Mar 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm #1300623
Chris S. and I are in the process of getting ready for the Bob Open which is in about 2 months. So, some training trips in sloppy spring conditions are in order. This weekend, we did the Lake Vernon loop out of Cherry Lake dam. Overall, it was a great experience and perfect training, with typical early spring conditions as we criss-crossed the snow line. Conditions varied from dry trail walking, to flooded trail, to rotten snow, with even a little bit of nice firm snow early Sunday morning. There was patchy snow above about 5500' and mostly continuous snow coverage on north-facing aspects above 6000'. South facing stuff was mostly melted out around 6500'.
One section near Beehive was particularly challenging, and roughly every 50 yards I would posthole up to my crotch with my foot getting dunked in the meltwater underneath. The snow here could best be described as the consistency of a Slurpee. We both had to chuckle when we did one creek crossing wearing our snowshoes because there was a 3' snowbank on each side and we were tired of taking them on and off constantly.
Overall, we only made it 17 miles instead of the planned 22 on Saturday due to the poor conditions. Sunday morning we crossed Rancheria Mountain before the snow softened, and we were able to make really good time, doing the remaining 30 miles back to the car via Hetch Hetchy reservoir in about 14 hours. Total elevation gain was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-9k for the 47 miles.
It was the first trip for both of us trying out neoprene socks (NRS Hydroskins) and they worked perfectly. My feet were pretty much continuously wet but never cold, not even during the thigh-deep stream crossings. The gauge for Falls Creek this weekend read a water temp of 39F, so the water was pretty frosty.
Without further ado, here are some photos:
Trail to Beehive below Frog Creek
Frog Creek crossing
We camped out on the bare granite above Lake Vernon.
We didn't even have to get our feet wet to cross the Vernon bridge, which sometimes has high enough flow that Falls Creek spills over the sides.
Falls Creek was going pretty good.
We followed the tracks of the Snow Survey team until the Moraine Ridge turnoff, but they disappeared after that. Had some trouble following the trail around Rancheria Mtn and was glad to have the GPS. At least the snow was hard since we did this part first thing in the morning.
Tiltill was flooded but only about ankle deep.
Then it was a nice dry cruise back to the car. We didn't see any human footprints until we got past Wapama. There were plenty of coyote, fox, bobcat and bear prints tho. The coyote had just as many problems post-holing as we did.
This trip definitely ticked the "high mileage" and "Spring conditions" check-boxes. Living in California has left me with embarassingly little experience in bad weather, so I'd like to get at least one trip in between now and May with some precipitation and conditions around freezing. Overall though, we didn't have any major problems this weekend and our systems worked very well. A fun and challenging trip!
AndrewMar 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm #1967159
A few years ago I did a longer version of that loop on snowshoes but went up to Tilden Lake instead of over Rancheria to Vernon. Beehive was an absolute slugfest when I went through there and Tiltill looked about that swampy. Looks like a great training trip. How was the crossing at Falls Creek?
Tilden LakeMar 19, 2013 at 9:28 am #1967424
Here is a Hillmap Chris created from our GPS track: Map
Greg, I'd like to do that trip sometime, too. Especially to see Jack Main Canyon- I've never been through there, and it would be cool to see in the winter. Falls Creek was trivial despite the warm weather. We just walked right across the bridge.Mar 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm #1967495
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
Awesome that you guys are doing this. Hope you enjoy it every step of the way, from training through execution.
IkeMar 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm #1967572
I'm jealous to see your trip report. Michelle and I were out during that same weekend directing the High Adventure Training for the local Boy Scout Council. It was fun to instruct scout leaders in lightweight backpacking, creek crossing techniques, map and compass, stove safety, first aid, etc., but your trip looks a lot more fun!
Too bad I can't join you at the BMWO. Keep the reports coming and let me know if you go out for another training trek – preferably in a lot of rain :)
ManfredMar 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm #1967584
Manfred, are you worried that it might rain on you just a little bit in Scotland…? :)Mar 20, 2013 at 11:28 am #1967871
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Perfect training conditions, that will serve you guys well.Mar 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm #1967992
This turned out to be a fun and challenging trip. As much as I'm looking forward to the BMWO itself, I am also looking forward to doing a few more trips like this between now and then. This should be a fun spring! A few observations from this trip:
That intermittent snow can be brutal! It seemed like every time we'd put our snowshoes back on and get in a groove we'd hit another snow-free stretch and have to take them back off.
As Andrew mentioned, I was quite pleased with the Hydroskins and using my ski socks as liners (as Dave C. suggested in a previous thread/article) worked well. I wasn't sure how my wet feet would respond when walking through the snow, but at no time did they feel uncomfortably cold.
I was jealous of Andrew's snowshoes as they weighed about 2 lbs less than mine. For trips like this I think it would be worthwhile to invest in a lighter pair and/or figure out a better way to strap then onto my pack.
Sausages cooked over a fire are a nice treat when backpacking.
And here's a few more pics:
Almost time for the snowshoes
Snowshoeing through the water
View from camp
Dinner is served
View of camp (viewing this at work and it looks almost all black, but on my home computer you can see the night sky)
Walking past Lake Vernon the next morning
About to start the climb up and over to Tiltill Valley
Lake Vernon on the way up
It was mostly snow free from here on out, but we had to deal with a little on trail bushwacking….
….and a swampy mess through Tiltill Valley
Kolana RockMar 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm #1969429
Looks awesome guys!
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