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TR: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016

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TR: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016

Postby Shhsgirl » Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:23 pm

Part 1:

I am 65, and my husband is 69. This qualifies us both as geezers, even though I am female. Although geezers are not required to go beyond map and a compass in technology, this time I carried a DeLorme InReach SE, synced to my iPhone through the Earthmate App, and a spare battery pack. All worked very well, but we still had to occasionally get out the map and compass, which my husband carried. I texted the Millenials every night with an all-okay and location, and they would always text back, “Have fun, and be careful (in italics).”

The following logistics are for those who are curious about different methods of arranging a thru-hike. We didn’t make it to Tuolumne at the insanely early hour necessary to get in line to get a first-come-first-serve car camping space, so we drove on to Twin Lakes and dropped our second car there. We ate in Bridgeport, got a few gallons of water, came back to Tuolumne, picked up our reserved permit, and drove to a parking lot with a pit toilet, just outside the park boundaries, overlooking Tioga Lake. It was a lovely, warm afternoon, and we fooled around with our gear, then bedded down in the back of the truck. A good number of polite young rock climbers and mountaineers, etc. were there, doing the same thing.

We got up early on August 4, finished packing and drove to the Tuolumne store in time to be second in line for breakfast. Our breakfast was served in a time that puts fast food to shame. We drove to the Dog Lake parking lot, stashed a small bag of toiletries in the bear box, and caught the 9:00 a.m. shuttle up to the Tioga Pass kiosk. That is, we skipped the first few miles of Roper’s Chapter 6, because, well, because we geezers can do that.

It’s only a mile or so up the trail to Gaylor Lakes, and then less than that to the Great Sierra Mine.
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View south from Great Sierra Mine.
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View north from Mine Shaft Pass. Sky Pilot Col in distance.
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We camped in what Roper claims should be a legal area near the Mine, below the whitish outcropping about 150 yards south of the tarn. When we told the Tuolumne ranger we would be camping there, she said it was not, in fact, legal to camp there and that Roper was mistaken. In the next breath she assured us that there would not be a single backcountry ranger present from Tioga Road to Twin Lakes, so we got the message. Sweetie.

The next morning we met a lovely couple, our exact same ages, who had day-hiked up and arrived at the Mine at 7:00 a.m. They had immigrated to the U. S. from Russia and Poland years ago, still had heavy accents, and were very knowlegeable backpackers and peak-baggers. Because Leil could no longer carry a pack, they now day-hiked. Their last words to us were, “You veel make it,” which was exactly the encouragement we needed that morning. Thanks, Sandra and Leil.

We had watched two guys with packs heading up Mineshaft Pass about an hour ahead of us, and surmised they must also be HR hikers. We walked to the top, gaped at the collapsed mine shaft up there, and tried to imagine the poor miners slogging up there in 800 inches of snow to climb down it.
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Collapsed mine shaft on top of Mine Shaft Pass.
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We followed Roper’s directions exactly about how to come down and came to Spuller Lake, where we had a snack and a bath. (One important rule for geezers: Please, be very careful where you take off your clothes).
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Approaching Spuller Lake
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Although our entire trip was cloud-and smokeless, there was a stiff, cool wind, which kept up the entire nine days. Our baths were short, we never dried off in the sun, and I wore my old, heavy rain jacket, even up some passes, as a windbreaker. We were thankful for the cold wind, though, as it kept the southern monsoon well to the east of us. I slept out about half of the time and the rest of the time in a Hexamid tarp, and there was not a drop of condensation the entire trip, also thanks to the wind.

We dawdled along, eventually passing Maul and Green Treble Lakes (where the other two HSR hikers were camped), and stopped in an undisclosed location on the other side of a stream at the bottom of a valley. We saw a couple of day hikers that evening who did not see us. Neither of us were hungry, since we had gone such a very little ways, and we resigned ourselves to carrying out a lot of food.

