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Your "Trip from Hell"

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Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:03 pm

So what trip did you go on in your long or short backpacking career that in that moment
you asked yourself "what the hell am I doing here" or "am I going to make it out of
here" question.
Was it bushwacking, stuck on a cliff, above you abilities on a glacier?
Several years back while in western Yosemite I was hiking up Kendrick Canyon which in
itself would make some ask these question, especially if you try to power yourself through
the bush next to the river.
I finally made it to the shore of Edith Lake and made a crazy decision to climb the ridge
because I was determined to get to Barrett & Spotted Fawn Lakes.
Things started okay, but as I got higher up on the ridge the manzanita got thicker and
I tried to step on top of the bushes but then if was difficult to maintain any balance, but
the branches lower down were slippery, the bush was very thick, and cutting my shins.
It took hours to move a few hundred feet, and there was no water.
The worse thing was that the pollen was so thick that every time I stepped on a bush it
filled the air.
My clothes, face, nose, and mouth was full of it, and it was really making me thirsty
and green (incredible hulk kind of green).
Finally after 2 1/2-3 hours later I finally made it to the top and ran down to nearest
water source and drank a copious amounts of water.
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:25 am

Nice subject. Although backpacking is an overwhelmingly positive experience, most of us have some epic memories of a "trip from hell" or more. It is interesting that my no.1 also comes from the "Bermuda Triangle" of Kendrick Creek.

On Memorial Day weekend 1986 and my buddy and I failed to get under the quota to go to Edyth via Hetch Hetchy, so we decided to try it out of Cherry Lake. The true adventure started after leaving the Kibbie trail upon crossing (very marginal) Kibbie Creek. One of the best blind route finding jobs I ever did hit a series of blind shelves on descent into the main canyon to the north side of Kendrick Creek. The swollen waters of Kendrick Creek ruled out any thought of crossing to the easier S. side. We followed bear trails through the some of the brush thickets but others we just had to fight. Our snack food was meager, on purpose, owing to a false urban legend we had heard that Yosemite's problem bears were airlifted into this drainage and released (more later). The Bartlett Creek crossing proved quite intimidating and very very marginal, but we forged on, now totally drenched again after barely drying out from the Kibbie crossing. We came to the a spot below the Kendrick Creek lakes where we thought we were pinched against the creek and had to ascend a very neat granite ramp above the creek before reaching L 5680 where we camped. So far, so good, but we pitched camp in brush given there wasn't anything close to a cleared flat spot. We did see what appeared to be an old fire ring, long since overgrown with brush. Folks don't do the north side of Kendrick. The numerous rising fish in 5680 were mostly out of my casting range--I scored but one 10-incher which would prove to be my only fish of this ordeal.

The crux opened up day 2. Pinched by the stream against cliffs, a 400-foot-high brush-choked gully represented the only feasible route to close the deal and reach Edyth. We warmed up on approach by hopping garage sized granite boulders than plunged into the gully, which promptly swallowed us. It took something like 2 hours (or 3?) for two really strong backpackers to surmount this horrid thing. At one point, I had breathed in so much dry leaf fragments and pollen (see Maverick's post above) that I coughed and wheezed. Sweat poured, clothing ripped, and blood ran. The steepness of this gully at times required using the brush to pull us up while the branches conspired to push us down and entangle our packs, clothing, and limbs. We emerged from the gully to the highlight of the entire trip. Open granite slabs and a view of the huge waterfall upstream of Edyth as well as the towering cliffs of the S. face of Nance Peak--a feeling of wildness I have never experienced in the Sierra (the return to Edyth, 6 years later followed the "tame" S. side). We strolled across the pleasant slabs and then dropped to Edyth where I found any access to fishing cut off by an extensive flooded area, sheer cliffs, or the raging outlet (Kendrick Creek). No fishing after all that effort. Bummer. I took off my pack, then untied my tent and flung it to a nice flat spot beneath a big pine to pitch the tent. There I found the largest rattlesnake I've ever seen (in or out of the Sierra). Given our hunger (note the snack food shortage above) and the lack of any prospect of a fish dinner we regarded the big snake with an odd mix of fear and hunger. Fear won, fortunately for the snake, and my buddy and I relocated our camp out of the woods to the granite slabs downstream.

