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TR: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jun 24, 2016 4:43 pm

Day 4 - 6/3/2106
Golden Staircase - Mather Pass - S fork Kings - Lake Marjorie
12.6 miles

Tenacious D!

Ok, to fill in some of the back story, David had neither an ice axe, trekking poles or traction. What he did have was a pair of La Sportiva mountaineering boots and skills ie he knew how to flat step and had great balancing technique on steep sections of snow & ice. He told us trekking poles were only used by the elderly & infirm ... at least in his neck of the Czech woods. (He owns a B & B literally on the edge of a national park that straddles both sides of the German/Czech border.) As for ice axe & traction, I think he assumed there weren't going to be any technical sections. That was generally true, except for Mather, Glen & Whitney.

Czech balancing act
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What Andy's (or anyone's) photos don't convey is how steep the north side of Mather was - easy 50+ degrees - but this was only the warm-up act. David was fine on the ascent - it was steep, but manageable by being very careful & deliberate. The south side was an entirely different story. I took a quick look both ways, saw the cornice, and then saw some boot tracks leading on an angle to the west. Andy was a few seconds behind me, looked to the almost sheer cliff on the east and asked how we were going to get down. I chuckled and pointed west; still super steep, but doable.

But, first we deserved a break to eat some snacks, drink some water, and enjoy the fantastic view from the top of the pass looking both back towards Palisades lakes canyon and south toward the Upper basin. To be out in the type of alpine conditions like we were experiencing is really a unique life event. As we were hanging out having a pleasant time, a group of 4 PCT hikers popped over the cornice. They seemed a little stressed - lol - and to say they were surprised to see us is an understatement. Since they knew no one was ahead of them that morning, they didn't expect to come across some southbound JMT hikers kicking back enjoying themselves. We talked for a little bit, then they huddled up in their group while we got ready to descend.

OK, time for ice axes and a quick review on how to use the buried shaft as an anchor for each step. But what about David? I had used my axe & pole on Lamarck (Andy used both poles), but a slip/fall was 'only' a possible injury on the 40-45 degree slope with a 200'+ run-off. The north side of Mather was similar, but Andy & I both stayed with our poles. A slip/fall on the north side of Mather was a moving into more 'probable' injury, as it had exposed rock sections after 300'+ long run off.

However, the south side of Mather was moving past 60 degrees - maybe even 70. The run off was 500-600' (from 12,100 to 11,550) - say two football fields - with exposed rock fields at the bottom. IMO, a slip/fall on the south side without self-arrest was in the category of most definitely a major injury, with some chance of fatality.

One of my trekking poles was a whippet - it's really nice to have if for nothing more than the psychology of having a pseudo self-arrest feature while hiking on snow/ice. It's not really supposed to be your primary life-line like an ice axe in steep climbing sections. However, the conditions were such that there was no way I was letting David descend without offering at least a pole. Since I had snow baskets on both of my poles, I took the basket off the whippet, collapsed its length, and handed it to him to use as an axe.

I quickly went over the anchoring technique on the uphill side, and how to bury the pick in the snow with one hand on the head, the other on the shaft, and your body hunched up over & hugging that sucker for dear life in self-arrest pose if you somehow fall. I then headed off leading the way, Andy second, David third. The cornice had a nice little notch where the PCTers had come over, so down we went. As can be imagined, it was a very slow, careful process. You must first probe ahead and sink/anchor your axe almost to the head, gripping the axe head with your uphill hand & using it like a handhold once the shaft is set. When you're set, you then very carefully take one/two steps forward/down. Steady yourself, pull out the axe, probe forward, sink it again, take one/two more steps. Your legs are stressing from leaning into the mountain, you must be extremely careful where to place each & every step, kick-in if need be, but make damn sure both your feet are stable & secure before taking the axe out and placing it once more ahead. And of course, DON'T LOOK DOWN!

