TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug 10 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug 10

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TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug 10

Postby Stanley Otter » Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:27 pm

…or My Month-Long Walk Through the Wildflowers of the Sierra
…or What I Did to Celebrate the 21st Anniversary of My 29th Birthday

First, let me say what a wonderful resource this forum is and express my appreciation for everyone who takes the time to post trip reports and answer questions. In particular, I could not imagine attempting the off-trail parts of my hike without the invaluable information contained in so many threads on this forum and resources like the cross country pass pages. The added bonus, of course, is that while browsing through tangentially related posts I have collected enough ideas for a lifetime of hikes, which I will definitely be returning for in the years to come.

Okay, yes, 50 years old in May — given my genetic background that means the game is almost certainly more than half over, so what to do in recognition of this milestone as a relative newcomer to hiking? Canoe camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario kept me occupied for decades, but I always enjoyed a challenging day hike. Then five years ago a friend with a bucket list asked me to take him canoeing in Canada, and the next year he took me hiking in Grand Teton NP. Hmmm, dispensing with the watercraft and a few of the comforts of home really opens up a world of possibilities. Last summer I discovered the considerable attractions of the Sierra while solo hiking a version of the JMT (YV to Glacier Pt to Red Peak Pass to Vogelsang Pass to Lyell Cyn and then south to Mt Whitney) but was disappointed by the snow and rain I experienced at certain highly anticipated locations, particularly Banner Peak, Mt Ritter and the Minarets.

Ultimately, I decided to combine a section of the PCT from Lake Tahoe south to Kennedy Canyon ten miles or so south of Sonora Pass and then make my way via other trails and some relatively tame cross country travel east to the northern end of the Sierra High Route in Spiller Creek Canyon. From there, I planned to follow the SHR south to Tuolumne Meadows where I would return to trails to hike the piece of the JMT over Cathedral Pass and down to LYV that I was not able to do last year. Finally, I planned to pick up the SHR again at Foerster Creek and Blue Lake Pass and follow it south to Humphreys Basin and exit at Piute Pass. Surprisingly, this is pretty much what happened when all was said and done — the surpassingly lovely weather from mid-July to mid-August played a huge role in this. My wife, Stacey, joined me for the first six day section along Lake Tahoe.

I will post serially here as I have time to label photos and get my thoughts in order. Some overview statistics of more or less importance:

hiking days: 29
total miles: 375 (+/- — Anybody want to discuss the weirdness of inReach GPS logged distance vs what is reported on various maps? Within 5% of Halfmile’s map distances, but up to 20% discrepancies (GPS always longer) for National Geographic Maps, CalTopo and SierraMapper maps. Not that important to me but a nuisance issue when it comes to planning. I certainly *feel* like I have covered the miles reported on the GPS unit.)
elevation gain/loss: +/- 92350’
# of times rangers encountered on trail: 4
# of times permit checked: 2
# of times I was mistaken for a ranger by other hikers: 3
# of trowels lost: 1 (N.B. pointed sticks make poor substitutes)
# of hours of rain: 2 on a single late afternoon
# of hours of otherwise mostly cloudy/overcast sky: 3 on a single morning

July 13 — Day 1: 5.5 hrs, 7.3 mi, +2050/-1450
From Side Door to Trailhead in 12.0 Hours

Up at 3:30 AM with the stinkin’ alarm and out the side door at 3:45 AM for the drive down to the Milwaukee airport for a flight to Phoenix and thence to Reno. No real issues other than sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes in Phoenix on the inbound flight, which made me worry about the packs getting transferred on time. But a short while later in our seats on the Reno plane we watched them being loaded. It is quite liberating to travel by plane with nothing but a plastic shopping bag with one’s camera, GPS unit, solar charger and a little bit of food as one’s carry-on. We were met at the Reno airport by our shuttle driver who had no problem letting me dash into REI for some stove fuel before getting on I-80 for the forty-five mile drive to the PCT trailhead at Donner Summit. Along the way he told us some fish tales about his days hiking in the Trinity Alps with nothing but a bag of flour. We arrived at 1:45 PM local time, so with the two time zone shift we had traveled door to trailhead in exactly twelve hours. Not too bad at all, even for This Modern World we live in.

We planned to spend the night in the middle of a ten-mile waterless stretch of the PCT south of Donner Pass, so we filled a six-liter bladder and three additional liter bottles each. We are both very thirsty people, in general, so although this no doubt seems like a lot to those of you used to a more western, desiccated lifestyle, it was enough to see us through to the next available water with less than a liter to spare. If you are doing the math, you will see we started out with pretty heavy packs, and if you know how Stacey worries about having enough food you can amp it up even more.

Finally we were off and scampered down the short connecting trail to the PCT and the underpass beneath the highway. This half mile took much longer than expected because the wildflowers were in bloom, so we had to take photos and admire them. I had not anticipated seeing such vivid displays, and they continued throughout the hike, adding splashes of color all along the way. I suspect the near-average snowfall in the northern Sierra last winter was a contributing factor for this area where they were particularly dense in places. I haven’t made a count, but over the next four weeks I know I saw dozens of species.

