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TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

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TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby Pulldownfrenzy » Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:01 pm

Date: Saturday through Saturday, July 25 - August 1, 2015
(6) Participants: Carl-Petter S–, Paul S–, Erling S–, Hannah S–, Dominic D–, Margaret D– (for only 3 days & 2 nights)
http://www.highsierratopix.com/high-sierra-map/map.php?lat=37.1875&long=-118.8125&cat=27&zoom=14

Our group experience was as follows: It was a family affair - everyone was related (at least by marriage). Brothers Carl-Petter and Erling with thousands of hiked miles in the mountains between them, much of it the Sierra Nevada. Hailing from Sacramento, CP was the mastermind behind the trip and was accompanied by his son Paul (age 12). Erling and his daughter Hannah (age 14) were from back East. This was to be P’s third and longest backpacking adventure to-date, and H’s first. Dominic & Margaret were a married couple from Visalia with a lot of shorter backpacking adventures together. D’s individual trips had revolved mostly around multi-day ski-mountaineering tours and technical rock climbing approaches, including many on the Eastside. M was only able to join for 3 of the days because of the need to return on Monday to take care of their young children.
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Our group at the TH (minus Erling taking the photo)

The plan: Two days in, two days out with a 4-day layover at or around Rae Lake at an elevation of 9,889’ in the John Muir Wilderness, right up against the Western slope of the LeConte Divide. Our destination was conceived by CP, an avid fly fisherman who during trout fishing brainstorming sessions had presupposed Rae Lake to be an excellent destination for that purpose. E, a professional artist, was bringing along his watercolor supplies and planned to pass a good portion of the time en plein air.

Day 1: Saturday – preparations, logistics, and heavy loads
Saturday in Visalia dawned hot and sunny – typical for the San Joaquin Valley in mid-summer. The rash of preparations commenced immediately and we managed to agree on and ration out the appropriate quantities of food, which was subsequently distributed along with group cooking kit proportionately to each participant according to age, body weight, and items first-used. Finally getting out the door, everyone departed for the Prather Wilderness Office to procure the wilderness permit, arriving just after noon. We drove across the street to Mar-Val, a local foothills market for some exceptionally long “footlong” subs, and thence to the Trailhead.

The drive sweeps steeply up busy, nicely paved, double-lane highway to the town of Shaver Lake at 5,500’ elevation, before turning off on Tollhouse Road to continue more than twenty miles back and up over 2,000’ into the hinterland. The drive was beautifully scenic; we passed by all of the typical habitats – foothill chaparral and grasses, light stunted conifers, into deep pine and deciduous forest, even passing right by the McKinley Grove of giant sequoias. Finally, almost two hours later, we descended down to arrive at Courtright Reservoir (El. 8,170’), passing across the crest of the dam on a disconcertingly narrow one-lane road. Views downstream of the spillway were breathtaking: the empty riverbed dropped DOWN Down down into the deep-cut canyon, lined by huge exfoliating domes standing sentinel-like on each side. A quick turn and a short, steep descent brought us shortly to our Trailhead: Maxon Meadows, Elevation 8,040’.

We officially departed the TH just after 3 o’clock. Much later than expected but definitely doable to get to our destination and make camp prior to an eight o’clock published sunset. The trail starts out in a generally Northerly direction on a wide Jeep road then, after about a mile, makes a sharp turn to the East at a log fence built to prevent motorized vehicle entry. The foliage was thick with pines and juniper, interspersed with Manzanita and variated partial-shade deciduous undergrowth. The rays of light from the late afternoon sun directly overhead created the quite striking effect of a patchwork quilt on the trail. Everyone was predictably hot as we began to ascend up over several progressively higher ridges. We saw our first views of the high alpine country as we passed through a lightly wooded meadow called Long Meadow, about a mile short of our day’s destination. The objective for the first night’s camp was Post Corral Meadows –a well-marked clearing on the map standing at the junction between the Red Mountain Basin to the Northeast, and Blackcap Basin to the Southeast. All of us were feeling several inches shorter with our newly hefted packs, and the relief was palpable when we quickly decided as a group to make camp in a small clearing on the N. side of the trail just short of the main creek crossing. There was no fishing this early in the trip so dinner consisted of tortellini marinara. The selected site was a multi-ledged affair with the three tents pitched in relatively close proximity around an obvious fire ring in little clearings under the pines, a stone’s throw from the river, with the kitchen tucked just so under a large boulder.

