After climbing Mount Dana in the morning, we drove to Tuolumne Meadows and set out for Vogelsang Peak. It was a gorgeous afternoon with beautiful cloud formations and comfortable temperatures for running. The trail up to Tuolumne Pass is great for running with few impediments and a gradual ascent. From Tuolumne Pass we encountered some snow along the trail up to the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp which was closed for the season although a ranger was still present. From the High Sierra Camp we continued up over slabs to picturesque Vogelsang Lake. Just above the lake the off-trail portion of the climb to the summit of Vogelsang Peak commences. This climb is typically very straightforward but considerable snow from the storm a couple weeks ago made some sections more interesting. Vogelsang is in a unique position to the west of the Cathedral Range crest so there is a great view of Mount Maclure, Mount Lyell, and Florence Peak. In addition, the Clark Range to the southwest can viewed in its entirety and Half Dome looms large to the northwest. Round trip was just over 5 hours. More photos here.
On October 16th Joel and I headed up to Tioga Pass for a morning climb of Mount Dana to be followed by a climb of Vogelsang Peak later in the day (photos from that climb forthcoming). A chilly breeze at Tioga Pass caused us to take the prudent course of action and dress in several layers right from the parking lot. It turns out all the layers were needed as subfreezing temperatures coupled with a stiff wind produced frigid conditions. However, the brisk weather produced magnificent clarity with phenomenal photography of the Cathederal Range in the early morning light. We made the roundtrip trek in a little over 2.5 hours and drove down from Tioga Pass to Toulumne Meadows where we would begin the adventure run to Vogelsang Lake and Peak in the afternoon (to be continued). Here are a few of the photos with a complete album of here.
Last Sunday I enjoyed a great adventure run to Eagle Scout Peak via Kaweah Gap.The 45+ mile trip took 9:38 minutes from Crescent Meadows, starting at 4:20 a.m. and finishing just before 2 p.m. Eagle Scout Peak is located just south of Kaweah Gap along the Great Western Divide in a remote region of Sequoia National Park. The climb of the 12,000 ft peak entails over 45 miles roundtrip and 8,000+ ft of elevation gain. While it’s a long way just to Kaweah Gap along the High Sierra Trail (21 miles from Crescent Meadow), the scenery is phenomenal and well worth the effort. The sapphire blue Hamilton Lakes surrounded by the towering granite walls of Angel Wings and the Valhallas is truly magnificent (see photos below from July 2010). Time splits for the run and many fantastic photos by Joel Lanz are located here.
Last year on the same weekend I pursued a speed objective on the Rae Lakes Loop, and having already experienced the spectacular scenery of the High Sierra Trail to Kaweah Gap on a climb of Mount Stewart in July 2010, I figured this would be a great one to do for time this year.
I was hoping to go around 11 hours roundtrip and started at 4:20 a.m. from Crescent Meadows with Joel, whose objective was Kaweah Gap. The High Sierra Trail is an excellent trail for running all the way to the crossing of Lone Pine Creek (~13 miles in). It was perfect weather for a night run with temperatures in the mid 40s. I felt good reaching Kaweah Gap in just over 4 hours. It took nearly 2 hours to complete the roundtrip from Kaweah Gap to the summit of Eagle Scout Peak. The climb itself is straightforward with a nice perspective on the Hamilton Lakes area and Precipice Lake directly below. The run down to Hamilton Lakes from the Gap was gorgeous and at that point I knew sub 10 hours would be possible. The anomalously cool weather on Sunday helped on the return trip along the trail (which is typically hot on the exposed south slopes) and I was able to complete the adventure run in 9:38 finishing up just before 2 pm.
Time splits and many fantastic photos by Joel here.
I have been intrigued by the string of remote peaks along Great Western Divide from Milestone Mountain to Thunder Mountain since I saw them from the summit of Mount Williamson in April 2008. This interest grew with the Stanford Loop, Mount Stewart/Kaweah Gap, Winter Alta, and The Whaleback. It was great to finally explore this remote area and climb Milestone Mountain (13,641 ft) and Midway Mountain (13,666 ft). The adventure run entailed over 40 miles with around 14,000 ft of elevation gain. The duration was just over 17 hours, starting at 2:50 am and finishing up just before 8 pm. Milestone Creek and Basin are exceptionally scenic with lovely alpine lakes and tarns, polished granite, and the towering peaks of the Great Western Divide. Many more photos here and here.