I was struck by the number of roads and ski lifts we encountered the first two days. Yes, I can see them labeled on the map, but I had never hiked on an urban-impacted trail (if I may be so bold) like this before, so I wasn’t sure how I would react. There were some north-south views along the crest above Lake Tahoe that were pretty much nuked by ski lifts, and I could not bring myself to camp this first night on some nice flat spots around Mt Lincoln in amongst the ski lifts. The only other place on the 140-mile stretch of the PCT that I hiked where I had similar negative feelings was the Lost Lakes-Upper & Lower Blue Lakes-Upper & Lower Sunset Lakes area between the two “halves” of the Mokelumne Wilderness — just way too many roads and boats on the lakes for my taste.

We picked a spot at PCT Mile 1149.5 between Mt Lincoln and Anderson Peak to set up camp at just after 8 PM. (There was a better spot closer to Mt Lincoln and I was getting ready to shed my pack when I noticed the bullet-riddled Private Property sign. Sigh...) A very long first day for us. I pitched the tent and cooked supper while the sun set.

Day 1 -- Leapord Lily & Yellow Swallowtail.jpg
Lily & Swallowtail

Day 1 -- Anderson Peak.jpg
Anderson Peak from the north


July 14 — Day 2: 8.5 hrs, 13.3 miles, +2725/-3625
Frozen Dinner for a Murder of Crows

Up at a reasonable hour and on the trail by 8 AM. We weaved our way among the peaks along the crest with moderate gains and losses in elevation until we crossed the east ridge of Granite Chief into Granite Chief Wilderness and took a final plunge down to Whiskey Creek. There were many wildflowers in bloom, adding to the views of Anderson Peak, Tinker Knob, Billy’s Peak, Granite Chief, and Lake Tahoe in the distance. The terrain here seemed intimate and approachable and of the correct scale for a couple of flat-landers like us at the beginning of a hike. Stacey suffered from a little AMS-induced nausea, though, so we kept the pace modest and our daily goal flexible.

Since we were headed south we met many groups of PCT through-hikers heading north, as we had done yesterday. Most of them were bookin’ it, trying to get their miles in. I think we were encountering the tail end of the distribution because the number of such groups dropped off significantly over the next few days as we approached South Lake Tahoe. We talked with one group who were doing “25s” until they got back on schedule for fear of northern passes closing due to snow in October. Lots of people listening to music while hiking, too, which I have rarely seen elsewhere.

At one point we saw a group of seven crows gathered on a snowbank a long way off, hopping around and making a racket. It wasn’t until two days later that we passed over some snow fields on the way up to Dick’s Pass that I saw all the dead bugs that were embedded in the melting snow that I made my tentative hypothesis that the crows were enjoying a frozen dinner.

We left the PCT at Mile 1137 on the Whiskey Creek Trail and made camp on the east bank of the creek upstream from the cabins located in the meadow on the west bank. Not sure how often those structures get used — nobody was there this night and there was a heavily used tent camping site right in front of the cabins. We elected not to use it because the rule posted at the wilderness boundary is to camp 1/4 mile away from the cabin. We probably fell short of that particular requirement, but at least we could not see the cabin from our site.

Day 2 -- Stacey & Anderson Peak.jpg
Anderson Peak from the south

Day 2 -- Tinker Knob and view south to Granite Chief Wilderness.jpg
Tinker Knob and view south into Granite Chief Wilderness

Day 2 -- wildflower meadow.jpg
wildflower meadow

Day 2 -- Billy's Peak & Peak 8597.jpg
Billy's Peak & Peak 8579

Day 2 -- Granite Chief (left) & Needle Peak (far right).jpg
Granite Chief (left) & Needle Peak (right)


July 15 — Day 3: 9.0 hrs, 15.0 miles, +3750/-3350
The Birds & The Bees

Up at a reasonable hour and on the trail by 8 AM. A day much like yesterday, just a bit longer and more up and down. We climbed back up to the crest from Whiskey Creek and enjoyed nice views of Lake Tahoe for much of the day as we made our way past Twin Peaks on the way to Barker Pass and then down to Blackwood Creek. Lots of PCT through-hikers headed north. Wildflowers! Hummingbirds! Bees! Dragonflies making love on the wing! It’s all good. Made camp at Blackwood Creek (PCT Mile 1123).

Day 3 -- Gordon's Ivesia.jpg
Gordon's Ivesia

Day 3 -- Mariposa Lily.jpg
Mariposa Lily

Day 3 -- view west into Granite Chief Wilderness.jpg
view west into Granite Chief Wilderness

Day 3 -- view northeast to Lake Tahoe.jpg
view northeast to Lake Tahoe

Day 3 -- Twin Peaks.jpg
Twin Peaks


Dennis



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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby seanr » Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:32 am

Dennis, we met near Piute Pass when I noticed your HST patch and then got to talking a bit more than we may have otherwise. My group and I had a big day ahead of us and you were looking forward to final day luxuries like a burger and a shower, but your brief trip description stuck in my mind as an interesting route. You seem to have captured many fine details that made for a memorable trip! Thanks for posting.

