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TR: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic 7/1-9/19/16

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TR: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic 7/1-9/19/16

Postby alpinemike » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:24 am

Been slacking on this TR... I know. At least I'm starting it before this Summer's hike begins! Last year I finished my Bachelor's at Berkeley and intended on going to Grad School this fall. But, due to financial reasons I will be postponing that for another year.. which basically means more time to hike and write up TR's. This year I've been working for my dad's company and at the Community College here in Tahoe. I've been working 50+ hours a week hence the delay in posting a TR that will span close to a 75 page book. This was year 3 for me with Rogue and I have got to say it's hard to imagine a different hiking partner at this point. I've run the numbers and after we finished last summer and fall we have spent 171 days together! For many that could be a considered a lifetime of hiking with someone. We already have another 47 days planned just for our long trip this summer. Before long we'll hit the one year mark! Needless to say it was an incredible summer with beautiful weather and some fantastic adventures.

So as a synopsis. This was the first summer where Rogue had someone join him the entirety of his summer trip of 81 days. We had a bit of logistical situation to deal with since we had multiple resupply points and two vehicles. We devised a plan that allowed for me to drop my truck off at the Wolverton TH which we would return to 50 odd days later! I dropped my truck off there, we headed in his truck up to VVR, where we started our first section on July 3rd. We headed up into the 2nd Recess and over Gabbot Pass to climb several peaks in the area. From there he headed to the Royce Lakes to climb some more. Out of there we headed over Royce-Merriam Saddle and Feather Pass and out to VVR via the Hilgard Branch and the Bear Creek Cutoff trail. We then drove Rogue's truck to Florence Lake and headed up the JMT into Evolution Basin to climb most of the major peaks in the area. We continued along the JMT all the way over Mather Pass and camped at Upper Basin to climb more peaks. From there we descended the South Fork of the Kings River in the Canyon of the Murro Blanco. The next section we were joined by our friend Dan as we traveled cross country through the Monarch Wilderness. The last long section left out of Roads End as we headed up to Lake Reflection and up and over the King's-Kern Divide into the Upper Kern Basin. We climbed numerous notable peaks and then headed to climb several peaks on the Great Western Divide as we went over Milestone Pass into the Kern-Kaweah river basin. We headed over Pants Pass into Nine Lake Basin and then we traversed the Kings-Kaweah Divide via multiple cross country passes until we finally came out at the Tablelands and dropped down to Wolverton to finally get back to my truck. From there we headed back to VVR where we did a shorter section around Pioneer Basin. Because we were a couple days early we headed up through Yosemite and climbed Mt. Dana, Gibbs, and Cathedral Peak. Once back on our schedule we met up with Derek and Larry at the South Lake TH. Larry joined us for a couple days as climbed up to Bishop Pass and did Agassiz. From there the 3 of us (Larry went home) went into the Palisade Basin to climb North Pal. We ended up bailing out a day early because major weather was rolling in. The last 2 short sections were peak based.. the first being Humphrey's and then Middle Pal. From there we all parted ways, Rogue and I returning home and Derek stayed to climb another couple days. So... I guess it's time to get started with Week 1!

Day 1- July 1- South Lake Tahoe to VVR
Day 1 started at 4:45 A.M. for me. I decided to take Highway 88 over Carson Pass instead of Highway 50 over Echo since 88 is more scenic and I wouldn't have to drive through Sacramento. I drove basically straight from Tahoe to Lodgepole. Throughout the Central Valley I enjoyed conversations with several friends that I would not have real conversations with for several months. Through many winding roads & much toil I arrived by 12:15; not half bad at all. I quickly found Rogue’s truck & parked next to it. We saw each other in the parking lot instantly. Afterwards we proceeded to eat some lunch & head to the ranger station to make sure parking my truck at Wolverton was okay. I had already called to check and they had told me it was perfectly okay. We quickly got the green light & headed there. After sorting through everything & disconnecting my battery I bid farewell to my truck… who I wouldn’t see again till the end of August. From there we attempted to jam to Cedar Grove, but of course got stuck behind someone driving stupidly slow. We eventually got there around 3:30PM. We quickly found out that the manager from last year wasn’t there but the lady there said it would be okay to leave our packages there. That certainly was a major relief. Now we were off to VVR. We made good time to Fresno at which point in Clovis we had some very delicious nachos. Our last meal in what can be deemed civilization. Huntington along with Shaver were totally full… which was a grand sight. We slowly made our way over the hellish Kaiser Pass road to VVR until finally we arrived around 9:15 P.M. I had a hell of a time setting up my tent due to the dark, tiredness, & general bleh. Finally ended Day 1 of driving horrendous, windy, steep, & god awful roads.