The next morning we left good and late. We didn’t want to get out of our bags until the sun hit because we were cold, probably from not eating dinner. We headed up the east ridge of Mt. Conness to Roper’s “appalling dropoff.” Actually, we went to Skurka’s appalling dropoff, which I believe was a bit to the east of Roper’s. We crawled along the top of the ridge and found the one we believed to be Roper’s. We then crawled west a little more, and found the spur that led directly to the lowest Conness Lake. I felt the descent was appalling there, as well, although we saw clear use trails leading to apparent running jump- off points where one just hopes one is far out enough to land 300 feet below in the lake. Since we had a sunny day, and lots of it left, we decided to instead traverse further up the ridge of Mt. Conness, and come down the massive ridge just to the west.
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Looking down at lowest Conness Lake, and further toward Cascade Lake from traverse of Conness east ridge.
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It was fun, and good practice, and so we came to the northern edge of Cascade Lake at about 5:00.
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Looking back at our traverse.
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It was windy and cold, so we set up tarps and hunkered down, once again skipping dinner, because we had had a late lunch. Lots of people were there, due to the proximity of Saddlebag trailhead and what appears to be a full-fledged road. We saw the two presumed HSR hikers heading toward Cascade Lake just ahead of us, but never saw any sign of them again, so figured they must have gone out there.

The next morning was still windy and cold, so we sought better shelter behind a big rock to eat, drink coffee, contemplate Sky Pilot Col, and wait for the sun to loosen up our limbs.

We climbed the “first stage” of Sky Pilot Col by ascending to the tarn that lies just above Cascade Lake.
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Contemplating Stage 2 of Sky Pilot Col.
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There we saw a very sturdy and warm looking double wall tent, a lawn chair in the shade, with a Bear Vault as a side table, and what generally looked to be a very comfortable setup for someone’s ideal getaway. Soon its owner came loping into sight--a tall, good-looking , very fit, very personable, young climber who gave us a thorough intelligence briefing on the entire area surrounding the Col. First he instructed us on the proper way up the “second stage,” which he said he had done in about 12 minutes, so I figured it would only take us 120. Then he showed us the proper Col, which we confirmed with the compass, and gave us general advice on going up that. Then, when we were finally on our way, he sat back in his easy chair and watched us the entire way up. I guess just looking at geezers like us must have scared him, but he was a very gallant young man, and I had to appreciate his concern.

The hike up to the Col wasn’t that difficult, although I had to use my hands to keep from sliding back down the final fifteen feet or so.
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Ascending Stage 3 of Sky Pilot Col
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We didn’t see a single polemonium on the Col. Instead, there were a lot of yellow daisy-type flowers.
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View north from Sky Pilot Col. Much of route visible.
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The way down the Col is quite obvious. It looks like a nearly vertical dirt and gravel water slide without the water. We started out standing, but soon were on our rear ends, just butt-sliding down. When we got to the first metamorphic talus, we found it to be very unstable, and it and we slid further down, trying not to end up in a mini-bergschrund at the edge of the talus and the adjacent snowfield. I scrabbled my way up over an outcropping, hoping not to be buried in a talus slide, and my husband went under it. After that, things were “easier,” but the metamorphic talus was still sharp, very unstable, and quite tedious to pick our way over. After what seemed like miles and miles of it, we crossed the bottom of a gully over onto granitic talus, and felt like we had finally come home. That was short-lived, however, and we were soon back on the metamorphic. This kept up, all the way to the very edge of Shepherd Lake. Funny, the most negative thing we said all the way down was when my husband mildly mentioned that he wouldn’t recommend this pass to anyone.
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Looking back up at our butt skid marks from Shepherd Lake.
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At Shepherd Lake I ate dinner, because I was finally hungry after a day of hard work, but husband went straight to bed. That night I laid out under the stars, and every time I woke, I gazed, and they lulled me right back to sleep. In the morning we mended cuts received on my legs (my skin is fragile in my dotage, and tears easily, right through long pants), rinsed dirt and blood out of clothes, ate breakfast, enjoyed just sitting at the beautiful little lake, and started out at noon for a leisurely half-day hike down to Virginia Creek. We had a lovely rest stop at a creek smothered in wildflowers, where I saw five huge piles of bear scat within a 50- yard radius while I searched for a crossing. We walked further down through tall trees and “long green dappled grass” (apologies to Yeats), which I managed to slip on three times.
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Virginia Canyon
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No falls at all on Sky Pilot Col, yet now I’m taking a knee on the grass. We crossed Virginia Creek, picked up the trail and followed it a bit, then headed straight uphill to treeline, so as not to offend Mama Bear.