-Sean

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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:27 pm

Sean,
Hello! Thanks for making contact -- when I got toward the end of my report I was going to search the member lists for you. I just found your Sierra Challenge 2016 post, and I see you had quite a successful time of it reaching truly dizzying heights. I had not quite properly understood what you did each day of the challenge -- very impressive. Anyway, it was nice talking to you, Iris, Matt, and Chris on your way up to Four Gables. Hope you have fun deciding what to do next summer.
Dennis
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Jimr » Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:04 pm

Looking forward to more of this report Stanley.
What?!
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:40 pm

July 16 — Day 4: 8.0 hrs, 14.0 miles, +2575/-2000
The Long Green Tunnel to Middle Velma

We slept in a little and did not get on the trail until almost 9 AM. Today was largely a hike through the woods, which Stacey appreciated since she is not really a sun, wind and heat kind of person. The mosquitoes were numerous under the trees, particularly at water crossings like Phipps Creek. My morning excitement consisted of slipping off a log into Richardson Lake while attempting to get some water without pollen floating in it. Fortunately, it was time for second breakfast and the sun and wind dried my socks and boots while we snacked.

Shortly thereafter, we met a group of two rangers and two crew just north of the Desolation Wilderness boundary who were clearing what they said was the very last downed tree from the trails in their area. They asked to see our permit, and we had a nice chat. This permit generated a huge amount of uncertainty for me, so some background may be in order. When I first started planning this trip that would pass through many wilderness areas I was operating under the assumption that a permit issued by the first wilderness that required one would be good for others passed through on a continuous hike. Since permits are not required for Granite Chief Wilderness I called the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to ask about a permit for the PCT through Desolation Wilderness and points south. This turns out to be straightforward, and they will even mail the permit so you can start at convenient locations like, say, the Donner Summit rest stop on I-80. (But you cannot request it more than two weeks before your start date because “plans change” and this requires onerous rewrites. Such policies drive planner-worriers such as myself into months-long periods of fidgeting — I have my plane ticket, arranged for a shuttle, and it’s all set in stone, *nothing* is going to change I promise, pleeeeeeeease write me a permit. Tick-tock, tick-tock. And when the permit finally arrives from halfway across the country in an *unsealed* envelope a few days before we depart, it is all I can do to keep myself from fainting dead away in the kitchen…)

All well and good in theory, but one of those pass-through wilderness areas is Yosemite National Park Wilderness, and even though I have no desire to exit over Donohue Pass with its new exit quota I have read enough on this forum and elsewhere to know YNP may have a different take on this lovely plan of mine. So I called the backcountry office and ask “With this permit, can I hike south on the PCT and go off trail at Dorothy Lake Pass through northern YNP to pick up the SHR in Spiller Creek Canyon and exit over Blue Lake Pass?” Three times. Three different people. The answers: Yes, Yes, Maybe-it depends on the permit. Never got a satisfactory answer about how to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable permits. Somewhat doubtful, I called the Bridgeport office of the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF and asked a similar question because I would be passing through the Hoover Wilderness after leaving the PCT. Not a problem, but, yeah, you might get some grief in Yosemite. As we attempt to problem solve this over the phone, the ranger suggests 1) hitching 35 miles from Sonora Pass to Bridgeport where an iron-clad SHR permit could be written in person, or 2) hitching five miles from Sonora Pass to Leavitt Meadows where a self-issue permit station exists. In answer to my query of whether or not a self-issued permit for a non-quota trailhead really, truly would be acceptable, he said it would not be a problem in the Hoover Wilderness and said it *should* be okay in YNP. Before we hung up he said to check if there was a self-issue permit station at Ebbett’s Pass when I was there since the trailhead is a very short distance off the PCT. At this point, I decided to get a permit reservation for one of the YNP trailheads but the lottery had already been going on for weeks — Tuolumne Meadows trailheads for travel to points south were booked so I grabbed a permit for Glacier Point-Illilouette Creek trailhead out of Yosemite Valley. My plan was to check in with the Backcountry Permit Office in Tuolumne Meadows with my LTBMU-issued permit, possibly a self-issued permit from Ebbett’s Pass, and the Glacier Point permit reservation and throw myself at their mercy.

Although the denouement to this sub-plot is still two weeks of hiking away, I don’t want to leave you breathless with anticipation until my trip report finally catches up. Regarding the LBTMU-issued permit, the answer is an emphatic *not* acceptable for travel off the PCT corridor. Regarding the self-issued permit that I did indeed write for myself at Ebbett’s Pass, just polite smiles and shaking heads. Regarding the follow-on question of will you write me a permission slip to scamper with all my gear 24 miles along the JMT from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley tomorrow without a permit so I can pick up my Glacier Point permit for the day-after-tomorrow, most definitely not. Fortunately, one last permit for Budd Lake was available for the next day, and I was able to continue through Yosemite and complete the rest of my hike as planned. After she issued the permit, the ranger asked me “So how *did* you like northern Yosemite?” Umm, ermm, well those off-trail passes are certainly something else… I think my evident attempts at due diligence and to play by the rules bought me some goodwill.

Back to our regularly scheduled program. The long green tunnel opened up occasionally to views of the Crystal Range on the western side of the Desolation Wilderness, giving me a sustaining dose of iconic white granite sprinkled with just the right number of conifers.

Our first minor hiccup of the trip occurred in mid-afternoon when I left our trowel beneath a tree after one of my many urgent stops. I had been suffering for weeks from a variety of gastrointestinal distress that I call Phase Separation Anxiety, which was taxing my energy reserves and my spirits. I can only claim forgetfulness at the temporary relief as an excuse.

