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Archive for June 19th, 2006

Lost?

Destination: Wrong side of the Kings River
Starting Location: Woods Creek
Today’s Miles: 13.20
Trip Miles: 816.30
6/19/06
Woods Creek (800.8, 8492) to Wrong side of the Kings River (814.0, 10,623) ascent (4646) descent (25.43)
Several times today I asked myself what the hell am I doing up here this time of the year. This is beyond my experience level for sure & is exhausting me to a level of literally staggering into camp. Today we worked for nearly 13 hours & we achieved less than 1 mph.
The morning started off beautifully & we found perfect bear prints on a snow bridge over the trail. Those guys have some big feet.
Then the snow . . . deep and widespread. After hours of working our way to Pinchot Pass I thought I finally saw switch backs up a far pass. I kept heading that way & then I heard the whistle from Pang & Swiss Miss waving her arms. I stopped while they caught up and Pang explained that he thought we were headed up the wrong pass & that we needed to turn west per the map reading. After discussing I concurred that indeed we were headed in the right direction but the trail was going to turn NW & what I was seeing was something but not the PCT.
We kept progressing & made our NW turn where we thought it should be. When we got around the next ridge we could with certainty see we were headed towards Pinchot. Great work Pang! Now getting there was tough. We had been off trail all morning and the snow & approach to Pinchot made Forrester & Glen look like child’s play. Our challenges were still growing exponentially. We ultimately chose a very good route that was mostly difficult snow that was deeply cupped by the sun, combined with what Swiss Miss called “only suitable for a mountain goat”. On the final pitches of snow Sugar Daddy & I estimated the slope at 45% with a short section exceeding 60%. So much for Glen being the steepest. At one point I thought this is really, really steep & I felt myself beginning to freeze up. So I gave myself a Marine Corps oooh-ra and took the final needed steps. On top we all collapsed & shoved in calories.
Going down was not technically difficult but what a slog. The snow was soft & we routinely post holed to our shins and occasionally went buried to the hip. No chance of finding the trail & we did not have expansive vistas to help illuminate distant objectives. Se we navigated point to point on the map. For example we knew the trail crossed the outlet of a lake. Find the lake, find the outlet, cross. Find another point & repeat for hours through deep snow. During this phase I partially redeemed myself for my earlier blunder by hitting a couple of way points perfectly by dead reckoning (bearing over distance). What a rush to predict an upcoming feature & walk over a hill or around a ridge & hit it perfectly.
Once we got to the tributary of the Kings River we had found parts of the trail. Crossing the tributary was manageable but it got my attention & I consider myself a very good wader. The Swiss went up stream & found a high suspended log & opted for balance over wading ability.
And then we arrived on the south side of the Kings River. And we are still there but now we are approximately 1.5 miles above the crossing. The Kings at this crossing is not doable for everyone in our group & the spot I first tried nearly ripped me down river as the water was huge & chest deep on me. I backed out quickly, we consulted the maps again and agreed we would follow the Kings up stream past several major tributaries & we would cross only when reasonably safe. We have gone up far enough now that the size is ½ of what it was below & it is still not doable with a pack. The good news is that the trail, which is on the other side, follows the river for a long way. So in the morning we will walk to the headwaters if we have to, but we are crossing this river.
Now that we have stopped for the day, & I have eaten, I am feeling better about our prospects for tomorrow. But this is incredibly difficult.
Another thing about all of this snow travel is the intensity of the light. Daytime highs have been in the 70’s but the radiant heat reflecting onto your face from the snow generates enormous heat to your head & your legs are constantly abraded by the snow all the while they are getting sunburned. Add a few postholes into unseen rocks that remove skin from your shins & you have one hell of a day on your hands. And the team work is incredible, the scenery beyond description & the experience priceless.
I am pretty beat up & I do wonder about my ability to finish this thing I started but I am ready to do it again tomorrow & that is all that matters for now.
Destination: Wrong side of the Kings River
Starting Location: Woods Creek
Today’s Miles: 13.20
Trip Miles: 816.30
6/19/06
Woods Creek (800.8, 8492) to Wrong side of the Kings River (814.0, 10,623) ascent (4646) descent (25.43)
Several times today I asked myself what the hell am I doing up here this time of the year. This is beyond my experience level for sure & is exhausting me to a level of literally staggering into camp. Today we worked for nearly 13 hours & we achieved less than 1 mph.
The morning started off beautifully & we found perfect bear prints on a snow bridge over the trail. Those guys have some big feet.
Then the snow . . . deep and widespread. After hours of working our way to Pinchot Pass I thought I finally saw switch backs up a far pass. I kept heading that way & then I heard the whistle from Pang & Swiss Miss waving her arms. I stopped while they caught up and Pang explained that he thought we were headed up the wrong pass & that we needed to turn west per the map reading. After discussing I concurred that indeed we were headed in the right direction but the trail was going to turn NW & what I was seeing was something but not the PCT.
We kept progressing & made our NW turn where we thought it should be. When we got around the next ridge we could with certainty see we were headed towards Pinchot. Great work Pang! Now getting there was tough. We had been off trail all morning and the snow & approach to Pinchot made Forrester & Glen look like child’s play. Our challenges were still growing exponentially. We ultimately chose a very good route that was mostly difficult snow that was deeply cupped by the sun, combined with what Swiss Miss called “only suitable for a mountain goat”. On the final pitches of snow Sugar Daddy & I estimated the slope at 45% with a short section exceeding 60%. So much for Glen being the steepest. At one point I thought this is really, really steep & I felt myself beginning to freeze up. So I gave myself a Marine Corps oooh-ra and took the final needed steps. On top we all collapsed & shoved in calories.
Going down was not technically difficult but what a slog. The snow was soft & we routinely post holed to our shins and occasionally went buried to the hip. No chance of finding the trail & we did not have expansive vistas to help illuminate distant objectives. Se we navigated point to point on the map. For example we knew the trail crossed the outlet of a lake. Find the lake, find the outlet, cross. Find another point & repeat for hours through deep snow. During this phase I partially redeemed myself for my earlier blunder by hitting a couple of way points perfectly by dead reckoning (bearing over distance). What a rush to predict an upcoming feature & walk over a hill or around a ridge & hit it perfectly.
Once we got to the tributary of the Kings River we had found parts of the trail. Crossing the tributary was manageable but it got my attention & I consider myself a very good wader. The Swiss went up stream & found a high suspended log & opted for balance over wading ability.
And then we arrived on the south side of the Kings River. And we are still there but now we are approximately 1.5 miles above the crossing. The Kings at this crossing is not doable for everyone in our group & the spot I first tried nearly ripped me down river as the water was huge & chest deep on me. I backed out quickly, we consulted the maps again and agreed we would follow the Kings up stream past several major tributaries & we would cross only when reasonably safe. We have gone up far enough now that the size is ½ of what it was below & it is still not doable with a pack. The good news is that the trail, which is on the other side, follows the river for a long way. So in the morning we will walk to the headwaters if we have to, but we are crossing this river.
Now that we have stopped for the day, & I have eaten, I am feeling better about our prospects for tomorrow. But this is incredibly difficult.
Another thing about all of this snow travel is the intensity of the light. Daytime highs have been in the 70’s but the radiant heat reflecting onto your face from the snow generates enormous heat to your head & your legs are constantly abraded by the snow all the while they are getting sunburned. Add a few postholes into unseen rocks that remove skin from your shins & you have one hell of a day on your hands. And the team work is incredible, the scenery beyond description & the experience priceless.
I am pretty beat up & I do wonder about my ability to finish this thing I started but I am ready to do it again tomorrow & that is all that matters for now.
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