Shepherd Pass is known as one of the most grueling approaches in the Eastern Sierra with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain in 10+ miles. The trail also includes a 600 ft descent that becomes an nice slow ascent on the way back after a long day! I reached the pass about 3 hours and 20 minutes after beginning. The next few miles down Tyndall Creek had some great running with the gentle downhill slope, relatively smooth trail, and inspiring alpenglow over the Great Western Divide. I even ran with (startled) several groups of deer through the meadows. Progress on the trail connecting the John Muir Trail to the Kern River was slower partially due to the photography stops at small alpine lakes and the breathtaking views of the Great Western Divide and Kings-Kern Divide. The summit pinnacle of Milestone Mountain was the centerpiece of the panorama although it still seemed far away despite having already traveled 17+ miles. I was also intrigued by the jagged summit of Thunder Mountain peeking in the distance.
Once on the Kern River trail, I descended a little too far into the canyon losing some time and energy, but after recovering from my error it was a quick trip up Milestone Creek to Milestone Basin. There is a faint abandoned trail in the beginning portion that is helpful. Milestone Basin is another Sierra paradise with spectacular scenery – extremely picturesque and photogenic (and I took many photos!). I continued up above tree line where the vegetation transitioned into seemingly interminable boulder fields leading to the pinnacle of Milestone Mountain. The boulders became looser and steeper as I approached the final scramble and at this point I also felt the altitude slowing me down after having come directly from sea level.
I eventually made it up to the notch north of Milestone’s pinnacle and continued up the rock scramble to the summit where I was treated to stupendous 360 degree views with my favorite the angle across Milestone Bowl to the Kaweah Range. It was quite chilly on the summit with a breeze so I put on all the warmth I brought. After 30 minutes on top I retraced my route down the scramble and headed for Midway Mountain.
It took a little under 2 hours to reach the summit of Midway with more great views. On the descent from Midway, I headed to a lake below Table Mountain, descending boulders and then friendly granite slabs. Table Mountain forms a gorgeous amphitheater around this small lake and the stream emanating from the lake meanders through grassy meadows and polished slabs – quintessential Sierra sweetness! More great scenery continued as I made the descent down to Milestone Creek with views across the Kern Canyon to the Mount Whitney area.
The trail portion back through Upper Kern to Tyndall Creek and Shepherd Pass was more laborious with tired legs, but the views continued to motivate. I took a break at Shepherd Pass and enjoyed the evening sunshine before the descent into the shade on the east side of the pass for the remainder of the adventure run. I jogged most of the way back along the trail save for the 600 ft ascent out of Shepherd Creek that seemed to take forever! Alpenglow over Mount Williamson was the prize when I reached the crest of this last ascent. I made it back to the car just before 8 pm as the last light faded.
It was a great day in the High Sierra and I definitely look forward to returning to this area. The quartet of Thunder-Table-Milestone-Midway is an appealing objective for an aesthetic but challenging day in the mountains and I will definitely be exploring the routes on Thunder and Table to see if this vision of a single-day link-up can become reality someday.
An “instant classic” adventure run of a 50+ mile loop in the remote Northern Yosemite region beginning at Twin Lakes, and including five passes, the Benson Lake riviera and a summit of Volunteer Peak. Total elevation gain was over 11,000 feet and the trip time was 15:28 starting at 5:10 am and finishing up at 8:38 pm as light was fading. Many photos here.
This is a fantastic loop with excellent variety of scenery throughout including Peeler Lake, Kerrick Meadows, the tarns of Seavey Pass, Benson Lake’s sandy beach, granite-lined Smedberg Lake, Matterhorn Canyon, and the rugged Sawtooth Ridge. I also climbed Volunteer Peak which rises above Smedberg Lake. Volunteer Peak is one of the more remote summits in Yosemite, but the climb itself is straightforward. The panoramic views from the top include much of Northern Yosemite and its many granite ridges. Specifically, the summit afforded views of Mount Conness, Smedberg Lake, Benson Lake, Tower Peak, Sawtooth Ridge, Matterhon Peak, among other notable points (summit view pictures above).
