Trans-sierra trip August 1985

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Jimr
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Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by Jimr » Mon Jan 18, 2021 1:37 pm

This trip was planned by my then friend Dude (not his real name, obviously) and would be four of us over twelve days. The itinerary was Courtwright Reservoir to Post Corral Meadows, to Rae Lake, Disappointment Lake, Upper Goddard Creek, Ionian Basin, down Enchanted Gorge to MF Kings, then up to the JMT, then Dusy Basin and out to South Lake. It was the first week in August of a fairly heavy snow year.

The first day was a lot of driving, obviously. After setting a vehicle at South Lake, we headed to Yosemite Valley to play around a bit and get some food, then to Courtwright. We slept in the bed of my truck and started off early the next morning. Our packs were roughly 60 lbs each, so even the relatively mild hike to Post Corral Meadow was a tough first day (little did we know what was next).

We were harassed by flies the whole way to PCM. We couldn't stop for more than a minute without going insane with flies buzzing around in our face. When we hit PCM, we agreed the flies were too bad and decided to do day two and push up to Rae Lake. As we gained elevation, the flies abated and the skeeters took over. Lots of skeeters! Two of us were a bit faster than the other two, so we forged ahead a bit and dropped packs at Fleming Lake to wait for the other two. That's when things started going south between Dude and I. I dropped my pack and decided to fish while waiting Dude and the other guy (I can't remember their names. I had only just met them a day or two before the trip. I'll call them Billy and Bobby). While I was fishing, Bobby took a short stroll to see if Dude and Billy were in sight yet. He saw them, white as a ghost, and asked if they were o.k. Dude started yapping about the A-hole fishing instead of checking on them. I told him I was going to beat his arse if he kept it up (like I had the energy to even attempt it). Things settled down and we decided to just stay there for the night. All night, I kept waking up swatting at imaginary flies that were buzzing in my dreams.

The next couple of days were much more pleasant except for the skeeters. We made a short hop to Disappointment lake for a day, then over Hell For Sure Pass, up Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake and over the top to Goddard Creek and down to Lake 9797 for a layover. Did a lot of fishing for small goldens using Panther Martins and fly and bubble rigs. Then, it was up to Ionian Basin where the real fun started!!!

It was very straight forward hiking up into Ionian Basin, but lots of snow and no steel. We passed Scylla and The Three Sirens heading N/E to Lake 11592. The South side of the lake was a steep snow field that ran out into the lake. I suggested we head South up the ridge and cross higher where the slope was mild. Here's where Dude started mouthing off again. He started talking about me being scared of a little snow and proceeded to cross the lower portion. Billy and Bobby liked my idea better, but we waited a bit to see how Dude did. We couldn't see him but we heard “help”. I threw off my pack and started down onto the snowfield, then shouted “are you o.k.? to which he replied “I guess I'll have to be considering nobody is going to help me”. That really pissed me off as I rounded the rock outcropping yelling expletives at him because I was now exactly where I wanted to avoid because of his idiocy. As he came into view, I saw him post holed up to his crotch near a huge boulder with his head facing down hill. I helped him get his pack off and out of the hole, but felt little appreciation.

Billy, Bobby and I proceeded up ridge, crossed the snow field and back down the neighboring ridge to meet back up with Dude. Again, his mouth running about how I had wasted our time (it was midday and we were where we wanted to be). He started running over talus trying to make up some sort of lost time when he hit a boulder and it gave way. His leg went down into a hole and the boulder went down after, right on his foot and ankle. He was pinned in the talus. We got the boulder out of the hole, but his ankle was damaged and he couldn't put any weight on it. We helped him over to a clear spot of ground and got his ankle iced up, then proceeded to set-up camp.

We had just gotten camp set-up and started to look into food, wondering what we were going to do now that Dude is injured and can't walk when we see a person walking toward us with a ranger uniform on. It was Ranger Morgenson (yes, Randy Morgenson). We told him of our predicament. He said he was on his day off and hiked into Ionian basin to get away from the crowds on the JMT. After assessing the situation, he said he would camp nearby and we would further assess in the morning.

Morning came around, as it normally does, and Dude's ankle was quite swollen. He was unable to put any weight on it at all. Ranger Randy came to our camp and it was obvious he needed to call in for a helicopter. The helicopter arrived and attempted to put down somewhere. The only place he could find was the jetty that protruded into Lake 11592. Dude and his pack were put in the helicopter and it attempted to take off. It was fairly warm and there was a tail wind. The pilot could not safely take off with the added weight, fearing he'd end up in the lake with the bird.

They decided to take the pack down first, then come back for Dude. While we waited, we chatted with Ranger Morgenson and told him of our planned itinerary. Dude, laying on his side like a lame duck, said to Randy as we were talking about Dusy Basin, “I think you guy haul wood up there on purpose to entice us to build fires so you can write tickets” (no ****, he said that). I looked at him and said “he's rescuing your ass and you insult him?” Randy, looking down, paused for a second and quietly said “no, we don't do that”.

