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95 Days in the Sierra

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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:12 pm

Great pics! Oh man that crossing of Cataract looks gnarly. But I hate steep snow with a pack on anyway...

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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby quentinc » Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:07 pm

Terrific photos of an area I hope to get to next summer. Thanks for posting!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Flux » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:00 am

Great stuff Rogue. I thoroughly enjoy reading your reports and the pics are awesome. Thanks for taking the time.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:43 pm

What I probably should do is pick and choose images to go with the report then worry about the rest later. I have been completing all images up to where the report ends which takes awhile. I already have most of the next 20 days written but how long is it going to take if I keep with the same routine on images? :confused:
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby raphus » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:09 pm

No, keep it in the same format as the first two part if you can, the result is really nice to read !
Congratulations again (for the hike, the TR and the pictures) and thanks for posting !
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Cross Country » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:27 pm

I say do it however you want to do it because that way you might improve on it. If you improve -- all the better. If you don't -- I like what you're doing just the way it is. Great job!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:11 pm

Great job RoguePhotonic. Just do whatever you are comfortable with. I have been sending links to your story to friends. Nice pictures to compliment my memories of places that I have been to. I wish I had the time and resources to spend that much time in the Sierra. You are living life. The late winter seems to have been a mixed blessing.
If you go back:
You have a picture looking down at the little bench and lake that leads to Grey Pass. Your text suggests that you picked your way down. What you may have missed is that if you went left to the corner of the open-book slopes, you would have found switchbacks. They were made in the 1930s by a Sierra Club expedition for 100 mules and SC members.

Yes, the usual way down to Marion Lake is the gully furthest to the left looking down. I wondered, looking back at it from the lake, if the gully you took would have worked as well. I can tell you the "usual" way is steep and rocky (simi-trail), and probably no better than the other gully.

Sorry to hear that Frypan Meadow is so messed up. A much better place to camp is the nearby Wildman Meadow, or further down in Deercove.

OBTW: Thanks for the pictures of Kidd Lakes: it is been on my to-do list for a long time.
That Dead Pine Ridge trail has been messed up for a good long time, and it is a crime it has not been maintained (for at least 20 years now).

Looking forward to your next installment.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:45 pm

Yeah when I dropped off of Gray Pass N I tried not to lose any more altitude then I had to so I moved down the slope at an angle missing that.

The Deadpine Ridge / Kennedy Canyon trail does have evidence of maintenance but it's only tree removal and many times in arbitrary locations.

The Kid Lakes was certainly an area worth revisiting to me. If I go back some day I would plan an extra day in the area to go see those over looking vistas of the Muro Blanco.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby maverick » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:59 pm

Doyle wrote:
That Dead Pine Ridge trail has been messed up for a good long time, and it is a
crime it has not been maintained (for at least 20 years now).

You right about that Doyle! I got tired of looking for the trail and climbed over the ridge
continuing on to Volcanic Lakes when visiting this area over a decade ago.
It was easier, and faster, to just view this section as a cross country section for me, instead
of wasting my time trying to located the trail since most of what was once the trail was
washed away when my trip took me through this section.
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Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:56 pm

Once again this took forever but here it is.

Part 3/5:

Day 41 A-200 D-200 August 11

After spending a night in the jungle I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't save another 20 dollars and just stay where I am instead of getting a campground early so I left my camp and went back to Parchers for some breakfast. The place is different than any restaurant I have been to in the way that there is no menu at all. They simply ask you what do you want? Basically anything breakfast like they can make and the food was fantastic. My next goal was a shower and to my very great dismay after paying 6 dollars for my token and sticking it into the machine while all stripped down it did not work. It was one of those showers where only cold water works and by cold I mean one degree above freezing. Thankfully the people running the place were really nice and not only fixed it but gave me an extra token for more time. So now clean I picked up my resupply package and began to sort it and found that several packets of honey had exploded and sprayed all over my food! "That should be good for bears" I thought as even my TP rolls had small patches of honey. The major down side of resupply here was that they did not carry any butane canisters for my stove and besides the general use mine had had from the last section I also spent a good amount of time melting snow on Windy Point. They thought I may be able to get some from the store 3 miles down the road so after sorting everything out I dropped my food off at camp which made me a little nervous due to the fact that I am never able to get more then about 6 days of food in my bear barrel leaving allot of exposed food but there wasn't much I could do so I left it and set out down the road for the store. Once there I was only disappointed since they also did not have fuel so I would simply have to drag my canister out for the next section. I was able to pick up some goodies from this store so it was not a total loss. Walking back up the road Rick Sanger from Leconte Canyon came driving up from the opposite direction saying I should have got a ride from him. After a bit of a chat with him I resumed my walk and was picked up by a worker at Parchers that I had talked to.

Day 42 A-2636 D-3105 August 12

After another good breakfast at Parchers I made the walk up the road back to South Lake and began in once again. After a beautiful hike past all the same beautiful lakes and making some trail friends I was once again back on Bishop Pass Slogging down through Dusy Basin and down the major switch backs it was getting later and for some reason I was extremely fatigued. My goal had been to go back to the Ranger Station in Leconte but I was only able to make it just below the fire line.