Day 3 opened with a repeat of the "death gully"--we now resolved to bail all the way out. Although one always finds descending brush easier than ascending we did have one spectacular move when we found ourselves stopped by a cliff step. We found that we would do a "Tarzan move" with the brush and swing out over the cliff step to the bottom. After that things went fairly well, for awhile. We hit Bartlett Creek much earlier in the day, so it didn't have nearly the scary volume it had on the way in, although I recall my buddy mangled one of his toes on this crossing that he chose to do barefoot to avoid flooding the boots again. Then came the climb out of the canyon. In theory route finding going out (ascending) shouldn't have been as hard as going in (blind descent), but perhaps fatigue compromised my Obi Wan Kenobi route finding (then as now: topo only) and I guided us 800' higher than necessary to the rim. Although not really a big deal, this totally demoralized us. Although nothing but easy descent awaited us, our legs failed to move. We really had hit the wall, no doubt owing to the (by now) total lack of snack food. Our bodies demanded a halt, so we took a short nap, then, fired pulled out our stove and ate some leftover dinner and breakfast food: oatmeal and Top Ramen (not mixed together, though). Suitably recharged we blasted our way back to the car. The only remaining wake up call came when I sort of forgot about the last sharp turn below the truly wiggly part of Priest Grade. The squealing of my tires there assured that I'd be totally alert on my drive back to Davis, in spite of my fatigue.

My 2nd worst trip:
The May 1986 Edyth trip eclipsed a 1977 trip to Mt. Goddard over Haeckel Col that my dad and I always referred to as THE death march, certainly worthy as "honorable mention" in my catalog of death marches. A knee injury left in the worst shape I've ever been in for a major backpacking trip. Not having done any of the crest-crossing passes to Evolution (years before I did Lamarck Col for first time) I chose the "direct" approach, not realizing the ease of passage afforded by Lamarck. My lousy conditioning left me in such bad shape that I fell asleep while my dad took photos above Hungry Packer Lake (classic spot) just before climbing into the bowl below the col. I was running on fumes by the time we reached the crest, the final pitch of which we found spectacularly steep (class 3--photos recently posted by others on another thread). My dad quickly spidered over the last pitch then sat down on top. The rock sort of overhangs the ledges so you have to lean out backwards when carrying a big external frame pack of the sort we had. My dad's failure to move from the top made this situation all the more awkward. "Dad, could you move?" I asked. He looked down with a sympathetic glance and replied "I CAN'T". To this day that is one of the most demoralizing moments I've ever had backpacking--(probably tied for no.1 with coming out 800' too high on the canyon rim on day 3 of Edyth above). I envisioned a class 2 talus slope on the west side. I instantly understood the meaning of my dad's reply. A steep class 3 downclimb awaited beyond my dad, then a bit of talus then a chute, then a class 3 step in the chute before more class 2 talus to the shore of the lake E of Sapphire. With the sun down, we took off our packs and curled our sleeping bags between some talus blocks to sleep. I'm guessing we reached the shores of this unnamed lake at about 8 pm or so. I suppose we may have taken out the stoves an eaten something, but my extreme fatigue erased some of that memory, I guess.

Day 2 began with a joyous tromp down to Sapphire, where we dropped our packs, donned our rucksacks and headed up Wanda Pass to do the long sidehill and ridge traverse to Goddard (another error in planning on my part, I think)--- What an extended, wretched traverse on large crummy talus we found (only respite came when we decided to follow the narrow ridge top--much better). At one point by dad took a hard fall and slammed his hip into the rocks. I believe this resulted in an injury that eventually shut down his backpacking days 15 years later. In any case he forged on and I dropped steadily further behind. My dad shouted encouragement to me as he trudged up the final cone of the peak--a tiny black speck in the distance. We had little time for celebration upon my arrival at the summit. Sign the register and go, for daylight was fading fast. Total darkness hit us upon reaching Wanda Lake. Here I pulled big demoralizing moment no. 2 of the trip when I mistakenly followed a peninsula out into the lake thinking I had reached the outlet side. After correcting this I then relied on my (then) superb night vision to pick up the surprisingly faint tread of the JMT back to Sapphire, where we arrived at about 10 pm. I conked out almost instantly and my dad had to wake me to give me some food he had cooked up on the stove. Our retreat to Sabrina after days 1 and 2 proved much easier ( we actually lowered our packs on ropes over the east side drop off), but the first part of the trip remained my standard for high country misery until the 1986 trip.