Day 2: Sunday – steeps, lakes, and arrival at our layover
Sometime around eight o’clock the main body of camp began rousing for the day’s journey. As it turned out, with all of us sleeping in, we didn’t get out on-trail until around half past ten; fairly late for the hike ahead. It turned out this was to set the tone for the whole trip, but the group consisted of all solid hikers with no real stragglers so having enough time to arrive at our destination before dark was never an issue. We hoofed it the short twenty minutes to the Post Corral Creek crossing; a wide shallow affair smelling suspiciously of the equine. Despite general olfactory displeasure, we stopped at the creek to filter and top off our water and continued on, hunkering down for the long uphill climb awaiting us.
The ascent into Red Mountain Basin begins steeply up from the fork between Red Mtn and Blackcap. The weather was hot and full sun due to the late start, but that didn’t faze us. We undertook two long hours of bouldered hiking mostly under cover of the canopy but occasionally breaking out from under the trees at high points to cross rockslides and short alpine meadows. Eventually we came over a rise and arrived at an obvious stopping place; what would later be nicknamed the “Lunch Ledge.” Availing ourselves to the excellent early-trip comestibles, we munched contentedly in the partial shade while peeking over the ridge at the breathtaking view; an endless sea of rising and falling waves of terrain; valleys and ravines of blue-green pines, the distinct heads and shoulders of distant alpine domes breaking through like white-caps on a stormy ocean. Setting off again, we made a sharp turn north next to a steep outcropping of rock. We ascended up following the line of the ridge until we reached the tipping point over the top. Descending slightly over the shoulder, we began a several mile-long traverse around the same contour line, gaining and losing a handful of feet but more or less remaining at the same elevation through varying degrees of shade. Along the way we passed many interesting natural features – notably gnarled, thick pines many with trunks with massive tumor-like growths. Some had forks with small branches sticking out of them that had grown thick together giving the impression of a body-builder squeezing a small child’s arm between their legs. After a time, we reached a distinctive endpoint and began another steep ascent; much to the chagrin of our legs and backs. After a while, gaining the next ridge, we joyously found ourselves on the SE terminus of Fleming Lake.

The edge of the lake was rather broken and grassy – it being mid-way through the fourth year of drought –large patches of swamp grass, cattails, and other pond growth indicating that the water line had receded significantly from previous levels. As we weren’t staying there, the group found it easy to overlook the [rather obvious] shortcomings of Fleming Lake; indeed, the prospect instead yielded pleasure. It was our first alpine lake and there was a burgeoning excitement with the knowledge that Rae Lake is only a short jaunt above and beyond. Having thus been reminded of the impending arrival at our destination, we continued on, quickening our step. We hiked part-way across a wide meadow about a half-mile past Fleming, nodding at the lazy deep-cut meandering creek which promised excellent fishing to CP. Taking a brief pause to allow a bloody nose to coagulate, we reached the end of the meadow just after passing the sign marking the turn-off for Disappointment Lake. The signpost had rotted away and the stump with the sign still attached leaned against a small boulder, pointing generally in the right direction. We hopped up the last short steeps over the next rise to greet our first view of Rae Lake about 30 minutes later. This would be our home away from home for the next four days.