Actually, it's sort of difficult not to look down, but it induced - at least for me - a sort of out-of-body experience. As in, this is super dangerous, you're on a very high exposed snow ridge, how did I get here? Yet if you just mind your business, if you focus on each individual axe placement, each individual step, if you're methodical, careful, deliberate and mindful of proper technique, slowly, ever so slowly, you make your way down. Finally, you're on somewhat level ground, your legs are shaking maybe a little bit - from stress, adrenaline, who knows? At that point, you're free to walk forward over the vast snow fields of the Upper basin.

That in itself if a very unique experience - we were all sort of spread out, picking our way & walking across the snow from one small rock island to the next, the entire expanse stretching out far below us. As Andy mentioned, when we started hitting more significant water crossings, David had to take off his boots. Both Lead Dog and I were sort of jonesing to get going & make miles, so after realizing David was going to be doing this on each crossing, we told him we were heading for Lake Marjorie for the night. We then said good-bye, sort of expecting not to see him again, given his pace.
Last edited by Hobbes on Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:14 pm

Day 4 - part II

Andy already told the tale of crossing the S Fork - that was stressful in its own right. We extended our poles full length, released our hip belts & sternum straps, loosened our shoulder straps and were ready to jettison our packs in case of a slip/fall. We found an area where the river divided into 3 separate ribbons - the main channel was no way Jose. Each of these 3 sections would be considered a very sketchy water crossing in its own right. But, we made it across, wet but safe.

After that, it was a post holing climb out through soft lumpy wet snow fields in a forest leading up & past the Taboose junction. (Have I mentioned I hate trees? They obscure the view, it's hot in the summer, lumpy slippery slushy snow in the spring, and you can't reconnoiter. I'm all about above tree line.) It was getting late, and we had been going since 5:30am. We were both pretty tired and were realizing we probably weren't going to make it to Marjorie.

However, as I've mentioned before, Lead Dog is the ultimate great camp/bivy spot locator. He spotted some tarns off trail around 1 mile before Marjorie, so we made our way across the snow to some small clearings by the ponds. We quickly set up camp - helped again by not needing to put up shelter - cooked dinner and got ready to crawl into our bags. But, I first needed to get some more water for the night, so I walked across the snow to the outlet stream to pull in a liter. It was getting near dusk and as I turned back, David came walking up with a cheerful grin and hello!

How he found us off trail - recall we told him we were heading to Marjorie - in near twilight is still somewhat of a mystery, but it forged our 3 person team that evening. Before that, it was Andy & myself, with David as the 3rd wheel. (Or solo - he had started by himself and fully intended to do the entire JMT solo. Up till then, we were just a friendly happenstance.) Cool if we saw him, cool if we didn't.

After that, it was all for one and one for all. Andy & I were astounded at his perseverance, the sheer determination and will power to make it. Remember, he had severely cut his ankle after post holing barefoot while carrying his boots. He was way behind us - we were stomping through the fords with our trail runners on. He was out of fuel, so he couldn't cook any meals. He couldn't build a fire @ the S Fork, because it was still above 10k + the wood was wet. (He borrowed my stove that evening and made dinner while we were asleep.)

That evening is when Andy named him "Tenacious D"; and brother, did he ever live up to that trail name.
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Bluewater » Wed Jul 06, 2016 1:37 pm

The next day we got an early start over Pinchot Pass, cruised down to the Woods Creek bridge and camped on a plateau overlooking the last Rae Lake.

An early morning view back toward Upper Basin from the outlet of Lake Marjorie:

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The view north from Pinchot Pass, the final switchbacks were clear of snow and visible in the lower left of the photo:

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The colorful rock and meadows on the south side of Pinchot Pass were still covered with snow:

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Our camp overlooking the Painted Lady:

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That night before making camp Hobbes left a note on the trail for Tenacious D showing where we had stopped for the night, but he missed it and we never saw him.

Frost on my quilt in the morning above Rae Lake:

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Morning on Rae Lake:

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Early the next morning we ran into a PCT'er who told us Tenacious D was actually camped in the rocks and snow at the base of Glen Pass. He had missed the note on the trail and figured that we wouldn't miss him if he camped right along the route to the pass. . . he had hiked until 11:00 pm.