We encountered generally good trail conditions except a substantial amount of snow remains on the north side of Burro Pass and on both sides of Mule Pass. The snow approaching Mule Pass was becoming hard in the evening and took some time to negotiate with the trail running footwear and no axe/crampons. We saw very few people the entire day and there is a real feeling of solitude and wilderness in this region of the park, which sharply contrasts to the more accessible parts of Yosemite like the Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. I will surely be returning to run this amazing loop again. Many more photos here.
Elevations (high and low points):
- Start (Twin lakes): 7,092 ft
- Peeler Lake/Pass: 9,489 ft
- Depart Kerrick Canyon: ~8,900 ft
- Seavey Pass: ~9,150 ft
- Benson Lake: 7,581 ft
- Smedberg Lake: 9,219 ft
- Volunteer Peak: 10,481 ft
- Benson Pass: ~10,100
- Matterhorn Canyon: ~8,400 ft
- Burro Pass: 10,650 ft
- Piute Canyon Lowpoint: ~9,400 ft
- Mule Pass: 10,460 ft
- Finish: 7,092 ft
Many more photos here.
West McMillan Spire is a peak in the fabled Picket Range of North Cascades National Park. Specifically, it is one of the jagged summits along the Southern Pickets “fence.” The approach to the climb entails 4.5 miles along a sometimes brushy path followed by a steep climber’s path gaining nearly 4,000 feet in a remarkably short distance. Once in the alpine, there is a long traverse which was almost entirely on snow this year due to the unprecedented large snowpack. The climb itself is primarily a snow climb with a steep pitch near the Inspiration-West McMillan col followed by a class three rock scramble. Having thoroughly enjoyed the climb of West McMillan Spire in 2007, I figured it was time to return. With route knowledge and generally good conditions I was able to better the 2007 time by just over 3 hours to 8:14 roundtrip. Many more photos here.
Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Real Time
Goodell Creek Trailhead (600 ft) : 0 / 05:45
Climbers Path Turnoff (1,600 ft) : 45:28 / 06:30
Heather Bench [top of hill climb] (5,200 ft) : 1:50:30 / 07:35
Arrive West McMillan Summit (8,000 ft) : 4:20:19 / 10:05
Depart West McMillan Summit (8,000 ft) : 4:41:01 / 10:26
Heather Bench [top of hill climb] (5,200 ft) : 6:46:08 / 12:31
Climbers Path Turnoff (1,600 ft) : 7:40:40 / 13:26
Goodell Creek Trailhead (600 ft) : 8:14:12 / 14:00
The climbers path from Goodell Creek to the heather benches at 5,200 ft is a masterpiece of elevation gain gaining nearly 4,000 ft in a just a couple miles. One major difference from the prior trip report were the snow conditions, which were firm and even icy in spots. This generally allowed for fast travel on the traverse from the heather benches to the Terror Glacier. However, the short descent from the 6,300+ ft notch and the final steeper snow slope up to the West Ridge required some attention. Maybe it was the rain the previous day or simply a factor of travelling on a chilly morning. On the descent the snow conditions were already getting slightly softer. Many more photos here.
Many more photos here.
On July 30th, Colin Abercrombie and I toured the Eldroado Ice Cap of North Cascades National Park climbing Primus Peak, Austera Peak and Eldorado along the way. We started at 2 am and finished at 5:40 pm for a 15:40 day. It has been since 2005 that we explored the ice cap towards Austera so it was nice to return to this scenically stellar region and explore a new area beyond Austera to the North Klawatti Glacier and Primus Peak. We didn’t see anybody beyond the East Ridge of Eldorado Peak.
We reached the Inspiration flats in time for sunrise and enjoyed firm snow conditions as we traversed the Inspiration Glacier to Klawatti-Austera col. As expected, the views from Austera were sublime in the morning light. Looking back at the 2005 photos from mid-July (a dry year), it’s amazing to see just how much more snow there is this year with the glaciers almost entirely snow filled. The traverse down the Klawatti Glacier and around the buttress to the North Klawatti was straightforward. Primus Peak is essentially a walk up with a broad summit but the views and ample lounging space on top more than compensate for the slog to get there. On the way back we tagged Eldroado with some nice afternoon light over Forbidden and the Cascade Pass area. Another fantastic outing with Colin. We have shared some awesome experiences over the years in the North Cascades! Many more photos here.
Many more photos here.
