Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mountain Slacker...

Haven't been up to the mountains for a few weeks, total slacker. I have been training for a half marathon and vacationing in Florida. Looking forward to some winter fun in the next few weeks. Starting to fill out permits for 2012. Hoping to do the John Muir Trail again in August, but this time with a twist........

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cactus (Palm Springs) To Clouds (Mt. San Jacinto) Report

Sunday October 16, 2011: Took my annual trek to Palm Springs to climb the Cactus To Clouds route up to Mt. San Jacinto. I left my house at 0130 for the long drive out to the desert. After a couple of coffee stops, I arrived at the parking lot at 0340. I met up with Ellen who would be accompanying me to the tram this morning. We were on the route at 0400. It was a bit warm at 75 degrees, I would prefer to start off in the low sixties, but oh well. I started out with three liters of water and two liters of powerade. The starting elevation for this trail is 480' and the top of Mt. San Jacinto is at 10,834', lets go.....
Hiking endlessly uphill in the dark is normally a pain, but Ellen and I chatted it up about our respective John Muir Trail journeys this past summer and before too long the sun was coming up and we were at 4,000', good times. The heat of the day never affected me too much, it was warm, but doable. We made good time to Flat Rock where we took a nice siesta. Smoked Salmon and crackers for me. The break helped propel us up the last 2500' to the tram. The weather ended up being great, we must have hiked right along at the comfortable/uncomfortable line with the heat.
After stopping for lunch at the Ranger Station, Ellen bid me farewell and I continued on to the summit. It was a very enjoyable trek, so enjoyable that I decided to bag Miller Peak. I arrived at the summit to a hoard of people, I almost forgot it was a weekend. Had to wait in line to get a photo of the summit sign. The views were incredible as usual. Looking down the north face to the desert floor is awesome, the geologic forces at work are still ongoing and very evident. On the way down I took the ridge down to the first big switchback in the trail. I call this the snowshoe route :). I made it down to the tram in good time. I finished at 3:00 pm with a total of 21.5 Miles and 10,850' of elevation gain and two summits. Not a bad autumn day in the mountains.

My Topo Profile Of The Upper Mountain

My Topo Profile Of The Lower Route

From Summitpost: View Of The Route

From Summipost: Another View Of The Route

First Light


Early Morning Light On San Gorgonio

The Route That Lies Ahead

Looking Down To The Desert Floor

Good Times :)

View North From The Summit

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mt. Brewer via the East Ridge

Tuesday September 27th, 2011: Woke up, got packed up and left my house in Simi Valley at 0200. I planned on a six hour drive to Roads End in Kings Canyon. The drive up the 99 is boring in the daylight, it is even worse at this hour. Just me and the big rigs. I arrived at Roads End at 0730 and did the last minute packing of the backpack and was off at 0815. Roads End is at 5,035' and my destination at East Lake is at 9,445', so alot of climbing to do in the next 13.5 miles. I had planned on being out in the wilderness until Saturday, but the weather was not in my favor after Thursday. Possible thunderstorms and snow Friday and Saturday. So, I set out with Mt. Brewer as the goal and would see what the weather looked like after that.
It was a sluggish climb at best. Not much sleep and the long drive weren't equally a strong result this day. I pressed on and on it seemed, but made it to East Lake in six hours. The lake is nestled in a bowl of grand peaks. Mt. Brewer and North Guard to the west, West Vidette to the east, Mt. Jordan to the south and Mt. Bago in the distant north. It is a really beautiful setting and I had it all to myself. I wouldn't see anyone this entire trip actually. I set-up camp and scouted out my route for tomorrow morning. The sun sets early with the massive peaks to the west and it gets chilly in a hurry. I had some dinner and hit the sack at 1830. I knocked out quick, it had been an exhausting day.
Climbing Up The Bubbs Creek Drainage

