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111 Days In The Sierra

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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:47 pm

Some day this trip report will be over!

WEEK 12

MAP

PHOTOS

After a late morning discussing gear with fellow hikers I found myself on this stretch of trail yet again. Up past the bridge but this time not entering the park again but heading up Piute Creek. The seemingly continuous storm was rearing it's ugly head once again. This however provided some shade from an other wise very hot and exposed section of trail.

Along the many cascades I tested out my cameras built in ND feature. But among the pleasant hiking and playing with photos the rain came once again and thunder was sounding over head. When I reached Hutchinson Meadow a group of guys were enjoying a block of cheese and offered me some. We then leap frogged most of the way up the uneventful climb into Humphreys Basin. By this time the storm had broke and everything was calm and peaceful.

When I reached the creek that drains the Desolation Lakes I began cross country. I came across an area that was littered with trash and had a fire pit in between some rocks with melted up pieces of metal in it. The worst trash was some sort of tarp and poles.

When I reached Lower Desolation Lake I was once again treated to the rare calm evening with beautiful reflection shots.

After the easy stroll up to Desolation Lake it was time to find a camp after this long day of climbing but the lake surprising had little in established camp sites on the West shore so I picked a random spot and got set up but I was unable to spend much time handling business when there were so many beautiful photos to take!

After an amazing sunset I finally took to cooking in the last light where I was startled by a rabbit that snuck up behind me wishing to share dinner. Having returned to Humphreys Basin two more times since this first visit I can say that it has the most abundant population of rabbits I have ever seen in the Sierra and also the largest!

The next day was my layover and gladly so since the weather turned bad early and rained on and off nearly all day and into the evening so I did very little beyond laying in my tent.

The journey from Desolation Lake to the top of Puppet Pass is an easy class 1 stroll. The nice views were only marred by the threatening clouds the once again showed their ugly face. After nearly two weeks of rain it was just getting old.

I made the easy talus hop to the bottom and did a small lake tour by going around Paris and down to Alsace Lake before moving down to the NE.

I had yet to reach the valley floor before the rain had caught up with me. For whatever reasons I decided to not push on further than about where you begin up to Merriam Lake. But on this stretch of canyon I had a hard time finding a place to camp. Every 50 yards I would find a fire pit with absolutely no place to set up a tent until I finally located a nice campsite which had a few Rangers hiding under trees. After a nice chat with them I asked if they were staying at this site. They were not but they said it was illegal due to how close to water it was and that they planned to destroy the site. Great I thought so they directed me to a less than ideal yet adequate location.

After hours of rain I set out to collect what wood I could to build a fire. Not an easy task after two weeks of rain but I got a nice blaze going and two girls camping near by who clearly did not want to deal with all the trouble I went through came over and joined me for the rest of the night by the fire.

One more day down and I set off up the hill towards Merriam Lake where I picked up a nice use trail that took me into the flats of this idyllic cirque. Reaching Merriam I found it to be a very beautiful lake with unnamed peaks just begging to be climbed.

Pushing on past one lake after another up to Feather Pass the terrain was a beautiful and easy stretch of Sierra landscape that show cased some of the best the range has to offer. Reaching the top I toyed with the thought of climbing Feather Peak but the intimidating looking class 3 ridge was more than I wanted from an unscheduled run to the top.

Feather Pass proved to be fairly easy with only a small section of shelves to navigate down before reaching the typical talus hop and onto pleasant terrain again passing Bear Paw and Ursa where I took a gully up to the SW side of Black Bear Lake. Only here did I have slight trouble getting down to shore level where I met two guys fishing on a day hike.

Black Bear Lake thankfully had fabulous camping on it's NW shore and I went for a dip in the small tarn lake next to it.

Climbing White Bear Pass wasn't much more than a hump to climb although the top had me into some easy class 3 rocks because of the way I went. Before crossing it however I went to the West shore of White Bear Lake to get a view lower into the basin.

White Bear Pass was a bit like Feather in navigating a section of shelves before getting to easier terrain. I made the mistake of staying too far left and had to take plenty of class 3 but none of it was a problem and before I knew it I was trolling along the shores of Brown Bear Lake with Mt. Hillgard looming in the background.

The terrain throughout this area was an idyllic class 1 stroll out to the Hilgard Branch past beautiful small cascades and up to Italy Lake which is rimmed by large and beautiful peaks. I continued the class 1 stroll with the occasional small field of talus to hop until I strolled into a camp at Toe Lake for lunch. This was supposed to be my destination for the day but it was so early and I felt fine along with it being a class 1 walk up to Gabbot Pass I decided to just push on up.

