Aug 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm #1277736
Preparation Days 1-4. I drove to the White Mountains (California) on July 28 and hiked up White Mountain Peak on July 29 (a large bighorn sheep herd was there). I hiked the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest loop on July 30 and did a hike to an old gold mine on July 31. I got rained on somewhat for three days in a row, so I was getting suspicious on how this was all going to turn out.
Prep Day 5. I picked up my Whitney permit in Lone Pine on August 1, and I soon started hearing the news. Apparently three days of rain on the mountain had started off flooding, rock slides, and sand slides. Whitney Portal was awash and had several hundred cubic yards of sand dumped on it, thereby the road was closed for a couple of days, and it had reopened when I got there. Worse, all of the main hiker stream crossing aids on the trail had been wiped out, and many parts of the trail had been damaged.
Worse still, apparently some hiker had been up on the summit ridge during an electrical storm, and he was struck. In today's litigious society, that demands attention from the Forest Service. So, apparently the next morning a wilderness ranger was posted to Trail Crest. Everybody who passed through there prior to 8 a.m. could go on. Then at 8 a.m. the ranger got a weather report by radio, and Trail Crest was closed ( ! ) for anybody hiking up from Whitney Portal that day. Wouldn't that make your day! So, the word spread around the hiker community for August 2, and we all decided to make an earlier run for the summit, to avoid an 8 a.m. turnback by some fed.
Prep Day 6. I left Whitney Portal at 1:15 a.m. The difficult stream crossings were very wet to the knees, the water was cold, and the current was fast. I made it through Trail Crest at 7:30 a.m. and then made the summit in perfect weather. There was no storm predicted that day, so there was no action by rangers. With all of the difficulties, I didn't make it down until 6 p.m. on August 2.
BP Day 1-4. After a brief sleep, I got up very early on August 3 to drive to Bishop. My intent was to be standing in line when the permit office opened, and maybe I could score a wilderness permit at 11 a.m. which I could use August 4 in the John Muir Wilderness (North Lake-Piute Pass-Evolution-Muir Pass-LeConte Canyon-Bishop Pass-South Lake). The permit person said that I could have a permit for that very day, August 3! So, with no Whitney recovery time, I drove up to North Lake, saddled up, and took off for Piute Pass, intending to do the whole route in 5 or 6 days. The first night was in Humphries Basin. The second night was in Evolution between Colby Meadow and Evolution Lake. The third night was over Muir Pass in LeConte Canyon next to the ranger station. Then for the fourth day, I went over Bishop Pass and made it out to South Lake at 3:30 p.m. For the trip, the weather was mild, and the dawn air temperature never dipped below 38 degrees F.
That's when the fun began. I had to hitchhike back to North Lake, but there wasn't much luck. I got a part-way ride after 2 hours. I walked uphill for a half-mile and then got another ride to the North Lake turnoff. I walked the last 2 miles uphill to North Lake, so I reached my car at 6:30 p.m., utterly wasted. The total trail mileage was something around 55+ in four days. I drove home by 1 a.m.
Food: I had food and fuel packed for 5 or 6 days, but my appetite was not great. As I was reaching Muir Pass, I had at least two days worth of extra food. There was some French Canadian guy there with a problem. His butane stove fuel had all leaked, so he couldn't cook anything. Unfortunately, all of his food required cooking. That is a bad error in my book. So, he asked me if I had any extra food that did not require cooking. Such a deal! I gave him about 24 ounces of granola bars, and he was happy as a lark. It lightened up my pack as well.
Gear: The Inov-8 195 shoes worked pretty good with very good traction. I had intended on trying to keep shoes and socks dry through the stream crossings. That became totally impractical in streams that were crotch-deep. So, I just walked right through the water, and the shoes dried out soon enough later. Next time, I should bring a trekking pole.
More Gear: This solo trip was not intended to set any records, one way or the other. As a result, the base gear weight was about 10 pounds including bear canister. The food, fuel, and water to start weighed about 10 pounds. The camera gear weighed an additional 10 pounds since that was the mission for the whole trip (DSLR, long lens, short lens, tripod, shoulder case, extra batteries). Flowers, wildlife, and scenery were great.
My feet hurt, and I have sunburn on the tip of my nose and the backs of my hands. I lost five pounds of body weight, which is what my physician had recommended.
If I had it to do all over again, I would pack a little less food and maybe carry a smaller bear canister.
Edit: Wildlife Photo (shot near Sapphire Lake)
Edit: Wildlife Photo (same animal, almost the same place)
Edit: Wildlife Photo (Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs)
Edit: Wildlife Photo (Yellow-Bellied Marmot)
Edit: Wildlife Photo (same animal, same place) This guy is looking for a handout.
Edit: Wildlife Photo (Mule Deer)
Edit: Wildlife Photo (Belding's Ground Squirrel)
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm #1766939
Nice trip report Bob.Aug 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm #1766941
The wildflowers were great. The wildlife was so-so. No bears or large mammals except for deer.
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm #1766959
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Sounds like a great trip Bob….any pics????Aug 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm #1766975
Need you ask?
I shot a ton of wildflowers and some wildlife. However, those have to be transferred to the computer, edited, and selected for the web site. Due to other upcoming trips, they may not be ready for weeks.
The John Muir Wilderness had the very best assortment of wildflowers that I had ever seen. Other places have a good view of a limited number of species.
I got another pika, a stubborn marmot, and a curious deer.
