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Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

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Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby drhabes » Mon Aug 09, 2010 11:00 am

Well it has been over 2 weeks since I left the Whitney area and I already feel its tug and a desire to get back up there! What an amazing adventure we had during those incredible 7 days in the Sierra's! To say that our trip was epic would be an understatement. It was fun, scary and beautiful all at the same time. This was my fourth time up the mountain but the first time we would approach it from the north. It's hard to explain to people (especially my wife) why we plan and prepare so hard for these types of trips. There is something to be said about leaving "no stone unturned" when it comes to coordinating an adventure of this magnitude in the wilderness. Although it wasn't the entire JMT, it still takes a lot of work to pull off a trip like this. We are a guest, a traveler through God's magnificent handiwork where we have the pleasure of enjoying this landscape in its natural and pristine state. What an amazing opportunity we all have in exploring its true beauty and grandeur!

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After months of planning and more planning (maps, GPS co-ordinates, food selection, route finding, camp selection and training hikes) we were off for the trip of a lifetime! I had selected this route to complete my quest to finish the southern section of the JMT. Hopefully over the next two years I will be able to complete the trail in it's entirely! My son and I met up with the rest of the group (7 of us this time around) at Onion Valley on Saturday, July 17th. After months of planning we actually were getting the opportunity to set foot on the trail! The first day found us hiking over Kearsarge Pass and it gave me a good indication of the degree of difficulty this trip would present. :( While the rest of the group made it over the pass uneventfully, my friend Dean and I got caught in a moderate hail, rain and lightening storm at the 11,500 ft. level on Kearsarge. What a way to start off our trip! (Click the picture - see the video)

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It finally cleared and we proceeded to make our way to our first night's destination - Kearsarge Lakes. It is always an amazing transformation to embed yourself into the Sierra's where you seem to enter a different world...one where time slows down and life is simpler.

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Caught some great fish the next day out of the lake. Got a late start up to the lakes before Forester Pass and got stopped by another late afternoon thunderstorm at Upper Vidette Meadow.

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We had an emergency stop here for the night which put us already behind a day at this point. Man, the mosquitoes were fierce!! I know it was early in the hiking season but I didn't expect the onslaught and the tenacity of these critters!

The next day, Monday July 19th, we headed up to the Lake 12259 below Forester Pass. Bubb's Creek was blasting! (Click the picture - see the video)

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River crossings for the most part were manageable but still required your attention. There were MANY of them on this trip! Check out the one at Bubb's Creek: (Click the picture - see the video)

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We worked our way up to just below Forester Pass although we stopped a lake short of our intended camp for the day. As night fell we all settled in for a good night's sleep for tomorrow's trek up to Forester Pass.

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This day would be extraordinary by any standards. I was told by a number of JMT thru hikers that this would be the hardest pass to get over in this above normal snow year. They said that other passes had more snow (Muir with 6 miles of total snow coverage) but that Forester would be a challenge. They weren't kidding. Our novice group of hikers with years of hiking experience but little in the way of snow travel would be pushed to the max. There was basically no trail that wasn't covered in snow up high. I'm sure this has changed as I write this since its been over 2 weeks since we did Forester but it was an amazing adventure to say the least! If you check out this GPS track (red) I made of our route to the top you can see that we went much higher than the actual trail(blue):
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Traveling through the snow field: (Click the picture - see the video)
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We all made up and over the snow and rocks and then raced down the back side to get to Tyndall Creek as fast as possible. there still was a few snow bridges to negotiate but nothing of consequence.
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Wednesday would be another epic day on our journey. My son Brandon had picked up a parasite before we started our trip and wasn't feeling all that great so my friend and I decided to hike him out early by taking the Shepard Pass trail. This turned out to be a big mistake. We negotiated Tyndall Creek which was running high and fast and headed up the trail we thought would get us out by Wednesday afternoon. After stopping at the top of Shepard we rounded the corner and saw this:

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Yikes! Moosie, how the heck did you do this on your trip over the 4th? Are those your tracks across the snow? Did you down climb this snow field? We definitely didn't have the skill set to try this even though we had Micro Spikes with us which we had used the day before. We turned around and went all the way back! A 7 mile mistake! We then had to try and catch up with our group who had our food! What a mess. Lesson to be learned here. ALWAYS plan for the worst and NEVER assume anything! My friend Robert caught up with the group but Brandon and I did not. We hiked without food and little water. About the time I reached Wallace Creek I was done for the day. Fortunately BSA Troop 853 from Fairfield, CA was there and true to the scout slogan "Do a Good Turn Daily" they took us in, fed us and gave us some pumped water! Amazing!

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We were really lucky to run into these guys on their layover day!

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Brandon and I got up early the next morning and caught up with our group, had breakfast at Crabtree Meadows and then hiked up to the tarn above Guitar Lake. Here are a couple of pictures along the way:

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We got to bed early for our of last night on the mountain.
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Our last day started at 3am and we were on the trail by 4:15am. We worked our way up the backside of Whitney on a beautiful morning:

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We reached Trail Junction around 6:45am. Brandon and I decided that we had already reached the summit 3 times before and since we were a whole day behind schedule we had just better hike up and over and get down to the portal. I knew that my wife would be worried if we didn't get home ASAP! Our hike down the switchers were uneventful. I never have been hiking down at this time of the morning so it was fun to talk to all those day hikers who were coming up! There were some amazing views on the way down:

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We were off the trail by 2pm and were served a real treat by Earlene and the staff at the Portal Store!

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An amazing trip and an amazing adventure! No wonder all of you love coming back up here year after year. It was an experience I will always remember. :)

The rest of the pictures and videos are here: http://drhabes.smugmug.com/Backpacking/ ... 8907_7J3AA

PS You might want to view the videos in the IPod/DVD setting on the upper left corner of the video.



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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:16 pm

Hi Drhabes

Cool TR and, a lot of great pic's, especially the Hitchcock Lakes Pano.
PM sent.
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby TahoeJeff » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:51 pm

I usually only read fishing related reports (narrow minded I know) but I was drawn to this report. It is outstanding! Great narrative, pictures and videos; all combined really made me feel like I was there.
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby Crawler » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:51 pm

Sounds like an epic trip indeed! Thanks for the great TR & pics.
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby sierranomad » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:00 pm

Really enjoyed your TR and images. Really well done. Thanks for posting.
Jon

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:30 am

Thanks for the pics - motivational! I'll be up there the last week of August - hopefully with less snow. We're coming out at New Army or Horseshoe instead of the Portal, tho. Beautiful shots. :)
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby copeg » Tue Aug 10, 2010 7:03 am

Nice, thanks for sharing!
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Re: Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney - July 17-22, 2010

Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:41 pm

Thanks for the report. It reminded me of when we did that section. Beautiful country. Bummer about turning back on Shepherd Pass. The snow really isn't that bad, at least not the times I went over it. Overall looks like a good trip! :nod:
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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