The North side involves much more talus work yet is still a beautiful journey while you pass the drainage displaying glacier flower colors. Once I had reached the view point looking into the Second Recess it was a glorious sight. I had to pry myself away from the view with each step as I made my way down to Upper Mills Creek Lake. A place fit for a king where I thought about just staying here due to how awesome it was but I decided to go ahead and push further down canyon.

I decided the zig zag down the slabs to Lower Mills Creek Lake which also proved to be an amazing place. Although there was a nice place to set up my tent close by I felt like laying out on the granite and enjoy the beautiful view and the night sky. I should be safe I thought as there was not a cloud in the sky by the time night fell and it had not rained in two days. I woke up at 1am to small drops starting to hit me. You have to be **** kidding I thought! Flashes of lightning were coming in the direction of Lake Edison. I jumped up and ran over to the flat spot and quickly set up my tent and got all my gear inside. Before long a full blown thunderstorm was under way in the middle of the night! I ignored it and tried to sleep.

Making my way down the Second Recess wasn't very difficult but also not completely straight forward. At times I found a use trail until I steadily followed it down the steep section of canyon by large cascades offering nice views. Once in the forest below I found the proper maintained trail and began making good time. A group of older ladies gave me some nice candies and I steadily made my way down canyon. Once I had grinded my way all the way down to Edison I decided to try walking around the lake. At first it was great strolling along on solid ground but as the lake rounded a corner I was cliffed out and was forced up. I ended up friction climbing some class 5 slabs cursing that I had gone this way until I finally got back onto the trail and made the final grind out where I ended the week at the best rest stop in the Sierra. Vermillion Valley Resort.



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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 03, 2016 7:17 pm

Those photos were particularly lovely. White Bear Lake and Pass is one of my favorite areas. I camped there last year and took a swim in the lake. Mills Creek Lakes, another favorite! I have stopped and camped at both lakes just because I wanted to sit around and enjoy them. Thanks for the report and photos.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:02 pm

Week 13

MAP

After having my belly well fueled up I set out on the hike around the lake once again on what was turning into a very pleasant day. On my way back up Mono Creek I decided to make a short cut and avoid climbing up and then down into it as the trail does and cut directly around on Mono Creek. Although it turned into a nice little hike past granite pools the nature of the terrain really didn't save me any time or effort.

I camped at a random location on Mono Creek where I enjoyed a VVR burrito and some Korean hot noodles for dinner. Come early morning the alarm clock of hot Korean noodles had me up and ready to go much earlier than normal.

After the hike up canyon this time I entered the Third Recess and followed the trail until it ended at a nice little meadow. I strolled into camp at Third Recess Lake at a decent hour and decided I was tired of my beard so I used scissors to chop it off the best I could.

My next goal was Third-Forth Crossing which other than a section of small loose and tedious talus before the top it was a very easy pass to get up. My planned route was to make an unknown crossing North of Mt. Mills and drop down the other side. I examined the wall ahead and decided it was passable but it looked quite tedious so the thought of going over Mono was quite appealing because I had never entered the Fourth Recess before and decided exploring it was just as worth wild to me.

I strolled down past the desolate yet beautiful Snow Lakes with their milky glacier flower water and kept on down the easy terrain trying not to step on any yellow legged frogs along the way. Finally I reached the wall looking down at Forth Recess Lake. Hmm I thought how to get down now? The terrain to my left looked passable but a bit long and tedious. Close by on my right was a deep cut couloir. I stared off into it and thought hell I can get down this way so I make a mostly vertical down climb into it on loose nasty rock. I carefully pick my way down trying not to cause any landslides until I reach a large chockstone embedded in the chute. I think ah i'll be able to get down this so I tie my pack onto my rope and lower it over the rock. However the slope below was so steep that it took nearly all 48 feet of my rope for my pack to come to a stop. I decide it's not smart to tie the rope to me as if the pack goes it could pull me off the rock so I toss it down.

I carefully climbed out onto the face of this rock trying carefully not to dislodge a massive pile of loose rock directly above me and haul myself out onto it's face. I try everything I can but holy crap this is not working I think. I climb back up in defeat and stare down and decide to give it another go. While on the face I begin shaking a bit and actually feel scared which is a way I only feel when something is extremely bad. I finally decide that without rappelling that this down climb cannot be done by me anyway.

Looking below at my pack I was more than dismayed. Oh good god what have I done? I climb back up and out of this col and move further to the east where a larger more open col showed itself. I made my way down here which was a loose and difficult descent with many tense moments.

Finally I reach the bottom and round a corner to enter back up into my dreaded col to retrieve my pack.