Day 43 A-3909 D-2186 August 13

Once I had finished slogging to the bottom I began up familiar trails once again enjoying the beauty of Little Pete Meadow and then more properly enjoying Big Pete Meadow The hike up to Muir Pass was slow but not difficult. I was able to avoid any fords by the same locations I had found 2 years before. There was allot more snow in the area then when I had climbed Muir Pass on July 19th 2009 but like all snow I encountered on this entire hike it was hard packed so post holing was not a problem. Climbing nicely up a steep section and thinking I was doing extremely well today a hiker came power hiking up past me on the slope sometimes using all fours. A bit later I ran into his friend moving at a slower pace and hiked with him most of the way talking about photography since he was using a 5D2. Once on the pass it was the three of us spending the night in the hut.

Day 44 A-3090 D-3004 August 14

Although I was going to spend another night in the hut I did not feel comfortable with leaving my gear inside with all the traffic this pass sees so I packed everything up and began out towards Black Giant and leaving my pack behind a large rock outcrop that had old rusted cans probably from the construction of the hut. As I moved for Lake 11,939 I tried to lose as little altitude as possible but the going was slow due to the rock hard snow of the morning combined with deep snow cups. Reaching the lake I knocked a hole in the ice and topped off my water since once again I would have only one liter for this climb. The initial going was easy but as the slope got steeper the extremely loose talus and scree was already proving a real pain so I had planned to make my way up to the ridge and traverse across it to the summit, something that would be a big mistake... Once I had topped out I was treated to wonderful views as I began across the ridge but immediately the going was extremely taxing by how loose every piece of the mountain is. While climbing around a ledge both my foot and hand holds on the rock gave way at the same time sending me sliding slightly. The more I moved along the slope the more difficult it was and I began to lose all desire to even climb the peak at all. I really just wanted to quit as just getting to the slope below the summit seemed so far away! Despite all my suffering I kept pushing on. Rounding a large outcrop I stood on a rock and had the whole thing roll out from under me. I was thrown violently forward into a sharp protruding rock smashing directly into the bone on my leg. Both my ice ax and water bottle were hurled from my hands. Crying out loud in extreme pain I couldn't help but think this mountain was trying to kill me! Someone with weaker bones would have broken their leg. This has left me with a permanent scar on my leg. Now limping a bit I continued pushing to the summit. Only falling down once more I was below the final slope to the summit as the sweet smell of Polemonium Eximium (Sky Pilot) hit my nose as the slopes were covered in beautiful flowers. Along with Polemonium Hulsea Algida (Alpine Gold) also littered the slopes breathing full life back into my soul after all my fighting across the ridge. Making the last easy climb I found Black Giant under my boots. The summit itself was a garden in bloom and the view was amazing! After taking the rare self portrait I found that the summit register was like Goat's in the way that not many people sign it. Only a hand full a year and this year only 1 person and then a Sierra outing group had signed it. After taking in the view for an hour or so it was time to go back down and I wasn't going to take the ridge! Heading down I made my way to the first major snow field I could and began glissading down. Once or twice I nearly lost my ice ax and a few times nearly lost control as the snow had large slot style sun cups and riding them down was a difficult task. Without any other major trouble I made my way back to the Muir Hut after 6 hours or so. If I were to climb Black Giant again I would make my way above lake 11,939 where a fairly level section of terrain can be followed to directly below the summit. Then go straight up. Back in the hut I got set back up and a father and his two sons would be my company this time.

