby irrfin » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:33 pm

The pictures are in reverse order in reference to the report. Whoops.
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby oldranger » Sun Dec 13, 2015 4:21 pm

irrfin

Looking forward to more. At my age carrying 15-20 lbs extra to float in flat water is beyond my capabilities. But a Supai raft plus carbon fiber blades that attached to my hiking poles adds but 3 lbs to my pack. For larger folks the Klymit LWD adds another 1/2 pound. Both work great for lakes. See http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13749&start=12 for a pic of my complete raft/fishing outfit.

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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby FeetFirst » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:37 pm

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing, iirfin.
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 - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby dougieb » Wed Jan 20, 2016 11:39 pm

Those rafts give you quite a unique vantage point. Kudos for getting out there with a raft, very neat! I've been to the Bear Lakes Basin and it was lovely.
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:20 pm

These folks have boated many lakes in Yosemite. They post quite a number of threads with pictures last summer on their aquatic adventures.

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php ... #msg-81650
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby markskor » Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:43 pm

Another nice discussion here too...at the end.
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?17,82073
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Re: TR - Packrafting the HSR Lakes Day 1-4

Postby oldranger » Thu Jan 21, 2016 7:52 pm

Marks participation in the linked thread demonstrates a new high in his ability to stretch the truth.

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