Thursday, February 25, 2010

Summit Lake (Epilogue)

Time to wrap this one up. Going up and coming down mountains have different issues you have to deal with. Coming down is not always easy. At one point I slipped and slammed my right hand into a rock making my hand a mess. I had blood all over my hand and all over the rocks up there. I guess you could say I left my mark there. Meanwhile, I was trying to make sure my camera and video camera would not get blood on them. Then, almost back to the the pass, I fell and pushed out my right leg in such a way I was concerned I might have hyper-extended it. I got up quickly with no issues after this. I knew all the major work was over so I just decided to head to Summit Lake.
It is a nice small lake.
I continued a little further and could see the next lake in the distance. It was at this point I decided I had seen all I wanted to and it was time to turn around.
The funny thing that happened around this time is after not seeing any sign of life the whole day a dog trotted past me at 12,000 ft. I think I was more thrilled to see him that he was of me since he just kept trotting past me without sniffing me. His owner then past by about a minute later.
Not much more worth mentioning happened on the way down. It was on the way down that tons of people were on the trail. When I got back down to almost the end it really got slow with a line of about 15-20 people stuck behind each other. It took forever to get out of there. I then took the one lane road out as quickly as possible.

The next few days I suffered from the after affects of something. I am not sure if it was dehydration or heat stroke related, but I would feel okay until I was exposed to the sun. I would suddenly feel like the sun was sucking the energy out of me. I would feel okay with the shady trees around, but out in the open I was miserable. For about a week there weren't any clouds out at all, then we had the one day it rained (the Tioga Pass video I showed), then a few days later the Yosemite fire went up. I ended up feeling better by about the time we had that one day of rain.

I have been kind of reminded of that period after the climb recently since I am still recovering from the sickness I had over the past few weeks. I have been really lethargic and have just wanted to rest a lot which I can't afford to do too much of.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mt. Starr (Views Where I Ended)

(GPS: N37 25.615 W118 45.970)

Here is how it looked toward the west. The high point on the right is Bear Creek Spire and is the one you usually see when people take pictures of Rock Creek Canyon from below.
Mt. Morgan when I started panning to the south.
This is looking more to the east. You will notice I was not at the highest point.
Panning around more...
and more to the north.
Finally, seeing over the ridge I was looking up at from Mono Pass below.

Why didn't I get to the actual summit? Part of the deal was that when I had read up on this particular mountain hike I knew there were two summits. Some dispute which one is higher than the other, but also say that is hard to tell when you are there. I knew that would be an issue when I got up there. Back to that third picture I show above, I did get around that huge rock, but it became obvious that I was going to have to descend some and then come back up to reach the highpoint in the distance. I was already content with what I had done and started to lose the motivation to keep doing it. I was happy with the views I had, and my main concern was to make sure I had enough energy to descend back down to the pass.

At the time I did this hike, it was the first one I did when I got to the Eastern Sierra in August. I did it because I wanted to explore the area, but mainly to make sure I was in climbing shape. I had been thinking that this was going to be one mountain climb of as many as four more I intended to do while I was there. Then, about a week or so later, the Yosemite fire reared its ugly smoke which messed up the other climbs.

This ended up being my last mountain climb last year. I did get in a few other cross country type of hikes, but this was my last high point. Looking back, had I any idea what the fire was going to do, I probably would have pushed myself to explore more of the ridgeline of Mt. Starr.

This ends the mountain climb part. When I get to my next blog entry I will talk about a few issues about my descent and then show the nearby Summit Lake.

The Climb Up Mt. Starr (Youtube Version)

The Climb Up Mt. Starr (Vimeo Version)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mt. Starr (The Climb)

(GPS: N37 25.615 W118 45.160)

Part of my strategy this last year was to hit a few lesser known mountains. It was to get away from the idea that I see stated once in a while that Whitney and Half-Dome are the whole Sierra. Some of these hikes that are "easier" are just as much fun and you get great views on them. Mt. Starr may not be the most beautiful looking piece of matter out there, but it was a good one to do.

I knew the easiest route was supposed to be to hike to Mono Pass and then start climbing up the "backside." There are a bunch of mountains like this where some of the easy routes are just going around the back and climbing. So, off I went up the sandy scree and granite rocks.
Going up sandy scree isn't always fun. A case of one step up two steps back at times. There was a use trail I tried to follow. There came a point it seemed to end. I then tried to climb up the areas that were more rock than scree.
I took a look over and finally saw the Summit Lake. I knew you could continue to the lake from Mono Pass, but I decided I would visit the lake when I came down assuming I was still motivated to do so.
Up higher and higher. I took a bunch of breaks at times. I have this thing where I pick a goal of some object in the distance and then I go to it. It kind of helps me determine how long I will take and distance to the top.
Everything I had read stated the hike was nothing more than class 2, but there came a point near the end where I just wanted to get to the end so I ended up doing a few class 3/4 moves. I was glad the rocks I held were able to hold my weight. ;)
I finally got to the end of my hike and was glad I did so. I must admit it was a little tougher than I had in mind. I looked back down at the pass. I could barely see the "no fires" sign.
In the next blog I will show you how it looks all around from where I ended. You can get a preview from the video below. Technically, I did not reach the absolute summit. I will explain why in the next video, why it wasn't a big deal to me at the time, and then looking back I would have done it had I known how the rest of my hiking time was going to be last summer. ;)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mono Pass (THE Pass)