Day 45 A-2714 D-2638 August 15

While eating breakfast in the hut a man outside yells bear! What did he say I asked? A bear!? Up here!? I got up quickly to see a bear running at full speed up the main drainage of the pass. It then made it's way up the Eastern Flank of Mt. Solomons and continued up the slope until it crossed the ridge running South of Solomons at about 12,400 feet and not once the whole way did it stop running! Wow I said I wish I had stamina like that! Why that bear was up there and where the hell it was headed by going into Ionian Basin is beyond me. This bear story got around as even more then a week later while along the JMT if I mentioned the bear on Muir Pass hikers would tell me they heard about it. Moving down the pass I got to enjoy all the beautiful sights I have come to know. Beyond Wanda I lost the trail for a bit due to snow. Passing by the Lovely Sapphire Lake and taking lunch at the outlet I already was a bit pessimistic about the coming cross country. Although the areas I was about to visit I really wanting to see I was becoming lazy with what I call mule syndrome. The ability to walk through the mountains without having to think at all about where you are headed but can just enjoy the views as you mindlessly slog along. Cross country was not just physically harder but it was very mentally taxing as even when the terrain is easy going you still are having to constantly think about every step your going to take not only at the moment but planning your path hundreds of yards ahead. I honestly thought about just continuing down through Evolution Valley but after passing Evolution Lake I was beginning up towards Alpine Col. I quickly was able to follow a use trail which proved useful for winding up the shelves by the creek. Reaching the Darwin Bench was a lovely location but I have to admit I was in a very bad mood. Not because of going cross country but just in general. I spent many hours in the Sierra thinking about the meaning of life and the solutions to the universe and all the troubles that I face. Although I believe in the healing power of the mountains I do not believe they can heal all wounds and the burden of life was hanging on me as I marched along. I often wondered if I even deserved to be out here doing this because while so many people dream about doing a hike like mine their whole lives they never do and here I was grinding along casually. The reality I had come to know was that the great romance one associates with this sort of trip only lasts for the first time. After that these long hikes had no longer been "the hike of a life time" but just general every day life filled with the same emptiness that although a helper my friend the Douglas could not solve lol. The only thing I came to know for sure out here was that "life is not worth living alone" this I had learned on my last long hike. Most people would casually agree to this but not many people truly "know" it. What was I learning now I thought? Where am I going? Truth be told many days as I hiked along these thoughts filled my head. One thing I had to laugh about being out here though was that unlike most people that when they do long trips and give up for one reason or another they have a home to go home to. I on the other hand had nothing so no matter how irritated I might become or tired or beat up, being here in the middle of no where alone was as close as I had to anything so there was no quilting, no going home, no warm bed waiting. It literally is "do or die". ~ Reaching Lake 11,540 tired and angry I began around the Southern shore and before long came to a large snow slope going down into the lake. Damn it! I thought. It really was the last thing I wanted to deal with in my current mental state but up onto it I went. The going was very slow and precarious as I did what I could to kick/dig foot holds. I had just past the curve of the shore line by about 4 feet and was about to start down when I slipped and slid to the bottom. Had I not reached the other shore I would have slid off a 10 foot drop into the lake. Continuing past the beautiful Lake 11,546 I started up the last push to Lake 11,910. All the way here I was planning to go for a swim when I got to the lake but as I trudged along the snow a not very welcome sight showed itself as the lake was about 80% frozen still. The Eastern shore looked like the best way to go so I began around looking for a place to camp. Finally I found a patch of decomposed granite that was just large enough for my tent. A strong wind was blowing an icy chill making for a cold night.

Day 46 A-1608 D-3216 August 16

While topping off my water I had fun playing with the ice since the lake had completely frozen over again during the night. Setting out I was encouraged as Alpine Col was not a very big climb and while I studied the terrain I picked out and easy way up. Getting around the lake was a slow task as I had to climb through boulders the size of houses then cross rock hard snow mixed with hoping along talus. By the time I had come around to the base of Alpine Col an hour had gone by. The climb to the top was easy and before I knew it I was starting down the other side. I had been thinking back to when the woman below Glen Pass told me Alpine Col was the worst thing she had ever done in the Sierra. I couldn't imagine what she had been talking about. Yet anyway... As I began down the snow locked North side I was trying to follow in the foot steps of some hikers that had come before me but I couldn't go any further on very steep snow that was rock hard. I had to carefully back track to some rocks and pull out my ice ax. I began the slow and exhausting task of cutting foot holds in the ice. I worked my way out onto a steep and long snow slope and began to consider glissading down. I was a bit scared to do so because the snow was so hard. All around I considered it a bad idea but cutting foot holds down hill was a major task as well. It took me a minute or so to work up the nerve and I sat down and began glissading down. Although I did have a hard time keeping myself under control it went fairly well. I stood up and noticed my water bottle was missing. I looked up the slope to see it up above. Aww crap! I thought and took off my pack to go back for it. Once I had moved down to a cliff side it became apparent that this pass was not so easy after all. My choice was to either go to the right and pick my way down massive boulders to the bottom or to go to my left onto extremely steep snow fields. I decided on the snow and very carefully zig zagged across some slopes that were way outside my comfort zone. Finally the slope got a bit less steep and I glissaded down to walk able snow. Getting closer to the lake I began deciding what side of Goethe I should take. The Western shore was much longer but looked like better terrain. I couldn't see all of the Eastern shore but it looked like it had a short section of major boulder hoping then it got better so I decided to take the Eastern side. Big mistake! I immediately had to navigate steep snow fields where once again if you fall your going into the lake. Then the boulder hoping. The absolute worst mess of boulders I have ever had to navigate. It was a constant maze as most of the way the rocks were too large to hop along. At one point I had my body completely out stretched across rocks friction climbing my way up. Many more snow fields had to be crossed and by the time I had got to the outlet of Goethe Lake it had taken me 6.5 hours to go 1.8 miles. The harsh reality now dawned on me that I simply could not make it through this section with the amount of food I have. I weighed my options and decided I would have to take the Piute Pass trail down to the Muir Trail in order to get to VVR. Passing the outlet of Goethe Lakes I saw what looked like 14 inch golden trout but there was no time to throw a line in. Switching to the Western shore of the lower lake I made my way out around some small ridges and down into Humphreys Basin. After a difficult mess of creeks to cross I began in a NW direction and at one point I picked up a trail and began following it but then realized it was the wrong one so I began cross country again. I had a nice plan of where to meet up with the proper trail but as I was closing in on it I suddenly found myself on the edge of a small gorge that I could not get across. Damn it! I thought and began up it until I found where the trail crosses above it. Once back onto a trail I was left to slogging down into the forest where I camped a bit below the fire line. I would later regret not getting to do this section of the Sierra High Route as many people told me it was their favorite.

