Friday, September 1, 2017

Boy Scout Sierra Trek, Lake Sabrina

Hungry Packer Lake
It's been way too long since I updated my blog. Too many adventures, too little time it seems. I realized I've done numerous Sierra Treks with the scouts, Death Valley and Mohave adventures, mountain biking on Catalina, Bryce/Zion/Escalante as well as picking off a few more fourteeners and none of it has made it here to be shared. I promise to do better and what better way to start than share an incredible adventure to a new area of the Sierra's for me, the Lake Sabrina basin.

We had many great ideas for this years trek, options in Yosemite and summiting Halfdome on a 5 day trek included, the long lasting snow pack and availability to get permits dictated our selection more than we ever knew it could! At the end of the day, we could get permits for the Lake Sabrina trailhead for a larger group and went with that, my friend and co-leader Thomas and I would figure out the details later and put together a trip.

Upon looking over the topo maps for this area, I was pleased to see numerous lakes to be explored, some on trail, some off trail. I came up with a route that would potentially get us to 15 different lakes in all if we could get to some of the higher ones that might be obscured by snow.

Our group of 8 boys plus me in the back.
With a group of 8 boys plus my co-leader and I we were 10 people for the adventure. We headed up to Bishop to camp out in the Buttermilks before starting our trek the following day. As our first day was only about 7 miles or so on the trail and about 1,000 ft. of climbing, it was going to be relatively easy so we didn't have to get up too early to begin which was very nice. In fact, we didn't have to get up early at all on the trip, it was great!

My view for 3 days near Topsy Turvey.
After about 4 1/2 miles of hiking we came to Blue Lake. It was a very nice lake and of substantial size but as it's the first lake you come to it was a bit crowded. Our destination was Topsy Turvey Lake a few more miles in. Along the way we passed the Emerald Lakes (ponds) and Dingleberry Lake with a fair collection of people camped there as well. We did some off trail
exploration and made our way up to Topsy Turvey. We had been warned about the terrible mosquitoes in the area and chose to camp right at about treeline and a little away from the lake and other water and on a rocky outcropping to hopefully get a little breeze to keep the pests away. That thinking was sound and while we had fewer than we discovered at other areas, we still had a fair number of them and I used insect repellent for the first time in about 10 years during the morning and evening hours when they were at their worst.

Along the way to Hungry Packer Lake
Moonlight Lake and the lagoon in the foreground.
The following morning we were off to explore Hungry Packer, Moonlight and Sailor Lakes as well as a few other possibles. The boys had a nice time on the trail with light packs and we had made a base camp at Topsy Turvey for 3 of our 4 nights on the trail. We made quick time getting to Hungry Packer, a lake I have seen many pictures of and wanted to get to for some time. One of our champion swim team boys decided to swim across a large section of the lake, he found out that swimming in water not much warmer than the snow filling it can be challenging but he completed his 100 yard swim none the less. Most of the other boys enjoyed sledding on a nearby snow bank and throwing snowballs, in mid August no less! We found a nice meadow and enjoyed lunch and a swim before moving on.

Our next destination was Moonlight Lake. Upon our arrival we found it to be a wonderful turquoise color from the glacial melt feeding it. We explored a bit and found a little section of the lake that was connected to the main water body but had large rocks almost making a protected lagoon. We opted to swim again and this time the boys did some relay races while others of us tested our diving and cannon ball techniques. It was around this point in time that my friend Thomas came up with a great incentive/plan. For every lake you swam you earned a point. Those with 6 points qualified for a free slice of pie back at the the Lake Sabrina store/cafe! As I had jumped in back at Blue Lake the day prior (I was the only one) and two more this day, I was already at 3! Our distance swimmer was awarded a bonus point for his long swim so he and I were tied. We dried off and hiked past the Sailor Lakes, not really deep enough to swim and headed back to camp for an enjoyable evening, despite the flying vampires biting at our exposed skin.

