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TR: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic 7/1-9/19/16

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:23 pm

Week 3

Day 15- July 15- Layover
On our 2nd layover day we did laundry & what not. Unfortunately, likely because of the fire & the shorthanded staff at VVR there was no lunch, which was thoroughly disappointing. Rogue & I ate a hummus sandwich since they made those. Fortunately my rash subsided by this time, but oh boy, it would come back soon enough. The washing machine really was quite shitty & the water pressure at the showers fluctuated severely. VVR was not scoring any good points at all, and frankly it was not a super pleasant experience like it usually is. I know it was no one's fault but regardless of that it made for less pleasant layover days, especially when Rogue and I look forward so much to being at VVR in particular. One dinner while good was stupidly expensive, $14 for Chili-Cheese Fries… a bit unbelievable especially since it was hardly enough to be a full meal.

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Day 16- July 16- Layover
Today was our 3rd final layover day & fortunately BBQ day. When I asked at Breakfast if BBQ was happening I got a No! This really ruined the mood given we were looking forward to it so much since on our previous trip in we didn’t get any. Later, I found out to our great relief it was happening. But as a nice surprise to the list of **** shows at VVR this time, there was no lunch again that day… Not even sandwiches! Always fun to expect delicious food & literally get nothing. I'm sure we scrounged together whatever they had at the store so we weren't completely without food. Throughout our days there we met some characters including 2 Pack. This guy has been travelling the Sierra for years and claims to carry 170 pounds via 4 Bear Cans, 2 packs, (one of which is in front), & not resupply for 60+ days. His stories were beyond ridiculous including the fact that he actually & very seriously owed the government $101 million for allegedly starting a forest fire (one of the largest in CA history). He was a trip no doubt. We also chatted & had dinner with a mom & daughter. The girl was only 17 & she was going solo from Muir Trail Ranch to Whitney. Very impressive & inspiring. We met another 17 year old boy who was the only one left of his friends & he was going solo to finish the JMT as well. Today, someone stole multiple beers of mine which really pissed me off and thus I ended up stealing someone’s. Alas when BBQ came around we were disappointed by the quality. Not to say it was bad but no comparison to previous years. And on top of all that the fire kicked into overdrive causing the number of firefighters to go from around 20 to like 120! All of VVR’s resources now had to go towards that which made things even harder considering VVR was already short staffed. When I really had it is when I knew 20 pies had been made for BBQ night but not a single one was ready apparently…They hadn’t cooled enough or some nonsense like that. And of course my tent got a hole in it at the top from the poles… just lovely. I fixed the bar as best I could & patched the hole so I can only hope for a nice dry summer. And speaking of weather, from the forecast I got it looks to be a dry July with a continuous wind out of the West preventing any monsoonal moisture. Sleeping was rough due to the smoke.. not unlike our experiences last year during the Rough Fire.

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Day 17- July 17- Florence Lake to Goddard Canyon Jct
Well, the day had come finally, when we had to leave VVR and head back out there. Since VVR was serving no real breakfast we headed to Mono Hot Springs to get some Burritos & Hot Pockets. We definitely had a satisfying breakfast, even though we wished it was at VVR. We only hoped that VVR would finally figure everything out by the end of August. Fortunately the fire was fought heavily & was looking to be contained quickly. At Mono we met a hippy dude who is their winter caretaker. He’d been doing it for decades and he told us of his time in the early 70’s in the Acid Wave of Yosemite Valley. He truly is a relic of the Sierra. Anyways we got our ferry no too long from there & set out around 11. Fortunately because of all the food issues at VVR my tab there was considerably less than originally thought so at least there was one plus to there being so many issues. We beat along the hot and dusty trail until lunch rolled around when I had very little & Rogue ate a whole burrito he bought at breakfast. Onward we pressed until I noticed my legs burning… and the rash made its nasty return. Ah... the return of that burning and fiery inferno that my legs would enjoy. Where & what the hell it came from is still a real mystery. Onward we pressed and my legs got worse till we reached the bridge of the San Joaquin where I took my pants off and soothed my feet and legs via the cold fresh water. That water was exceptionally cold and on any average day for me I wouldn't have enjoyed it, but since my legs were on fire (literally I can't imagine them actually burning in flames being worse at that point) it was pure heaven to submerge them. Soon, we were at camp and enjoying a nice shaded & forested area along with a fire. We wouldn't have a forested area or a fire for about a week. The next week would feature high camps in Evolution Basin. At least we weren't expecting as much snow as the previous section and we would drop below 10,000 long before 10 days unlike the previous section. Even though my legs burnt I slept soundly after replacing the bottom pieces from my other pair of pants. I definitely knew that I couldn't contaminate my sleeping bag from whatever it was that got onto my pants.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:41 pm