Day 47 A-2015 D-3861 August 17

Nearing Hutchinson Meadow I had some difficulty crossing the creek coming from French Canyon. I made some very difficult crossings and then could find no other way across some of the many branches so I just gave into fording it. Once at Hutchinson I was back on familiar trails. I stopped in the packers camp that I had spent the night in the year before to find that someone had stolen the small wooden sign marking it. I went over to the spot where the dead mule had been and was very surprised to find only a pile of bones left even though it had only been one year. Continuing down I looked for where the dead horse had been but couldn't find any sign of it. The rest of the slog down proved uneventful until I arrived at the Muir Trail Ranch. I had decided to make a stop in to buy some fuel and see what sort of goodies might be in the free bins. As I walked in I was surprised to see the couple I ran into below Glen Pass that had also met me the year before. This gave me the chance to tell her she was right about how horrible Alpine Col had been. After chatting it up for awhile and getting some stuff from the bins I set out to camp at the hotsprings. Like usual the area was packed with people and I got set up fast because I wanted to go take a quick dip in the cool lake since it had been so hot today. I had been warned not to cross the river as it was still very high. Apparently people had been crossing on a major log jam 10 minutes down stream. I decided that was too far and I began the ford. The river was indeed swollen and fast moving being about crotch deep on me and I am 6,3. With some care it was not very difficult but the water was absolutely freezing and the river was so wide that it took at least 5 minutes to get across. Climbing out I was in allot of pain due to the cold. After a nice swim in the lake and a quick dip in the hotsprings I went back to camp to eat dinner. After I was finished I spent some time talking with two PCT hikers that were WAY behind schedule for a thru-hike. They agreed to meet me at the springs so making the ford again I went and spent a nice evening watching a major dog fight in the sky. There were more bats then I had ever seen flying around at once and a mess of some larger birds were trying to catch them making for an entertaining show. Since it was getting late I decided I didn't want to make the difficult ford in the dark so I went back having never seen the two PCT hikers. Once back I found them just getting ready to leave camp to go. They then convinced me to go back for some night time soaking and to act as their guide to even find the springs. So for the 5th and 6th time I made the ford which was quite comical in the dark with the two hikers behind me screaming out loud at the cold water. I also thought it probably looked strange to people up stream seeing head lamps out in the middle of this raging river at night.

Day 48 A-?? D-3253 August 18

I got on the trail at about 9am and I noticed that the two PCT hikers had not even got out of their tents yet. They told me once they didn't get on the trail until noon which explains why they are so far behind. As I moved up out of the area suddenly a solid pine cone smashed down at my feet. HEY!!! I shouted! Douglas!!!! OSHA regulations clearly state that you must designate this a hard hat zone! Your going to kill someone! But he only laughed at me as I kept hiking on. The slog up was steep but easy and I was passing all the common sights I knew from this area. From the Senger Creek top hat tree, , up to Sallie Keyes Lakes, past Heart Lake and onto Seldon Pass. When I began grinding down the other side I already was feeling fatigued for some reason so it was a welcome cool down when I had to ford Bear Creek. As I moved up the trail I began looking for decent places to camp but after investigating a couple camp sites I kept moving on. This area was littered with sites many legal and many not and unfortunately I settled with an illegal site that was too close to water. Once again trying to fish below the fire line I could only catch little ones.

Day 49 A-2082 D-3448 August 19

Once again I found myself with uneventful hiking through this area which I generally consider the least spectacular section of the Muir Trail. I took note of a very nice camp site I used two years before to find that the nice bench that had been built was gone. Probably used as fire food. Once I had topped out on Bear Ridge like clock work a great number of people began passing me that had come off the VVR Ferry. Once down I made the slog over to the Ferry and waited about 2 hours for a lift. I was happy to once again be back at the wonderful VVR.

Day 50 Layover August 20

There really isn't anything I can say about this day as I spent all the time hanging out with hikers, doing chores, eating good food and getting ready to head out once again. I did have to make a change with the coming section as I had planned to join an SCA trail crew at Tully Hole for at least one day of work but I had got an e-mail telling me they changed the project location to Duck Creek. My plan had been to meet up with them then take Cascade Valley to Iva Bell and beyond to Reds Meadow but now I would take the Muir Trail from Tully Hole instead.