Our first impression of Rae Lake did not disappoint: A perfectly-sized, exquisitely-shaped body of aquamarine wonderfulness with lovely little rock island outcroppings popping pleasingly out of the depths. It was relatively shallow, with a large wooded island in the middle, several rocky “docks” along the perimeter, and a glorious number of growing concentric ripples left by breaching trout leaving hypnotic patterns across an otherwise serene surface. The excitement at arrival was universal, and everyone doffed their packs en masse and raced to the closest rock. Most of the group removed shoes to soak hot tired feet in the cool water under a golden afternoon sun. Everyone was immediately surprised at the warmth of the water. We attributed it to the decreased volume and subsequent shallowness of the lake. After settling in nicely, we had a lovely evening repast of hearty grains and lentils, a nip of Scotch from D’s flask, and everyone settled in for a cold night with smiles on their faces.
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soaking tired feet in beautiful Rae Lake
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D & M in front of Rae Lake shortly before departure
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Day 3: Monday – fishing, lounging, breakup of the fellowship and a long, long hike
Tuesday M&D awoke COLD at six o’clock to their alarm. The grass around their tent was laced with rime and when they removed the fly to air it out before packing it in for the trip down they first shook out a cloud of hoarfrost into the crisp air. Despite what they thought was hurrying, they actually took about an hour to cram everything into their packs and start on their way. After a brief farewell, they hiked as expeditiously as possible, making no stops and few rests, constantly aware that every foot behind them was one that needed to be gained back by D on the return to camp. They reached the Lunch Ledge by half past nine o’clock, and D stashed bivvy kit consisting of a tent footprint, two sleeping pads, a mummy bag, and a silk cocoon for extra warmth. Having safely deposited these items behind a unique three-trunked tree up against the rock generally out of sight of the trail, they continued on after a quick “breakfast” break. They arrived at the Post Corral Creek crossing at the encouraging hour of a quarter after ten. Choosing not to stop, they continued the descent. It was around about Long Meadow when they began to feel the toll of the fast hike, the early morning, and the relentless hours without let-up. The last undulating descent from Long Meadow to the 4-wheel road seemed interminable. On the way they passed two large groups of young men headed up the trail en route to Lower Indian Lake, allegedly bound and determined to bag an ascent of Mt. Henry. Arriving at the car at approximately quarter past one o’clock, D promptly lay down on the ground to rest and recuperate while M unpacked everything that wasn’t going to be needed, combine remaining water into D’s water pouch, and hand-feed him snacks. There was a brief farewell and they parted ways.

D hit the trail with a concerted effort – focusing carefully on his steps to prevent an ankle roll or sprain on the rough, rocky, and often high-stepped terrain. Eventually, passing both groups of young men with brief pauses to exchange the time of day, he continued forging on. The time passed quicker than expected and he was mostly able to ignore his aching foot pads, hip flexors, and a general feeling of overall fatigue. Reaching their first encampment just shy of Post Corral Meadows, he stopped for a long break. Sitting on a rock and filtering a full three liters – his water had run out at about Long Meadows – he recuperated while cooling his hot bare feet in the stream. Recovered, he trudged onward, hope and concern intermingling in an interesting cocktail as he dwelled on the urgent need to reach the Lunch Ledge before nightfall.
Meanwhile back at Rae Lk, R&R was the name of the game. The group conducted a complete circumnavigation of the perimeter of the Lake and charted the surrounding outlying real estate. To this was added excellent fishing culminating in the first fried trout dinner of the trip. The group decided to move the encampment into a small stand of short conifers away from the lake to be further from the main trail to better comply with the permit, a decision met with some consternation–mostly from the younger members of the party – due to the large quantity of mosquitoes in the long grasses there.