Our tiny meadow campsite near a small stream coming down from Soldier Lake had a million dollar view southwest, and we both slept outside that night.

(Continued below).
Last edited by Shhsgirl on Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 9/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:36 pm

Enjoying you TR and pictures so far. Would love to hear your input on the DeLorme InReach SE pluses and minuses too, maybe in the Outdoor Gear section when you get the time.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016

Postby Shhsgirl » Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:59 pm

Part 2:

Oops. Here is the picture that goes with our campsite on the way to Soldier Lake.
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The next day I discovered that I had left one of my convertible pant legs at the creek rest stop the day before, so I was now a one-pant-legged geezer. I had just barely enough sunscreen to protect that leg for the rest of the trip. Glad I brought it, because I usually don’t.

The next day was also an easy half-day-- up past Soldier Lake to the group of tarns just below Stanton Pass. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having no time pressure on this trip. Soldier Lake was gorgeous, and there were campsites near the outlet, but we wanted to camp as near the bottom of Stanton as we could. We spent the afternoon lazing around the tarns, scoping out the approach to Stanton Pass, and husband had a rinse in our tarn, which was cooled by a good-sized snow field on its shore. No thanks!
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Stanton Pass from south.
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The next morning we tried our approach, up the left ramps, and it was pretty straightforward. When we got to the almost knife-edged pass, we figured that we were at the wrong place to go down, so we corrected, with some effort, climbing around with class 3 moves and loaded packs along the knife edge. We went over the edge where Roper describes, and then dropped our packs and scouted two ways down. We decided to traverse to the left and then go down. There were footprints going every which way. As has been said, there are many ways down, none of them easy. Some feet down we resorted to handing our packs down to each other, and then, to get down the major gully, I got out the line and lowered my pack in front of me, while husband, who is part goat, had not too bad a time just climbing down. I really held up the show coming down, but safe is better than sorry. I felt Stanton was hardest pass so far.
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Now what do I do?
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Our route down Stanton Pass
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We had a long lunch in a little meadow just below the first long talus field, and then picked our way down through the myriad willows and outcroppings to beautiful Spiller Creek. As we hiked lower and as the sun was disappearing behind Whorl Mountain, the first person we had seen in two days silently passed within two inches of me. Perhaps he said hello and I was too deaf to hear him above the wind. It seemed he had followed our tracks through the willows and outcroppings. As he went by, he told us he was setting the speed record for the HSR, and that he had it in the bag at 5 days and some hours. He then said that, in his opinion, the passes north of Tuolumne were the biggest “pain in the a__” on the entire route. By the time I had my phone out, he was pretty far gone, headed up over Horse Creek Pass and out, I’m sure, that evening.
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Whoosh!
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We camped out on a windswept grass field on the far side of the creek.
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Beautiful Spiller Creek
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Toward dark, I heard a young male voice say hello. It was Nate, a mechanical engineering student who had come all the way from Tuolumne over the HSR that same day, and who wanted to camp near us and chat during dinner. We gladly welcomed him and had a very interesting conversation. He had designed one of the most innovative Esbit stoves I have ever seen, complete with windscreen that doubled as a pot stand and pot cozy and lid. He cooked his dinner with it in a flash, and I wish I had taken a photo, but my phone was far away in my pack, and, being one-pant-legged, I was too cold to get up and get it. Nate had done the entire HSR from Cedar Grove in 11 days in an effort to get home to his wife, whom he missed. If only women knew. I would have liked to stay up later to talk, but the cold drove me into my tarp, where I stayed cold until my dinner kicked in a few hours later.

Nate was gone when we got up the next morning, as he had said he would be. When we broke down our tarps, I saw all the deer droppings and felt like I had camped out in my parents’ pasture, as I had when I was a girl. We had breakfast downhill from the field we were camped on and got a break from the wind.

We had a beautiful, easy hike up to Horse Creek Pass. The creek sparkled, the wildflowers showed off, and I wished I could stay.