(GPS: N37 25.545 W118 46.340)

Before I get into this one let me just say that I got hit hard with the sickness during the past few days. I started to feel it about the time I put up the last blog, but then it really hit me hard after that. I have not had much sleep the last few nights, but I think my body is in recovery mode. I do not feel bad now, but I am fatigued. I had something about two months ago, but that was more of a sore throat with congestion. I thought I would be invincible for another year, but I guessed wrong. In any case, I am a little behind on putting up the next few blogs and some of you have sent e-mail I have not responded to yet. Give me another day or two and I should catch up. Hopefully, anything I write about will not sound as delusional as I have felt in the past few days.

In the last blog I was really getting close to the pass. When I finally reached the end I turned around and looked back.
Then I looked on my right side to all the granite rocks. I think people that enjoy the Mt. Whitney Trail would like this hike because it is that same type of situation with this type of rock on your side.
This is what I was happy to see. This was the very end to the pass. When I got there the icy snow was not as issue, but I had seen pictures someone had taken from a month earlier when the area was covered with snow.
So, what did I have to reward me on my quest to get to the pass? All you get is a sign that greets you by saying something about no campfires above 10,000 ft. I looked back to where I just come from.
The interesting thing about this pass is it feels like being on a beach with mountains right next to you. Of course, one can continue on the trail. I will come back to that in another few blog entries.
However, the main reason I came here was I wanted a nice mountain climb to get me in the mood for further mountain hikes I would do. Of course, if you have followed this blog since last September you would know that did not work out very well due to the Yosemite fire which really messed things up. In the next few blog entries I will show my climb up Mt. Starr.

For the final time, the video of the hike to Mono Pass:

Mono Pass (Little Lakes Valley) Hike (Youtube Version)

Mono Pass (Little Lakes Valley Hike (Vimeo Version)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mono Pass (The Final Ascent to the Pass)

This is the second part of what I started in the previous blog entry. At this point I was encountering the "moon crater" look to the mountain side. No more trees or streams at this point. Just sandy scree and granite rocks. I was glad to be at this point, but knew there would definately be more trail until I got to the pass.
These huge rocks were right above. It was kind of like, "I hope nothing changes at this moment, or I will be the nail that gets hit by a huge hammer."
I went further then took a look back. There appears to be something that was a small lake or is a lake for some of the year down below.
Then on my left side I saw the moon just above the ridgeline.
In the next blog I will show the pass itself. I am going to post the same video from last entry which cover the whole hike:

Mono Pass (Little Lakes Valley) Hike (Youtube Version)

Mono Pass (Little Lakes Valley Hike (Vimeo Version)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mono Pass (Little Lakes Valley from Mosquito Flat Trailhead)

(GPS: N37° 26.110 W118° 44.830)

Okay, it is time to get rolling on another hike. There will be a series of blog entries to get this one done. I really had to narrow down a lot of pictures, which was difficult, but this should do the job. The video is listed at the bottom and should cover the next few blog entries.

Let me start by mentioning the name of this hike is kind of confusing. If you go back a few months you may remember I already did "Mono Pass" in Yosemite. For quite some time if I had heard someone say "Mono Pass" that is what I would think they were talking about. There are two different and completely separate Mono Passes. This one I am going to talk about is south of the one in Yosemite outside of Tom's Place off the HWY 395. Some months back I was reading something online where the events took place at this Mono Pass, but the pictures were at the one in Yosemite. Alright, I hope that makes sense, let's go...

I was up early enough in the morning to get to the trailhead without hassle. The Mosquito Flat Trailhead (10,000+ elevation) is the highest one you can get to by car in the Eastern Sierra. It is a popular beginner introduction to the Sierra for this reason. I had heard about the final mile to the trailhead and was sort of nervous about what I would expect. Although it is paved it it is a one lane road where you have to watch out for oncoming cars. I did not have to pull out into any of the turnouts since I did not encounter anyone coming out. It really was not a big deal, but I wanted to get hiking and not worry about car issues. I have a real issue about worrying about my transportation when I do these hikes. Sometimes getting to the trailhead is more work than the hike itself.

Not too far outside of the trailhead the obligatory stream shot took place.
Not too much further I was into the John Muir Wilderness. Then, I started getting more elevation. In the next picture, Mt. Morgan is on the left and a bunch of the little lakes below. Most of the families I encountered on the way back were heading to those lakes. Someday, when I go back, I will probably take that trail below which is easier (unless you go really deep into the canyon) that tours most of the lakes below.
Rock Creek Canyon is very beautiful. There are lots of high mountains surrounding the area. Here is a pond I passed by.
The trail goes up higher and higher up switchbacks. The whole hike reminds me of a massive upside down U-turn. I continued up going to my right most of the time. Less and less trees, and more and more granite rock.
Earlier, I encountered a trail split. To the left would take me to Ruby Lake where I met some while coming down telling me they were going to camp there. I only saw this Lake from above. I show a little more of this in the video.
I finally made the turn that would take me to Mono Pass.
Much more work would be needed to get back there, but once I cleared this corner I would be able to see the final ascent to the pass.