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Day 2- July 2- Layover
Today filled with a general irritating feel at VVR because of many reasons. We quickly found out 2 cooks quit the week before and the kitchen manager left in the middle of the night! And Jim was recouping from surgery so… on top of all that the store badly needed a restocking and to our dismay the kitchen too. We skipped breakfast in the hopes of lunch but alas no lunch was served. We headed to Mono Hot Springs Resort where I wanted an Elk Burger but naturally they were out so Buffalo it was. Excellent meal we had there along with some buffalo chili. From there we secured our permit easily which was very fortunate indeed. We headed back to VVR and chatted with hikers all day in preparation for dinner. And what should happen for dinner but them running out of basically everything. Fortunately though we ended up with a delicious pulled pork sandwich with fries. I guzzled down the last tiny bit of my bourbon directly out of the handle looking like a big alcoholic. It was certainly a comedic sight. Only reasons why I did was because I filled up my resupply bottles and a small amount was left and i wanted to get rid of the bottle. We enjoyed a pleasant time around the fire with some JMTer’s & then blissfully sunk to sleep.

Day 3- July 3- VVR to 2nd Recess
We quickly packed up and were one of the first ones inside for breakfast, which was lacking items but still good. We finished packing, said our goodbyes & were ready to jump on the ferry. Fortunately for us we finally had a lake… not totally full but enough for a boat ride 99% of the way. We somehow missed the first 2 ferry’s & finally made it on the 10:30 one. By 11:30 or so we were on the other side on the trail. It was hot & annoying but no matter, we were finally out there. Within the first 45 min a ranger came down & checked our permit. All was well though. Soon we had our first ford where I very much enjoyed having water shoes. Onward we pushed amid conversations of the usual banter. We made it to the Mono Creek trail & the mosquitoes soon came out in full force. Fortunately we were armored up good so only some elbow damage was done. We eventually reached our turnoff at the ford of Mono Creek. It was running swift & high & just one look at how much Rogue was struggling made me reconsider. He made it with great care & luck as the water was over waist deep on him & he’s 6’3’’. I found a log upstream a little ways & made short work of the crossing. We quickly traveled up to our camp in the 2nd Recess that we stayed at 2 years ago. The mosquitoes were bad there but manageable once we made a fire. Oddly enough the grate for grilling was still there but I had nothing to use it for since I made pasta of which I gave a good amount to Rogue.

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Day 4- July 4- 2nd Recess to Upper Mills Creek Lake
Today, we headed up to Upper Mills Creek Lake. The day went smoothly but we were very tired at the end since it was only Day 2 with 12 days of food and ice axes and microspikes. We met several hikers, even an HST member (VHSVHS). We finally got there by 4ish and found a very nice area to camp. We enjoyed bathing, laundry and had a very pleasant night amid the grandeur of what can only be stated as the grandist of the High Sierra.

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Day 5- July 5- Upper Mills Creek Lake to South of Gabbot Pass
We awoke to a very cold morning & to be precise at one point my thermometer read 29OF! My my… another cold July… can it be? We headed up and over Gabbot Pass enjoying the snowfields at the top since they provided welcome relief from the talus. The upper lake was still mostly frozen. We made good time getting up there & then decided to skip on climbing the unnamed peak around the Royce Lake and instead climb Abbot the following day. Down the pass we went amid many south-facing snowfields…an impressive sight given early July. I glissaded on several. We eventually reached a flat area where we had lunch & decided to camp higher instead of at Toe Lake. We found a very nice flat area that has an epic view of all the Little Lakes Valley Peaks. Our camp is desolate as so many of ours usually is. We baked in our tents since we got there early but by 5:40 P.M. we lost the sun behind the ridge. A cold evening & subsequent night ensured.

