Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ben & Luke Road Trip - Sierras Edition (year 4)

The fall classic of Ben and Luke standing on a summit, in sideways snow, with zero visibility finally came to an end in 2018. We enjoyed seven days of absolutely bluebird skies in the Sierras; thanks Pacific ridge! When Ben saw the forecast he lobbied for us to scrap our southwest plans about 72 hours before departure and put together a few trips. One trip ended up being canceled because of a road closure, but we did two day trips and two one-night backpacks, covering a total of 130+ miles with 31,000'+ of gain; about the same amount we did in 2015.


Mount Conness 

Sea level to 12,000'+ was a bad idea...bleh... Ben scrambled the last section while I nursed a headache at ~12,300'.
Interesting lake below Conness

12,300' on Conness, looking south

Ben on the final scramble to the summit

Tuolumne - Sierra High Route loop

We started with a nice long day of on-trail strolling at lower elevations (almost all below 11k') to help me acclimate more, camping at the PCT-Virgina Canyon junction, on the beautiful Return Creek. From Return Creek we took the Sierra High Route south over Sky Pilot (or Secret) Pass and all the way back to Gaylor Lakes. This included some very cool cross country sections, like the climb to mine-shaft pass which requires a bit of involved route finding.

40 miles, 9700' gain

Lower Gaylor Lake

Lower Granite Lake

Looking down toward the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

Old growth Juniper along the PCT

PCT through Cold Canyon

Climbing out of Virginia Canyon, Sierra High Route; Ben's photo

Looking up toward Sky Pilot Pass

Shepherd Lake below Shepherd Crest

Shepherd Lake below Shepherd Crest

Climbing to Sky Pilot Pass; Ben's photo

Climbing to Sky Pilot Pass; Ben's photo

Sky Pilot Pass

Sky Pilot Pass

Looking south at the Sierra High Route ahead

Cascade Lake below North Peak

North Peak; Ben's photo

Looking back north toward Sky Piot Pass at top right

Lots of slab travel

Might be Gren Treble Lake

Climb to Mine Shaft Pass; cold in the shade...

Icy slabs, climbing to Mine Shaft Pass; Ben's photo

Gaylor Lakes

Gaylor Lakes; Ben's photo

PCT - Mt. Whitney - Southern Sierra High Route loop

This probably was my favorite trip, mainly because the PCT through here spends a lot of time around 11,000' through stands of foxtail pines, a relative of bristle cones. The Southern Sierra High Route section we did had a few crappy sections, but also an impressive basin of countless lakes. The weirdest section by far was Mt. Whitney: the lower-48's highest Mailbox Peak (totally packed on a random Wednesday in late October...and a quite varied crowd!) 

48 miles, 10,800' gain

New to me Wilderness area and National Parks

Not much climbing when your trailhead is at 10k'

Large Jeffrey Pine

Big Whitney Meadow

Awesome foxtail pines

Siberian Outpost

Foxtail pine

Coyote at Guyot Flat

Sunset light up Whitney Creek basin

Sunset light up Whitney Creek basin

Sunset light up Whitney Creek basin, from Crabtree Meadow

Mostly frozen Timberline Lake

Guitar Lake, Mt. Hitchcock

It was 19F when we started hiking this morning; Ben's photo

Hitchcock Lakes, Whitney Creek lakes basin

Mt. Whitney summit, 14,494'

Southern Sierra High Route, descending to unnamed lake below Crabtree Pass


Unnamed lake below Crabtree Pass

Looking back at our descent route down the middle; as loose and crappy as it looks

Looking south toward Rock Creek lakes basin, from Crabtree Pass

Looking back up Rock Creek lakes basin

Sunset light, maybe Mt. LeConte (?)

Cloud's Rest - John Muir Trail loop

On our last day we elected for a casual on-trail jaunt to some nice touristy spots. They're popular for a reason and it was nice to get some quick miles in before beginning the drive back home.

21.7 miles, 5700' gain

Tuolumne from Cloud's Rest

Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon, and Yosemite Valley

Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon, and Yosemite Valley

Half Dome

Old growth Juniper

Sunrise Meadow along the John Muir Trail