It was so steep and lose that I could barely climb up. I grabbed onto a 300 pound boulder and it came lose and I was able to stagger back just in time for it to miss landing on my foot but then it kept coming so I had to leap out of the way as it missed me by inches. Then I got to another vertical section that was almost impossible to climb with every hand and foot hold covered in a layer of sand which blasted me in the face and eyes from the wind funneling up the chute. Over all just climbing up without a pack on was extremely difficult to almost impossible and now I had to make my way down with a heavy pack? For the first time I was completely confident I was going to die in this couloir. I pulled out my camera and did a final entry to a video journal noting that I was probably going to die and stating that I have no regrets. As I picked up my gear that poem from the movie The Grey came to mind and I spoke out loud as I buckled my pack on saying "Once more into the fray... Into the last good fight I will ever know... Live and die on this day... Live and die on this day..."

The slopes were loose and steep enough that as I would step down sideways I would rotate my body back into the slope to make use of my hands as well. At times I considered doing some technical climbing up the walls to try and escape this Col. but I just kept going down one horrible step at a time. Finally I reached the vertical section I had so much trouble getting up. I made an attempt at it and failed. I tried to hook left around a large rock that was directly in the center of the chute to see if I could make it down another way but as I was trying to get a view below both my legs suddenly slipped out from beneath me. My hands had some what of a hold on the walls on both sides of me but were half bent down so the weight of myself and my pack was too much. I struggled to gain footing but I could get nothing. Finally in an effort of every bit of strength I had I pushed myself up right with my arms while suffering some injury in doing so and managed to get my feet back on the ground. After staring that bit of death in the face I knew the vertical section was the only way. I sat down at it's edge and made a series of moves twisting my body in ways that were more strange than I could really describe. Regardless they worked and I was down the obstacle. From here it was just a matter of meticulously picking your way down until the steepness began to let up. I slowly made the last slog down until I was standing on the shore line of Forth Recess Lake. I was mentally fatigued but still possessed a feeling of victory over the natural forces thrown at me.

I set out around the Eastern shore which was a nasty mix of talus. Many of the blocks were huge and required some technical moves to get through. Finally I reached the easy shores and I past a group of guys camping. I didn't bother mentioning my little experience getting here so I went on and found my camp ending a rather...challenging day.

At this point I was back to sailing down a maintained trail back over Mono Pass with all it's beautiful views of Ruby Lake and Mt. Morgan. Every time I stare out at Little Lakes Peak I think my trekking pole is up on the side of that mountain. Lost over a cliff in 2008.

My route had me simply dropping to the junction and going straight to Morgan Pass but I thought to myself that the Pie in the Sky Cafe was only 2 miles down the road and that I think i'll make and unscheduled stop for some goods.

As I neared the trail head I ran into two woman and chatted to them about my hike. They offered me a ride down the road and even offered to buy me some pie. So after picking up lots of goodies to pack in with me and having a nice lunch with the two ladies they drove me back to the trail head and I resumed on my way. Wow I thought that couldn't have worked out any better.

The hike up Little Lakes Valley is always an easy and beautiful one as I easily made my way up to Morgan Pass and down to the Lower Morgan Lake for the night.

Resuming in the morning I once again found myself moving through this old mining area intrigued by the nature of all the work done here over the years. Making my way down the road I located a point where I could enter the primary Pine Creek mine so I made my way in and climbed down a ways but decided I did not want to go on because the mine was simply too large to explore while passing through so I kept the entrance in mind for a return trip some day. I actually plan to go batshit crazy and enter the mine for 2 or 3 days before exiting.

Making my way down the beautiful drainage of Morgan and Pine Creeks I finally got a good view of the main facility at the bottom and took note that a large number of buildings had been removed since I was here two years ago.

The bad thing about this route was dropping back down into more heat. I strolled past the trail head and began straight up the old road to Brown Stone Mine. I powered through it but was feeling heat stroke coming on by the time I got to the nice pipe spring coming out of the wall where I cooled down.

Reaching my planned camp at the mine I was surprised to find a small couch built beautifully out of rock in front of a fire pit. The thing was actually quite comfortable. Unfortunately there was no good place for a tent so I had to make one by moving allot of rock. Once set up I made my way into the tram room which was not flooded like on my last visit in 2010. I located the ladder at the back of the room and was happy to see it still here and in some what decent shape. I climbed on up and found myself again in the Brownstone Mine. Although I rather enjoy it I will admit that alone in the dark hallways under ground with only a flashlight is extremely creepy. My recording large amounts of my exploration helped focus my mind and I made my way back to the room with the deep raise bore and played around with throwing rocks in. It was about 14 seconds before impact. I then made my way back to a section of the mine that was completely flooded in 2010 but was dry at least in terms of not having 12 inches of water on the ground held back by a dam. I made my way to a vertical ladder and climbed up but while climbing in a bit of a squeeze with ladders running up at about 50 degrees they began breaking under me from being rotten so I turned back. I then made my way back up a set of ladders to more ladders still that I did not climb in 2010. I began up and complemented myself again on how crazy I was as one ladder would take me up to another that was supported only by a 2x4 wedged in between two walls. Then up to more of the same. After much more exploring I left the mine after about 2 hours under ground and still didn't come close to seeing everything. At this point I felt though that I was done with the inside of this mine for good.