Day three had us exploring a different branch of the basin and our destination was to be Midnight Lake and then some off trail adventure up to Blue Heaven and the Hell Diver Lakes. We got back to Midnight and like all of these lakes surrounded by peaks towering 13,500 ft. above, it was gorgeous! What I did notice however on the far side of the lake is what I had been seeking. It may sound crazy but my ultimate goal was to find a snow bank that we could slide down and go directly into the water of an ice cold Sierra lake! I could see a
My boys and I along the trail.
snow bank that had potential, we just needed to see if was
The snow bank and drop into the lake, brrrr!!!
possible to transition from the snow bank safely into the lake. Upon further examination, it had about a 3 ft. drop from the edge of the snowbank into at least 6 ft. deep water, perfect! My friend Thomas checked it out first with a short slide and into the water he went, and popped up successfully. It then became a challenge as to how much farther up the hill the boys and I would start on the snow to begin the slide and how much velocity we could maintain until the final plunge. I went a couple times it was so fun before drying off on a nice warm rock. Wow! What a treat! It was determined that the snow slide plunge was worth 2 points towards the goal of 6 for free pie so that helped motivate the majority of the crew to give it a shot.
Midnight Lake below and on our way to Hell Diver.

After the ice slide we headed up a talus pile towards Blue Heaven Lake. We were about halfway but found that a couple boys were just not up to the long climb at this elevation and we diverted over to the Hell Diver Lakes. We just went to the lower lake. Only a couple of us went in and we all agreed that while the other lakes were cold, this one was easily 5 to 10 degrees colder! We threw in some large snow/ice chunks and they didn't seem to melt so I guess that gave us the answer on how cold they were.

Nearing completion of the new rock crossing.
We packed up camp in the morning on day 4 and were relocating to Blue Lake for our final night. It was just a few miles there and we would drop our packs and explore some other lakes in the area. We also wanted to do a service project to help our boys earn the Backpacking merit badge as this is one of the requirements. I remembered a river crossing we had to make on the way in that involved removing our shoes to cross as the stones placed across it were mostly submerged. The boys agreed that this would be a great project. We got to the river and proceeded to get to work. We selected larger rocks from within the river to elevate existing ones and firm up some wobbly footholds. A little over an hour of working at it, and testing, and working some more, we had a group of volunteer testers that needed to cross. They all made it across feet dry so it was a success! With our good deed for the day under our belt we moved on to Blue Lake and the boys selected a nice camp area with plenty of space.

Following lunch and camp setup most of us headed up to Donkey Lake. It is a short hike from Blue
The jump point for the front flip.
and Donkey Lake was very nice with large granite slabs and deep water below towering bluffs, just perfect for jumping in! We swam yet again however one of the boys was looking for a 2 point opportunity here. He was able to talk Thomas into offering 2 points for a front flip! From about a 6 ft. high rock and a running start a very nice front flip was executed and 2 more points were in the bag! I had made my quota at this lake and most of the other boys had as well with a few of our guys at 7. We certainly had a clean bunch of Boy Scouts! ;-)

While some boys talked about earning bonus points for a night swim with a headlamp on out to the middle of Blue Lake, Thomas and I didn't hear any splashing that evening and nobody came forward to claim the points for that so apparently the only points at Blue were from a regular dip near camp.

Our final morning came and the boys agreed that they would be packed up and ready to hike out by 8 as I recall. They did and we made our way on out to where we began 5 days earlier. Of course the end of the trail just meant time for pie for those that earned it and for those that didn't was a little negotiation to pool their points to make 6 and then share a slice. I didn't care, I got a piece and enjoyed every last bite!

The arch in the Alabama Hills.
We headed back into Bishop and had lunch in town and talked over the trip with the boys. We had plenty of time to go home that afternoon but we had told the parents we would be back the following day and gave an option to the boys to go home or continue the adventure. It was unanimous, they wanted to keep the party going! We headed to Manzanar, the Japanese internment camp off Hwy 395 for a visit there and then down to Lone Pine and camped in the Alabama Hills, a favorite location of mine and home to many movies filmed out there. We all took a dip in Lone Pine Creek and enjoyed some sausages and onions boiled in beer in my Dutch Oven for dinner before sleeping under the stars for our final night. In the morning we enjoyed a hike to the Mobius Arch and then a trip into town for the movie museum where we spent a little over an hour learning about the local film history. It was finally time to get home. The boys had plenty of stories to share.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Grand Canyon Backpacking Adventure

I have hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a day before. When my friend CP suggested a multi-day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon I knew that I had to go as the immense size and scope of the canyon is just too much to comprehend in just a one day trip. The plans were set in motion and the trip was set up. It would be 4 days in the Canyon plus a bonus hiking day in Sedona at the end to relax.

Once again I have limited time to write a long story, especially after compiling hundreds of photos and editing them so I have provided a link below to the journaled photo collection to take you through the trip and share all the wonderful scenery.