About five o’clock D reached the Lunch Ledge. Sitting for another long break to eat “dinner” and rest, he decided he would pack it all up and continue onward and upward. At about seven, he found himself sitting on the bank of Fleming Lake, watching the sun slowly sink behind the tall ridge in the background. He pushed through the last mile or so and made it to camp about half past seven, just as the sun was out of sight, but still under essentially full light conditions. The group was just finishing dinner at Rae Lake when the sound of bear bells reached their ears. The amazed welcome committee ran forward to greet their not-so-long lost comrade, and he collapsed spent on the rock while everyone congratulated him on the grueling accomplishment; about 2,500’ lost then regained again in about 26 miles; a long day’s journey. After a time, he was made aware by H & P of their growing desire to move camp again. P and H led him to the proposed site which they all pronounced infinitely preferable. It was a lovely copse of trees on the far N. side of the lake; a stand of tall trees with a central circular bare area containing a fine long hollow log fallen in such a way as to be perfectly positioned to sit and lean objects upon. The best part, however, was a large flat rock sticking out into the lake at roughly grade level with a big boulder on one side which was perfect for lying on and watching sunsets and fish breaching. By this time D’s muscles had begun to tighten up considerably so he hobbled over to the new site carrying his backpack and assembled cot and watched the rest of the group muster to conduct the relocation– gear and assembled tents carried above their heads around the perimeter of the lake to the new site. D had quite the impression sitting there enjoying the cool evening breeze and stunning colors on Mt. Hutton and watching the strange succession of erected tents and kit being carried haphazardly around the perimeter of the lake to the new site. Finishing, the whole group stopped to watch the glorious sunset over Red Mountain; it turned out to be the best of the trip. The formidable granite peak changed in quick succession from white in the sunshine, to bright pink, to varying shades of purple, and finally into darkening grey as dusk settled in to stay.
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Playing 500 Rummy at Rae Lake with a beautiful sunset over Mount Hutton in the background
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Day 4: Tuesday – lounging, fishing, card sharps
Tuesday was a definitive rest day for everyone at Rae Lake. Everyone “slept-in.” We enjoyed our daily allotment of oatmeal – each with their own inclusions – sipping a cup of Norwegian-style coffee strong enough for a loadstone to stand dead vertical. As we sat there, each of us began hatching a plan for that and the next day’s activities. The only plan for the day was fishing, swimming, and a short jaunt up the steep granite slope to see what could be seen. For mañana it was decided that CP & P would remain in the area to fish while D, E, H would get up early for an attempt to scale Mt. Henry.
Rae Lk is an R&R paradise. The youths started out fishing with power bait, hooking Rainbow Trout at fifteen-minute intervals. This kept CP busy with removing swallowed hooks, throwing back returns and stringing keepers on a line. The fishing was so good that CP changed P and H to lures and proclaimed that we would be throwing back any fish less than 10” as too small. Meanwhile D began to learn the ropes of fly fishing; an exercise in patience and perseverance for this novice angler. After a bit more fishing, a subgroup consisting of E,D,H and P headed up the ridge on the Northern end of Rae Lake to scout out the best approach of Mt. Henry and view the surrounding area. Upon gaining the top of the ridge, it was clear that we wouldn’t be seeing anything more than we could from below (we were still below the tree-line), so we decided to walk N-NE for a bit to try to get out of the trees. We passed a small dried up barren pond and dropped down the other side of the ridge. As we came to the edge of the ridge, we could see a rather large swath of swampy ground and pond flora in the approximate location of Lower Indian Lake. D & E planned out the attack of Mt. Henry on the map as P and H headed out overland across the swampy meadow to scout out of the rest of Indian Lk which we believed was around the other side of the small rise on the N. side of the small pool. It was quite the prospect seeing the two walking slowly across the large grassy clearing with the tree line shortly above them and the forbidding summit of Mt. Henry looming down on them thousands of feet above. The sense of perspective was remarkable. After not hearing from them for a while, D and E followed in their tracks. Rounding the other side of the ridge, they beheld what was obviously Lower Indian Lk (El. 10,045’); a large irregular-shaped body of shallow water with a large boulder on the W. side on top of which H was standing and waiving excitedly at them.
Along the way, trouncing back down the granite slope to camp, D showed H some basic lessons in rock scrambling and climbing technique (which were to come in very handy the next day) and they returned to camp. D, H, and P took a swim out to one of the rock islands near the middle of the lake before dinner. They were surprised at how much colder the water seemed than it had when they had first arrived at the lake. CP fried up another delectable dinner of Rainbow Trout followed by some poker and D taught P and H how to play Rummy. D, P, and H did some bouldering on the large boulder on the camp’s “dock” then we all watched the sunset and turned in.