Leaving Brownstone I made my way up past the Pine Lakes and onto some of the old trail past Honeymoon Lake and on into Granite Park. Although this basin is rather interesting with allot of scattered and jagged peaks I felt like I was passing through in a more detached manor. Never feeling like it was all that great though it clearly is. Italy Pass lay ahead with 4 guys nearing the top as I closed in. I had a bit of a chat with them on top and began down without a sign at all of the trail that once came through here. It's not until your close to Jumble Lake that you pick it up solid but only long enough to take you through the mess of talus here which was plenty welcome. I dropped on down and once again enjoyed the beautiful shores of Italy Lake which was my intended camping destination. However I felt good and had time left in the day so I began down the Hilgard Branch for about a mile before setting up camp on top of solid granite where a few rain drops teased me forcing me to free stand my tent with rocks.
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Sun Apr 10, 2016 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby dougieb » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:32 pm

This is awesome!!! Kudos on putting together this report, it made my day. I've been to Humphreys Basin, French Lakes, Royce Lakes and Bear Lakes on three separate trips. This section of your trip connected some of my favorite places. I definitely regret skipping out on the Merriam Lake Basin. I remember staring at it from Elba or Puppet Lake and staring at the map as well thinking, "hmm... should we do it? nah too tired..." I might have to head back this year!
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:49 pm

I'm just sorry it has taken so long! I'm going to get the last 3 weeks of this report up soon if it kills me! :D

And then I'm done right? Wait 2013 is EVEN LONGER!!!!! :crybaby:
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Apr 10, 2016 8:55 pm

WEEK 14

MAP

The weather first thing leaving the Hilgard Branch looked like it would rain but it never came. It was a uneventful stroll aside from stopping to urinate where I thought there was no one but a hundred yards ahead a naked man was standing so I went a bit further on. Once again back on the JMT super highway in Bear Creek until I reached the creek crossing and began climbing up for Orchid Lake. The route I followed up was a bit strange in the fact that the trees were marked with cairns like there once had been a trail when I don't believe there ever was. The hillside here offers wonderful views of Seven Gables and Recess Peak. The lake itself was small but big in charm. I spent the evening watching an Osprey fish the lake.

My route through this area was to hook around the ridge to Cirque Lake but before I had even lifted my head off the pillow I was like tonight is BBQ night at VVR and I am going down to that!! So I hooked over to get a view of Apollo Lake and dropped into Bear Creek which was no problem. Much further down creek I ran into a group of Rangers that I had talked to weeks before. I made them a bit jealous that I was headed to the BBQ.

After about 13 miles of grinding out I was walking the road where I had only gone about half a mile when one of the pack station folks told me to jump in the back. Unfortunately I think when I sat down in the back of his truck my pad was pushed off of my pack and was gone for good.

Being a day ahead of schedule I believe this was the first time I had taken a double layover day at VVR but loving it I later adapted it as the semi norm.

So after all was said done and eaten it was time to get back on trail. Before leaving someone had left a half torn sun visor on the ground in the parking lot which I took to have at least some insulation under me at night.

I set out past Graveyard Meadow and up to the Lowest of the Graveyard Lakes for the day. I think the two days of VVR bogged me down as I was rather tired by the time I got there. I located a decent camp but was some what startled at seeing a beach chair and a hammock hanging right next to the shore line. I thought maybe someone was around but they were not. Upon closer inspection under the beach chair I found that someone had dug a small trench and put 5 cans of food and a can of cheese wiz in there. I decided finders keepers since it was illegal anyway and ate a couple cans and took the cheese wiz with me.

Leaving out of here I hiked past the next lake up and to the largest of the Graveyard Lakes where what I labeled as Graveyard Pass lay ahead. Nothing more than a class 2 hop to the top and short small talus field to the bottom. Here a nice set of meadows and tarn lakes filled the area. Next stop Peter Pande Lake for lunch all this terrain was exceedingly easy as I past Anne Lake and began up towards at I now call Beetlebug Pass. I decided to avoid the low saddle on the ridge and continue up higher on nice slabs until you top out and can pass into easily into the head wall of Long Canyon on continuing slabs. I took down the primary drainage here for the lake until I could pass around a rib of rock sticking out on my left and make my way around the North shore to the outlet where good camping was. Over all I was very impressed by this lake. It reminded me heavily of Hamilton and I considered it to be on the list of places worth revisiting.