Day 18- July 18- Goddard Canyon Jct to Lake 11375FT (East of Evolution Lake)
We woke fairly early knowing this would be a hard day. We made our way up out of the heat all day into Evolution Basin. First the climb to the crossing which was refreshing & then the hike through Evolution Valley. Mosquitoes were surprisingly not too bad, although the head net was necessary in various areas. Dario wasn’t in the Ranger Station so we passed through quickly there. The major climb out of the valley was hard but we made good time given our very heavy packs. Forgot to mention that I finally, after 4 years of carrying a tripod left mine at VVR. So far, really haven’t had the need for it and I doubt I will since I wasn't carrying my medium format film camera. I decided not to bring it at all this year since the trip was too long and the weight is just too great. I had carried it on every major trip I went on since 2012. At Evolution Lake we took a much needed break. But we had another 350+ FT to climb to the first lake. And this we did with much effort as our energy was waning. Fortunately my legs felt much better all day but still stung at times. The lake was a very scenic sight with the crest framed in the back & Spencer’s walls rising to the South & of course Darwin standing guard to the NE. Camping was interesting as we had to establish a site but fortunately it turned out quite nice. We got there quite late, around 6. And this lake was several hundred feet below the one we were supposed to stay at, so we definitely decided this was home for the next 2 nights. Dinner was late but the sunset was nice. And as usual a light wind blew as with many of the previous days. Tomorrow we would climb the might Mt. Darwin.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:48 pm

Day 19- July 19- Climb Mt. Darwin
The climb started by 8:45A A.M. or so… a bit late (given how much we had to climb) but since we knew the weather would be good all day we figured getting some sleep would be good. We entered the proper chute and found the cut across point marked by cairns. We followed up fairly tame Class 3… albeit some vertical to the next chute which started a long, brutal, and annoying climb. Super loose rock, literally a mine field especially on the descent since nowhere one stepped was stable ground. There was little if any good climbing in the chute but we went up and up till we took the final right branch where the climbing got a little more interesting. From there we obtained the ridge amid stunning views to the North & East & down to the Darwin Glacier. We made across the cut across easily and ended up on the easy plateau until we reached the far side with the high point. The view in every direction was phenomenal and definitely in the top 3 peaks for me (and after climbing all the peaks later this summer it still ranked in the top 5). After lunch and searching for the register we made our way to climb the summit pinnacle. After negotiating a very spicy climb through a snow chute we surmounted the Class 4 block & made the top! The spicy snow chute was very steep and getting foot holds in the snow was not the easiest of tasks. With an ice ax it would have been a piece of cake, but without one it was a true testament to your nerves of steep and technical and acrobatic prowess to stay on the rock along the sides of the chute as much as possible. From there it was steep but very fun Class 3 to the final summit block move which had the most incredible final tactical move I've done in a long time. The register wasn’t old but nonetheless nice to sign & there was a tattered old cop of the “Origin of Species”… A fitting tribute. After a very tactical descent of the block which wasn’t too bad….albeit the exposure was massive (1000's of feet) we climbed our way down to camp via the nasty & horribly tedious chute. Definitely not a climb I’ll be repeating anytime soon. Over 9 hours of climbing but with lots of breaks so not quite McDuffie status. That day, as so many was crystal clear with not a cloud in the sky. Hopefully that trend of non-inclement weather continues.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:53 pm

Day 20- Lake 11375FT (East of Evolution Lake) to Lake 11,293FT (East of JMT in Evolution Basin)
So the day after climbing Darwin we climbed Mt. Spencer and moved camp to the lake above Sapphire by the JMT. The climb around Spencer was straightforward & the climb up was some fun Class 3. The view was quite nice & the weather was excellent with no clouds. We quickly made it down into the very scenic basin to the East of Sapphire Lake. I had been here before in 2013 while attempting a climb of Mt. Wallace and Haeckel. Didn't make the climb since the scree got the best of me and I gave up. This time though, the basin had a lot more snow on the slopes. The cirque was fairly easy terrain and we soon forded the very wide Evolution Creek made our way up to the JMT. From there we got to our lake and after some searching found a very nice flat area that was really pleasant except of course for the crazy mosquitoes. Dinner was a struggle to keep them at bay.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:57 pm