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Last edited by alpinemike on Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:28 am

Day 6- July 6- Climb Mt. Abbot
We awoke to a very cold morning & it seemed as though the trend of cold July’s is not quitting. We made good time to the major snowfield below Abbot’s chute. But soon we had to enter onto the steep snow chute guarding the entrance. Rogue cut footholds while I tested the waters. I was very close to giving up & retreating because the descent scared the **** **** out of me given my injury only 3 weeks prior. I pressed on though since it was a short section & once I stepped into the footholds I felt very comfortable. Onward we pressed into a horribly loose, nasty chute naturally. Eventually we started climbing full on Class 3 rock & soon we were at the crux. It was a 20-30 FT snow slope at 70 degrees! And naturally there was no way around it. My heart was leaping thinking how are we ever going to get down this?? But to turn back literally 60 FT from the summit just wasn’t an option. And so our adventure began with massive footholds & slowly but surely we made the summit ridge. A very spicy Class 4 move was the final difficulty above the snow. Returning over that gave me butterflies that I know I wouldn’t shake off until being out of there. The ridge to the summit was a cake-walk & soon we had an extraordinary view in every direction given our prime central location. But the fun was just beginning. Now we had to reverse everything we just worked for. The Class 4 & snow chute were very intense and my appetite at lunch was gone because of them. But with painstaking detail & attention I made it down. Down we went through the chute until the next obstacle lay before us… The first steep snowfield. I already knew I had to downclimb via our steps. Rogue decided to glissade & it sure was epic… He said that he was hanging from his ice ax unable to stop. Clearly, I picked the safer route. I traveled along the rocks for quite a ways before I felt comfortable to get onto the snow. Eventually I did & soon reached Gabbot Pass & headed down to camp. It was a grueling day both physically & mentally in so many ways. Once back at camp which wasn’t much earlier than 5:15 P.M. I noticed I had a tightened muscle around my chest & jaw. At one point I thought I was getting sick which would be horrendous. My ankle has been handling everything very well. Every now & again I get a tinge of pain but I believe I’m regaining my strength on it. This was from my Miter Basin injury about 3 weeks prior.

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Day 7- July 7- Climb Bear Creek Spire
So today we made it up Bear Creek Spire… although with some assistance for me. The climb up until the actual headwall was the usual talus, sand, and snow. We got up to the headwall just as someone had come down & he certainly didn’t make it look difficult. Rogue went first & made it past 95% of the headwall saying that it certainly was some real climbing. I went up the first crack only to be stopped in my tracks at the thought of downclimbing it. But fortunately for me 2 climbers approached & offered me a belay. Without a hitch I made it to the top! My first roped climb of a mountain in the Sierra. They were guides out of Bishop & were very nice about helping me out. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it on top of the summit block…My nerves just weren’t there. Another climber came up right behind us & free soloed the entire route… summit block & all. I couldn’t watch his downclimb as it was much too ridiculous for me. Fortunately though we were still able to sign the register… well I signed for Rogue. Even Rogue decided the summit block was a bit much for him. And so we had a quick lunch & descended back to the first ledge. The chimney move was difficult on the way up but not too bad on the way down. I came to my crux at the first major downclimb though and just couldn’t figure out where to place my feet. I decided I wasn’t going to waste the climbers’ time anymore so I was literally lowered by rope around my waist. No doubt a crazy experience but I was satisfied at the result of me being down there. From there we retraced our steps back to camp. I thanked the climbers greatly for their patience & they asked about HST & our names on there, so we might get a few more readers on the forum. Rogue & I always know how to start out our adventures from Abbot to Bear Creek Spire. We decided, since the routes on Dade suck something terrible we’re going to skip it & head to VVR for a double layover which will be most satisfying. The weather has been very cooperative, with hardly any clouds but a few that built today. Weather, according to the climbers should be good for at least several days, if not more. My pack, which is a new ZPacks ArcHaul that I customized, I’m still unsure about since it feels less comfortable than my Mariposa. It is suffering the same fate of tears along the bottom. Hopefully it doesn’t get worse or I’ll just use my Mariposa pack since I brought it. My jaw and chest pain seemed to have subsided substantially so I was feeling less worried that I might be getting sick.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Mar 02, 2017 4:52 pm

Yeah this whole start was something. One of the most difficult fords I ever have done at Mono Creek, Crazy ice climbing on Abbot and then the out of control glissade. Then combine with never going below 11,000 feet. Getting totally sun burned. Massive high winds. And bathing in a lake half frozen.
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby dougieb » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:51 pm