3rd place for me would be my "Mordor I" trip of 2002 (Tableland, Glacier Ridge, Colby, Triple Divide, et al.), but that trip featured many more pleasant moments than the 1977 and 1986 trips and my suffering was mainly brought on by starting the trip with a bad cold and having boots that didn't fit after their 3rd resole--over half of the surfaces of both feet were blistered or raw by the end of day 2 of 8.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby ndwoods » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:23 pm

Lake of the Island in the Marble Mountains!
I've lots of close calls, too much snow and ice, bushwacking etc, but this one tops the list.
Think of the huge stepping stone stairway going up half dome...now picture that going for MILES! And, picture that going for miles with intermittent brush...man was I tired when I got to the lake finally. Oh and did I mention we took our 2 young kids on that one?:)
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby rlown » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:34 pm


Emigrant wilderness in August. Still lots of snow. We were dropped off at Gianelli cabin. All was well until we hit white sides meadow, and I had no hat. Dumb mistake. I had to do a Monty Python handkerchief tie to cover my head. It didn't help my eyes or my sunburn. We made it to wire, even though a little snow-blind, as there was 8" of snow still across the meadow, and 6' berms of snow in the trees on the trail.

We were so burned by middle wire, that we camped for 2 days, and were starting to run low on food. Then came the walk out. across two rivers. That was fun.. had to divert upstream to find a place we could lock arms and go across. I found the horse person's comment to be very cute.. "you're gonna get wet".. we looked up, and no clouds. :eek: Water was at least crotch deep, and with pack, that wasn't the best experience.

we bivvied up, but the mosquitoes were fierce, and we both ended up with bites across our foreheads. still not sure why we didn't pull out the tent, but on a bench after a river crossing, who knows, oh wait, it was in the 80's, temp wise, and we thought it would be cooler w/o it ](*,) . then, a stellar 12 mile hike out where my right knee's outside tendon started to rasp. caused my left leg to change position, and i could not stop. If i stopped, the knee would tighten up into a really nasty pain.

We had to wait in the Pinecrest campground until our ride came to pick us up.

I couldn't walk up or down stairs for 2 weeks w/o holding onto the railing.

Still, I wanna go back.

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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby Trailguru » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:33 pm

Last year we've decided to climb up Cloudripper from our camp near Fourth Lake in the Big Pine area near the Palisades. As I was heading down from a successful ascent of the the summit, my foot got stuck in the snow from postholing. As I tried strived and twisted to get my foot off the snow I realized that the struggle was draining my energy. I would rest and then try again. After about 15 minutes of struggling to get out of that snow/ice my foot finally came off... albeit without the boot stuck to my foot. YIIKES!!

After another couple of minutes trying to retrieve my boots - at this point it was encased in the slush from the surface had refrozen around the boots - I was completely exhausted. To further aggravate the exhaustion the weather turned REALLY cold with storm clouds coming. I was still high in the mountain ridge and completely drenched and exhausted. At that point I was cussing my decision to ever climb the mountain...
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby balzaccom » Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:55 pm

Mammoth Peak in Yosemite, about 1973. We'd day-hiked out of Tuolumne Meadows and climbed up the southwest side of this mountain. Pretty easy climb, although it was a long walk.

Once on the peak, we realized that we could see Tioga Pass Road right there in front of us--so how hard could it be to get down there?


We started out nicely, then started dropping down refrigerator sized boulders, leaping down 4-6 feet a time...until the rock gave out and we were looking at a very steep snowfield. I eased across this, kicking steps in the snow for about 75 feet. No ropes, no ice axe, and no brains. Finnally made it to the other side, where I waited for my friend to follow in my footsteps.

From there we had another long stretch of those boulders...and finally hacked out way through the brush to get to the highway. It was late, and we decided to hitch-hike back to our car.

We were picked up my a very nice ranger, who expressed considerable astonishment and not a little reproof at our tale.

As we looked back up at the peak, we couldn't believe we had done that. What idiots.

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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:49 am


I can't remember a single "trip from hell" but I suspect a wife and ex-wife that would beg to differ with me. To me difficulties and a little hardship were part of the adventure. Maybe the closest to a trip from hell was a labor day trip my son and I took when he was 9. We had a short hike to our camp, set up and it began to rain. Next day rain and snow mixed with sun. That afternoon Matt said "Dad, maybe we should hike out. I replied, "Lets wait, tomorrow might be better and we can still climb Diamond Peak." Next morning dawned with a couple inches of wet snow. We packed up and headed home.


Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:12 am

I am an obsessive planner, so I have never had a trip from hell, but I have had a few "days from hell". I like to call those days that I should have just stayed in the bag and napped, for all I actually accomplished. I agree with Old Ranger- the worst is when as a parent a trip you take your kid on turns bad. You are supposed to protect your children, and here you are exposing them to real danger. They are miserable, they cry, you feel like a jerk and things are so sketchy you wonder if either of you will make it but you dare not show an ounce of fear. My "day from hell" was in the Wind Rivers at the end of an 18-day off-trail trip I took my 17year old daughter on. We came out via Bull Lake canyon. One day we only made 1 mile in 8 hours. A few days before I twisted my ankle. We climbed over huge boulders. Then we came to a cliff striaight into the creek. The creek was melt from a nearby glacier. It was shady and cold in the depths of the canyon. We built a raft from driftwood lashed together with two bungie cords and two sleeping bag straps. We swim the first pack around the cliff. Get out and are blue. Both of us jump into one sleeping bag and shiver for an hour trying to warm up. We swim back for the other pack. This time my daughter had the excellent idea of swiming in our raingear - like wetsuits. It really helped! Another hour to warm up. Now it is noon. Within a few hundred yards we accidently step on a huge ant nest. Huge black ants crawl all over us. We strip down, jump into the creek. Soon we get so stopped by willows that we literally take off our packs and throw them over the top and crawl behind. It is 3PM. We have not even gone a mile. We come to another cliff. I traverse it. My daughter freaks out and sits down and bawls. She hates rock climbing. So we string together bungie cords and pack straps and lower our packs down ledges. It takes an hour to talk her down the ledges. Then we are at an impossible crossing of rushing water above a waterfall. I quietly freak out to myself. My daughter, who hates rock climbing, is better then me at water crossings. She just starts across and makes it! I cross. It is dusk. We are exhausted so set up camp and cook dinner. What a day. When we started down this canyon I told her we could always bail out up the the rim trail. Not true. We had passed our bail-out point two days earlier. Thankfully stuff got easier the next day. Back at school in the fall, I am sure her essay on "what I did this summer" started off: " my mother tried to kill me. "
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby markskor » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:32 am

Two “hell adventures" come to mind -

First - Yosemite - 20 miles in, a few years back.

I was solo, as usual, but met a few compatible trail fools so we shared/fished an alpine lake for a few days.
One night, one of the clowns (It was his turn) must have botched the job of re-hanging the food bags; (all he had to do was hoist them up the line) - guess he did a bad job of it. (Oh, Did I mention the rains? - 2 days) - It was about to come down heavy.
Middle of the night, right before it started pouring, a bear ambled through and somehow snagged the food bags, taking two out of three - leaving us only one big bag, basically full of peanuts/raisins/ gorp mix...all the food we had left.

Anyway, it turned out that none of the others had packed a tent so we all (3) piled into mine (a 2-man), trying to stay dry, playing cards/pigs for hours, subsequently dining on only peanuts and raisins.
Second day the torrential rains continued on heavier and turns out, peanuts and raisins do a thing to the body - really tear up the gastro-intestinal track...lot of wind - (horrendous flatulence) -
To be truthful I was the worst offender - epic ground huggers!
After one fierce personal episode, we all voted and it was unanimous...We threw me out of my own tent, but admittedly, I was relieved to breath again, and was quite surprised that anyone lived through the methane clouds. Worse was that we ran out of TP too.

I eventually packed up wet, left my tent with the two others (it was now thrashed anyway), and hiked out the 20 miles hungry.
Good times, but cannot look at a raisin anymore.

Second “adventure” was when I was down in Yosemite Valley, late August, had just finished the Muir and had a few days to kill before my ride showed. Since Yosemite falls were now dry, and tired of the crowds, I decided to go up and visit the base of the big falls as I had heard there might be some good fishing holes seldom visited back there, off trail and about 1000 feet above the Valley floor. (FYI – It is true about the fishing holes, but that story will have to wait for another day). Anyway, I set up camp in a nice sand-bottom “cave”, under a large rock near the base of the big falls and merrily fished away the evening.
Unbeknownst to me, as I could not see north from my vantage point – (3000-foot canyon walls), a surprise storm had blown in – heard that the rain in Tuolumne had came down in buckets at dusk. Sometime about 9:00 PM, the big falls came alive/ opened up and there I was, under that big rock with tons of water cascading down over me. Long night trapped there…cold and miserable…next morning my sleeping bag weighed in around 10 pounds…Good times though.
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Re: Your "Trip from Hell"

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:51 pm

I either live a charmed life or play things very safe - I only have one really terrible trip to my name.

My first backpack trip in years, decades, after detouring through many office jobs and various other distractions - I had been dayhiking some and accumulated gear, without the help of forums. I had read some various reviews and ordered gear and picked some up at local stores, and decided it was time. I was all happy to have a new pair of trail runners, a new pack, and had just finished sewing up my Ray Way quilt. Off to Big Sur.