The end of the week was exceedingly easy as I left Long Canyon and just went to Iva Bell Hotsprings which I reached by lunch time and secured my favorite spot with the best pool right in my camp.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:23 pm

WEEK 15

MAP

Hiking along Fish Creek I was amazed by the destruction of trees from the windstorm that had happened the following winter. Nothing but a tunnel of trees where 800 had come down in this short stretch. The rest of the hike out normally is hot and sandy in places but there are plenty of nice watering holes to dunk a hat into and stay cool.

As I passed the Rainbow Falls junction I decided to go take a look from the top to see what the water levels were looking like on this dryer year. I set up camp just at the boundary of the pack station outside the national monument in order to save 20 dollars for camping.

Continuing a trend for the third year in a row I had planned the most luxury resupply and layover of the whole trip by staying in the Sierra Nevada Lodge in Mammoth for 2 nights. Since the shuttles were not running I made the hike over Mammoth Pass which is a rather easy hump. I secured a ride into town saving myself another 5 miles of walking. Naturally I ate all the food I possibly could and left having spend 500 dollars.

When it was time to get back on trail I walked the road back to the trail head and made the slog back up and over Mammoth Pass down to Reds Meadow store where I took a break and enjoyed some refreshments before taking the trail into King Creek where I set up for the night.

On this day it was time to do a lake tour so I took the trail up to Fern Lake and over to Anona where I took cross country past Gertrude Lake and up to Ashley where I took lunch. Ashley is probably the most scenic of all these lakes. Now time to visit Noname and Holcomb. Leaving here I stayed high on the hillside above Superior Lake and up to the first of the two Beck Lakes. I decided to take the North shore and it was a rather tedious mix of talus to get around. The upper lake was my destination for the night as I found a poor campsite at this scenic yet some what bland lake.

Leaving these lakes in the morning I decided to try the South shore of the lower Beck Lakes which wasn't much better and had one location where I had to shimmy along a vertical wall with my body flat against using hand holds high as I could reach above.

My next goal was Nancy Pass which was a rather straight forward walk to the top offering nice views of the more extreme end of the Minarets.

I continued onto Minaret Lake leaving Deadhorse Lake as the only unvisited one. This whole region of the Sierra seems to offer one amazing lake after the other with such a dynamic background. This having been my third trip from Minaret Lake to Cecile Lake I decided to try and take the standard route on the far NW shore rather than up past the little tarn lake. It worked well enough and had me talus hoping the shores of Cecile in short order. When I got to the outlet area I peered down at Iceberg seeing a rather different contrast than the snow covered mess from the year before. Thankfully I was able to locate a nice campsite on the NW shore among one of the only patches of trees here. As I relaxed that evening I saw a Douglas Squirrel working the tiny amounts of trees here. I felt bad for the poor little thing with such a tiny food store so I put some peanuts at the bottom of his tree and waited. Finally he came down and inspected the bounty and promptly turned his nose up at my peanuts and went on his way. Hmmph I thought...Too proud to take hand outs.

Day 7 of this week could not have ended with a greater task as I stared up at the mighty Clyde Minaret looming above me. Time to take on a peak greater than any that had come before!

I decided to first go straight into the walls above my camp. This immediately led me into high level technical class 3 with possibly some easy class 4. Once up this though it was a nice stroll up the slope with the cut over ramp being obvious. Once I was on it I made my way up to the chute where the rock route begins. But I had a problem. The chute before me was obvious but so was a path that crossed directly over the chute. I had no idea which way I was supposed to take. I made the wrong judgment and crossed over the chute and took to the NE face. I came to a section of rock that was semi inverted which I thought I could not get up. I decided to give it a try and was successful but with a price. It had been so difficult that there was no going back. This clearly was not the rock route as the move had been class 5 and my only choice was to push forward. I began climbing up a very narrow ledge system and took a video of me leaning against the wall on a 6 inch ledge with about 1000 feet of air below me.

The next move involved making a step up which was higher than my knee with only a small piece of rock to hang onto. Luckily another 20 feet of mostly vertical class 5 took me back into the chute where it clearly was all major class 3. From here it was a continuous scramble of class 3 until you reach the top of the ridge. Traversing the ridge I reached the only piece of class 4 that you must navigate if you don't lose your way and it did not give me any trouble. A few more paces and victory!!! Talk about a summit where you feel on top of the world with how steep down the views are.

After soaking up the views for as long as I could I made my way carefully down. 3 points of contact is a must on this descent as more than once I had multiple holds break at the same time with both foot and hand holds going together. What I remember most about this descent is getting past one difficult obstacle after another and looking down and being no where near finished.