South Face Of Mt. Bago

East Lake

East Lake
Wednesday September 28th, 2011: After a so so night of rest, I was up and at em at 0530. Had some oatmeal, packed up and set off for Mt. Brewer at 0630. I didn't want to start in the dark on a route I am unfamiliar with so I took my time packing up. The first obstacle of the day was to cross the outlet of East Lake. There are a bunch of downed trees that provide a dry crossing, just have to keep your balance for a hundred foot stretch. I skirted the western shore of the lake passing one creek and another. The second creek is Ouzel Creek and this is where I would head west towards Brewer. I got good intel off the web from Summitpost and Bob Burd's websites as to where to follow the creek and where to climb above it. Following these instructions I was able to follow the north side of Ouzel Creek then take the north branch of the creek and follow that upstream to the toe of the east ridge. Instead of climbing onto the ridge, I stayed to the north of the immediate ridge and climbed up slabs and talus until the north side became too steep. I was able to keep to the class two route for the most part but went too far on the north side and had to attain the east ridge via some class three climbing. I could have backtracked to the class two route, but found this section not too bad. Once on the ridge I could make out the rest of the route except where the east ridge and south ridge meet. This sure didn't look class two, but I proceeded with the hopes that the proper route would reveal itself in due time.
My instructions were to follow the east ridge until it met up with the south ridge. Here there would be a notch and I would be able to climb the south ridge/slopes to the summit. Thankfully, this was indeed the case. I did have to make a few class three moves to get through the notch onto the south ridge, but nothing too bad. Once on the south ridge I had to pick my way through the talus to the summit blocks. I could now see three distinct pinnacles with the middle one appearing to be the highest and most difficult. Summitpost listed it as a class three/four block. Thank goodness for rock shoes. The summit register was supposed to be near the northeastern pinnacle but I had no luck finding it. I started to doubt which of the three pinnacles was the highest and which one had the register, so I climbed all three and spent a good hour looking around each for the register. No luck, where could it be? I have read about register theft in the Sierra's, could this be the case here? I was able to get a whole bunch of class three and one class four scrambling in which was quite enjoyable with the outstanding weather and magnificent views.
I was truly blessed with the great weather. There were some clouds in the sky, but nothing threatening. The views were spectacular. I could see the Palisades, Mt. Goddard, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Williamson, Mt. Tyndall, Mt. Stanford, West Vidette, North Guard, Glen Pass and beyond. I spent a good amount of time soaking this all in. I had a good time using the map and compass to identify far off peaks. As a photographer, this was great. I knew this trip would be the last backpacking excursion into the Sierra Nevada for the season and what a season it had been. It was here I decided that I would end the season on a high note and make the summit of Mt. Brewer the finale. I would be coming home tomorrow. As an added benefit, I would be staying ahead of the weather. I had my lunch, sent off a Spot Connect message to my wife, did a video and started back to East Lake. The climb back down wasn't too bad at all. I took my time and enjoyed the journey. Today was a great day in the Sierra Nevada.

The Climbing Begins

Mt. Brewer
Self Portrait With A Great Backdrop
Mt. Goddard To The Left, The Palisades To The Right
East Ridge Meeting The South Ridge

The Notch Connecting The Ridges

Summit Straight Ahead

Mt. Whitney In The Distance, To The Right

East Lake Way Down There

Summit Pinnacle, Class Three/Four Block

Thursday September 29th, 2011: Woke up this morning feeling great, a good night of rest does wonders for the body and mind. Before packing up and heading back to Roads End, I wandered up stream/canyon to Lake Reflection. I read that is a beautiful lake and it lived up to its billing. I spent some time there taking photographs and enjoying the grand scene. The rest of the day was uneventful, just a long trek back to the car. As the day progressed I could see the puffy cumulus clouds building over the crest, the weather was definitely changing. I made it back to my truck at 2:30 pm and I concluded a great season, very thankful and grateful.

Alpine Glow

Lake Reflection
Last Look At Mt. Brewer

All The Photos Can Be Viewed Here:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mt. Langley Trip Report & Photos

Monday September 5, 2011: Rest & Relaxation. The adventure continues......After Whitney I would be meeting up with my wife and our friend Patti to climb Mt. Langley. They would be meeting me Tuesday afternoon so I had Monday afternoon to rest up and clean up. I booked a room at the Dow Villa. I have stayed here before and have always enjoyed the experience. The rooms are nice and quaint, the only thing some don't like it the shared bathrooms with other guests, but I don't mind, a nice bed and a television to watch more football were all I needed. I finished Whitney earlier than expected which allowed me the time to do laundry across the street, it was nice to have clean clothes after a week and a half in the mountains. I had some more Subway for dinner and a nice ice cream for desert and hit the sack. After the terrible rest at the Portal Campground, the quiet room at the Dow Villa was wonderful and needed.
Tuesday September 6, 2011: Horseshoe Meadow Backpackers Camp. Woke up feeling refreshed and recharged after a great nights rest. Judy and Patti were due to arrive in Lone Pine around noon so I had time to grab some more Subway for breakfast and relax. I met Judy and Patti at the visitor center where we picked up our permit. We decided to have a good old Mexican lunch at Bonanza's. Judy and I have only eaten here after tough hikes and always enjoyed the food. But is it really good or were we just starving. Today we would find out. Turns out their food is good anytime. After picking up some firewood, hot dogs and a bottle of wine it was off to the Horseshoe Meadow Backpackers Campground. It was really nice to be with my wife backpacking again, a really special trip. She has been very supportive of my wild Sierra trips and I cannot thank her enough, couldn't do it without her. We set up a nice little camp, got a campfire going, grilled some hot dogs and drank some wine. Good times. The plan tomorrow was to make it to Cottonwood Lakes #3 and set up base camp. Another good night of sleep was in store.
Wednesday September 7, 2011: Cottonwood Lake #3. Woke up feeling good. We had an easy six mile trek into the Cottonwood Lakes Basin. We had some breakfast, packed up our gear and headed off at the leisurely hour of 9:30 am. The skies were filled with puffy white cumulus clouds. I had a weather report of a 20% chance of T-Storms tomorrow then some really nasty weather over the weekend, so these clouds shouldn't cause us any problems. We made good time to our camp alongside Cottonwood #3. We set up camp at an excellent site, very cozy. We would now watch the clouds come and go. Warm in the sun, quite chilly in the shade of the clouds. I had read reports that Army Pass was free of troublesome snow, so I decided this would be tomorrows route to Mt. Langley. We wandered on up to Cottonwood #4 to have a look at Army Pass and it was indeed very passable. We had a nice backpackers dinner and went to sleep rather early. Tomorrow would be a big day.