Grand Canyon Photo Journal

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bryce Canyon in the Winter

I had not been to Bryce Canyon in years, since I was a little kid. When my friend Uliana suggested we all go with our kids to enjoy it over President's Weekend I figured why not, sounds like fun! Well by the time it was all put together one of my kids was ill and she could not go but I rounded up a few other regular adventurers and off we went!

Once again, this has been done in a photo journal format. Please click on the link below to explore the full adventure.

Bryce Canyon Photo Journal

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mohave Preserve Exploration

Singing Dune in the Mohave Preserve

I had been told about the Mohave Preserve by my friend Erica as she likes to visit it with her family. I decided that following a recent trip out to my desert property that I would explore this remote section of the Mohave for myself and show my boys all the fun things I had heard about within it.

I am trying a new format this time so please click on the link below for the photo journal adventure through the preserve.

Mohave Photo Journal

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cloudripper, 13,525 ft.

Cloudripper, 13,525 ft. living up to its name.
With my summer drawing to a close after so many great adventures it is hard to believe that one more opportunity was just around the corner for me. Having started the summer with a Memorial Day birthday trip to Mammoth for skiing and mountain biking, followed  a month later by a trip to climb Halfdome in Yosemite, then another month later to spend a fabulous week on the John Muir Trail with many of my friends. Throw in a couple overnight backpack trips I led for the Boy Scouts  to the Bridge to Nowhere and then cap it with a full week Sierra Trek I led for the Scouts and I must admit, I had already had one heck of a summer!

While cruising through REI to stock up for one of the fore mentioned trips, I bumped into my friend Edd who asked me if I wanted to go on a Sierra Club hike he was leading to summit Cloudripper. Fortunately my wife Denise was standing beside me, he told me the date and she said, "sure, go for it." Well getting permission had never been so easy so I jumped on the opportunity immediately! One grand finally to climb a substantial peak before the summer season drew to an end. My Boy Scout Trek had me in the vicinity of Cloudripper just a few weeks prior. I  told the boys the reason I would not be at the next Court of Honor was because I would be climbing that, as I pointed to the peak towering above us at 13,525 feet with what looked like a near vertical face on the western side.

Just a week and a half after returning from my week long Boy Scout trek to Long Lake and vicinity I was yet again on my way up highway 395, my fifth of the season! This was to be a 3 day hike, quite leisurely at 6 miles per day and no more than 3,000 ft. of elevation gain per day with a base camp among the Big Pine Lakes, an area I had never been to before. We all met up at the trail head  and finished packing and were ready to head out. We were a group of eleven, I knew the Sierra Club leaders on the trip, and a few of the others. One included Bill Burke, the oldest American to have summited Mt. Everest as well as one of the very few to have summited the highest peak on every continent. It is not every day you get to travel with someone with that kind of resume and I was looking forward to talking with him on the trip as I had met him at a seminar he did on Everest a couple years prior.

Edd and Erica pose by Big Pine Creek.
The hike included a great opportunity to follow along Big Pine Creek as we made our way up to the Big Pine Lakes for an easterly approach on Cloudripper. We followed Sierra Club hiking rules, not unlike the Boy Scout protocols I must follow, taking regular breaks, not separating and stopping at all trail intersections. It is slow travel but all for good reason. We stopped for lunch after having gained over 1,500 ft. and doing half our distance and put our feet in the creek and enjoyed some shade on this rather warm day. I had an opportunity to talk to Bill about Everest and ask some different questions than your typical stuff which led into a very interesting discussion on many Everest topics. What a great way to spend lunchtime!

Want to swim?
Shortly after heading out from lunch we got to see some of the lakes. Several of these lakes are glacier fed from several of the glaciers here in the Palisades region of the Sierra Nevada. The water in these glacial fed lakes is unlike any you have ever seen before. When the sun is shining on the water it takes on an almost iridescent green color. Interesting as on the JMT trip we came across a different glacial fed lake, Lake Catherine, that was so medium blue in color it looked fake. I guess it depends on the amount of silt and the contents of such silt as to how the water would be colored. I knew I would have to swim in one of these before the trip was over, cannot pass up on opportunities like that!