Day 51 A-4898 D-2307 August 21

After enjoying a good breakfast with a hiker from Texas we both caught the ferry and were headed out again. It turned out this was his first time in the Sierra and it was funny to watch him hiking down the trail with his jaw dropped open when he was simply slogging through the forest. It was always nice to see people getting out and enjoying all this beauty. Moving up the Silver Pass Trail I took note once again of a nice camp I used two years ago and thought it a bit sad that the fire pit had been destroyed since it was in a nice location. From here I took the Mott Lake trail and began the slow climb up. The trail was not in great shape and once or twice I lost it briefly. Once at Mott Lake it turned out to be a very nice lake without a single person around. Although not remote it had the vibes to it like I was countless miles from the nearest trail even though one had taken me here. The South and Eastern shores looked the best so I made my way around and began up the North Fork of Mono Creek. I made use of the Western slope which had a couple class 3 bits but was generally no problem at all. I had a Tim Minchin beat poem stuck in my head as I reached the shores of a small tarn lake with ice still on it. Ross Finch Lake was in sight as I made the final cross over to Bighorn Lake. From here I could see that Rohn Pass would be an easy climb up and I made my way around the Eastern shore. A few tricky snow fields among boulders had to be crossed and then a couple steep grass slopes but generally the going was easy. Moving up provided beautiful views and it was like a class 1 walk up the smooth slopes. Finally on top the Northern view was amazing incorporated with the interesting geological features of Red Slate Mountain and near by striped ridges. I couldn't help but think what a nightmare scree climb Red Slate must be. The decent down had to be considered. The North side was almost completely covered in snow but I didn't feel like getting out my ice ax and sliding down so I picked a path that winds through boulder fields but this proved at times very sketchy with the hard packed snow. After a slow careful decent I finally reached the bottom onto level ground and began out across the basin. Countless small tarns littered the area and I slowly picked my way over to Cotton Lake where I found a couple really nice camp sites.

Day 52 A-2548 D-2909 R August 22

Moving out of the area and enjoying Cotton Lake for the last time I made my way down to it's outlet which offered a beautiful view of this lovely little basin. The decent had a few small shelves to find your way down but was not very difficult. When I reached the bottom I found a maze of water ways in what was practically a Japanese garden but I could not see any way to get across to the Western shore of Izaak Walton Lake without having to ford so I started considering the Eastern shore. In the distance I could see a sheer cliff wall but I could not see it's base due to the terrain so it was a gamble. That cliff may go all the way into the water and be impassible or I may get lucky. I took the gamble and started along the Eastern shore making some tricky water crossings. Unfortunately once I got far enough to see the terrain the cliff did indeed go into the water so I had no choice but to turn back. Once I was back on the Northern shore I was able to cross the maze of creeks without getting wet. I had planned all along to go up past Hortense Lake but for some reason I lost all desire to do so even though it was a minor detour so instead I took the outlet of Izaak Walton down. The route down proved to be a small mess of shelves and minor bush whacking. It was important to pick your way carefully leading up to when crossing to the Eastern side of the creek was important. The last drop down to Fish Creek was very steep and narrow which left me in a mess of bushes and little choices for crossing. After picking apart every rock I was just able to cross the creek while almost falling in. Now back on the trail I made the slog down past Horse Heaven and to Tully Hole. As I got closer I knew I didn't want to go down to where ever the trail crosses Fish Creek because it would put me beyond Tully Hole and I knew the exact spot I wanted to take lunch which was in a camp site I used two years ago but has since been destroyed by a downed tree. When nearly directly across from this site I saw a small tree down across the creek that was not much bigger than my shoes but I thought "I can make that". So very carefully balancing out across this thing I got directly into the middle of the creek when disaster began to strike! The tree was a fresh fall and the bark began to fall apart on me! The wood under neath was like standing on ice and I frantically staggered to keep my balance. Don't fall! Don't fall! I thought as the water beneath me was at least chest deep. I was shaking and I stared up at the terrain in a desperate attempt to regain my balance. Slowly it came back but even as I would set a point of my trekking pole on the log the bark would come loose and the tip would slide. This was no good I must turn back! Ever so slowly I tried to rotate my body back but it was no good! The bark broke and my feet began to slide off so in one desperate move I turned back took one or two rubber legged steps and was forced to leap from the tree. SPLASH!!! Luckily I had managed to stagger back and leap into more shallow water that was about thigh deep. Well I guess I am fording after all I thought as I moved to a more shallow section and waded across. Now having cement blocks for shoes I slogged up to the former camp site and stopped for lunch while I dumped the water out of my boots. As I began up from Tully Hole I asked hikers if they had seen an SCA trail crew and they had so at least I knew I would manage to find them. After passing the lovely Virginia Lake just a couple drops began to fall for about 10 seconds and that was all that happened that day. NOOO!!!! I said because I was trying to break my record last year of 24 days with no rain and it had been 22 days earlier in the trip with no rain and this was day 22! I suppose you could get away with not saying it rained but I guess drops so light you could not feel any for 10 seconds counts! Damn you rain!! Damn you! If this hadn't have happened it would have been 26 days with no rain. So meeting up with the trail crew it turned out they had to head out one day earlier due to their packers schedule so I would not be able to work with them but I could at least camp and have dinner with them tonight. So I hiked with them to Duck Creek and ended the day.