Tenacious D camping below Glen Pass:

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The new ice axe that Hobbes had highly recommended I get before the trip came in handy on the very steep snow climb on the north side of Glen Pass. The tracks from the early PCT'ers ignored the switchbacks and went straight up in some sections and although there were steps kicked into the snow, it was steep and a little treacherous in one area.

Hobbes at the top of Glen Pass:

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Tenacious D near the top of Glen Pass:

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The view from the top:

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While resting on the pass Tenacious D showed us the painful cuts, deep scrapes and abrasions on his ankles that had been slowing him down that morning. We immediately "offered" (demanded) to help him get medical attention and hike out with us via Kearsarge. Since all of his food required a fire or stove to cook he hadn't eaten since the night before at the Woods Creek bridge and in his weak state he finally agreed to follow us out and get some help in town.

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View of Bullfrog Lake and beyond from the high trail to Kearsarge Pass:

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We were greeted by a mixed group of day hikers and PCT hikers at the top of Kearsarge Pass. Hobbes and TD arrived first and must have shared some of the recent events because when I arrived people were tossing food to me!

The three amigos: bluewater, tenacious d and hobbes

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Many thanks to Hobbes for the invitation to join his annual spring Sierra trip this year. He was spot on regarding the snow conditions and the fun of meeting the early season PCT'ers each day. Hobbes gave generously of his time and took Tenacious D to town to make sure that he got the medical attention he needed and lodging for the night. A few weeks later we all met for dinner and I had the opportunity to meet some of the family, catch up with Tenacious D and drop him off at LAX. This was a fun adventure and I look forward to doing it again next year!
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 06, 2016 3:38 pm

Day 5 - 6/4/2106
Marjorie tarns - Pinchot pass - Rae lakes
16.8 miles

As on Muir, I jammed up Pinchot ahead of Andy & David. Unlike Lamarck (in snow), Mather & Glen, Muir & Pinchot are non-technical. For the other passes, we stayed closely together as if we were roped, but for Pinchot & Muir, it was everyone doing his own thing. For Lead Dog, that meant taking plenty of photos - my camera/phone had run out of juice, so all I had to do was hike.

The hike down from Pinchot was magical - the basin was so wide open, the snow was still firm and we could pretty much wander any which way we chose. I'd see Andy or David off to one side or the other navigating over an exposed rock island, and I'd either head over that way, or continue on my own path. We finally got down below snow line by Twin lakes, so that's when we began hiking together once again.

[Both Andy & I were so impressed, that we've been noodling through the easiest way to get back for further exploration. As it turns out, the unnamed Pinchot basin is very hard to get to. You can head up Sawmill, lose elevation to Woods creek, then head back up. Or, go up Taboose, over Pinchot and down. Mav mentioned another route up Goodale, but it looks pretty hard. There's also 'Armstrong col', but it looks like more of ski run.]

The hike down Woods creek, over the bridge and back up to Rae lakes definitely falls into my "greatly dislike" category. I simply do not like hiking within tree line. Add a long afternoon with hot sun exposure and a tedious climb, and I'm entertaining dark thoughts about quitting hiking forever. Finally, after a long day, Andy once again revealed yet another perfect, tucked away, private, level & dry camp site. It was getting pretty late, so we quickly made dinner and crashed. Glen pass was front and center - we could see the traverse high, high up the ridge. It was such a beautiful sight, so exposed, so full frontal, that it gave me anxious nightmares all night long.

Day 6 - 6/5/2106
Rae Lakes - Glen Pass - Kearsarge Pass - Onion Valley
11.5 miles

The reason David hiked ahead us and up the base of Glen pass in the dark of night was to make sure we didn't get past him the next morning. Why the concern? Because he had my whippet. As I mentioned up-thread, he didn't have trekking poles or ice-axe. As we were coming down along Woods creek, the side streams were flowing very high. Once again, he had to take off his boots. Since he no poles for stability, I crossed first and threw my whippet back to him. Rather than wait for the foot drying/boots back on routine, we told him we'd either see him @ the bridge or Rae lakes.

