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(Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

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(Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:38 pm

It's early in the season and I'm yearning for the high country. I won't be able to get up there this year until August, so I find myself daydreaming about last year's 14 day hike. It was my son Andrew's first real backpacking experience. We were hiking with my brother Van, who flew into Reno from North Carolina. Andrew and I drove down from Portland, picked Van up at the Reno airport on August 17, then high-tailed it to Bishop to pick up our wilderness permit. We camped that night at the trailhead. Our plan was to hike in from Horseshoe Meadow, over New Army Pass, down to Rock Creek, up Miter Basin and over Crabtree Pass, then loop around into Kaweah Basin, over Colby Pass, over Longley Pass, over Harrison Pass, down to Tyndall Creek, up to Wallace Lakes, then out via Russell-Carillon Col and Whitney Portal. I favor long, "immersive" backpacking trips, which give me time to get rid of the city crud and savor the wilderness.

With 14 days of food on our backs, we took it easy the first few days. I wanted to make sure Andrew had a great experience, and we went to great lengths to keep his pack weight down to less than 30 pounds. He was carrying my antique North Face external frame pack, a veteran of many, many expeditions. Brother Van, as always, carried lots of camera gear and a bounty of delicious meals, which translated into a very heavy pack -- close to 70 lbs. My food and gear was much more spartan, weighing in at less than 50 pounds.

Here we are at the trailhead:

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On the 19th we hiked into Cottonwood Lakes and found the place to ourselves. Here are some photos of the area:

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On the 20th, we hiked over New Army Pass and then down to Soldier Lakes. The weather was perfect. This was Andrew's first High Sierra Pass.

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Soldier Lake

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The next day we hiked over the ridge separating Soldier Lake from Rock Creek, then headed up to Miter Basin. This is one of my favorite spots in the Sierras.

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We camped at Sky Blue Lake.

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After dark, we watched a group of hikers making there way down from Crabtree Pass, their headlamps showing their progress. They got stuck briefly in the cliffs above Sky Blue Lake, but eventually made it down to the side of the lake opposite us, and made their camp there.

The next morning, the 22nd, we headed up to Crabtree Pass. It was another crystal clear morning and we felt like a million dollars.

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A water break on the way up, looking back at Sky Blue Lake:

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Working our way up to Crabtree Pass:

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. . . and finally, on top of the pass.

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The northern side of the pass is steep and loose, but hikers over the years have established what amounts to a series of loosely connected switchbacks, making the way down fairly easy.

Here is what the pass looks like from the highest of the Crabtree Lakes, with the yellow line pointing to the pass itself:

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We camped just above the middle Crabtree Lake. A thunderstorm was brewing, but we only got a few sprinkles and then a beautiful light show.

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The clouds lifted, and like always, we slept out in the open and woke up to an exquisite morning.

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Saturday the 23rd was a long day by our standards, as we headed down to Crabtree Meadow, hooking up with the John Muir Trail and making our way to the Wallace Creek junction, then down to Junction Meadow. By days end, we were pooped and our knees were sore.

Whitney junction:

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Looking across the Kern trench to the Kaweahs:

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Tomorrow's destination:

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On Sunday the 24th, we crossed the river (water was low and the crossing was easy) and headed up the Colby Pass Trail.

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We walked a little ways beyond Rockslide Lake, then crossed the creek and worked our way up the steep shoulder of Picket Guard Peak.

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Finally, we reached the bench overlooking Picket Guard lake:

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This lake has a terrific campsite and is very photogenic.

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Time for a swim!

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Then a storm brewed up . . .

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Followed by some alpenglow . . .

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Part Two to follow -- into Kaweah Basin



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Mike M.
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby copeg » Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:45 pm

Certainly is delayed...but better late than never!!! Sweeet. "Picket Guard Lake" has gotta be ranked up there as one of my favorite lakes. Looking forward to part II
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby hikerduane » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:43 pm

Wow, what a trip. I'm slowing working the country over down south.
Piece of cake.
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby Shawn » Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:06 pm

Great report and I really enjoyed the photos!
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:28 am

Excellent report, and amazing pics. Sounds like Andrew had a great adventure for his first trip.
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:12 am

Thanks for the TR and the pic's.
Don't you just love Picket Creek Lake with its perfect camping under the trees, perfect
size swimming hole, and the views toward the Whitney area are to die for.
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:41 am

Mike,
The rainbow hitting Picket Guard Lake is great. I'm impressed that you can still drag 14 days worth of vittles into the backcountry. My wife & I cannot fit more than ~12 days worth of food (let alone lip balm and sunscreen) into our two Bearikades, and even if we could, I doubt I could carry much more than that. Still, I'm with you on the benefits of long stints in the backcountry. If it takes you that long to purge Portland, imagine us poor slobs from LALAland.
CG
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby Mike M. » Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:42 pm