Fantastic. Every year I look forward to reading about both of your adventures. I have my own google earth layers for places I've been and places I want to go and it sounds like you went to a few of the areas last year. I still haven't been to the recesses and haven't been to much of kings canyon either. I'm looking forward to a long week out in the milestone, upper kern area later this year. I look forward to hearing about your experiences in that area. Thanks for taking the time to share your trip with us!
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:33 pm

Week 2

Day 8- July 8- South of Gabbot Pass to Royce Lakes
We headed from our camp to the Royce Lakes. Getting around the South shore of Lake Italy definitely was a **** and every bit as shitty as we thought. I avoided the first snow field by climbing high up on a large technical talus pile… really more like a boulder field. From there we had to descend & ended up back on the shoreline cutting steps into the frozen snow. All in all a shitty experience. Eventually after much toil we made it to the trail for Italy Pass. Passing by Jumble Lake we saw it was completely full indicating a very good snow year. Many snowfields were avoided/traversed en route to the pass but by mid-afternoon we made it. We quickly dropped into Granite Park… a first for me. I really enjoyed the excellent views of the snow clad granite formations & spires. From there we followed a use trail through pretty terrain till we reached our cutoff for Granite Park Pass. We traveled on rock & then transitioned to snow & crested the top by 5:30. A very snowy frozen view of the uppermost Royce Lake greeted us. We descended more snow and topped a hill to see our lake was also frozen over & covered in lots of icebergs. How lovely all water activities including bathing would be. From there we went around the lake to the far side & found a really nice pool of sand to set up on. After a long day we enjoyed a restful sleep.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:48 pm

Day 9- July 9- Layover
For the most part, an uneventful day. But it started out windy & continued to progress into a full on gale by night. In the midst of that Rogue lost his bucket to the lake. A sad fate indeed since now we must use our 2nd layover day to head to Fresno. My failed attempt at retrieving it was stopped in its tracks when I got knee deep in the frigid/hypothermic water. I immediately turned back since I knew there was no way I could go out 50 yards. We saw several climbing parties & chatted with one from N. Carolina who did the North Buttress on Merriam (a fine route we can see from camp). They turned back on Feather due to the snow, which is exactly what we knew we would do since the col was too steep & icy even for an attempt. Lots of clouds built all day but passed by fast due to the increasing winds. An odd weather pattern that is much more reminiscent of late September. Anyways by dinner, after a lazy day of reading & doing a whole lot of nothing the wind seemed to die down… But little did we know but the gale was just beginning.

Day 10- July 10- Climb Treasure Peak
All through the night our tents were ravaged by ferocious gusts and a steady stream of sand that covered everything. Rogue eventually dropped his tent by taking the pole out & I soon did the same. Now the fierce cold was penetrating through my bag & I resorted to putting on my shell. Hours passed as we both hardly slept until finally the sacred daybreak arrived & the sun started to warm things up. We redid our tents & the wind slowly but surely started to die down through the morning. By 10:30 or so we ventured up to climb the unnamed peak above camp. After some nice scrambling we enjoyed a superb view from the top, but to our dismay no register. The peak is informally known as Treasure Peak. We enjoyed lunch up there amid a dying wind. And crystal clear skies in practically every direction greeted us. Fortunately, we think whatever the system was has blown through. Unfortunately no service was obtained on the peak so we’ll have to wait a couple day for a weather report. We finally got a clear view of the Royce-Merriam Saddle which we’ll cross tomorrow. Fortunately only a small section is snow & it already has footholds from the descent of climbing parties. My backup plan was to descend off the plateau & then up Merriam Creek but hopefully we won’t need to do that. We enjoyed a short tour of the lower lakes before returning back to camp. Clear skies & almost no wind around dinner time.