Well, since he didn't have any fuel, he stopped at the bridge to light a fire and cook his dinner. Knowing we were at Rae, he just had to find us. I put a branch across the trail with a note stuck to it, but since he was hiking @ night, he never saw it. Worried we might get ahead, he kept going until he was certain we couldn't get past - a classic bivy up in the snow & rocks.

When the first PCTer came over & down Glen early the next morning, he asked them if he had seen two hikers going south. Assured we weren't ahead, he sat and waited. As Andy mentioned, the PCTer saw us, confirmed we were the two hikers, and told us David was up ahead. How far ahead we kept wondering as we began to climb - not trail climb, but true alpine climbing with ice axe, handholds and kick-steps. Remember, David did this in the dark. Crazy. Anyway, he saw us first and was waving up ahead. It was a happy reunion once again.

Of course, we still had to get over Glen. But before we could even reach the snow traverse, we had to up-climb around 300+ feet - that is, straight up a 60+ degree 'slope'. Again, this was true alpine climbing, using a combination of burying an ice axe, anr/or using exposed rocks for hand-holds, and literally pulling ourselves up by our upper body strength before getting to the next point where we could gain a foothold and leverage that step for the next 3-4' advance.

Once we were on the traverse, this was by far the most tenuous pass/climb I've ever done before. I'm not Mr Climber, but I've done the Whitney MR in alpine conditions, along with Forester, Shepherd & Army in snow/ice. At a minimum, this was 2x the experience - no ropes, no nothing, just a 700'+ drop off down a 50-60+ degree slope. What it took was an extremely diligent and deliberate step-by-step process. As on Mather, place ice-axe, take step, take second step, make sure you're absolutely balanced and feet are securely placed, then release (ie pull out) ice-axe, probe/place forward, step again ...

We were going very slowly, but it was only 100-150 yards across, so there wasn't any real hurry. Even with Lead Dog kidding me & nipping at my heels, I didn't increase my pace. Finally, we reached solid ground and took a break. That's when David showed us his sunburned legs. Andy, I didn't know that you had gotten a photo of the "bacon strips":

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Jeez, when David rolled up his pant legs to show us the extent of his injuries, I almost swooned & fell off the snow ridge all the way back down Glenn. To fill in a little color, David is the stereotypical stoic who never complains - about anything. What he did say as he was explaining his discomfort was that his pant legs were chafing his legs - that's it. He also added that all they needed was a little wash and fresh air to let them rest. Right.

So as Andy mentioned, we insisted (actually, I told him straight out his hike was over - one of the hallmarks of shock is diminished mental faculties, so there's no room for quibbling) he hike out with us to Kearsarge. After that, we could seek some medical attention and get him taken care of. He didn't put up much of a fight - actually, none at all - so we all hiked out together.
Last edited by Hobbes on Wed Jul 06, 2016 5:34 pm, edited 12 times in total.
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 06, 2016 4:16 pm

Epilogue
Day 6 - 6/5/2106
6-10pm

We reached the parking lot at Onion valley Sunday afternoon around 5pm. As we were hiking down from Kearsarge, I confessed to Andy that I couldn't have completed the hike without his morale support. This hike worked me to 100% and beyond. I'm just lucky I woke up each morning fully recovered. That was my biggest fear - waking up feeling as exhausted as the night before. It was also an anxious hike - we had set out some pretty big goals. Each day presented its own set of challenges, whether it was cold, early morning starts, long steep snow/ice hikes up/over/down the passes, treacherous water crossings, or energy sapping late afternoon climbs during the heat of the day.

Andy & I had both left our cars @ OV. (Recall that we had taken a shuttle up to N Lake at the beginning of the hike.) Dave got in with me, and we took off for Line Pine. But first we all stopped in Independence to get some snacks and drinks. We said good-bye to Andy, who was heading home. As usual, I always spend the night - my peak energy is early morning, and the 395 through Ridgecrest is a death highway at night. I like to hit the road around 5-6am and reach OC by 9-10am.