Day 5: Wednesday – absurdly beautiful scenery, a peak left unclimbed, some technical climbing
D, E, and H were up just after sunrise to allow plenty of time to attack the stern and menacing Mt. Henry. Based on perspective gained from the previous day’s hike, they decided that the best way to summit Henry (12,196’) was via the NW ridge, by way of the unnamed 10,954’ mountain which adjoined it via a long shallow saddle. Also, E had expressed interest in seeing the prospect over the other side of Mosquito Pass. Thus they headed hither to the pass. They began the hike briskly – quickly passing Lower Indian Lake which had seemed much further the previous day. The view in the early morning alpenglow was stunning; the broad placid lake bathed in soft shimmering golden light, dancing off of the top of the weeds and dappling the ground like raindrops. They passed around the perimeter to the North side of the lake, across a short field, and began to ascend through a tangled mess of high rocky steps and undergrowth that E quickly dubbed “alpine jungle.” Gaining the top of that contour, they anticipated shortly getting their first view of Upper Indian Lake, but were briefly disappointed when it revealed its true identity as a false summit. However, it quickly redeemed itself as a lovely broad flat meadow situated on the small long plateau between Upper and Lower Indian. Crossing it and clambering up another couple of hundred feet they reached the true lake contour and gained their first impression of Upper Indian Lk, ~ 10,500’ elevation.

And quite an impression it was. Upper Indian was delightfully situated. The outlet, as approached from the South via a steeply inclined slope, had a wide slightly beveled soft mossy contour, indicating that in high precipitation years the water probably ran out of the lake in a slow, uniformly wide continuous flow as how it would flow across a weir spillway. The Western edge is an almost direct continuance of the foot of the neighboring mountainside; a massy peaklet known as Zingheim Heights (11,138’); this somewhat peculiar moniker sounding more like a suburban subdivision than a mountain. From that height the sheet of granite fell smoothly and steeply down into the lake at an incline of greater than 40° plunging, with only intermittent perturbations and ledges, into the depths of the lake. Its Eastern edge was a widened shelf of the same grassy contour and consistency as the outlet, but here peppered with boulders of varying sizes situated just so all around. This side sloped upward away from the lake; gradually at first, then quite abruptly up to the neighboring Eastern mountainside which was the bearing of our approach to Mt. Henry. The NE corner held a quaint short sandy beach-like shoreline, inviting all to jump into the crystal-clear waters.

What really took their breath away was the maw of Mosquito Pass, just a stone’s throw beyond the N. edge of the Lake. The pass was a slight gap between two walls of almost vertical granite rising high on both sides, the backside dropping precipitously almost 500’ down to Heather Lake at 10,043’ elevation. Only the tight gap – no wider than 50’ – permitted access via a steeply sloped loose talus slope into the neighboring basin. From the viewpoint standing at the Southern edge of the lake, the world through the gap on the far side of the lake appeared to simply disappear. This fantastic natural configuration gave the distinct impression that the pass was the gateway to the ends of the earth. A small horizon line beyond the mouth of the pass and connecting to very distant mountains was all that kept the mind grounded in reality. After gaping for some time rooted to the spot, everyone dutifully and industriously refilled water bottles then skipped around to the Northern rim of the lake to see what further wonders lay beyond.
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Mosquito Pass viewed from Upper Indian Lake
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The prospect defied superlative. The Northern terminus of the LeConte Divide drops precipitously down to Heather Lake on the floor of the valley below. A small deep-cut stream meandered lazily from the lake to end estuary-like in a profusion of small rivuleted fingers in beautiful marshy wildflower-dotted greenery. In the mid-ground rolling hills gladed with pines dotted about contrasting sharply against dirt-brown and granite-white substrate. The furthest hill in this basin dropped steeply down out of sight, presumably to the banks of the S. Fork of the San Joaquin River out of view. In the background steep jagged peaks of varying heights dotting the entire near and far horizon as far as the eye could see. These punched out of the ground in groups and individually – so prolific they looked like the varying thorns on a roses stem. There was so much to take in that it took each person a long time to focus on any point.
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Heather Lake
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After gaping at this otherworldly sight for the better part of an hour, they regrouped and headed out, deciding to begin the ascent from a broad hidden ledge they had been resting on near the upper shoulder of the pass to admire the view. Hiking up from there toward the ridge-line of the unnamed peak the group followed a series of obvious drainage contours – an alternating pattern of steep granite slabs interspersed with shady, flat or slightly sloped ledges full of grasses and wildflowers. Reaching the ridge-line, they followed it up for a short bit to its apex to determine which method to negotiate the unnamed peak between them and Mount Henry. They chose to circumnavigate this peak on the Eastern side, a decision they soon came to regret. This appeared to afford a small but (seemingly) obvious path following approximately the same contour line around the peak to a tiny notch connecting to the NW buttress of Mt. Henry. Fairly soon after starting in on the trek, the path degenerated into smooth slab, which gave way to broken slab, then to 80s-model Cadillac-sized talus lying at an approximately 45° angle requiring hands and feet to climb up, over, and across. After negotiating this perilous and strenuous slope for some time, H began to feel the altitude. By the time they had transversed all but about the last quarter of the field, she was a dark shade of green-grey and obviously not herself.