CG -- I have the packing down to a science. I do not take freeze dried food, but instead buy everything at the grocery store and then repackage it in plastic bags with metal ties. Dinners are noodle dishes like macaroni & cheeze, noodles romanoff, hearty soups, top ramen, etc. Breakfasts are fig bars and instant breakfast mixes. (I take a lot of dried milk.) Lunches consist of trail mix, cheese, crackers, salamie, beef jerky, etc. I also take lots of lemonade mix. The other secret is to avoid unnecessary equipment. I have a 4 lb. down sleeping bag good for zero degrees; a very lightweight poncho (8 ounces); a closed cell sleeping pad that weighs much less than the heavy and often unreliable Thermarest type; an old Kelty external frame pack (a behemoth!) that weighs less then most internal frame packs and can pack a big load comfortably; and an MSR PocketRocket stove that weighs less than 4 ounces (full fuel canisters weigh 8 oz; I use about 1 1/2 canisters every 14 days). I also have a mid capacity Bearicade which honestly can hold only a few days food. I would have to pack three bear canisters to hold everything and that is not realistic. Finally, I only carry a plastic tube tent, which over the years has proven more then adequate in even the most foul Sierra weather. The tube tent weighs in just under one pound. I rarely have to use it, preferring to sleep out in the open if I can.

In the old days, when I had more free time, I would regularly take off with 21 days food on my back. The most I ever carried was 25 days -- that was one heavy pack!

Mike
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jul 01, 2009 5:47 pm

Hi Mike,
My wife won't go sans tent (but she also prefers early/late season when the risk of serious storms is higher than August). But on rare solos, or when I take trips with "the boys" it's au naturel and the weight savings is decisive. Still, I think that we'd have to do some serious shimmying to get more than 12 days worth of food/cosmetics into the bear cans. However, you've certainly given me a target!
CG
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby MountainMinstrel » Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:35 pm

cgundersen wrote:Hi Mike,
Still, I think that we'd have to do some serious shimmying to get more than 12 days worth of food/cosmetics into the bear cans. However, you've certainly given me a target!
CG


CG, it's easy.

Mike M. wrote:CG -- I have the packing down to a science... I also have a mid capacity Bearicade which honestly can hold only a few days food. I would have to pack three bear canisters to hold everything and that is not realistic.
Mike


All you have to do is ignore regulations.

I can easily pack 9 days worth of food into a BV500 and I could go to 11 without the 750ML of 151 (though I would not want to). To go without using a canister in our part of the Sierra is taking a large risk that you will both loose your food and get a very large fine. "Violations of any of these laws can result in fines of up to $5000 and six months imprisonment." (SEKI's Minimum Impact Regulations http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/camp_bc.htm), and from Yossemite's site http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm, "Improper food storage and feeding of wildlife may result in a fine (up to $5,000)."

It does not seem worth the risk to me.
Just an old musician who loves the Mountains.
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby Mike M. » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:48 pm

Mountain Minstrel, obviously I'm aware of the regulations, but for the kind of hiking I like to do, multiple canisters are weight prohibitive. Thankfully, backcountry rangers are much more forgiving -- and less judgmental -- than you. They realize long distance hikers cannot reasonably carry enough canisters to hold two+ weeks of food. As one current backcountry ranger has written in this forum:

Also, it's pretty standard, especially for Kearsarge, for hikers to have overflow. All of the backcountry rangers have been OK with that. It does happen occasionally, though, that you run into a non-backcountry ranger who takes a stricter view of things.

So the short answer is go ahead, but at least have one canister to show good faith.


I try to show good faith by carrying a canister and placing my most bear-enticing food in it, and I am careful to hang the rest of the food or store it in bear boxes that can be found in numerous areas throughout SEKI. Indeed, in certain areas of the park, the only safe place for food storage is in these food lockers. I was hiking through Vidette Meadows a few years back and came across an elderly hiker who had been attacked by a bear near lower Vidette Meadows. The bear was attempting to open his food canister and wasn't about to be deterred by this human trying to scare him away from it. My personal opinion is that this bear should be put down.


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MM, this might be a good topic for you to bring up in a separate post. It is a highly contentious issue for many hikers, similar to the debate about the need to filter water.

P.S. -- you are a better packer than me if you can fit 9 days food in one canister!
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Re: (Long Delayed) Trip Report -- August 2008 -- Miter Basin etc

Postby MountainMinstrel » Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:00 pm

Forgive me if I came across as judgmental (unintentional I assure you). I was only pointing out that should a bear get your food you could be on the hook for a bunch of cash. HYOH, I myself am still too paranoid of "the Man" to risk it.
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