But first I had to get David to the ER in Lone Pine. We got there, and the entire hospital was absolutely deserted with only one staff nurse that had to buzz us in. It took a few hours for his paperwork to be processed & a doctor to arrive. In the meantime, I went and scored a cheap hotel room, got cleaned up, filled up my cooler with ice, and grabbed a 6 pack. By the time I got back to the hospital, David still hadn't changed out of his clothes. The doctor pulled me aside and asked me to inform Tenacious that he needed to be more 'co-operative'. So, here I am lecturing David in the ER about the protocol of being a "good patient" and to get his clothes off, which under my commanding authority (LOL), he assented.

Well, I had already seen his ankles/shins on Glen, but the extent of the peeling "bacon" (we're talking epidermis layer) had even the doctor's eyebrows shooting up. Both of his legs were fully inflamed up to his groin - the doctor carefully looked him over to determine whether or not what he was seeing was infection. (If it had been, he would have been whisked off an intensive care unit, had an IV hooked up along with all the other attendant fun & games.) Satisfied it was only sunburn, he had another nurse wash him down and dress his 'wounds'. Oh, and he also gave him a horse sized anti-biotic shot.

This process was going to take another hour or so, so once again I took off to grab some food just in case everything shut down before David could be released. He/we finally got out of there around 9:30pm, went to the hotel room, cracked some beers and ordered a pizza from down the street. (Don't worry, the doctor said he could have a couple of drinks.) Here's what Tenacious D looked like around 10pm Sunday night:

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Day 7 - 6/6/2016
7-9am

The next morning, we mosied over to the Alabama hills cafe for breakfast. While we were there, the doctor from the previous night came in. Since David had an appt back at the hospital for a second look - and to get his prescription for antibiotics - the doctor conducted an impromptu evaluation him right there. Since he was perfectly fine in spirits, looks, temperament, etc, the doctor declared himself satisfied, so all we had to do was go over later for the prescription.

An old time local mule driver - who had been talking to our server - had overheard our conversation. He had the full assemblage: big hat, checkered shirt, Wranger jeans, cowboy boots, the whole 9 yards. He began to lightly scold David about getting so severely sunburned, telling him that it's no joke at elevation, that people die up there all the time. He called it "dry drowning" - your body's immune system swings into action, your lungs fill up with liquid, you become disoriented, you walk off a cliff, and your body is never found. He then concluded that he was lucky he had friends who had helped him get the hell out of there and back down to safety.

After we left, I dropped David off at the hospital and took off for home. Ah, but that's not the end of the story ...

6/10/2016

Tenacious has a great personality - modest, friendly and really bright (he's got a scientific degree and works as a research arborist for a conservatory). He can speak Czech, German, Russian and English. So of course while he was recuperating in Lone Pine, he made some other friends. He ended up getting a ride down to Lancaster with a fisherman who was hanging in LP for a few days, and from there caught a train to LA. From Union station, he got a connection to Santa Ana, where I picked him up @ 6pm. I whisked him home, where in the interim my wife had cooked up a feast. It was Friday night, so a good time was had by all.

We use our small 22' RV as a mobile guest room. So, David was safely tucked away for the night before the next day's activities could begin. We had breakfast, showed him around 'Surf City', and headed to Little Saigon (Westminster) for lunch. Andy was on his way up to LA to jam with some old musician friends, so he swung by to join us.

David had an afternoon flight out of LAX, so Andy drove him up there since it was on the way. We said our good-byes and that was that ...

No, not really. I mentioned up thread that David owns a B&B on the edge of a national park. It is 100% fully booked throughout the summer (which is why the only time he had available to hike the JMT was in May). But Tenacious says Sept-Oct mellows out, and those are the best months to visit anyway. My wife and I have been fortunate to be able to travel, but neither of us has been to central Europe. So, a road trip from Munich->Vienna->Prague is being planned for the fall of 2017 with a stop over at David's bungalow-in-the-woods.
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jul 08, 2016 5:31 pm

Interestingly, I've had more than a couple people ask whether this hike was fun. In fact, after old timer was done scolding David and had learned about our route, he looked at me directly and asked me point-blank "was that even fun?" My answer was a sort of dumb, 'yeah', but in retrospect I'd have to say Yeah!