Once I had made my way back down near the wall I had first come up out of my camp I had no interest in going back down it so I began trying to make my way down some grassy hillsides but I was lead into extremely dangerous conditions and I turned back and climbed my way further South where I believe the traditional route up is and made my way down and back to camp feeling a sense of accomplishment and ending another week.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Apr 13, 2016 7:24 pm

Well it took 3 and a half years but this trail report is now complete. Thanks to those of you who actually took the time to read the whole thing. I'm sure not all of it was interesting but hopefully the times it was made up for the in-betweens.

WEEK 16

MAP

The route from Cecile to Iceberg is a rather tedious talus / scree scramble. A use trail is worn in the steep hillside to ill effect. The result is very loose scree and sand where I have fallen and almost fallen many times. The views however do not disappoint after the toil of getting to the North shore.

From here I dropped down to Ediza and then down Shadow Creek to the JMT super highway and once again hiked past Garnet and 1000 Island Lakes on my way to Davis Lakes. I carefully studied the foot prints on the trail leading to my lake and decided that no one was at it which made me happy. Getting there I was not surprised that once again nearly every lake on this range is beautiful. I laid out in the open for the night as very high winds pounded me all night long.

Leaving here I rounded the Southern shore and climbed up to get a look at the upper Davis Lake. From here I crossed a small saddle to the NW and dropped down past Rodgers Lakes and on up a drainage here until I topped out slightly above the largest of the Marie Lakes. Another beautiful if not desolate lake but luckily the shore line was easy to navigate and it was easy climbing up to the next of the Marie Lakes. I tried to round the SW shore but coming around a bend I was completely stopped by a large ice wall so I scrambled up the slope which was not difficult but the rock was turning back into Ionian Basin so it was rather tedious.

Arriving at the unnamed lake below Rodgers Pass an icy wind was blowing heavily. I scanned the area for a place to camp but there was pretty much nothing. A couple rough patches of ground that were hardly big enough for a body were scattered around. After carefully checking the area I picked a spot next to a large rock that I thought might help cut some wind. I began picking rocks out of the space and after about an hour of work I had cleared a patch just big enough for my body. I took a freezing dip in the lake and contemplated the ridge ahead. The route I had placed on my GPS showed Rodgers Pass slightly South above the year round snow field. It did not seem logical to me and I knew by the terrain that I could not scale the ice field. A slight feeling at the back of my mind told me to just turn around and go over Donohue and to hell with this path. It just didn't feel right. I decided to push forward though and take the more logical option on the North side of the ridge which of course actually was Rodgers Pass. I finished my book in the icy cold wind, burned the rest of it up and fought off the cold all night.

The morning brought no rest from the cold as the wind still blew. I wore my gloves as I hiked to stay warm. Although Rodgers Pass from a distance looked like a tedious talus climb it actually was quite easy and it took no time at all before I stood on top. The initial drop was easy enough but before long I was in the thick of a scree / talus nightmare. It was once again a highly unstable slope that demanded major caution. I constantly had to plan my route in front of me based on the nature of the slope. A physics puzzle game really. Any route could be taken but which way would avoid starting a major landslide. I took steps and kept my gaze up above as more then 25 feet away the slope would come my way as I moved. The view kept me company and I snapped plenty of photos. "Damn these gloves" I thought as taking the lens cap off with them was very difficult. Since it was warm enough now I took them off.

After a long difficult descent the slope was finally losing it's steep grade. The rocks were larger talus and I was 50 feet from the bottom. Looking back now I realize I was over confident. I had let my guard down. I stopped meticulously picking my way and was moving too quickly. What exactly happened I will never know. One minute I was walking along and then a rock seemed to have rolled on me. I was completely airborne falling flat on my back with my head facing slightly down hill. I impacted firmly on top of a rock that bashed into my whole tail bone region. Immediately I was extremely dismayed. I have always had problems with my tail bone to the point where I often while laying on my back in bed I would lay on top of my hands to elevate my tail bone off the ground because of pain. I could hardly have hit a worse spot. As I began to get myself up I noticed my hand was covered in blood. I'll never know what I impacted my hand on but the damage was done. I knew immediately that it was bad because of how the flesh looked through the blood. As I was getting myself up right I began going into a familiar state of shock that I have experienced before. After a couple times being injured I associated the condition with your brain thinking your more injured than you really are. I immediately tried to fight it and thought I should get to the water to wash my wound and that the hike would help focus my mind. Unfortunately as soon as I stood up my vision flashed black and I could hardly stand from dizziness. I stumbled a few paces and sat down on a rock trying to focus as hard as I could. It was no good! I'm going down I thought. The world began to fade with my ears ringing, sweat began to pour over my entire body, my vision began going white to the point where I could hardly see and the dizziness took me to the point of passing out. In a last desperate attempt to control the situation I pulled out my camera and began recording a video log of myself. I talked to the camera about what was happening and it helped to focus my mind. Slowly the world came back. I at first was going to hold my hand up to help slow blood flow but not wanting to cover my arm in blood I simply let it drape. As I result a large pool of blood had formed at my feet during this ordeal. Looking back at this video there was a frame showing blood running down a rock where I fell and generally splattered all over the place.