On July 23rd Joel Lanz and I completed a 50 mile adventure run up Cloud Canyon and Big Wet Meadows to climb Whaleback, one of the most remote spots in the High Sierra. We started at 2:35 am and reached the summit just before 10 am. After 45 minutes on the summit, the return trip took virtually the same amount of time, finishing at 6:05 pm for a 15:30 roundtrip. While it’s a long way to get back into Cloud Canyon and Big Wet Meadows, Joel and I agreed that it was well worth the effort. I will definitely be returning to this area to climb other objectives! Many more photos are located here and here.
Weather and trail conditions were pleasant for a night run and we made good time to Big Wet Meadows arriving around 6:50 am. Trail crews had logged out over 95 trees large trees along the way – thanks! The reflection of Whaleback in the meadows was spectacular. The meadows were largely flooded with several wet crossings creating cold feet in the morning. The trail up towards Colby Lake was snow-free and we departed cross-country once the small canyon flattened out and the trail turned up toward the lake. The climb up the East Face of Whaleback was more complex than I had imagined with several small cliff bands to navigate through to keep it third class. The general idea was to go climbers left at first and then make a rising rightward traverse to the ridge crest of Whaleback. Once on the ridge crest a short scramble brought us to the summit with fantastic views including Cloud Canyon, the Great Western Divide, Triple Divide Peak, and Glacier Ridge. On the way down we made several stops to photograph the gorgeous scenery. After Big Wet Meadows, it’s basically a 22 mile slog back to the TH. From an endurance standpoint this was a challenging outing due to the 2,500 climb out of Sugarloaf back to Marvin Pass, most of which coming from miles 44 through 47 of the 50 mile roundtrip.
Last Saturday I climbed Mount Lyell (13,120 ft), the highest point in Yosemite National Park, and nearby Mount Maclure (12,960 ft) via Lyell Canyon and Lyell Glacier. The trip entailed about ~30 miles (22 miles along the JMT and the remainder on snow and rock). The roundtrip time for the adventure run was 8:50, which was 65 minutes faster than I climbed these two peaks last time in 2007. The views from both Lyell and Maclure were spectacular, including the Lyell Canyon 4,000+ ft below, the rugged Ritter/Banner area, the Clark Range, Nothern Yosemite, and even Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley. There was excellent clarity and bluebird skies. I literally felt like I was on “The Roof of Yosemite”! More photos here.
There has been substantial snow melt recently, but still a substantial amount remains above 10,000 feet. At first I thought I could take the firm snow to nearly the summit of Lyell, but the slope became progressively icier and steeper and despite only being a couple hundred vertical feet from the summit I had to retreat to the East Arete route, which turned out to be a fun scramble. On the way down I took the central chute to a snow finger that entailed a section of downclimbing on rock. The standard route via Lyell-Maclure col appears to be more difficult at the moment with the aforementioned steep and icy snow covering what would normally be the class 3/4 rock scramble. Mount Maclure was a straightforward snow climb and then class 3 scramble along the ridgeline.
Lyell Canyon was not as soggy as I had anticipated, but it still had plenty of wet and muddy sections. Once I gave up trying to keep my feet dry it wasn’t so bad. I met several Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers on the 11 miles of trail through Lyell Canyon to near Donohue Pass. They all reported copious snow on their journey through the Southern High Sierra and I was not surprised considering the prodigious winter snowpack. More photos here.
More photos here.
I climbed 14,159 ft Mount Sill on July 3rd and enjoyed spectacular scenery from the summit and through the North Fork Big Pine Creek. I had previously climbed Mount Sill via the same North Couloir route on July 9, 2009 and that it was time to return! The trail approach along the North Fork Big Pine is gorgeous passing through First, Second and Third Lakes with Temple Crag towering above. This year there was quite a bit more snow lower down and the talus moraine near the Palisade Glacier was substantially more covered. Conditions heading up to Glacier Notch were ideal for cramponing in the morning, but the snow in the L-shaped couloir was incredibly soft with thigh deep post-holing in spots for 700 vertical feet. In fact, the snow was so soft that I was unable to glissade on the way down despite the steep angle. On the 4th class section, all snow patches can now be avoided and it’s fairly straightforward. The final bit of scrambling along the ridge up to the summit was fun and I enjoyed the spectacular vista from the “best summit view in the Sierras.” Starting at 5:15 am, the total roundtrip took 8:45 finishing just before 2 pm. (5:15 up, 3 hours down, 30 minutes on top), making this trip 2 hours faster than the 2009 effort. More photos here.