Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

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alpinemike
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Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:01 pm

I know I'm a bit late to the ball on this one.. alright very late haha.

Well I've been busy with the usual, school, work, and of course more backpacking and climbing in the Sierra! there were so many photos to go through just on this 11 day trip that it took ages just to sort through them. I did not keep a journal for this trip as has been the case for so many of my trips. Instead I will mostly just post the photos with detailed captions... and there will be lots of photos because there was so much to see and there was much incredible grandeur to capture!

I was stoked when Dan said he really had to get out and do something in the fall. I had just gotten back from my 40 day hike with Janine in the summer and I was already super ready to get back out there... way too much personal nonsense going on that I knew I needed to get away from. So Dan and I planned an epic trip to see the mythical Kaweah Basin and Picket Guard Lake and then made a large loop back to our cars. Dan is the hiking partner that Rogue and I had met in August of 2016 in Cedar Grove. Dan and I became really good friends and hiking buddy's. We've done lots of trips together now, including several hundred miles of the PCT together. Dan completed the entire PCT last year in 2018. What a badass! Anyways, I had been wanting to see these areas for years and finally this was the time! We ended up doing just that, but with a slight variation at the end because of a substantial snowstorm that rolled in the morning of the first day of Autumn! Of course it did! We spent the coldest night I had ever spent in a tent outside of the pure winter season! It got down to 15F the night after the snowstorm! It remained bitterly cold so we knew it might be time to head out. We had an epic trip and I hope the photos do some justice to how incredible the areas were!

In summary we went from Crescent Meadow on the High Sierra Trail into 9 Lakes Basin. Headed over Pyra-Queen Col into Kaweah Basin with a dayhike into the Red Spur Lakes. From there headed to Picket Guard Lake and then down into the Kern-Kaweah and over Colby Pass into Cloud Canyon. From there it was out via Sugarloaf and Silliman Pass back to Lodgepole. We got to Lodgepole on September 14th and left on the 25th after spending a night at the Lodgepole campground on our way out. So it was a 9 night 10 day trip.

Here we go:

Day 1- Crescent Meadow to Lone Pine Creek
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:07 pm

It was a tiring first day with a heavy pack on our backs. Remember it was 2017 and it was very very high snow year... quite possibly the highest ever recorded in most of the Southern Sierra. And due to that and the nature of our cross country route we had to carry an ice ax and microspikes! And our trip was supposed to be for 11 nights if I remember correctly. And we also had shoulder season gear so it was substantially heavier load than what I'd like when I pull long days. And anyone that's been on the start of the High Sierra Trail knows that trail is anything but flat and has plenty of elevation gain. So we were very done when we got to Lone Pine Creek and found the one campsite that Rogue had mentioned to me. We ended up sharing Dan's tent that night because there really wasn't anywhere I could set mine up. We had a fine first night eating our food and drinking our whiskey!
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:16 pm

Day 2- Lone Pine Creek to Lake 11,680FT (Below Black Kaweah)
Damn.. this was a long tiring day. It's a substantial amount of gain up to Kaweah Gap and from there it's still plenty more climbing to get up to the desolate and remote lake below Black Kaweah. Dan was definitely all pooped out by the time we got to camp. And camp was once again shared. We both slept in his tent since camping was once again very limited. I had conversed with Rogue on the matter and he said it's doable but with the Hexamid that I brought I realized it was way too much work and Dan wasn't opposed to sharing.. thank goodness! It was pleasant considering the nights were quite cold so the extra heat was much appreciated hah! Anyways the views today speak for themselves!
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:19 pm

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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:24 pm

Day 3- Climb Lawson Peak
I had wanted to climb Lawson for a while and here was my chance. Dan was game so we headed out and enjoyed a beautiful day from the summit and another fine evening at our super alpine camp! Plenty of whiskey and laughs were had!
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:35 pm