The climbers called a short break to regroup, re-hydrate, and down some calories. D scouted ahead and returned quickly with the news that the path forward was passable but encountered some “sketchy” sections. He elaborated that the only alternative was to retrace the route or down-climb to the bottom of the basin and go up the middle. By this time, H began to feel much better and everyone agreed to continue on. H quickly began to regain her strength and can-do attitude. After going most of the way, the group reached a steep drop-off requiring about a 20 ft. section of class 5 down climbing . E and H set their jaws nervously, but agreed to go on at D’s direction. The group slowly but surely down-climbed the wall and arrived at the bottom unscathed. After passing this rather treacherous piece, H was feeling good enough that even her sass returned and they climbed up the remaining talus and arrived at the denouement, the notch, at an approximate elevation of 10,900’. By this time, it was about one o’clock and the group made the decision to return back to camp rather than go on. Prior to heading down, they attempted a half-hearted ascent to the broken summit of the previously circumnavigated unnamed peak (El. 10,954’) but gave up when it was clear that the summit was not only unappealing but very broken and precarious. It is hard to be motivated to climb ugly unnamed formations threatening death.

They downed their lunch and began the –now– much more obvious W. slope descent down to Lower Indian Lk. The hike down was unremarkable aside from a bathtub-shaped pool of water, the profusion of wildflowers, and the disconcerting sounds of several large rock falls accompanied by yells from hikers descending the distant shoulder of Mt. Henry. Reaching the tree line, they transitioned quickly back from slab to high alpine conifers. They began to follow a drainage contour or dry creek of sorts as it granted easier going through the underbrush along a relatively direct line. Luckily, their navigation was better on the way down and the drainage emptied the group at an excellent launching point back to Red Mountain Basin. They found themselves past the last steep section below Upper Indian Lk. Passing a group of young boys playing in Lower Indian Lk, they made it back to Rae without further incident. Just prior to entering the copse of trees, they stopped to chat with two men who turned out to be the trip leaders of the group of young men passed at Upper Indian lake. This group, apparently bound and determined to be first back to camp, had taken a poor course from Fleming Mountain and ended up at Lower Indian instead of Rae Lk like their leaders.

Soon after the tired and hungry group arrived, the CP and P contingent returned and availed everyone to their outing result. They had woken late, had had a leisurely breakfast, and climbed to Upper Indian Lk as well, where they enjoyed exceptional trout fishing, this time of the Brook variety. CP was so convincing in his exhortations about the outstanding fishing to be had that the group determined to return en mass to Upper Indian Lk and Mosquito Pass the following day. Unfortunately, another of CP’s discoveries was the disconcerting fact that his boot sole had begun to detach from his boot. He and D agreed to face the problem and perform surgery the following day in morning light in hopes that they would be able to correct, or at least abate the greater extent of the wardrobe malfunction. CP again proved his camp cooking mettle by serving up an excellent fried fish dinner. Afterwards, D, H, and P played Poker and Rummy while E painted Mt. Hutton at sunset; the peak this time encircled by a soft cushion of curling clouds. After dark, the whole group took CP’s example and lay prostrate on the rock for a while together watching the stars.