We made camp at Middle Velma Lake (PCT Mile 1110) with several other groups nearby. We even had enough time to rinse some clothes in our bucket and dry them in the sun and a pretty decent breeze blowing in from the west that died off as the sun went down.

Day 4 -- Crystal Range in Desolation Wilderness.jpg
Crystal Range in the Desolation Wilderness

Day 4 -- Middle Velma Lake.jpg
Middle Velma Lake


July 17 — Day 5: 8.0 hrs, 11.7 miles, +3225/-2950
Views! (With Wind)

Up and on the trail again by 8 AM. We met the rangers and trail crew again this morning on the far side of Middle Velma just as they were breaking camp. After a brief good morning greeting and chat they headed down the Bayview Trail to exit the wilderness because their trail clearing work was complete. We, on the other hand, started our steady climb up to Dicks Pass, becoming confused at the Fontanillis Lake exit stream crossing for a while but enjoying the falls and views of the south end of Lake Tahoe. The views from the top of the pass were the best yet — the small scale intimacy we had enjoyed so much just a couple days ago was supplanted by an expansive and inspiring vista. Directly beneath us were Susie Lake and several smaller satellites, bounded on the west by a ridge containing Cracked Crag and Jacks Peak, with Lake Aloha and Pyramid Peak forming a third tier in the distance. A west wind had been growing in strength all morning, and it was breezy on the pass. We walked partway down and had a leisurely lunch at a spot with views to the west. For the rest of the afternoon we made our way down to Susie Lake and Heather Lake and finally up to Lake Aloha. Throughout the day we met many families and groups of friends out for the weekend and only three or four groups of PCTers headed north with purposeful strides.

We set up camp on a bench at the northeast end of Lake Aloha (PCT Mile 1099.5). This would prove to be a bit of a mistake, because rather than dying away as the sun went down as it did yesterday the wind intensified throughout the night. The tent shook and rattled all night long and we both slept only fitfully.

Day 5 -- Dicks Lake & Dicks Peak.jpg
Dicks Lake & Dicks Peak

Day 5 -- west to southwest panorama from Dicks Pass.jpg
South to Northwest Panorama from Dicks Pass

Day 5 -- Susie Lake.jpg
Susie Lake

Day 5 -- Half Moon Lake, Alta Morris Lake & Jacks Peak.jpg
Half Moon Lake, Alta Morris Lake & Jacks Peak (coming down from Dicks Pass)

Day 5 -- Sulphur Flower Buckwheat.jpg
Buckwheat at Lake Aloha

Day 5 -- Lake Aloha & Pyramid Peak.jpg
Dennis Enjoying the Breeze Off Lake Aloha (have I told you how stiff I feel after a long day of hiking?)

Day 5 -- Heather Lake.jpg
Heather Lake from the Southwest


July 18 — Day 6: 4.0 hrs, 9.3 miles, +1150/-2050
A Somewhat Frantic Half Day

At a little before 5 AM we gave up trying to sleep and were on the trail by 6:30 AM. Lake Aloha was covered in whitecaps as we staggered away sleepless and well-buffeted. The hike down to the Echo Lake Chalet was uneventful other than watching the water taxi abort its trip up the lake due to high seas kicked up by the wind. Our attempts to call a cab for a ride to Stateline, NV where our hotel was located seemed doomed. The first company in South Lake Tahoe refused because they thought we were 150 miles away — turns out the difference between Echo Lakes Road (correct) and Echo Lakes Avenue (incorrect) translates one to someplace in the Nevada desert. The second company was not answering. Our third attempt was successful, but due to the poor reception I was under the impression he wanted us to meet him on Hwy 50, a mile away and *uphill*, in 25 minutes. Yowza. I did my best PCTer impression by bookin’ it with a pack still loaded with extra food. I made it with about 5 minutes to spare, and Stacey arrived shortly after I flagged him down. When he explained he would have met us at either location, she was understandably not amused. Pretty much all was forgiven at supper, though, when we followed through on the driver’s suggestion to eat at Audibles, a baseball-oriented sports bar a couple blocks from the hotel. Delicious burgers (we each had the Hank Aaron with a really good salad) preceded by pork belly with basil and pecans appetizer things in lettuce cups (the Winthorpe — must mean something to baseball fans, but I got nothin’). There was a smoker on a trailer in the parking lot emitting tantalizing smells, for heaven’s sake. We met the owner, and I asked him if he ever worries about somebody driving off with his ribs. He doesn’t. I wept openly when he said the meat would not be ready for two more days — I thought about taking a couple zero days right there in the parking lot and trying to make up for the down time on the trail…

Before all this, though, there was the matter of the resupply packages. We had chosen a particular hotel in Stateline for its proximity to a post office right across the street and a casino three blocks away where Stacey could catch the shuttle back to the Reno airport on the morrow. I had called the post office to check if they would hold general delivery packages for me. Oh yes, I was told. Not so much. Turns out they only do general delivery at the Zephyr Cove post office more than a mile down Hwy 50 in some strip mall. So there I go, walking along a busy highway, while the hitchhiking hippy couple with three dogs ask me why I am going that way and what kind of stores are there. Welcome back to civilization, Dennis. The post office has the packages, I schlep them back to hotel, we bathe, do laundry and go out in search of beer and a replacement trowel. At Kingsbury Hardware I ask for their finest plastic gardening trowel only to find metal versions in stock. When the need for plastic is explained in sufficient detail the clerk does the I-think-I-might-have-something-for-you thing, rummages through a bargain bin, and comes up with this lovely item — my very own Lightning McQueen Hand-Trident!