Finally pulling myself together I moved down to the water. It was hard to walk from the pain in my tail bone region. I washed the blood off in the lake and tried to stop the bleeding. I thought my skin looked a bit odd in a couple places but I thought it was just from the cut. I didn't know at the time that it was rocks in my wound. I used an antiseptic wipe, applied antiseptic cream and bandaged the wound up good. I already knew at this point that my injuries were too severe to keep hiking. The reality that my hike suddenly was over was too strange to comprehend fully. At the moment it was all about the easiest way out of the wilderness. Unfortunately there was no easy way to go. I was stuck in the middle of horrible cross country terrain in a remote basin. The only clear route was to make my way down the Lyell Fork to the trail and make my way out over Volgelsang Pass.

My original plan for this area was to head for the outlet of this lake and down to the others. My map however showed what looked like easy terrain if I went around the North side of the lake and straight out of the basin. I got everything on and began to hike. Stepping up at all was painful and I took a short stride. Small shore line obstacles made the journey right from the start difficult. By the time I was getting closer to the other side of the lake my finger hurt badly. The only thing my medical kit was missing that could have been useful at the moment was pain killers. My bandage was already becoming soaked in blood. Although the situation sucked I couldn't help but stop and admire the view and snap a couple photos. Once I had rounded the lake and reached the next smaller one the Western shore did not look good. It was a bit of class 3 rock. I began to move Eastern around the smaller lake on a much longer route but as the terrain became frustrating I turned back and in a very painful move traversed the class 3. I then made my way to the West a bit and was stopped in my tracks by a small cliff about 15 feet high the entire length of the navigable terrain. Damn it! I looked up and down and although I know I could have made it down normally in my current condition it was just impossible. I turned back greatly dismayed to the smaller lake and went over to it's South shore to a small saddle. Cliffs! More Cliffs! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!. There was no choice. I had to make my way back over to the large lake and to it's outlet. By the time I had gotten there I had blown two hours getting to a location that would have taken me 10 minutes from where I had fallen. I began moving down the outlet on tricky terrain. It was about 1pm and I hadn't eaten lunch yet so I gave in and found a place to sit. That was the only positive thing that I actually was able to sit if I could find the right rock. I began to eat but I did not have an appetite. Dwelling on my wounds again the state of shock began coming on. I fought it off by singing a song I like and focusing my mind solely on it. Not being able to eat anything I didn't rest long and moved on. Slowly I made my way down the outlets between lakes over difficult rock. Every move hurt and this terrain was easily as bad as Ionian Basin or worse. What a place to be hurt I thought. As I moved along the outlet of the 3rd lake down I passed another balloon. I stopped but could not muster the strength to pick it up and pack it out. Not much further once again I ran into a mess of cliffs. The only real way down looked a bit dangerous. Once again pissed I made my way down. I passed between two small lakes here and off to a long lake facing North and South. Could I just walk around the lake and be done with it? Well of course not. Cliffs surrounded the area and I was forced to climb up high and make my way through annoying intermixed terrain. Worse was the need to take a crap was creeping up on me. How I was going to pull that off was beyond me. From here it was time to go down to the lower meadows which was my goal for the night. And what did I find in my way other then a very large talus field that was difficult and quite painful to navigate.

After fighting every step of the way in constant pain I reached the first larger meadow as the sun set. I looked everywhere for a camp site but could find nothing. I pushed on to the smaller meadow and finally came onto a small camp that would have to do. I hardly had time to do anything before the last of the useable light had faded. I had a fire but it's smoke steadily blew over the only location to sit in the camp so I had to stand. Getting water was a very painful experience. I groaned in pain both from kneeling down and far worse from standing back up.

My bandage was completely soaked in blood and it had run out on my finger some. I had to plan properly a schedule for my bandages because I only had enough supplies to wrap it 2 more times. I washed it up with soap and water and made do with a worse wrapping than before. Once again I didn't feel much like eating.

Just getting into bed was a difficult task and I clearly could not lay on my back at all. Luckily I was able to lay on my side and stomach and get some decent sleep.