Fresh pizza from the oven! Backpacking food at its best.
As we headed back toward lake 4, the views of the Palisade Glacier appeared and the towering ridge above it, home to several fourteeners, came into view. We hunted for a good spot to make camp to comfortably hold all eleven of us and finally found the perfect spot. As we all settled in for the evening we also got out our cooking stuff as tonight was happy hour at 6PM followed by our dinners. We all gathered in our common kitchen area and let the sharing begin. A plethora of cheeses came out, crackers, meats, nuts, chocolate and ..... whiskey. I contributed some melba crackers with some of my chipotle brined smoked chicken which is always a big hit. Following happy hour I set up for the coup de gras, a fresh baked smoked bbq chicken pizza! I had fabricated a little oven by using a pot and lid upside down, a small spacer in the bottom and a piece of sheet aluminum for a cookie sheet. I had tested this at home successfully and wanted to try it on the trail. I had made my own wheat pizza dough at home and wood fired it on my Weber bbq so I had a great crust. I topped it with a little olive oil, garlic powder and salt, spread some bbq sauce from Lucilles on it, topped with fresh mozzarella, my smoked chicken and green bell peppers. In the oven it went over my near 30 year old MSR XGK stove and about 20 minutes later out came a gorgeous trail pizza! I had some and shared the rest and proceeded to make another and do the same. For dessert I took a lesson from my pal Clark and made fresh popcorn and once again shared that. Dinner on the trail had never been so good!

Erica lectures Bill Burke, who has summited Everest,
on the dangers of the final ridge traverse.
On the summit, overlooking where I was with the Scouts
two weeks prior.
Fourteeners abound, Split on the left, Sill in center,
and Starlight, Polemonium, North Palisade and Thunderbolt.
The following morning it was an early start, on the trail by 7AM to head out for Cloudripper. Fairly early on, the trail vanished and it was class 2 from here on out. We first had to climb a fairly steep talus field to gain the ridge that would lead us to the summit. This was a little difficult as not only was it steep but the upper section had many loose rocks and we did not want to dislodge them and send them down toward the rest in our group. We made the ridge and then had to do a little route finding to make our way along the ridge towards the summit. We finally neared the summit block and scouted out the best way to get there. The final 100 feet or so along the ridge involved some easy class 3 climbing provided we were on the correct route. It was at this point that Erica, always looking for a good joke, lectured Bill Burke on the dangers of this final ridge to the summit. We all got a great laugh and Bill, who has been to Mt. Everest the last 6 years and summited back in 2009, just sat there and listened to every word with a smile on his face. We all made our way over and touched the summit right at noon. Cloudripper at 13,525 had been summited! What was better was that nobody seemed to be suffering any altitude issues at all which can be common over about 10,000 ft. We all took pictures of the surroundings and each other. I could look down upon where I had been just two weeks prior with the Scouts, see Chocolate Peak that I led a couple of them up and all the lakes we had explored that week. I could look to the south and see Thunderbolt Peak which eluded my friend Jason and I a year ago just 100 ft. from the summit as well as Split Mountain further south that we tried to summit and ski off the top of but only made it to 12,000 ft. before weather turned us around. Other fourteeners in view included Sill, North Palisade, Starlight and Polemonium. What a great view! We rolled off the peak and over to a nearby flatter spot on the ridge for some lunch. Before long rain was visible nearby and it was time to head down. We got back into camp at about 5PM with light rain falling occasionally. Too late for a swim again, it was time to pump water, clean up, and make dinner.

Dinner that night was not near as exciting but I did make my trail tacos which are always a hit. A lot of food sharing took place and I once again made popcorn to share. Rain just started to fall as we finished up so it was off to the tents for an early night. After a long day off trail and big summit we were all tired and welcomed the early night.

The lake for the final swim. COLD!!!
The hike out the following morning was nice and included a little exploration of the meadows and lakes in the area. I finally got in that swim I was hoping for but it was so cold it did not last very long. It did not help that the sun kept ducking behind the clouds and then rain began to fall as I wanted to warm up in the sun and eat lunch! Back down the trail we went, in and out of the edge of the rainfall and sun. Another stop was made to soak our feet in the creek in the shade as it was getting hot and of course after a little while the rain caught us again! Down we headed all the way back to the cars for the drive home.
Big Pine Creek on the way out as rain
began to fall.

This was a fantastic trip, an area I would like to explore much more in the future. It might even be the location for a future Boy Scout Sierra Trek. The summit was spectacular and hiking with both new and old friends was great. The trail cooking I did was really fun and something practical on a short hike like this. With no future hikes to the Sierras planned I am afraid my summer backpacking season has come to a close. With predictions of an El Nino year in the long range forecast I am hoping to get back up there, or even locally, with the backcountry skis for several adventures this winter. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say, I just hope this winters include a heck of a lot of moisture to go with that silver!

The full set of pictures are available to view by clicking here.