DSCN9951.jpg
Lightning McQueen Hand-Trident (or whatever you choose to call it)


I found the three prongs to be superior at removing small rocks from the hole with an axial twisting motion. Another advantage was the *square* holes that I could produce with the flat head rather than round ones that result from the curved blade of a traditional trowel. I could go on extolling its virtues, but I think they are quite evident and need no further explication. I hope you agree.

We spent the evening packing up and watching Silverado on the television. Because we had so much food left over from the first phase of the trip and because I tend to bring too much food on my shorter hiking trips and because I wanted to lighten my load over the next eleven days until my next resupply in Tuolumne Meadows, I decided to send a couple pounds of food home with Stacey. This turned out to be pretty stupid…

July 19 — Day 7: 6.5 hrs, 11.0 miles, +3100/-1950
Parting Ways

Up early to finish packing and have a delicious breakfast at The Red Hut just a block away from the hotel. Stacey and I said goodbye as she boarded the shuttle to the Reno airport. I decided to walk west through South Lake Tahoe for a while, stopping at a CVS Pharmacy for a few essentials. I made my way to the marina for an up close look at Lake Tahoe. Then I hopped on the bus (free this month) to the west side of town where I got a ride up to Echo Summit at the spot we were picked up yesterday. The climb up was not particularly difficult, though my pack was heavy. There were occasional views back to Lake Tahoe (one member of a group I met asked me if that was Echo Lake we were looking at). The area around Little Round Top was pretty as was Showers Lake where I met a couple who were grazing their horses. The wildflowers were abundant again in the area around the lake and in Meiss Meadows, my goal for the day. I set up camp about a third of a mile from the cabins (PCT Mile 1079.5).

Day 7 -- Little Round Top.jpg
Little Round Top

Day 7 -- Meiss Meadows.jpg
Meiss Meadows and Summer Cabin


Dennis
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:00 pm

...work is killing me, here is the next installment...

July 20 — Day 8: 9.25 hrs, 19.0 miles, +3400/-3875
Many Road Crossings

Up and on the trail by 7:15 AM. The short climb up to Carson Pass was pleasant and views south into the Carson Pass Management Area and the western half of Mokelumne Wilderness opened up. After crossing Hwy 88 I stopped for second breakfast at Frog Lake and then continued around the east side of Elephants Back to Forestdale Divide. The trail passes through a variety of terrain— rocky slopes and meadows blanketed with lupine — eventually crossing a road and following it to Lost Lakes where I stopped for lunch. There I listened to a PCT hiker with his phone hooked up to an external speaker (!) trying to convince his friends in Tahoe to drive down and pick him up. F-bomb this. F-bomb that. F-bomb the other thing. After he finally gave up I was treated to some of his favorite rap music. Eventually he noticed he had company and came over for a chat, but he never did turn down the music. <sigh> After lunch I followed the trail to a ridge overlooking the Blue Lakes with some fine views. Then I descended into forest, crossed Blue Lakes Road, Tamarack Road and entered the eastern half of Mokelumne Wilderness. For the remainder of the day, I met only one gentleman out for a trail run (coming and going — for some reason he was faster than me…) and I eventually picked a site well off trail on a tributary to Pleasant Creek (PCT mile 1060). Pretty tired and suffering with gastro issues.

Day 8 -- approaching Carson Pass- Round Top, The Sisters.jpg
Approaching Carson Pass -- Round Top & The Sisters

Day 8 -- Lost Lakes.jpg
View north to Lost Lakes


July 21 — Day 9: 10.0 hrs, 20.5 miles, +4400/-3900
A Couple Gems: Raymond Peak & Noble Canyon

Up early feeling much better and on the trail by 7 AM. When I picked up the trail again after departing my campsite, I was surprised to find about eight tents set up next to the creek in a large flat area. After climbing up out of the forest, it was somewhat disorienting to travel *east* for the first part of the morning with the sun in my eyes. The early morning light on the walls of Raymond Canyon was very nice, and it felt good to be out of the forest again with long vistas in all directions as the trail led me around Raymond Peak to Pennsylvania Creek. The rock formations in this area were just fascinating. I found out later from a geologist friend of mine that the conglomerate-looking rocks are called lahars and are formed in mudflows associated with volcanic events. (Thanks, Jen!) It took me a long time to hike from Raymond Peak to Reynolds Peak — I was snapping photos at a rate such that I should probably just have taken a movie… The wildflowers were abundant in and around Raymond Meadows.

After crossing Hwy 4 I walked down to the Ebbets Pass trailhead and wrote myself the self-issued permit for the remainder of the trip that turned out not to be so useful, as I found out at Tuolumne Meadows. But it did give me a nice, false sense of security for the next week. :confused: I spent the rest of the day climbing up Noble Canyon and admiring the old, weathered Jeffrey pines. It was quite windy at the top of the canyon, but I quickly dropped down to Asa Lake, which is in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and into the shelter of the woods again. All the sites around the lake were taken but I found a nice spot on the south side of the outlet creek (PCT mile 1040.5). There was enough time to do some laundry and a bit of stretching.

