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TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

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TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby Bluewater » Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:18 pm

Hello all. I took a friend on his first backpacking trip last week and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

We started by sleeping at the Portal Wednesday night to try and get acclimated. A local shuttle driver arrived at the Portal store Thursday morning and after having some of their huge pancakes he took us over to the Horseshoe Meadows trail head. We got a late start but by 12:45 we made it to the first Cottonwood Lake. I was surprised to see most other hikers wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts in the 85 degree heat.

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Cottonwood Lake #1


I was out of shape after taking the winter off and I was feeling the altitude on the way up NAP. Diamox didn't do much for the head pounding, shortness of breath etc. Once on top I felt much better and we hung out with a small group of guys and talked trail for a while. They had come up from Rock Creek and mentioned one of their guys threw up on the way over CP the day before.

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NAP


We camped at Soldier Lake. I cowboy camped (quilt/bivy) and although it was 25 degrees that night I had the best nights sleep I have ever had in the wilderness.

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Soldier Lake


The next morning we got an early(ish) start and made our way to Guitar Lake via the PCT. The meadows along Rock Creek were beautiful, but it was already feeling very dry and it looked like spring had already happened.

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Rock Creek


The hike up Guyout Pass was a breeze compared to the day before and by late afternoon we made it to the west side of Whitney. There was a group of three PCT hikers already camped at the tarn above Guitar Lake and they offered to let us share the limited camping spots. We had packed an extra day’s worth of food and they were grateful to accept all of our unwanted food weight. These guys were all just out of college and heading to Mammoth without a resupply.

I helped Jay setup the SMD Gatewood Cape for some wind protection. I watched the stars and slept outside again, behind one of the stone windbreaks.

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West side of Whitney


I woke up to the sunrise overlooking Guitar Lake, grabbed my camera right away. My small point & shoot doesn't do a good job of capturing these low light conditions.

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Sunrise overlooking Guitar Lake


After some coffee and oatmeal using my weathered Caldera Keg we were off to Whitney. We met the PCT hikers on the way up, they had already been to the top for sunrise and were chasing the sun down the mountain. Those guys were fast, averaging 24 miles/day.

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Whitney snowfield


Conditions were great and there was only a small remnant of the snow field near the top. It was extremely windy with clear skies. Much better than last year when it snowed in September on the way up.

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Top of Mt. Whitney


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View from the trail.


For this being his first backpacking trip Jay did a great job. I outfitted him with all my extra lightweight gear and he was already in great shape. The last few miles down were a little bit of a sufferfest but we made it back to the Portal store just in time for a cheeseburger.

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Spring in the High Sierra



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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby Ska-T » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:20 am

Sounds like you gave your friend a great introduction! In addition to a good change in elevation he experienced a wide temperature range (85 to 25F) :nod: .
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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby richlong8 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:27 am

It was a very windy weekend in the Sierra last weekend, but it sure kept the mosquitos down, and skies blue. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:37 am

Sounds like a great intro to backpacking trip, and the winds keeping the mosquitoes
at bay sure helped make it an even better experience. Is your friend hooked? When
and where will his next trip be too?
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby Bluewater » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:08 pm

Thanks Ska-T, richlong & maverick. The winds definitely kept the bugs away with the exception of a few along Rock Creek. It was intense on the west side of Whitney!

This was my first time leading the way for a new-b to backpacking. My friend had a great time and was psyched after the trip, but he was pushing to get down the mountain and back home for a shower and soft bed. His summer is pretty much booked with trips to Roads End with his son and other family trips this year but I think he'll be back. We both appreciated some time away from family responsibilities.

I realized the differences between hiking styles on this trip. He seemed focused on getting to whatever the destination was for the day. I actually enjoy being on the trail all day, stopping to swim, take pxts, have a meal or a nap in the shade during the heat of the day. After a slow and steady day I still get in some good mileage, but it's more about enjoying the scenery along the way.

With all the talk of fly fishing on HST it may be time for me to get a decent fishing rig and just chill by a lake sometime this season.

Andy.
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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby richlong8 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:24 pm

I started fishing several years ago, after many years backpacking without angling, and it really can add an extra dimension to a trip. I find that I like to go to more remote, less popular places even more, usually better fishing.
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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby windknot » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:24 am

Great report and pictures! I'm glad your friend had an excellent first trip. This is definitely a majestic part of the Sierra.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: Cottonwood Lakes to Mt. Whitney ~ 6/21 - 6/23

Postby Bluewater » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:57 am

Thanks richlong and windknot. Looks like I'm shopping for fishing gear asap. 193 backcountry lakes visited? Nice. I liked your "Fishing by Lightning" post from the Dinkey Lakes. I have been scrambling around that area with the same group of friends for years (this summer we're celebrating 20 years at a the same 'secret spot' along the granite waterslides). My first solo cross country trip was to Sportsman Lake, Mt. Nelson, Virginia Lake and Dinkey Dome. After that my wife asked me to bring a SPOT on the solo trips. . .
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