Day 6: Thursday – a group return to the high country for painting and fishing; alpine weather, more stargazing, close with no-risk Poker in the rain
We awoke to another warm clear morning, the kind of nice weather that we had come to expect on this trip. CP & D executed on their plan of action to fix the malfunctioning footwear as follows: After cleaning the substrate, CP took a few sticks of hot glue which he melted in the lid of the smallest cook pot over a camp stove and poured into the growing gap between his boot bottom and the rubber sole. This accomplished, they lay the boot to dry and CP wore E’s flip-flops around the camp for the rest of the morning. About mid-morning, everyone regrouped and departed with painting and fishing tackle and lunch supplies for the day in tow. Upon arriving at Upper Indian Lk, everyone was surprised at how different it appeared in the much flatter light. We filtered more fresh lake water for drinking and commenced fishing. The experience here was as good as CP had boasted. H & P didn’t even start with power bait but went straight to lures. Just about every cast they threw in hooked a Brookie. D and CP (when he wasn’t freeing fish from other’s hooks) fly fished to good success as well. Eventually, for more of a challenge, CP changed the youths out to flies. They still caught some but bites were more tentative then before. We lunched, then continued fishing. Eventually, having reached the requisite ten suppertime fish (two apiece), P & H commenced various explorations around the lake while D persevered with his fly rod. Upper Indian was much more challenging to fly fish due to fickle winds shifting from every direction, as well as the closeness of the bushes and undergrowth which went right up to the lake.
Toward the mid-afternoon, we began to hear some rumbling and could see we were finally going to encounter some mountain weather coming in from the South and East of us. Sensing the harbinger of wetness to come and not having adequate rain gear along, CP headed immediately back down to Rae Lk accompanied by H & P. E and D remained behind to paint the view from Mosquito Pass and to fish. After watching E set-up and begin to paint, D returned to fly fishing in the wind and light rain. There was an incredibly peaceful feeling of “having arrived”, the painting and fishing with the rumble of distant lightning; the building wind, and soft patter of raindrops on the lake and our rain gear setting the backdrop for a deeply contemplative ‘Zen’ experience. D enjoyed the catch and release of several small trout on an old bedraggled half-eaten dragonfly. Eventually retying on a new fly, he almost landed a very large trout but it broke the tippet with a big splash and dove back into the depths. Exhilarated, and at a natural stopping point, D started back to inform E that it was time to go. Only then did he realize the lateness of the hour: it was past six. On the return, the pair decided to hike along the upper slab on the W. side of the lake. They enjoyed the challenge of finding a comfortable route through on the “high road” across broad steeply-sloping smooth granite slabs.

Returning in time to camp, they found their boiled Brook Trout for dinner – cold due to their unexpected lateness – but it tasted good anyway due to its freshness. The whole group again lay down on the rock together, this time deliberately, and watched the full moon and stars spotted through the fast-moving storm clouds. Finally, the sky turned dark gray and black and the weather moved in in earnest. After battening down the camp hatches – adjusting fly guy lines for tautness, covering backpacks with WP covers, putting the camp kitchen away inside the hollow log and other general preparations, everyone headed inside CP’s tent for a session of bet-less poker by headlamp while the wind whistled and the rain fell.

Day 7: Friday – departure, re-encampment, high-stakes cashew poker in the rain
Awakening in the damp morning at a healthy hour after listening to the rain fall irregularly throughout the night, everyone breakfasted on the remaining oatmeal and the rest of their food sans what they were planning for that evening’s dinner and two lunches. We then commenced breaking camp for the final departure. Unfortunately the saga of the malfunctioning footwear continued and CP and D resorted to Backcountry Cobbler, Version 2.0: a heavy-duty zip-tie on the ball and a Velcro strap tucked just in front of the heel. We bid a forlorn farewell to Rae Lk, our home away from home and set off. Stopping mid-morning for lunch at the same Lunch Ledge, all were amazed when Paul made the advantageous discovery of an enormous Ziploc bag of cashews which had somehow eluded his previous 6 day’s sorties into the depths of his bear barrel. Everyone agreed this would make welcome currency for the evening’s poker game. We continued cheerfully onward to our old encampment at Post Corral Meadows.