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Day 11- July 11- Royce Lakes to Basin Above Merriam Lake
We climbed up Royce-Merriam Saddle with very good snow conditions. Excellent footholds were present & the snow was not too hard. The grade at the top easily approached 45o though, so it was a slow & methodical climb with ice ax in tow. We climbed Merriam once we reached the saddle. Tame Class 3 in spots & we lunched on the summit enjoying a fine view. Down we climbed & made camp fairly early in the valley above Merriam Lake. This area definitely had the most mosquitoes since the 2nd Recess.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:55 pm

Day 12- July 12- Basin Above Merriam Lake to Brown Bear Lake
Rogue decided to skip out on Royce today (I had already climbed it in 2014) so we pressed on into the gorgeous Bear Lakes Basin. This put us a full 2 days ahead of schedule giving us 3 layover days. Up Feather Pass we went expecting steep snow on the North side. Fortunately, snow was only covering the bottom section so we passed through quickly & easily. The Bear Lakes afforded spectacular views & I thoroughly thought it was the highlight of the section. After we got to Black Bear Lake in the midafternoon I asked if we had decided whether we’re climbing an unnamed peak the following day. After much conundrum & discussion since neither of us was adamant for or against we decided to head to VVR the next day. So we pressed on up to a half frozen White Bear Lake & descended on a very annoying & shelvy White Bear Pass to Brown Bear Lake. There we had our last dinner on the section & I even enjoyed a hazelnut cocoa that Rogue so graciously gave me. The evening light was gorgeous against Mt. Hilgard but the mosquitoes were naturally providing us a constant symphonic buzzing.

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:06 pm

Day 13- July 13- Brown Bear Lake to VVR
Today we went out the Hilgard Branch to the JMT to the Bear Creek Trail & then to the Bear Creek Cutoff Trail. The mosquitoes were horrendous in many meadows & areas along Bear Creek. We only saw a few people on the JMT till we jammed on the Bear Creek Trail. A pretty trail with several scenic viewpoints. Bear Creek was flowing very strong & we even jumped in to cool ourselves from the low elevation heat. The water was frigid but pleasant felling given the heat. At the end of the day we trudged up the final 800 FT hill before descending to the truck. We spotted a small fire burning to the North of VVR directly by the Devil’s Bathtub trail. We got into VVR right around dinner & I had a delicious & greasy fish & chips. And fortunately there was Apple Pie & I devoured it with ice cream. Around dinner I noticed I developed a rash on my legs from some sort of stinging plant… how lovely that was. The fire fighters were there for dinner & I asked about the fire. They told me it was basically a smolder from a lightning strike 2 weeks prior. That night I slept most soundly after a long 18 mile day!

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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby alpinemike » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:10 pm

Day 14- July 14- To Fresno & Back
Today, we headed down to Fresno to pick up our bucket & potentially a tent for me. Mine was definitely suffering a sad fate at the top with the structural bar not being held in place properly. As soon as we got service my biggest concern was how my dad's business was doing given my friend was handling all the bookkeeping and payroll. We got lunch at the Nacho Place which was most delightful & I performed all my phone calls; Including to my friend Amy (the one doing the books). Things were interesting…. But progressing in the right direction. I’ll definitely be checking in every time to make sure the Earth was still spinning. Rogue couldn’t find anywhere to buy his bucket. So we had no choice but to go to REI. There he found everything and I couldn’t get ****. They didn’t have any tents in my price & weight range so I gave up & said screw it. Mine will have to do after I try to repair it. Rogue, on the other hand found a light Sea To Summit Bucket that would work just fine. He also got climbing shoes & a new pair of sunglasses. Needless to say I was feeling shitty given I couldn’t get the one thing I needed. From there we headed to the bank where I deposited the $100 Rogue loaned me. Then we headed to a VONS where I got some beer, tortillas, and Rogue picked up some chapstick, crystal light along with cheese. From there it was back up Kaiser Pass Road… ugh so over that road. That night’s dinner at VVR was very disappointing.. I got some shitty piece of chicken that was mostly bone & of course their shake machine had to break! So, no good dinner, dessert, or tent. Needless to say I was pretty pissed at this point. And to top it all off a new fire had formed right next to the one from the previous day. More smoke & coughing.. how lovely. At least I got a couple free beers at the fire that night at VVR.

At least we had another day for things to get better or so we thought..
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Re: 81 Days in the Sierra w/Rogue Photonic July 1st-Septembe

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:50 pm

Lol the VVR trips were almost comical last year. We were always the first in the restaurant and the last to get served. I think the poor chicken night was the time we both ordered and he got his chicken bone and I had ordered a new york steak. After everyone else in the place had eaten and some even that came in after I ordered had already left I was given a steak that was half the size of what hit everyone else's plate. I think the very last crappy one they had since it was removed from the menu at that point.
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