I had chosen Sykes Hot Springs, and in a great unresearched stroke of brilliance, chosen spring break to do it. At least it was the tail end of break and they were all heading out. The crazy array of Jansport bookbag packs, yoga mats and CCF pads and bamboo mats, hiking in flipflops - I was all very smug hiking along in my official backpacking gear for 10 miles, up and down, up and down... until I got into the final canyon at the Little Sur River, and faced my very first river crossing. The sun was well on its way to setting. The bottom of this deep, steep sided canyon was getting colder by the second. I freaked out. I waded right across, soaking my boots and socks, knee deep in very swift water, and reached the other side safely - but at dusk with the temp dropping more. I set up my hammock, pad and quilt, put on my base layer, put my clothes back on, and balked at the wet boots. The temp was still dropping and it registered that my boots were probably going to freeze. Hmmmm. Well, I'll think about it after dinner.

I kicked over my alcohol stove and nearly lit my surroundings on fire boiling my water. Keeping your big clumsy self away from a lit stove, 101.

I noticed after dinner (ugh, not going into details about that particular mistake) and cleaning up (painful using sand and freezing cold water but at least I had the sense to move it away from the river for the actual cleaning) that a couple of guys had lit a fire. So I went down and said hi, and found out they didn't know how to hang a food bag. They had a better tree for doing that so we hung all our stuff on my rope - raccoons, not bears, are the issue - and then sat around their fire while my boots steamed and slowly dried out near it. Eventually I went off to bed.

The hammock worked perfectly and I slept pretty darn good. Until I had to pee at something AM in the morning, and got out in the freezing cold to realize, I had not looked for the box privy we were expected to use before turning in. (The campsites were all of 10 - 20 feet from the river; the bottom of the canyon is very, very narrow. Box privies are dug into the hillsides up from the water.) So I wandered for a bit and found a bush, and just hoped I was the required distance from the river.

I slept til around 8 or so, but the sun hadn't reached the bottom of the canyon and it was colder than cold. I still had not been to the hot springs and thought about it but decided it was just too freaking cold for me to imagine taking off my clothes! I changed clothes and started to take down the hammock.

And at that point I recognized all the brush around the hammock, and under it, was poison oak.

Fortunately, at that point, I didn't manifest an allergy to it, during or following the trip. So that was not part of the misery. Thank goodness.

So I packed up and waded back across - barefoot this time. My toes were blue coming out the other side. But, my socks and boots were dry.

I had a liter of water left. Oh, by the way, I didn't figure I needed a filter for a simple overnight. I hadn't even bought one yet. I'd boiled water from the river. But kicking over the stove had wasted fuel. After breakfast I didn't have any left.

I started back - and at that point my feet started to feel more than just a little sore. The trail runners that didn't really fit me were starting to really rub hard. Limping along, I started to get more and more thirsty, and ran out of water within five miles. Five left to the car. My 30 lb pack felt like it weighed 50 as I crawled over deadfall and walked up some steep hills (later discovered that it was a size too large in addition to overpacked) and my back was starting to feel like I was actually carrying rocks.

I crossed a couple of streams. Dehydrated, I didn't even consider just drinking the water and dealing with it later. I just kept limping. People hiking the other direction were clearly staring - well, yeah, I was crying because my feet were killing me, my back hurt, and I was slowly losing it on the way out. I reached the car and threw everything in, had a few minutes at a water fountain, then continuing my brainless behavior, started to drive home. At a rest area along the way I pulled off to use the restroom and ended up sleeping for half an hour in the car. When I got home, I stumbled in and took a shower - now it was about 10 pm - and discovered that somehow, a tick had managed to make it all the way up my leg and embed itself in such a way that I would have to be double jointed and have eyes in the back of my head to get it out by myself.

The only thing open is the emergency room, and I am still dementing and dehydrated and now thoroughly freaking as I head off to entertain nurses and doctors. They stopped smiling when they couldn't get it out easily. I have a dime sized scar now, from having the thing scalpeled from my - yeah, never mind.

So in one trip I managed to learn:
TICK CHECKS!!!! every night.
If your filter breaks/is absent and your stove is out of fuel and you have no chemicals in reserve, drink the friggin water anyway! or borrow a filter from someone if you're on a busy trail!
Ditto the pack!
Also, to research, plan, and implement in far more rational ways what to do in the event.... because a small amount of research on this trip would have helped immensely. Like knowing what the expected lows would be in March.

Strangely, the things that I have since been told about hammocks being cold and alcohol stoves working poorly in subfreezing temps? Only things that really worked for me were the hammock and the stove - despite my kicking it over. It's just as easy to kick over a canister stove, particularly the pocket rocket I got shortly after this trip - too easy, in fact. But that's another story.
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