The north side of Horse Creek Pass is something else. What a pain.
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Starting down Horse Creek Pass
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There’s nothing tricky about it, but it took us a long time on the talus and snowfields. We saw the speed-hiker’s and Nate’s footprints in the snow, so we followed them. Having one more day to kill, we camped at an established camp spot high above the main meadow, and had one more night in “the wild,” although two groups of Matterhorn climbers almost stepped on us that evening and early the next morning.

Maybe it was that we were coming out, and I was coming down, but I probably wouldn’t go back to the lower part of Horse Creek in that direction. It didn’t seem that pretty to me, looking toward Twin Lakes. (Looking back toward the Sawtooth was another story). Nor did we see any beavers at the dam, but we didn’t really try to.
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Heading down Horse Creek
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On the way down we met a lot of day hikers from Twin Lakes. One of the ladies told me she had just turned 50 and then asked if she could ask me a personal question. I replied, “Yes, you may. I am ninety years old.”

Twin Lakes Mono Village was comparatively hot and dusty, and I drank two root beers in quick succession. We had forgotten to put clean clothes or towels in the car, so had to shower using our dirty bandanas to dry, and then put on dirty, stinky clothes for the drive back to Tuolumne and home. But, we made it!
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 2

Postby rlown » Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:13 pm

An excellent report!!!!! Maybe I still have hope to hike in 10 years.. :)
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby Shhsgirl » Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:17 pm

Will do.
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby SSSdave » Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:49 pm

Some notes on the Hall Natural Area you entered that has an intent on keeping it especially low impacted by visitor use as it is used for natural science research. There are some quite scenic landscapes in the reserve I have photographed and Inyo National Forest does not want people camping in there although as noted, much like much of their wilderness areas, there are rarely backcountry rangers patrolling. Inyo also doesn't do much to keep people from sleeping overnight roadside all along the SR120 corrider that is not dispersed camping legal. The natural area boundaries have always been shown on the Inyo National Forest maps. My own experience is most visitors apparently comply with no camping as I have seen few signs of campfire rings about the lakes south of Conness. More illegal camp site occurrences in the area above Saddlebag that extends out to Wasco Lake.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_Natural_Area

http://www.allmammoth.com/nature/hall_natural_area.php

http://gis.fs.fed.us/psw/rna/publicatio ... g_plan.pdf

page 3:
Scenic value and easy access to the public have subjected the HRNA to quite heavy recreational use, despite attempts to discourage such use.

page 9:
A spur of the Saddlebag Lake Road (1N04B) goes through Sawmill Campground and terminates at the Carnegie facilities either within or on the boundary according to the USGS Tuolumne Meadows NE Quadrangle (7.5 minute series) and the Forest Land Status Atlas, respectively. The road is closed to vehicle traffic; it is gated at the intersection with 1N04 and signed at the boundary of the RNA. The signs are a metal road closure sign and a routed wood sign with the text, "NO CAMPING OR WOOD FIRES IN THE HALL NATURAL AREA".
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 2

Postby psykokid » Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:32 pm

Looks like you ran into Leor on his Fastest Known Time run on the SHR: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/top ... t-attempt/
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby balzaccom » Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:27 pm

As a fellow geezer married to an almost geezer, I am loving your trip reports and photos!
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 2

Postby balzaccom » Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:31 pm

And as our kids would say--You guys rock!
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby rayfound » Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:13 pm

I'm impressed. You two, at double my age, are doing more challenging hikes than I do. It would seem geezer is just a state of mind and you're not having it.
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 1

Postby balzaccom » Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:20 pm

We take our company on a car camping trip every year. And every year it's the old folks who get out and hike, while the younger ones are more likely to hang by a lake or take life easy.

So we have developed an acronym for that phenomenon: OPKA.

Old People Kick A$$
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Re: Geezers Do Roper's Route Chapter 6, 8/4-13/2016 : Part 2

Postby mcgenes » Fri Aug 26, 2016 2:33 pm

I really enjoyed your report. Reminds me of a time when I met an 80-year old lady on the trail out of Pine Creek. She was finishing a 5-day trip with her son, and he looked the worse for wear. She was all smiles. OPKA!
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