Day 53 A-1450 D-2241 August 23

On this morning I had one decision to make in my route. I had intended to hike the Mammoth Crest on my way back South later but now I was here. I could take it and down to Mammoth Lakes or just take Duck Pass out. I had never hiked either but the notion of food won my decision as I knew if I take Duck Pass that I could make it out by lunch so I set out and made quick work getting up to Duck Lake and then up to Duck Pass. The hike down proved slow though as I got caught up in talking to so many people who just couldn't believe what I was doing. Someone had told me the shuttle is at the end of the campground but as I hit the road I could see no signs of it. I decided to head West on the road because it seemed closer to walk to anything and luckily it wasn't very far to the trolley pickup. So after riding it around I got lunch and went back to the Sierra Nevada Lodge which I had stayed at the year before. It had only been 3 days back on trail from VVR but I decided to stick with the luxury rest of Mammoth like I had done last year.

Day 54 Layover August 24

Another simple day as I rounded up supplies and did some book shopping. This next section of my hike would be the heaviest in book loads as I still had Roper's Sierra High Route book and now I picked up The Last Season and Norman Clydes Close Ups of the High Sierra.

Day 55 August 25

Like the year before I had to decide exactly how I was going to leave Mammoth and I decided on the same plan as before and that was to just ride the bus to Reds Meadow and do some day hikes before heading out the following day. Now about 550 bucks lighter I found myself back at the bottom. I decided to save 20 dollars and to do some dispersed camping. I set up camp near the pack station and had some lunch then set out to see some typical sights. I went down to Rainbow Falls which was very crowded. I had a fun time watching all these young kids ford the river most of the them bare foot and on more than one occasion nearly be taken out. I then did a quick trip to the Devil's Postpile and spent some time talking to the Rangers before it was back to camp for the night.

Day 56 A-2358 D-500 R-T August 26

As I waited for the bus to take me to The Devil's Post Pile I talked to three guys that were taking the same route as me from here and I would end up leap frogging a bit the next couple of days. I have to say at this point I had found myself becoming more lazy out here. It seemed like I was always taking the easiest way I could based on where I was going. This time around it was deciding to skip Nancy Pass and go straight to Minaret Lake. I don't know if it was mental or physical but the backcountry had been starting to take it's toll on me. This of course did not give me any desire to leave but only to relax more instead of hard physical toil. The hike up was completely uneventful and a bit crowded with a number of day hikers. I arrived at the lake very early and decided to so some fishing which I could not get a single bite. After chatting with a number of people including the 3 guys from Reds Meadow the the storm began to break and rain fairly heavy but it did not last for very long.

Day 57 A-3464 D-3510 August 27

Most people that go from Minaret to Cecille Lake take the standard route of going around to the West side of the lake then up to the Southern shore of Cecille but I prefer a route of going up North of Minaret which drops you down on the Eastern shore of Cecille. After another easy trip up it showed it was actually better because it skipped most of the snow that lined the shores. Once I had rock hoped my way over to the Northern shore it was time to begin down. I had been worried that this decent would be completely snow covered and dangerous but the way was clear of snow until you are off of everything steep. Enjoying the stunning view I carefully picked my way falling down at least once. When I had reached the snow I began to make use of the slight cuts in the snow left by the 3 guys from Reds Meadow which were in sight ahead. The snow was very hard packed and proceeding was a delicate matter. Along the Eastern bit of the shore a fall could mean sliding down into a fissure in the lake ice. After careful picking I was tramping down solid trail again and enjoying the always stunning Iceberg Lake. As I began down towards Ediza I wasn't sure exactly where you were supposed to cut off cross country. At one point I began off to the West and decided to turn back when the terrain proved to be a maze of rock shelves. Instead I decided to just stay on the faint trail down to Ediza. Once there I was on familiar terrain as I had done a summit of Banner 2 years earlier. So crossing the inlet I made my way up the use trail until I picked a slightly arbitrary location to begin towards White Bark Pass. Skipping along the snow I kept drawing happy faces at random locations wondering if the 3 guys that I had passed would see them. The terrain proved an easy stroll as you skirt around and higher up above Nydiver Lakes. The whole area provided amazing views until topping out on the pass. Dropping down was a fairly easy task as once I had got beyond some steeper rock slopes I got back onto some of the softest snow I would encounter on the trip. No more than sinking in 3 inches or so but it was enough to make easy going. When I was at the bottom I felt great and couldn't help but run and slide on the harder snow. But it was time to climb again up Garnet Pass which was one of the easiest passes of the trip. Up over and down you go without complaint. Once I had reached the bottom and was hiking between some smaller lakes I began searching for a place to camp without luck. I was then surprised to see a Ranger hiking along in my direction with a bucket and shovel. What are you doing over here I asked probably sounding like an ******* that didn't want to see her which was not my intention... Picking up toilet paper she replied as she had a bucket full of it from people that had just thrown it on the ground. After some chat she said there were camp sites near by but all my searching couldn't find any. I made my way over to the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin and dropped my pack at a poor unestablished site and began hiking all over looking for a proper place but all I could find was a shoe so I settled in where I was.