Arriving at our previous campsite just off the trail, we made the unpleasant discovery that an intervening group had since micturated on the fire, leaving behind the strong tell-tale stench. Moving to a nearby site for some fresher air, we found a much better situation. E and D took baths in the cold river in a nice low sandy spot underneath a large rock. H & P did some exploring of the creek side and environs. The sky began to rumble in warning again so everyone again deployed rain gear and endeavored to make camp before the weather set-in. The tents were made fast just as the first fat drops of cold rain began to fall. It picked up from there, and after a quarter of an hour was raining heavily. The group congregated under a bit of tree cover; eventually shifting to a large boulder to avoid the majority of the downpour. Crouching in this position, they realized to their horror that the tiny “use trail” leading to and directly underneath their tents was actually a dry stream bed which was filling and widening rapid. E & H began trench warfare, digging furiously with the cathole trowel to divert water away from their exposed tent floor. Meanwhile, CP, D, and P scurried around looking for a suitable spot to re-stake their own tent. Finding none, they moved it ten feet to one side under the very tree canopy everyone had just been standing under and re-staked it out on slightly less flat accommodations than previously occupied. While the rest of the group watched the waves of storm pass through, D commenced dinner preparations under the deluge: minestrone soup with Old Croc extra-sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, and fig bars. We sat around rather quietly eating dinner in the rain while fat raindrops plopped into our soup mugs. When dinner dishes were done (still in the rain), everyone withdrew to the large tent for a game of high-stakes cashew poker. Having an actual pot to place bets added to the fact that half the face cards were wild, and the game moved quickly to its conclusion.

Day 8: Saturday – a return to civilization as we knew it
Dawn broke cool and sunny to the wonderfully distinctive smell of a forest after a good rain. We broke camp and were on the trail about half past ten. All were in high spirits from the general eagerness to return to civilization. As the party quick flitted through the forest CP, usually a strong hiker, made slow progress hindered by his desire to keep his boots (mostly) in one piece. The weather was general warm and sunny, the impression made more so by the fact that we were descending back to lower elevations and the associated increase in ambient temperature. Reaching a good breaking spot in a clearing with shade and fallen logs, they broke out lunch while D, H, and P commenced bouldering on the several large neighboring boulders. Packing back up the remaining scant food scraps remaining in our packs, we continued on, arriving back to the TH in the mid-afternoon.
:) -DD



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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:58 pm

Thank you for sharing your families adventure with us, very enjoyable, though I was hoping to see more pictures, including some of the climbing sections and shoe repair. :)
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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby balzaccom » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:17 pm

Fun report! Thanks for sharing it. We explored this area a few years ago and loved it!
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check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby Jimr » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:35 pm

Great report. I've been to Rae lake twice. The first in 1985. We intended on staying in Big Maxon Meadow on day 1, but the whole first day's hike was misery due to all of the flies. They drove us out of our minds. We decided to go on to Flemming instead of flyland. This was the first day of a 10 day trip, so packs were heavy and we were feeling it. I remember waking up at Flemming several times batting away flies that no longer existed. Mosquitoes were plentiful though. I welcomed them. The next day, we made it short and hung out at Rae lake. It is absolutely stunning.

In 1990, I took my girlfriend there for a 3 day weekend with a day hike to HFS pass. We saved a bird that was stuck in a bush and tangled in fishing line. I had tried to convince my wife....oh GF back then, to leave the cuticle scissors behind in lieu of my knife. Yeah, we used the scissors to untangle the bird. Yeah, I was reminded of it many times. Yeah, I'm running the risk of hijacking the thread, so I'll stop.

Would live to see more pics as well.
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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:42 pm

What time of the year did you have the fly issues Jim, have been thru there a couple of times, flies were an issue mid season but not in the late season.
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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby Jimr » Tue Apr 19, 2016 4:42 pm

First two weeks of August 1985
First week of July 1990
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Re: TR: Adventures in the Red Mountain Basin, LeConte Divide

Postby Pulldownfrenzy » Wed Apr 20, 2016 8:11 am

Thanks for the comments Gents (and Ladies).

Yes, not very many photos yet - my camera was broken and the only photos that I have are ones I gleaned from the two other guys on the trip. I have requested more from them - if I get more I'll be sure to post in the comments with captions of days and locations.

The shoe repair saga was quite something. Obviously made Carl pretty nervous being 13 miles out in the middle of the Sierra and all... Its experiences like that that really make the memories of a trip, eh?

Cheers!
:) -DD
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