The bird arrived again and they loaded Dude into it, but still, could not take off safely. They unloaded him and we were told they'd have to come back in the morning with a bigger bird. I told him they had to go back and retrieve his pack. All he had was shorts and a Tee shirt, so off went the bird to retrieve the pack. Clouds started to form, as they often due. The wind shifted direction and the temperature dropped. The helicopter came back and told Randy to get him in. The pilot was able to lift off with both Dude and his pack. Bye bye, Dude. See ya on the flip side.

Now what to do. We had plenty of day left, so we decided to cut this trip short and just bug out. I suggested we go over the little col W/O Mt. Solomon and intersect the JMT, so we did. Half way up to the col, it started to hail. As we got closer, the thunder and lightning came. What fun! As we came within striking distance of the col, we saw a huge flash and deafening thunder. We crapped out pants, threw off our packs and ran down to the base of a cliff we had passed a bit down from us. Get off of the top! We waited until their was ample space between the flash and the boom (maybe seven seconds), then ran for the packs and over the col. The whole North face was a snow field. We carefully, but quickly got down, away from the top, then stopped to do a little group check. It was still hailing and we were in shorts and Tee shirts. All was well, so we headed down until we hit the Muir hut.

As we approached the hut, we could see signs of life. We looked inside to find about fifteen or so soaked hikers with stoves going everywhere. What a change of scenery. They all hiked up in the rain and were soaked. We hiked down in the hail and were dry. We went inside and shared stories while drinking hot toddies and cooking food. Billy, Bobby and I decided to sleep outside of the hut and let our drenched brethren use the hut to try and get warm through the night. Most had wet sleeping bags and were unsuccessful at warm, but they survived the night.

The next morning, we got up early, said our goodbye's and headed toward Dusy Basin. I don't recall how long it took us to get there, but there was quite a bit of daylight left after camp was set-up, so we dropped some acid and went fishing. On our way back, we sort of, kind of, lost camp. I don't know how long we searched, but we finally started a pattern sweep and came across it before dark. We figured that if we didn't find it that would be no big deal since we would be up frying all night with no appetite anyway.

The last day was up and over, then down to the vehicle. We drove around, picked up my truck on the West side and headed for home. We stopped by Dude's house and he was surprised we had cut the trip short. He made some remark like "I wasn't going too fast, you were all going too slow", to which I said “at least we walked out”. He responded by bragging that he got to see Enchanted Gorge by helicopter, so I reminded him that he also got a huge hospital bill.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!


“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

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davidsheridan
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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by davidsheridan » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:50 pm

What a 'trip'. Dude sounds like an ahole. You cant remember their names, but it was a very memorable trip, that's for sure.

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by Flamingo » Tue Jan 19, 2021 1:21 am

Thanks for sharing this story @Jimr -- Dusy Basin on a summer day seems like a perfect place to fry :)

PS, how popular was the JMT back in 1985, compared to today?

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by The Other Tom » Tue Jan 19, 2021 6:24 am

Pretty cool that you met Randy Morgenson.

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by balzaccom » Tue Jan 19, 2021 7:23 am

Good story. I am grateful that I have never been in a situation where a helicopter was the best solution. Whew!
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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by commonloon » Tue Jan 19, 2021 7:48 am

... "It was Ranger Morgenson" ... "Bye bye, Dude. See ya on the flip side." Wow, what a trip and story! Thanks!!

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by sekihiker » Tue Jan 19, 2021 10:05 am

Whoa - lots of drama! It's amazing how many crises you ran into on one trip and still survived. Thanks for posting.

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by LMBSGV » Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:25 pm

Your story was a great read. Getting rescued by Randy Morgenson adds a special aspect to it. Looking back, it amazes me how naive some of us were in our younger days. My wife and I did our first trips in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a similar attitude and always managed to get through in one piece and have a great time despite all our mistakes.

As to Flamingo’s question about the popularity of the JMT back then, my wife and I got walk-up permits for the Cathedral trailhead to Sunrise and beyond in July 1981 and Lyell Canyon with our son for his first trip in 1986. We didn’t worry about reserving a permit until the 1990s.

Edit addition: On all the sections of the JMT we/I hiked back then, there were not the outrageous crowds one sees now. Before the internet and the emphasis on doing named trails, the JMT was busy, but not annoyingly so, at least in my experience.
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Jimr
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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by Jimr » Wed Jan 20, 2021 5:48 pm

@Flamingo
I honestly don't know. I don't recall any sort of "what a freeway" moment.
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

-John Adams

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Re: Trans-sierra trip August 1985

Post by wsp_scott » Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:11 pm

"So we dropped some acid and went fishing" I would have never found my tent :)

Did you ever do another trip with Dude?

awesome story, thanks for sharing
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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