Day 58 A-3363 D-3344 August 28

After some orange "drink" and poptarts I began heading up the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin. The whole way was a delight as the climb was easy and peaceful feeling. My energy levels were very high again and it wasn't until I was getting closer to the top that I even had to stop for breath. The final push to North Glacier involed boulder hoping on stable talus mixed with snow fields. Dropping down was at times steep until I was on the shore of Catherine Lake. From here moving to the outlet was a puzzle of boulder hoping yet over all very enjoyable. Like yesterday I was feeling great and really enjoying the hike which normally isn't the case for me. I enjoy the sights, sounds, feelings of everything around but the actuall hiking itself is mostly work leading me to the next beautiful place. After crossing fissure filled snow fields I arrived at the start of "complex" yet non techincal cross country travel. Careful study of each path down the shelves was the key and the going was quick and easy. After a number of beautiful cascades you arrive at a nice water fall flowing down to a small lake. Beyond this you encounter a mess of cliffs. A couple class 3 shelves and I was down without problem. After a short slog down hill I made my way over to a 400 foot cliff. This was one of the only locations that I thought Roper was not clear. He says look for a mess of white rocks and go that way. Then simply says this part of the decent involes complex class 3 shelves but as you move up beyond the white rocks you have at least a football field length of area to decide where to drop down. I kept going North to look over a small hump which showed a nice class 2 route down leading to a short use trail. After this I made my way down an easy bit of rocks with perhaps one class 3 move but generally nothing like what Roper had described. In the distance I could see a white patch among dark rocks and I thought it was a tent space but when I got there it clearly was not. Infact I could not tell what the hell it was. I then looked up to see an actual built trail which I took but it didn't go far when it went into a mine. I was surprised to see a mine in such a remote location. Then I understood what the white was on the rocks. Examing the area and slowly beginning to the West looking for the proper way I turn around to see a single hiker moving pretty fast in my direction. This of course was another surprise. After a brief chat we both begin down along the head wall of the North Fork. I could not come close to keeping up with this guy and not surprising because he was a PCT thru hiker. The terrain through here was a delight as it was narrow pathways yet very easy to travel offering beautiful views down the North Fork. While up high on the hill I see the hiker down on the floor below heading South. "Where is he going" I thought as he was not going for the official high route which he said he was doing. Continuing up now I made my way over to the first of the Twin Lakes. Oh my what an incredibly beautiful and complex area this was! Forcing myself out of being totally transfixed I began to make my way further up the hill and South as I was already high up on complex and steep rock outcrops and didn't want to go down to the shore line. This proved to be a mistake as I topped out surrounded by cliffs I could not get down. While up here I spotted the hiker down at the outlet crossing. He had made his was directly up the outlet which is a major mistake in my mind as he missed so much amazing beauty. While I watched him he began across the ford and became, like, well...rubber man. He was flailing all over and splashing into the water. "What the hell is wrong with him" I thought as the ford looked shallow and easy from up here. He looked like he was being attacked by a lake monster. He retreated back to the shore then walked back and forth like a cat looking at prey it can't figure out how to get. He then began out again splashing, flailing, looking like well... rubber man. He made it and went on his way. Now for me I had to turn around and work my way down some very steep rock shelves. At one point I had to sit down to get enough friction to make it down safely. Now on the shore I started working my way down the lake but it wasn't that easy. It was very narrow between the rocks and the water. Reaching a patch of snow I was lucky that the back side had melted just enough to squeeze through. Up some rocks down some rocks and before too long I was at the outlet myself. Once ready and still thinking about rubber man I began out and soon knew why! "OH CRAP!" I thought as I began to flail. The moss on everything in the area was worse then standing on ice. I desperatly fought for balance. Don't fall! Don't fall! AAH!! IT"S COLD!!! I was crotch deep and barely able to keep it together but after some scary moments I made it to the other side in agony from how cold the water was. Back on track I made my way up the hill and to the second Twin Island Lakes. After crossing the outlet I once again was routed in place by how beautiful the view was. All I could say was it is glorious beyond words and I did say it out loud which made me jump as a rock was unsettled behind me by rubber man. I thought this was odd because he was way out ahead of me and now here he was coming up behind me while I was talking to myself. The two of us then resumed along the rocks of the Eastern shore but he soon had left me in the dust. Looking across the lake I could see a large block of snow ready to break off into the lake. "Wouldn't it be cool if that fell off while I am here" I thought and made my way to the inlet where I found a camp site just big enough for my tent. Later while laying in my tent I heard a large rumble and crash. I sat up just catching sight of the snow block falling in. Sadly it did not produce a very large wave.