Mt. Whitney & Mt. Muir Trip Report & Photos

Saturday & Sunday September 3 & 4, 2011: Rest, Recover & Travel. Finished the Mineral King Backpack and craved a hot shower and bed. I had a permit to climb Mt. Whitney on Labor Day and needed to get over to Lone Pine Sunday afternoon. My awesome wife got me a room at the Econo Lodge in Bakersfield to piece the two trips together. A nice hot shower, some Subway and Long John Silver put me in a good place for a wonderful night of rest. It was also the opening weekend of College Football, so seeing some games and highlights while I rested were great. I woke up the next morning feeling great. Stopped off at Target to pick up some supplies and headed east for Lone Pine. I got my permit, drove up the Whitney Portal road and was able to obtain the last campsite at the backpackers site. It was going to be a busy Labor Day on Whitney. I had a delicious Portal burger and fries and bedded down at 6:00 pm. The plan was to get started around 2:00 am to beat the forecasted thunderstorms. I was able to fall asleep and all was well until the Portal Bear came a knocking and ran off with someones backpack. The subsequent yelling and screaming woke me up to say the least. Then around 11:00 pm a female hiker came into camp and was very noisy. She had completed the dayhike to Whitney in a lightning quick twenty hours and needed to tell her group how great it was. There were headlamps shining into my tent, fragrant cooking right outside my tent with the Bear on the prowl. I fully appreciate being excited after climbing Whitney, but you have to be respectful of others and this person was not. Needless to say, my night at the Whitney backpackers campground was not a good one.

Monday September 5, 2011: Mt. Whitney. I was able to get to get some breakfast, pack up my backpack and get on the trail at 2:20 am (no bear shenanigans either :o ). I always enjoy hiking the lower section of the main trail in the dark, can't really tell what progress you are making or not making, just hiking in the dark. There were quite a few people on the trail at this ungodly hour, they must have the same weather report. I made great time and before long I was on the switchbacks at the first hint of light. I could see the clouds out over the eastern desert, but nothing over the crest, so far so good. It was amusing watching the headlamps march up the switchbacks below me. You could make out most of the switchbacks there were so many headlamps dancing in the morning light. I reached trail crest in time to see the sunrise, very cool. The traverse over to the summit was nice, not too many people ahead of me. I reached the summit at 7:15 am, just a little under five hours and I felt good as a bonus. The only other people on the summit were Guitar Lake folk from the west. The views were outstanding as usual. The thunderstorms that were forecast were staying away so far. I sent out a message to my wife from my Spot Connect saying on was on the summit of Whitney and all was well. The Mineral King trip was the Spot Connect's first time out and I was impressed. Very easy to use and accurate, highly recommended.
I headed back down the summit at 8:30 am after spending a lengthy amount of time on top enjoying the wondrous views and great weather. When I reached the cut off for the class three climb of Mt. Muir I decided the weather was great and gave it a go. Mt. Muir is one of California's fifteen fourteen thousand foot peaks. It is an easy peak to obtain from the Whitney trail, just three hundred vertical feet above the trail. Its summit block is a nice class three climb to the 14,015' summit. The Whitney massif is impressive from here. There is also a bird eye view of the 97 switchbacks from the summit block. I signed in, took some photos and was on my way back to the Portal. I was able to make it back to the trailhead in a very leisurely five hours, those giant blocks between trail camp and outpost camp are best done slowly. I arrived back at my truck at 1:50 pm. Another successful day in the Sierra's.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mineral King Loop Trip Report & Photos

Monday August 29, 2011: Travel Day. Drove up to Cold Springs Campground out at the end of Mineral King Road. This was my first trip to Mineral King so the drive out was exciting. I was very pleased with Cold Springs Campground. Nice, quiet and very inviting. Good travel day.

Sawtooth Peak On Way Up Mineral King Road

Cold Spring Campground

Tuesday August 30, 2011: Sawtooth Peak. Today was a very very tough slog of a day. This being my first experience in this region of the Sierra, I had no idea what I was in for. I set out for Little Five Lakes via Sawtooth Pass & Peak from the trailhead at 7:00 am. The trail was nice right up till lower Monarch Lake, then it was a sandy slog up to Sawtooth Pass. I was carrying a full pack with five days of rations, so the slog was really tiring to say the least. I made it to the pass and was rewarded with wonderful views east to the Kaweah's and the Whitney/Langley region. I dropped my full pack and traversed the sandy class two slopes to the summit with a bottle of water, my rain jacket, camera and a snack. The views from the summit were outstanding, Mt. Kaweah, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley, Needham, Eisen, Black & Red Kaweah were all on full display. I got back to the pass and pushed on. Originally I wanted to camp at Little Five Lakes but I was tired so I eyed the first of the Big Five Lakes to stay the night. The hike down through Lost Canyon was peaceful and before long I arrived at camp, made dinner and hit the sack, a very long and tough day.