The following morning I was hoping for improvement with my tail bone but as soon as I tried to stand and I groaned loudly in pain I knew there was no change at all. After a difficult pack up where even tying my shoes was a chore I was on my way again.

The rest of the terrain to the trail was not horrible but had plenty of small obstacles that kept things irritating. Once there I'm not sure I had been more happy to just be on a trail. Finally "easier" terrain. It was a long slow and painful trek when I suddenly came up on a trail crew camp. I wandered in and asked if I could bum some medical supplies off of them. They had already packed them up but got them back out for me and gave me enough to cover redressing my bandage for a couple weeks. They didn't seem too interested in me so we kept our exchange to a minimum and I went on my way. Moving down the switch backs to Lewis Creek I nearly fell down a couple times which would have been no fun!

After about a mile and a half I ran into a Ranger who had already been informed by another hiker I had talked to that I had been hurt. He wanted to check out my injuries. I attempted to pull off my bandage but it was no easy task. The cloth was so completely dry caked into the wound that it was a horrible experience to try and pull it off without ripping the thing open. I just kept dumping water on it until I was able to get it off. Along with the bandage a little rock pulled out of the wound. The Ranger got on the Satellite phone with the primary doctor in the valley and of course the main concern was infection. The rocks in the wound only concerned the doctor more. After a very long exchange with spotty reception the Ranger got out his knife and helped dig two more rocks out of the wound and we dressed it back up.

He tried to convince me to hike out to the valley which was the direction he was headed so he could stay with me but I really didn't want to do so. It was allot further and a whole lot of switch backs and check dams. Ultimately with the simple question of "if I leave you are you worried at all?" and my response of "no". We parted ways.

I didn't know if I could make Volgelsang Lake on this day but that was my goal so slowly I made my way up and over the pass and down to the lake as the sun set. Despite being hurt I was in peak condition physically. The year before I had found myself going down hill after 80 days on the trail but this year it wasn't the case. I could hike up hill without ever needing to stop. Something that made having to go home just that much worse. Knowing that I was so ready for every route I had planned that still lay ahead.

At VoIgelsang Lake it had plenty of campers and was very cold. I'm not sure what anyone thought of me as I ever so slowly kneeled down in pain and groaned getting back up. Maybe he is just old is what they thought...

After another frigid and painful morning I continued on this rather dull section of trail passing more people the closer I got to Tuolumne. When I reached the junction in Lyell Canyon I ran into a guy I had camped with at Tuolumne the year before. Always the same trend of running into people again and again.

I made the final slog across my unplanned finish line and into the backpackers camp. I left some hikers rather agitated that I had no intentions of seeing a doctor when I got out. It's just not something I do unless it's literally a matter of life or death.

I painfully tore open the bandage on my finger and continued to monitor for infection while gathering a second opinion from a Ranger.

I called family for a ride and they tried to have me wait a few days until another member of my family had a day off simply because they would like to go. Finally I convinced them it was not a good idea to remain filthy in the mountains while trying to fight off infection so I secured a ride for the following day. Unfortunately for me I got the news that the last person I would ever want to live with me had moved into my house while I was gone. Wonderful I thought. Injured, hike over and home to a far worse living situation.

Meeting up with my ride and cruising down 395 once again I stared out at the great range before me. Only I had to marvel at everything I had done. 111 days ago I had begun this journey. So many wonderful days, so many horrible days. From the great peaks to the gateway passes I pushed forward. When I fell and bled I got up and kept going. When I was thrown to the ground harder I got right back up and kept going. I had walked for hundreds of miles across this beautiful but unforgiving range. It tried to kill me and customized my finger forever but wounds heal and fond memories last forever. And this range certainly has not seen the last of me...
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby ERIC » Wed Apr 13, 2016 7:31 pm

What a report. These things are timeless. Doesn't matter how long it took, it's quality. And much appreciated!
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby dougieb » Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:48 pm

Incredible. I went to Lyell Fork and Hutchins Creek last summer and it was just gorgeous back there. I can't imagine getting injured out there though, all by myself. Phew... glad you're safe and that you're still getting out there. Did that injury affect your mentality at all or inspire you to get a personal locator beacon or anything?
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:46 am

It certainly rooted me back in carefully picking my way through talus fields rather than flying along like a nimble cat. As for a beacon nope. I know that if I had not been able to walk in that location that I'd probably be dead right now but I still do not really value my life. If I die out there then I still have the attitude of so be it. I was almost killed twice in 2013 although a beacon would have done nothing there.

I always joke with people that maybe this will be the year where I never come back. And who knows maybe it will.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby Troutdog 59 » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:24 am

Fantastic write up Rouge. Thank you for taking the time to share the journey with us.
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

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