Day 59 A-2749 D-2413 August 29

After watching a coyote slip and slide across the snow on the lake it was time to leave the lovely Twin Island Lakes I made sure to keep careful attention to my route as Roper had described hikers becoming lost for hours in this area due to complex terrain. Skirting around the hill side and beginning up towards a small unnamed lake I had ended up a bit higher then I think the route describes but I still made my way easy except for the occasional icy snow fields. Leaving the area and skirting around the next hill still was proving extremely easy to follow Roper's instructions. I could not understand how anyone could become lost in this area when the going was so easy. Only one area was a problem and after a difficult time on some small cliff sides and extremely steep loose dirt I topped a small ridge and began a nice decent to a lower basin below. The decent was littered with wild flowers such as Mimulus Lewisii (Lewis's Monkeyflower) and the more allusive Fritillaria Recurva (Scarlet Fritillary). As I got lower I could see a man camped at the bottom and bathing nude. There seemed to be nothing remote about this section of the high route. Once at the bottom and across the creek I stopped for lunch. As I ate I noticed something odd about a tree near me. Closer inspection revealed that someone had nailed a bunch of 30.30 rifle shells into the tree for some reason. Moving up the drainage on my way to Blue Lake Pass was a pure paradise of grassy fields blanketed with Castilleja Miniata (Giant Red Paintbrush). Cross country travel does not get much better then this I thought! Reaching a small plateau that had a strange growth of trees I made my way over to them suspecting to find signs of human presence and indeed I did. Along with a number of unreadable writings on the bark I found yet another pattern of rifle shells hammered into a tree. As I began up the hill a bit I turned around and was routed in place by the very scene before me. Although not staggering in grandeur it completely over whelmed me. A total sense of serenity came over my entire being. My eyes fell shut, my trekking poles fell from my hands to the ground and all at once I had the most complete sense of tranquility I had ever felt in my life. If this had been a different era I would have dropped my pack and declared that my journey was over and that I was home. I slowly opened my eyes still in a surreal state when suddenly a mosquito made a kamikaze run straight into my eye. OH YOU **** ****! I cried! And like being snatched from an alternate reality all at once it was time to pick up my poles and continue on my way. Not much further up the hill I ran into two guys on their way down that didn't even know that this specific area was hiking on the Sierra High Route. Topping the hill I walked along the lovely shores of Blue Lake and from here I began to pick apart the pass for a route up. I was a bit surprised at first glance that Roper had said how easy it was because the terrain looked difficult. After deciding on a reasonable looking route I began up. As I got closer to the narrow way I had picked I noticed two hikers on their way down the path I chose. We met up at a steep connecting rock face that was a bit wet. From a distance it hadn't looked as steep as it was which was a bit opposite than normal with terrain. They carefully made their way down sliding on their butts and I began to try to climb up but I was having problems. I could not get any sort of hand or foot holds on this steep rock. Finally I decided that with a very difficult cut across the face I could make my way onto a small ledge offering solid footing. Not for those afraid of heights as this ledge that was about 6 inches wide offered a good 100 foot fall. This worked out well enough and I was on my way up. The rest of the way proved a nice easy walk up with very little talus hoping and in a timely manor I was on Blue Lake Pass. The way down was a typical puzzle of footing down stable talus until you reach an unnamed lake at the bottom. From here I set off SW looking for an easy way down to Harriet Lake. A mildly steep drainage provided the way and I once again found myself on lovely mountain tundra that it seems only Yosemite provides. Although it was nearly September Lupine and Paintbrush covered the area. After enjoying some beautiful displays of Veratrum Californicum (Corn Lily) intermixed with Ranunculus Alismifolius (Water Plantain Buttercup) on the Eastern shore of Harriet I began around to the Western side. As I got closer to a small saddle that I planned on exiting the area by I started looking for a place to camp. I could not find a single established camp but found a decent enough spot to set up.

Day 60 A-1432 D-2088 August 30

Heading out of the area I had decided to take a small saddle to the SW of the lake which proved to be an easy and beautiful way to go as you pass by two small lakes. After passing the first which had some nice size fish I began down a drainage which was mildly steep. From here you could admire the large meadow lands below which had a trophy sized buck grazing on it. Once on the shores I went around the Northern side taking note of a small camp with an illegal fire pit. Dropping down through the forest I picked up the trail once again and was on my way down to the Triple Divide Fork. As I began up the Red Peak Pass trail I had been debating on my camping location. My original goal was Red Devil Lake because I didn't want to go all the way to Lower Ottoway Lake today and I didn't think there would be any more options after Red Devil but I ultimately decided to stay at the Merced Peak Fork because it was within the fire line. This had me at camp around lunch making for an easy day. I spent the rest of it reading and relaxing. That night as I sat by the fire I started to consider what I had always thought about bringing books in the backcountry. Should I burn the pages I have finished to cut weight? In the end after some thought I decided to do this which felt horrible. I ripped out all the pages of Ropes book up until the last section of the High Route and threw them on the fire.
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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