Day 9 -- Mokelumne Wilderness- Raymond Canyon.jpg
Raymond Canyon -- Mokelumne Wilderness

Day 9 -- Mokelumne Wilderness- Reynolds Peak.jpg
Reynolds Peak and lahar rock formations

Day 9 -- Noble Lake & Noble Canyon.jpg
Noble Lake & Noble Canyon


July 22 — Day 10: 8.25 hrs, 16.0 miles, +4150/-4100
Let the Real Acclimatization Begin

Up and on the trail by 7:15 AM. I spent most of this day in the woods again. The pace of the last few days caught up with me, and I was pretty winded for much of the day. It had also finally dawned on me that part of the problem was that I wasn’t taking in enough calories to compensate for the longer days I was putting in. I began to regret sending that “extra” food home with Stacey. Fortunately, I thought, I could take advantage of Sonora Pass Resupply tomorrow and purchase some supplementary calories. I finally called it quits about two trail miles and 700’ of elevation shy of my goal for the day. I made camp on the east side of the East Fork Carson River near the top of a set of falls in White Canyon, which provided me with my first dose of iconic white granite scenery (PCT mile 1025).

Day 10 -- White Canyon.jpg
White Canyon


July 23 — Day 11: 11.0 hrs, 19.5 miles, +5000/-4300
The Clink of Talus & The Crunch of Gravel

On the trail by 7 AM and climbing (slowly) out of White Canyon and onto the slopes of Sonora Peak. For the first time since last summer I was hiking above 10000’ and it was good to be there. The trail soon lost all traces of soil and as I made my way upward the crunch of gravel underfoot and the clink of talus dislodged by my poles as I passed told me I had indeed “arrived.” The wildflowers buoyed me up with a proverbial riot of color: red paintbrush, blue penstemon, purple lupine, yellow groundsel, buckwheat, phlox, yarrow, shooting star, mountain bluebell, daisies and on and on. The few miles south of the shoulder of Sonora Peak and heading down to Sonora Pass were simply spectacular. I was so absorbed in the continuous display that upon going down around a steep, sharp corner I was startled to see someone in front of me and promptly lost my footing on the pea gravel and fell right on my butt in front of him. Turns out he was the trail boss (red hardhat and everything) overseeing a crew doing some annual maintenance on that stretch of trail. We had a nice chat during which he assured me he had fallen exactly as I had done on that very same patch of gravel. I asked him to tutor me on the proper pronunciation of Toiyabe and Mokelumne and then hiked on chanting the names in rhythm to my steps and trying to get the emphasis on the correct syllable. The trail crew was spread out over quite some distance doing an impressive amount of backbreaking grading and drainage work. I stopped again to ask the last member of the crew a few questions about the work, and he let me in on a little bit of top secret trail maintenance jargon. They were doing their work with two tools: a pick and adze-like combination called a PickMatic (I told him that with a name like that it ought to have a motor attached to help with the work), and a rake and hoe-like combination called a McCloud. He shared, however, that among the crew they are known simply as the “swingy thing” and the “rakey thing.”

Just north of Sonora Pass I watered up at a stream since the next ten trail miles had no perennial sources, and then I headed to the parking area in search of the Sonora Pass Resupply truck. The truck was there. The calories were not. Turns out the Park Service revoked the part of their conditional use permit that allowed them to sell supplies other than isobutane fuel. You can arrange to have a package delivered, but purchasing food as-needed was seen somehow to violate a rather strict interpretation of what the wilderness experience entails. In a parking lot. Crawling with people. And their vehicles. Outside of the Carson-Iceberg and Emigrant Wildernesses. Let’s just say there was some bitterness on the part of the vendor and some stomach-rumbling disappointment on the part of the hungry hiker. I have to say, climbing up the other side and seeing all the brightly colored snow stakes scattered willy-nilly on the slopes for several trail miles helped solidify my position on the issue…

Nevertheless, after a sharp climb back up to around 10800’ I cinched my belt a little tighter, forgot about food for a while, and let the amazing vistas give me something else to think about. The wildflowers became sparser in the drier areas south of Sonora Pass but still added splashes of color to the rocky palette. The trail stays high above Blue Canyon and there are small lakes below: Latopie, Koenig, Kennedy, Lost and unnamed tarns. The views of Kennedy Peak and the approach and descent to Kennedy Canyon were lovely — austere slopes crossed by crunchy and clinky trail. I left the PCT near the top of Kennedy Canyon and found a site about a quarter mile off trail next to a rivulet of meltwater (PCT mile 1006). Time enough left in the day for some needed clothes and body cleansing — thank goodness for the collapsible bucket.

Day 11 -- slopes of Sonora Peak.jpg
On the slopes of Sonora Peak

Day 11 -- view down to Sonora Pass.jpg
Descending to Sonora Pass

Day 11 -- Stanislaus Peak & Sonora Peak.jpg
View north to Stanislaus Peak & Sonora Peak

Day 11 -- Leavitt Peak, Deadman Lake & Blue Canyon Lake.jpg
Leavitt Peak, Deadman Lake & Blue Canyon Lake

Day 11 -- Kennedy Peak.jpg
Kennedy Peak

Day 11 -- descent to Kennedy Canyon.jpg
Descending to Kennedy Canyon
Last edited by Stanley Otter on Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby paul » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:37 pm

loving it, thanks, keep it coming!
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby balzaccom » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:24 am

Great Stuff! Keep the report flowing......

