TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

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kpeter
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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by kpeter » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:48 pm

Thanks for posting and letting others know of the difficulties of October hiking.

In August I did almost exactly the same route--to begin with. Also camping at Kearsarge, also camping about 11100 or 11200 north of Forester, also camping at Tyndall Creek. I recognized all the spots from your very nice photography.
http://highsierratopix.com/community/vi ... ge#p138998
I also had to cut days shorter than I wanted to--like you I camped north of Forester because of a storm. But I was able to continue on since I did not have the extreme cold, and I had a device to signal changes in plans if I decided to stay in longer.

If I were a relative newcomer to the SIerra and I read your trip report, here are some lessons I might take away:
1) It is easy to overestimate the distances you can hike when not accounting for the effects of elevation, weather, and lack of daylight on your pace.
2) Constant cold is a big psychological problem. Having enough clothing (even two sleeping bags!) will keep you alive but it might not make for a pleasant trip when it gets and stays cold constantly.
3) My decision to take a device to signal home for changes in plans is reinforced. Having to get out by a certain day to avoid causing a panic can put pressure on decision making.
4) Flexibility and having an early exit plan are very very good ideas.
5) October photography can be very beautiful.
6) Shepherd Pass is not high on my list of trails to hike.

You are mostly correct, by the way, about the "Elk" carcasses--but did get the species wrong. There is another thread on this site that explains what happened--and also on Bishop Pass.
http://highsierratopix.com/community/vi ... ath+bishop
https://sierrabighorn.blogspot.com/2017 ... ref=fb&m=1
Herds of deer attempted to cross the passes when they were filled with snow unseasonably late due to the prior big winter, and they slipped and died on the rocks below. More than 40 deaths on Shepherd Pass and more than 70 in Bishop Pass. These mass deer kills are a phenomenon that has repeated a few times over the decades under exactly the wrong conditions. Those deer had been dead for about one year when you came across them.

All in all, your post shows a very healthy attitude and a lot of resilience. You appear to have had a beautiful trip despite the cold and the change in plans. And you are right to be proud of that night photo of Kearsarge Lakes!








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sekihiker
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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by sekihiker » Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:56 pm

I've got to remind myself to read this report again in the middle of a hot, Fresno day. It chilled me to the bone.
Great photos.

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tahoefoothills
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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by tahoefoothills » Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:34 am

Great, great photos!! I did your first proposed route (via East Lake and over Harrison Pass) in October 2014 on a two-and-a-half day, two night trip in October 2014. I was not comfortable going up and over Harrison Pass.

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by Jason » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:21 am

That was a great trip report! I enjoyed reading it, thanks for taking the time to post it. I remember reading about those animals, and if I recall correctly, the thought was that the deer were migrating and had slipped on ice and had all fallen to their deaths.

Here's a link to a thread on this site:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=17295&p=129927&hili ... ss#p129927

Thanks again for the great report.

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:51 pm

Winter conditions really require winter-specific gear. Simply doubling up summer gear does not always do the trick. Wind chill is a big factor in anything you wear. Those down jackets provide insulation, but not necessarily wind protection. However, that furry hat that one of you wore IS great winter headgear! Did you have any problems with your cameras freezing? In those conditions I usually have to sleep with my camera so I can take AM photos. I have been out when it got to -40F one night. We were inside a winter mountaineering tent and a winter-specific sleeping bag rated to -20. The tent itself added 10-15degree warmth. Lots of little tricks you can do to help you stay warm. I was fortunate to learn these from some real winter experts and all my equipment was provided.

Shoulder season is always hard because most of us do not have a lot of winter specific gear and as you found out, doubling summer gear makes the pack really heavy and does not actually double the warmth. Limited daylight adds to the total hours that you have to handle cold; once the sun leaves or you fall into shadows the temperature drops quickly. But as your photos show, it is a beautiful time of year with crystal clear skies. You have learned a lot and will have lots of good memories from the trip. I am glad everything turned out OK.

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by dbogey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:43 am

Liked your TR and the pics were very good. As a photog, I'm always looking to see what others have taken on their trips. Just picked up Nikon Z6, used the d810 previously. You mentioned you brought a few lenses but didn't see them on your spreadsheet. I'm heading up Shepherds pass mid-August w/my daughter and I'm trying to figure the camera gear that I want to haul.
Just another day in paradise

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by balance » Sat Apr 20, 2019 10:27 am

Thank you kharring

That's a great trip report. Not only spectacular photos, but you well describe the sense of what you were going through. No doubt you earned some good experience about mileage and gear. You guys were resilient and things turned out okay.

Leaving yourself subject to a deadline emergency call that was predetermined might seem safe, but it can set up pressure to do things which might not fit the situation which you encounter in the high country.

Again, thanks to you and your friends for taking us on your journey.

Peace

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by Harlen » Sat Apr 20, 2019 12:29 pm

Thanks for the great TR! Your skill with the graphics leaves me impressed, and baffled as a guy who can best describe my routes by scratching with a stick in the dirt. Some of your photos are real stunners- e.g., that shot as you near the top of Forester, and of course your own favorite from Kearsarge Pass down valley at the Pinnacles. Thank you for those images made with a real camera.

I think you will get some good advice on how to lessen weight, though I myself am just now beginning to get more serious about pack weight. But for example, I just returned from a six day ski tour- South Lake to North Lake, and carried just 42lbs. with crampons, ice-axe, 5 lbs climbing rope and gear. Your camera stuff was worth the weight though, as you will see from my images from a $50.00 pocket camera. I must say, you ate a lot of food! I seem to need less and less and less food to get around- are dried up old bodies so much more efficient?

Great Trip, and welcome to HST Kharring and friends. We look forward to your next epic.

p.s. Though there are transplanted Tule elk in the Eastern Sierra, those poor animals were more likely deer that were caught in a slide.

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by rightstar76 » Sun Apr 21, 2019 1:48 am

Interesting how what seemed to be the beginning of winter last October turned out to be a false start. I was watching a YT video of someone's trip to SEKI in November during the fires. It was amazing to see how dry and snow free everything was. What a change from the first week of October when it snowed.

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Re: TR: Southern JMT on the brink of winter, October 2018

Post by Harlen » Sun Apr 21, 2019 3:48 pm

You're right rightstar. I experienced the same rough weather as Kharring and friends in October, and like you, thought we were set for an early onset of winter. Here's was part of my Oct 2018 TR:
I was caught in a full day of rain Tuesday, then light hail-snow of Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 3rd, and then the 4” dumping of wet snow later that same night.... It dawned calm and clear, and I decided to go ahead with my high route. ... and everything worked out beautifully.
100_0383.jpg
Here's the morning after the snow of Oct. 3 from on top of Colby Pass.

100_0523.jpg
Later along the High Route, Triple Divide Peak with the cloud on it.


The winter has turned into a winner though hasn't it? the Tuolumne rangers recorded record February snowfall of 191", beating out the 1998 Feb.record of 174". And this February also had a record for average cold temp: 16.8 degrees vs the former records 19.3 (*Tuolumne station data).

I think this is going to be a great year for spring ski travels!
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