Day 4- Lake 11,680FT to Island Lake in Kaweah Basin
Wow... today was the day. I'd finally be heading into Kaweah Basin. I had planned several trips to head into this basin and had been turned around for various reasons but truly the biggest was the eerie nature of this basin. For whatever reason it felt creepy to me and I don't say this lightly since I have a very serious connection to the mountains. Anyways I knew that I would never step one foot into this basin unless I was with someone. Well, that day finally came. I was most concerned about Pyra-Queen Col since I had heard some nasty tales of it. And we had a very daunting view of it from our lake. Needless to say but we were both a bit uneasy about it. It had a large snowfield at the top that absolutely had to be traveled on. It was late in the season so if you hit it too early it would be solid ice. We had to hit it just right and hope that microspikes would prove to be enough traction. Well the rock getting to the snow was far more obnoxious than the snow, so needless to say we made it and achieved real victory on conquering on the more daunting cross country passes I had ever done. Mind you, this was Dan's first true High Sierra Cross Country trek. While he had come with Rogue and I last summer the terrain in the Monarch was far more tame and pleasant than Kaweah Basin and Pyra-Queen Col. He handled it like a real natural and was super stoked to be out there. He even got cell reception from the bottom of the snowfield to call his girlfriend since that day was her birthday. Anyways we went down the other amid plenty of snow and down into the mythical Kaweah Basin! It was truly an epic day filled with many sights and firsts for us.
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:37 pm

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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:43 pm

Day 5- Dayhike to the Red Spur Lakes
I figured since I was all the way out here I might as well check out the Red Spur Lakes. So that's what we did. They were exceptionally remote and had a very pure feel to them. I don't know if I'll ever be back that's for sure. Weather was cooperative that day but the winds were blowing and we knew that there would likely be some weather in store for us.
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:52 pm

Day 6- Island Lake to Picket Guard Lake
Wow, another incredible day that I had been looking forward to for years. I had stumbled upon a photo of this lake many years ago probably on Google Earth actually. I was mesmerized and I was itching to get out here. It took many years but finally I was here! It lived up to all of my expectations and probably even then some! Dan and I climbed up Picket Guard Peak after we made camp. Wonderful view with an unreal perspective to Whitney and the Kaweah's. The Class 3 on it exhilarated Dan and he was really excited to do more with me on later peaks. Anyways our sunset was gorgeous and we enjoyed a fine camp in the trees at this superb lake. It's funny to note that we had camped a so many of the locations that Rogue had camped at in basically the same order as when he went through here in 2013. All of these camps thus far he had used and let me know about before we started this trip.
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Re: Kaweah Basin and Beyond September 2017

Post by alpinemike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:04 pm

Day 7- Picket Guard Lake to Colby Lake
Well like I said I thought weather was coming in... yeah it did. Snowstorm hit us that night at Picket Guard! What a feeling that was. I remember waking up and looking out and seeing all the snow that had fallen which wasn't crazy but enough to coat the ground. I just couldn't believe I really was way the hell out at Picket Guard Lake of all places in a snowstorm in late season. And notice how I haven't mentioned people.. well yeah that's right. The last time we saw a person was Day 2 coming down the HST above Hamilton. We truly were alone out here! It was surreal. Dan definitely shared the same feelings. I knew today would be a potentially challenging day getting down from Picket Guard to the Kern Kaweah River below us. I had studied the route and read descriptions and knew it could be very easy to get onto cliffs and quite tricky to avoid them... and there was snow now to complicate the matter. I was nervous and so was Dan but we made it just fine with good route finding and just some common sense. Eventually the weather lifted a bit in the canyon below and we could see the river. We were very thankful for that. Getting back into Kern-Kaweah Canyon was fun.. oh the creepy factor again haha. Anyways a full on blizzard hit us as we climbed up to Colby but fortunately we made the pass before things got too serious. We had the right gear and were prepared for it albeit it was still cold and a bit unpleasant. The other side of the pass featured a beautiful snowy view along with blue skies. The night at Colby was exceptionally cold.. 15F! Coldest night spent outside of winter. I was a bit cold on my summer pad but very thankful for my 10F quilt. I used my vest to keep my feet warm since I didn't bring my down booties... ah yes a foolish mistake that Dan would give me crap for a very long time afterwards! Lessons learned on that eh? Ha
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