And it's a Pick/Mattock that they were using on the trail crew.

loved seeing these photos of places we've hiked over the years. But we did it a few days at a time, not the kind of adventure you tackled!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby old and slow » Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:04 am

What a super enertaining read this is; looking forward to the next installments. And, you brought back memories of my one trip to Lake Aloha -- probably the windiest night I have ever spent in the Sierra with seemingly hurricane force winds rattling the tent all night long.
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Sep 29, 2016 3:11 pm

That was quite a trek Stanley O. Very nice report and great photos. Thank you for taking the time to write it up. I must say that I had a bit of a chuckle at the very beginning of the report. While I have never been on Mt. Lincoln in the summer (and certainly understand how one tries to avoid man made things backpacking), Sugar Bowl is near and dear to me as I worked there for parts of 3 years back in the early 80's. While I never camped up there, I have been on Mt. Lincoln numerous times with some of my most memorable excursions occurring during full moon nights with clear skies. The groomers worked at night and they would tow several of us to the top. It took several trips so we hung out in the old ski patrol shack until everyone was on top, then we would ski down to mid mountain and do it again until our stamina ran out. At night one could see the lights of the groomers over at Squaw Valley and off in the distance one could make out the glow of South Lake. Just a different perspective at the time I suppose. Again, thank you for such a wonderful report and I look forward to the rest.
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

R. Trower
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:52 pm

paul -- thanks! here's some more
balzaccom -- well that makes perfect sense: a mattock, of course -- thanks for clarifying
old and slow -- glad to know I have a fellow sufferer -- I have only ever experienced one windier night camping than the one at Aloha and I had a canoe that I could set up as a windbreak -- a canoe this time would have been nice but portaging it all that way would have been rough -- thanks
Troutdog 59 -- thanks for sharing your story and memories

July 24 — Day 12: 6.0 hrs, 10.5 miles, +1975/-1575
A First Encounter With Old Man Willow

The plan for this day had always been to take it relatively easy, so I tried to sleep in but a jay in the tree above my tent took to squawking at 5:30 AM and I finally gave in to its demands and rousted myself out of bed at the luxurious hour of 7 AM. The goal for the next three days was to make my way south and east by trail and cross country travel to Spiller Creek Canyon where I would join the Sierra High Route. I wanted to stay as high as possible for reasons obvious to everyone on this forum and also to get some more straightforward off trail experience to supplement the meager two days I had logged in the Winds last summer. So after stretching my morning routine to an unseemly two hours, I started back up Kennedy Canyon and picked up the trail (former road) that goes right up over Peak 10825 on its way to High Emigrant Lake and Emigrant Pass. While studying the maps last winter I thought this had to be the craziest idea ever, but of course if you really do need a road between Kennedy Canyon and the Emigrant Lakes this is where you have to put it. In any case, the grade was mercifully shallow and after eating enough high octane food for second breakfast I started feeling pretty good.

The north side of Peak 10825 was barren and rocky, but at the top and all the way down to High Emigrant Lake, Emigrant Pass and Grizzly Meadow the wildflowers were putting on another show. A low key affair due to the relative lack of water, but I found several varieties I had not noticed before. And the views down to the Emigrant Lakes were simply beautiful — lakes near and far with meadows in between and white granite slopes with just the right dusting of conifers. I ate lunch at High Emigrant Lake at the dammed outlet stream, and made my way over Emigrant Pass which was sort of a non-event given how broad it is. My original plan was to spend the night in Grizzly Meadow, but I found it a little uninspiring compared to what I had been seeing, so I decided to press on south and east around Grizzly Peak on the high trail that stays well above Summit Meadow. The trail is not well defined and fades out in places, particularly where it crosses the seasonal creek beds where the willows get thick. The first couple times this happened I just tried bulling my way through, doing the bushwhacking thing that unnecessarily saps energy. But even at my age I can learn new tricks, and started spending the time to scout for narrower expanses and going “with the grain” when possible. As a result, there were a few times where I thought Old Man Willow was leading me down the Withywindle, but we reached a truce of sorts at East Fork Cherry Creek where a rock outcrop with views of Summit Meadow and Snow Lake virtually begged to be camped on. So I did. The day was hot and the creek was warm, so I did another round of laundry and bathing. Exploring and photography followed. As the sun set I was worried that I was seeing smoke from fires on the horizon, but I didn’t smell anything. It took me a while to realize that if it was hot up here, it must be blazing down below and that it was smog after all. I had not seen anyone all day.

Day 12 -- Emigrant Meadow Lake & Middle Emigrant Lake.jpg
Emigrant Meadow Lake & Middle Emigrant Lake from Peak 10825

Day 12 -- Emigrant Lakes.jpg
Emigrant Lakes

Day 12 -- Yellow Paintbrush.jpg
Yellow Paintbrush

Day 12 -- view north to Peak 10825.jpg
View north to Peak 10825 from Emigrant Pass

Day 12 -- Grizzly Peak.jpg
Grizzly Peak


July 25 — Day 13: 9.75 hrs, 11.3 miles, +2800/-2600
Off Trail At Last!