It's interesting to try to get a correct exposure when you have dark blue sky, bright white snow, and lots of gray rock and green trees. I suppose that is what HDR is all about.
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm #1766976
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
I saw a Pika a couple of years ago in south of Muir Pass…first time I ever saw one, I was pretty stoked. I was out in Emigrant last week and the area was very light on the wildflower front. Sounds like a fantatic trip! JealousAug 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm #1766981
When I started from North Lake on August 3 within the first hour, I thought the flowers were nice. Then they were good in Humphries Basin, good in Piute Canyon, and good in Evolution Valley. I was hoping for good ones up around Sapphire Lake and above, but the snow covered lots. LeConte Canyon had some good ones, then Dusy Basin was good. After I crossed Bishop Pass and descended about 1000 feet, they got crazy good right before South Lake. I couldn't even keep up my trail pace since I was so busy shooting wildflowers.
The trouble with pikas… I hear they aren't much good to eat. Although, a light cream sauce with noodles and onions might do the trick.
We should work on such a recipe for Forester Pass. Those little "alpine rock rabbits" will be up there harvesting their little grass bundles.
I saw one for a second on Mount Whitney on August 2, but he was too quick.
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm #1766989
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
A couple days ago a pika came dashing down a slope towards me and then straight up the trail at me. It had such a great bundle of grass in it's mouth I couldn't tell what the heck it was. For a moment I was sure it was going to be a Chupacabra attack. Then it dodged off the trail and disappeared into the rocks right at my feet. Whew, survived again.
Enjoyed the report Bob, thanks.Aug 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm #1767013
Yes, I had thought about a career breeding pikas for security work, like attack dogs. They just don't seem to have the killer instinct for it, though, and they only work at 11,000 feet and above. Now, on the other hand, marmots can be sneaky and mean. I can't think how many items of gear and clothing they have chewed through over the years. Marmots have that "feed me, feed me" expression even when their bellies are dragging on the ground.
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm #1767046
Nice trip report Bob! I look forward to seeing the pictures!
Sounds like we just missed a possibility for a chance encounter in the Whites. I left for home on the 29th after a 2 1/2 week stint up there for my research. Heading back for another two weeks on Friday. It would be great to meet you sometime if you're up there again.
ChrisAug 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm #1767052
Chris, as I mentioned, I hiked up White Mountain Peak on the 29th. I kept looking along the east face for bighorn sheep since I had photographed a couple of them there two years ago. Then I was coming back down on the zigzags. Right at the dip, there was a ewe herd of about 23 or 24. How cool is that?
The ewes had their lambs, and the lambs were practicing head-butting. A couple of the ewes had colored ear tags, so I will report that to the WM Research Lab in the valley. There was one sheep that appeared to be a full grown adult male in the herd, and I don't understand that. Maybe it was an adolescent male, but it was fully equipped. I know that the two sexes do not come together except during the breeding season.
I photographed everything, but then I had to get moving after 15 minutes with the camera. That made my whole day.
–B.G.–Aug 7, 2011 at 10:52 pm #1767057
That's awesome to see such a big heard! We saw a heard about half that big in that area a couple years ago. I haven't seen any sheep this year but haven't been up the Peak yet. Seems I've been everywhere in the Whites this year except up White Mountain Peak. When I was at the north end of the range on Mt. Dubois, Boundary and Mongomery Peaks a couple weeks ago we saw a lot of fresh bedding areas used by the sheep but no sheep.
ChrisAug 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm #1767062
Chris, did you see a heard, or did you hear a herd?
If I see a few bighorns, that is a good day for me. When I see a herd of 23 or 24, that is a good year for me.
You can always tell when the sheep have been around, because they leave their little calling cards.
When I passed the Cal Lab at 12,000', there were about 50 head of domestic sheep all penned up. According to one researcher, they are doing research into some of the high altitude illnesses that all mammals get, and this would apply to illnesses in the high altitude people of South America.
I've photographed bighorns there, inside Kings Canyon, in Glacier Park, and a couple of other places.
The WM trail also had marmot families. You can't get much cuter than a baby marmot.
–B.G.–Aug 8, 2011 at 9:20 am #1767148
Bob, I hear you about herds.
The domestic sheep are being used for a long-term study looking at the impacts of high altitude on pregnancy along with a whole host of other things. If a pregnant person is told by her doctor to avoid high altitude during pregnancy it is because of findings from Barcroft.
Those marmots are cute until they start snooping around the underside of your vehicle, then I start looking at them with derision.Aug 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm #1767957
I've added a few wildlife images to the posting at the beginning of the thread.
–B.G.–Aug 11, 2011 at 10:25 am #1768231
Thanks for posting the details of your trip. I can't wait to get out that way later this summer. And your wildlife photos are amazing, carrying the DSLR was definitely worth it. ~ Andy.Aug 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm #1768271
"carrying the DSLR was definitely worth it."
My neck is currently debating that.
I had the camera rig in a Lowepro shoulder bag, so it was pressing on one side of my neck. The bag did good when there was a sudden dip into the stream. The advantage of the shoulder bag is that I could whip the whole rig out very silently and very quickly, which is exactly what is needed for wildlife.
–B.G.–Aug 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm #1768514
Great pika shots, Bob! Some of the best I've seen of these elusive critters!Aug 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm #1768520
Chris, I just have to figure out how to get them to leap into the titanium cook pot.
I got one classic shot of the pika with the bundle of grass in its mouth. Then the one you saw of it hiding in the shade and some others. I have others of them eating flower tops and sunning themselves just after sunrise.
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