It wasn't even really type II fun; rather, it was type I at the time we were experiencing it, but type II as the memories are still so vivid. We knew as we were hiking, as we were engaging it in real-time, that this hike was a really unique, special experience. I've done smaller versions, but usually around the same time. The key is to get a combination of both perfect conditions and perfect weather. Go too early, and the snow isn't yet consolidated. Too late, and the crowds are on it.

There's plenty of variations as well, including cross-country skiing and/or snowshoeing. You don't even have to stay on the JMT, even though it's pretty isolated that early in the season. All kinds of options - all you gotta do is get out there and do it.

Black Giant guarding Ionian basin
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby MichaelRPetrick » Fri Jul 08, 2016 9:46 pm

Thank you so much for the extended trip report. It made for a great read, and gave me some great ideas!
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JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:31 am

My wife needs to attend a multi-day settlement conference/Fed court hearing in Reno at the end of the Sept. (Tribal land real estate development deal gone south involving the BIA.) So, I'm going to fly up when it's finished so that we can take a mini vacation in Tahoe. We haven't been there for 3 years - I spent an entire summer living out of a pup tent both in Deso and Meeks beach ('natch) after graduation decades ago - and we used to go at least every-other-year.

Anyway, I was cruising around googling things to do around the north shore and came across this PCT blog of a person who lives there. I was looking at her Sierra photos and thinking the images looked very familiar. In fact, her group exited via Dusy to re-supply over Bishop the day Andy & I were coming down from Muir. I started reading some of her blog entries, and really enjoyed the way she expressed the same impressions/feelings I tried to convey with this trip report.

https://milissajayn.wordpress.com/2016/ ... er-passes/

In my opinion, there is no place more beautiful than the Sierra Nevada, and being up there in the snow, added a dimension that seems to be literally the icing on the cake. I see a whole new world in these mountains, a whole new dimension to the soul of this space, and that is one big reason why I went up there in these conditions. I have hiked the JMT twice, and I quickly fell in love. Now, starting with Crabtree Meadow, the PCT and JMT intersect and overlap for nearly 200 miles. This will be my third time hiking the JMT, but it may as well be an entirely new trail, hiking Northbound this time, and in the snow. Things were familiar, yet completely foreign too.

Actually, we did not hit the PCT at all, and one of the first things I learned about back country snow travel was that you do not have to be on the trail to get where you are going. With a map, compass, or a tool of technology, whatever it may be, as long as you have land marks and you know the direction you need to be headed, you are free to traverse the slopes, meadows and climb to the vistas. We later coined this concept with the term “hiker freedom”. One of my biggest anxieties going into the week, and the class, was that I was nervous about not being able to find the trail under the snow. Ned (Tibbits - http://mountaineducation.org/) helped us a lot with this, teaching us how to navigate from both a micro and macro standpoint. I can now say I feel much more confident and in fact, I love hiking over the snow, because you can walk anywhere you like. This allows you to look up and look around you much much more, because you have to be very observant of your surroundings. You have to orient yourself constantly, look for indications of the trail and of landmarks. You have to pay attention, rather than zoning out following a 12″ wide dirt path. This shifts things considerably. One of my favorite discoveries of the week was when we cut down a slope covered in snow, to bisect a section of trail that followed a drainage. We put on our foot traction and straight down the billowy tufts of compact snow we went, each carving out our own path down to a beautiful meadow below. It felt like a ride at Disneyland to me, I was like a kid again, almost hopping down the slope and able to dodge in and out of the trees on my way down. It was marvelous and elating!

It continues to astound me how different everything looks in the snow! I must say, this beauty is remarkable, and I was feeling so happy to be experiencing this new element. The snow was somewhat wet on the next few miles as we approached the Palisade Lakes basin where we planned to camp that night. It was slow going, post-holing all the way, but I did not mind much because I was busy just absorbing my surroundings. The space is so vast, and within that, one feels so small, and there is a timelessness exuded by the giant granitic mountains on all sides.