Up and on the trail by 7 AM. I decided to climb higher in the hope of rediscovering the high trail on the bench above Summit Meadow. Given that I could see Bond Pass a mile or so in the distance, I was not too concerned. I found and lost the trail again a few times and finally just slalomed downhill through open forest until I found the lower trail that led to the PCT and Dorothy Lake. There I ate a snack and drank some water, all jittery in anticipation of striking off cross country over what I was calling Helen-Tower Pass. My first hour or so was pretty comical. The topography around Stella Lake and Lake Ruth and all their satellite pools turned to be mildly complicated with no good vantage points to get an overview, so I was bouncing around in there like a pinball. I finally reined in my enthusiasm long enough to actually break out the compass and take a reading, which led me to Lake Helen without too much additional flailing.

I had read a few trail reports about the Helen-Tower Pass on the forum, but I was still unsure what to expect. When I got a clear view it seemed moderately doable, and after I studied it for a couple minutes I decided to go straight up the middle part way and then left (northeast) to “follow the green” up to the top. As I was to discover in the coming days, this is a very tame Class 2 pass in comparison to others, but at the time I was pretty damn proud of myself and enjoyed the views from the top. Those to the east were just spectacular — front row seats for Tower Peak and Tower Lake with Hawksbeak Peak in the middle distance. In my opinion, the hunk of rock that towers over Tower Lake is much more impressive than the actual Tower Peak further to the south. On the way down to Tower Lake I made the mistake of aiming for the outlet end of the lake, figuring it to be the most direct and avoiding the boulder field at the other end of the lake. I ended up having to down climb big boulders and short cliffs among the brush and trees, which was a whole lot more work and much slower than if I had just walked over the boulders. This was to be the first of many teachable moments on this part of the trip.

I had finally made it down to Tower Lake and was standing on a flat rock about two feet above a grassy area basking in an undeserved sense of accomplishment, when all of a sudden I found myself coming out of a somersault on the grass. A section of the hiking pole I was leaning on had collapsed, but there appeared to be no damage so I went down to the lake for water and to take some photos. Turns out I had rolled onto my point-and-shoot camera and it would not focus for wide angle shots, only telephoto. Rather than weep uncontrollably at the vistas that would go unrecorded for the remaining two weeks of my trip, I let experience be my guide. You see, I have a Relationship with this camera, so I know its fickle ways and how to coax good behavior out of it. Last year I had this camera with me on the JMT, and I was at Garnet Lake taking some photos when I turned it off and put it in my front pants pocket. I don’t normally keep it there, but I was just going to walk a few yards to another vantage point and snap more photos. As I was walking, the camera managed to turn itself on *and* decide that a telephoto shot was called for. Okay, so now it’s “Hello, Hiker! Is that a telephoto lens in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” The geometry of the situation was such that all the slack in my slacks, if you will, was taken up by the extended lens which was not responding to the power off button, so I could not extract it from my pocket without, well, you know, taking my pants partway off. Next to the trail. Where impressionable youngsters hike. Oi. The ultimate lesson I took away from this was that a hard reset induced by taking the battery out of the camera for a few minutes caused it to return to its default state of good behavior, so I did that at Tower Lake and all was well.

After some lunch I started my first attempt at contouring cross country, based on accounts I have read here about making one’s way up the valley below Hawksbeak Peak. I descended a few hundred feet from Tower Lake and started to make my way at 9200’ around Peak 9422. This forced my second confrontation with Old Man Willow on some very steep terrain which made contouring something of a pipe dream and he got the better of me this time. As a result, I ended up simply climbing over the ridge to the southeast of Peak 9422 and stopping for a rest at the tarn up there. From there I followed a southeasterly course and let myself lose a little elevation as I gradually joined the valley beneath Hawksbeak Peak. My goal for the day was Thompson Canyon, which appeared from the maps to have only seasonal water sources in its upper reaches, so I stopped about 50’ below the saddle to water up before crossing over into the canyon. Turns out there was plenty of water. I made camp on a sandy pad next to a boulder right at the top of Thompson Canyon, which was quite scenic in the late afternoon light. At this point, please allow me to make my single politically oriented observation of this trip report: a long-time resident of the state of Wisconsin of a certain political orientation will experience a great deal of cognitive dissonance at the boundary between two geographic features named the West Walker River drainage and Thompson Canyon. I’ll just say I took some NSFW photos and leave it at that.

Day 13 -- Summit Meadow & Snow Lake.jpg
Summit Meadow & Snow Lake

Day 13 -- Helen-Tower Pass.jpg
Helen-Tower Pass from the west

Day 13 -- Lake Helen & Lake Ruth.jpg
Lake Helen & Lake Ruth

Day 13 -- Tower Peak & Tower Lake.jpg
Tower Peak (right) & Tower Lake

Day 13 -- Hawksbeak Peak (left) and Tower Lake.jpg
Hawksbeak Peak (left) & Tower Lake

Day 13 -- Hawksbeak Peak B.jpg
Valley beneath Hawksbeak Peak

Day 13 -- Upper Thompson Canyon.jpg
Upper Thompson Canyon


Dennis
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Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby frozenintime » Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:35 am

this is great :)
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