Day 21- Climb Mt. Huxley
Today we climbed Mt. Huxley, which overall was a pretty decent climb. The chute was loose but not horrible and the top afforded some very nice Class 3 climbing up a face. The ridgeline was a little spicy & knife-edge for a good ways. And the summit had an incredible view, but there were finally some clouds which may be indicating a pattern change for less stable weather. The register was placed by none other than Eric. We met Eric the previous year as he had suffered a nasty fall on his way up Scimitar Pass. We camped with him by Elinore Lake as he had to retreat back down to the TH, since he had sustained multiple large gashes around his ankles. We descended in good time and I finally bathed and did laundry. That night the mosquitoes were out in full force again, which made things very annoying but nonetheless not nearly as bad as they could have been.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:35 pm

For everybody following along. I just finished editing Week 4 and got all my photos resized so if I'm lucky I might get that posted tomorrow! Week 4 is when we head into the canyon of the Muro Blanco! I know everybody wants to hear all about that.
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:36 pm

You should have added that you were retreating off of the attempt at the summit block of Darwin when I made the top and declared not only that I was on it but that there was a register. Then you were like ****! now I have to do it! =P
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby commonloon » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:28 pm

Hey Rogue & Apline Mike,

Love all the super photos and you novels!

Last year we saw 2Pack in June. 1st we saw his tent, etc. You likely know what I mean by "etc." out while going X-country between Rockwell pass and the Wallace/JMT junction. A couple days later he had moved to the Tyndall Creek JMT campground where we chatted with him. He told us he had become lost out there, couldn't find his camp and had to build a fire and spend a night out there with nothing but his "wits." Interesting people in the wilderness.

Keep the reports coming!. Keep enjoying your time out there!!
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:08 pm

Week 4

Day 22- Lake 11,293FT (East of JMT in Evolution Basin) to Muir Hut
We left our camp amid no wind, which was a real first in quite a while (likely weeks) & with a **** ton of mosquitoes. We made short order of Muir Pass & chatted with people there during lunch. We met a young climber from Colorado that decided (on a whim, since he was doing the JMT) to traverse a part of the Palisades completely free solo with no climbing shoes to boot! If you know the terrain you realize this takes some serious nerves of steel. He even mentioned he climbed the Summit Block of Thunderbolt Peak. I was practically cringing when I heard all that. What an incredible climber. After lunch we climbed the **** up ridge of Warlow.. which Secor claims as Class 1. Well that was complete and total ********. All Class 2 & some 3 & naturally no register. The descent and ascent took much longer than expected & we were totally wrecked when we reached the hut. Definitely a mess of loose/nasty rock that we were so fricken tired of. So we decided we’re staying in the hut. I had never done that before. It's been fun with no wind or bugs & just a cool experience. We went down a couple 100 feet to get some delicious water from snow-melt. And we had one couple visit around 5:40 but by dinner we were alone & about to enjoy a very restful night.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:11 pm

Day 23- Muir Hut to Lake 11,742 FT (Above Helen Lake)
Today was a pretty decent but annoying day. We woke up pretty early at the hut & started packing up. By 7:30 A.M. we saw the first people. Then a couple showed up & we chatted for a while before heading out. We dropped down the pass and quickly traversed a part of Helen to our desolate lake. And… no camping was established there. Definitely a rocky mess, so Rogue and I cleaned up a spot that was halfway decent & we decided to cowboy camp. Should be a beautiful night with a gorgeous display of stars including the Milky Way. The scenery is majestic with an impossibly blue Helen Lake below the proud Black Giant & bits of the Black Divide. The Palisades loom in the near distance. And fortunately not too many mosquitoes at all. After emptying our packs we headed up to climb Fiske. Overall a better climb than Warlow but still some loose nasty rock & massive moraine piles that had mines scattered throughout. Fortunately the route never got technical & the summit was gorgeous without a cloud in the sky. And we had a register to sign. Climbing down was tedious but manageable & then we had to wait for some shade as the sun sets, since there literally is none anywhere to be found. Tomorrow is the day we get a break from climbing peaks as the last 5 days were continues peak days. Back on the JMT for the next 2 days.

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