As an added bonus, she has a few shots of our favorite spots (of which we didn't have [m]any good images, so there wasn't anything to post to the thread). Without further ado:

Glen pass:
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Pinchot basin:
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Palisades basin:
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If you like long sunny days, brilliant blue skies (ie no smoke), empty terrain & x-country navigation through the very best of the Sierra, then a late spring hike might be something to consider.

We had entered the Palisade Lakes basin, and the magic and beauty of this place was overwhelming. For one, there were waterfalls of all sizes and shapes spilling over every kind of rock, from every crack, from a small trickle to a full splashing crash. Enter the land of “Narnia”. The afternoon light poured through the clouds, glimering on the now melting water, the shiny wet rocks and illuminated the fresh green grasses and plants to the status of glowing. I was awestruck, as the last two times I hiked through this valley it was barren, dry, rocky, hot. There were no waterfalls, no green grass, no god beams parting thruogh clouds. This was cool with a capital “C”.
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Moonwalker » Fri Sep 02, 2016 9:16 am

Thanks for this report, great read, and interesting to know what this route entails in the spring. Of course the usual trail at the top of the switchbacks turns into an ice wall! I had the same question as fishmonger, why didn't you bring some lightweight snowshoes to avoid the post-holing? Nice photo of Tenacious-D!
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Hobbes » Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:59 pm

Re: snowshoes/skies - it's a judgment call. Winter, April or early May, I'd say yes. However, once the snow begins to consolidate late May & June, it's easy to move fairly quickly as long as you're hiking early the morning when the surface is rock hard.

So it gets back to route planning. If there's only a few miles of snow either side of the passes, then the name of the game is to reach/set up for each successive pass during the prior afternoon/evening in order to prepare for an early morning ascent/descent. Following our schedule, we had no problems with Lamarck, Muir, Mather, Pinchot, Glen & Kearsarge. In prior years, I've scooted over Forester, Shepherd & the Armies using the same technique.

The only real post-holing we did was through Evolution (and back up from the SF Kings), and that was entirely expected. After reviewing different snow sensor sites, we knew Evo was in the 150%+ of average range. We knew we were going to be hiking in the afternoon, so we knew what was in store.

All other regions were normal, with the trail completely snow free below 10.7k. For example, if one were to go north after coming over Lamarck, you would have had only had snow over Seldon, Silver & Donohue - the rest of the way was clear.

As for ice, cornices & cliffs, it's absolutely imperative to have an ice-axe. IMO, it's more important than traction (even though that's a must have as well). While an axe provides a measure of safety in case of slip or fall (as long as you've practiced and know how to self arrest), it's real value is that of an essential climbing tool in providing both guidance and anchor. Once properly set (ie the shaft buried to the head, which is why you want one of suitable length - I'm 6'1" and mine is 70mm), you can really place a lot of weight on it as either a steady point or a critical handhold while climbing/descending.

Whitney MR descent:
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby Moonwalker » Tue Sep 06, 2016 8:59 pm

And thanks for your patience, Hobbes! (I found the earlier posts addressing this issue). What an epic trip. Cheers!
-Eric
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Re: JMT Spring Traverse 2016

Postby bbayley80 » Thu Sep 08, 2016 3:22 pm

Hobbes.
not quite sure how I've not found this until the past few days-but man, what an epic adventure you two/three had!
really inspiring to see the beauty and seclusion of the area in early season..a whole different world. and to meet like minded individuals and form lasting friendships where totally unexpected..cool. sure your European adventure will be cool with Tenacious.
i enjoy winter hiking/camping in our local mountains -Baldy, Icehouse Canyon, San G etc. but have yet to get out to the Sierra in similar conditions-usually doing most of my trips in early/late Fall. this thread inspired me to as you say...

[quote="Hobbes"] all you gotta do is get out there and do it.

thanks again for sharing!
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