Category Archives: California

Nopah Point

Nopah Peak (l) and Point (r) from valley

Nopah Peak (l) and Point (r) from valley

Having noticed Pahrump Point and the Nopah range while driving by the day before, we decided to tag something there on the way back to Vegas. Unofficially-named “Nopah Point” is the range high point (not to be confused with Nopah, Moapa, Mopah, or Umpah Peaks), so we decided start with that and, time permitting, tag Pahrump Point afterward. After a night next to a dirt road and early-morning tire inflation, we headed south toward Shoshone.

The route description we found mentioned a rough dirt road leading toward the wash north of Nopah, but we found nothing of the kind. Instead, we found a well-graded dirt road extending less than a half-mile toward the peak before making a dogleg south. This seemed unpromising, and a combination of mud and aggressive “POSTED no trespassing” signage on a fork continuing straight from the dogleg led us to park at the intersection, some three miles from the base of the mountains.

After the classic Nevada experience of staring at the same scenery for over an hour while crossing a valley floor, we reached the base of the large wash between Nopah Peak and “Nopah Point.” After some disagreement about the route hinging on the distinction between a “gully” and a “wash,” I acquiesced and climbed a miserably loose dirt slope to reach the ridge directly in front of us.

It looked like we would have to nearly return to the right-hand gully to bypass obvious cliffs above, but I figured I might as well see what else could be done. After side-hilling along light-colored ground for awhile, I headed up a fairly stable class 2 gully to a higher shelf closer to the base of the main cliffs. My partner, continuing on the lower shelf, soon reached an impasse. It looked like it might be possible to pick one’s way up and around the south side of the cliffs and into a gully to their east, so after calling down to her that my way would “totally go,” I found a seat and listened to a bit of music.

Fortunately for me, my way worked pretty much as expected, with some fun 3rd class climbing on solid black rock and not too much cactus. From there, easier scrambling led to Nopah’s west ridge, where a line of cairns led over many false summits to the true one, festooned with mysterious boards and wire. I looked over at Nopah Peak, but even imagining Bob’s disapproval, I could not summon the motivation to hike over to the lower summit. I had been smart enough to bring my down jacket this time, so I was happy to lounge around on the summit instead.

Not relishing the thought of reversing our route, I figured I would try to find what I believed to be the official route down the southern gully (or wash). There were enough cairns and bits of use trail to suggest that it might work, so down we went along a ridge south of the southern canyon/gully/wash. Seeing a lone cairn on an especially loose and steep slope, I slid and picked my way that way until I reached an impasse, then headed back toward the head of the canyon, hoping to intersect the bottom.

As I had hoped, we found more frequent cairns leading into the canyon. Though it looked ominously narrow and steep, the bottom of the wash was mostly fun class 2 boulder-hopping and scrambling. The one exception was a cliff band near the bottom, bypassed by an improbable, loose 3rd class downclimb to its left. From there, more boulders led to the mouth of the southern gully/wash/canyon we had passed in the morning. Though we managed to reach the desert by nightfall this time, we still ended up putting in some headlamp time. Fortunately my partner had remembered to add a GPS waypoint for the car, because we were not as accurate on our return as we were the day before.


Eagle, Pyramid

Eagle from Pyramid

Eagle from Pyramid

It turns out that if you roll in late and leave early, the group sites at Red Rocks are free. That’s useful knowledge, since it’s a huge improvement over sleeping in a Walmart parking lot or driving all the way to BLM land past Las Vegas’ sprawl. After seeing the snow up high, we (well, mostly me — my partner is much more tolerant than I of that sort of hardship) decided to head west to the desert. I had enjoyed a quick climb of Eagle Peak on my way to Red Rocks last fall, and have admired nearby Pyramid on my many drives through Death Valley over the years. While my partner drove, I downloaded as many relevant topo maps as I could on spotty desert data coverage.

After cooking breakfast along the dirt pull-off near Eagle, we crossed the mighty Amargosa River, which miraculously featured actual water this time. Eagle is a small north-south fin standing by itself near Death Valley Junction. For variety, I had thought to traverse the peak from one end to the other, but upon closer inspection, I decided that looked time-consuming and not especially interesting. Instead, we followed the standard route up the west face.

This route is admirably direct and surprisingly steep for a desert peak. However rather than the usual desert rubble and dirt, Eagle consists mostly of solid and incredibly grippy gray rock. After the standard stroll across the desert floor, the climb to the ridge is mostly a walk up a class 2 ramp. Reaching the summit, we agreed that the traverse would not have been worth it. Even spending considerable time on the summit admiring the snow on Mount Charleston to the east and Telescope Peak to the west, we were back to the car by lunch, and headed still further west for Pyramid.

Pyramid starts with a much longer, slightly uphill walk along the desert floor. Along the way I was surprised to find faint traces of an old dirt road, leading to a couple pieces of timber and what might have been a small mining operation. With almost nothing growing in the exceptionally dry area, the walk was easy, but still took the better part of two hours.

Nearing the peak, we looked at the route description, squinted at the downloaded topo, then chose a feasible-looking spur to reach the southeast ridge. Our ridge was probably not the best, but it worked; as on many desert peaks, no route was free of cactus and loose rubble, but any one will do. Nearing the main southeast ridge, I was pleased to find a bit of exposed 3rd-class scrambling to break up the climb. Above that, more hiking over several false summits eventually led to black-and-white true summit visible from the road.

With high, thin clouds weakening the sun, my partner promptly put on her down jacket and sat down to enjoy our perch. Having left mine in the car, I put on my shell and tried to minimize my surface area. Though Pyramid is less visited than Eagle, it had a surprisingly nice register containing several familiar names. Though I have never and will never meet them, I almost feel like I know these people I have “met” on so many summits. After watching me do calisthenics to stay warm, my partner finally relented, and we started down. Though I got a good look at a lone bighorn sheep, he was too fast and my camera too slow.

We hoped to reach the desert floor by dark, but it grew obnoxiously dark as we made our way down the shady east side of the ridge. After a high-stakes round of headlamp chicken among the barrel cacti (“the most dangerous animal in the desert”), we sat to enjoy the stars and silence, with no living creatures, often no planes, and only a few distant cars disturbing the night. Though we had noted the direction of the car relative to the surrounding peaks, this forethought proved less than useful with no moon and clouds obscuring the skyline. However, by some combination of skill and luck, we finally emerged on the road only 50 yards from the car — only a fraction of a degree.

Better California maps

I have never been too happy with Sport Distance Calculator for map generation, but it was “good enough” when I found it last year. Jen recently clued me in to a much nicer alternative for California: CalTopo. It allows you to draw routes on USGS 7.5′ topos, gives pretty good distance and elevation numbers if you take the time to use enough line segments, and generates great PDFs. I have updated my backpacking overview posts (High Route, Kaweah loop) to use CalTopo’s maps and stats, including multi-page, detailed PDFs.

KL day 6-7: Big Arroyo out

Big Arroyo patrol cabin

Big Arroyo patrol cabin

Sometime around 3:00 AM, I peered out of my tarp and saw the moon — thankfully the storm had passed, so I would be able to dry out, or at least warm up, in the morning. The mix of snow, graupel, and sleet had frozen into a hard, white sheet that anchored my tarp against the wind, and supported Tom and Matthew as they walked around in the morning. After an interminable wait for the sun to reach the bottom of the valley, I ate breakfast and packed as quickly as I could, with frequent breaks to stand in the sun and rewarm my hands.

Michael had left for Big Kaweah; the others were still deciding what to do as I followed him south along the High Sierra Trail. My original plan was to cross over Red Spur and Kaweah Basin, camping near Picket Guard. However, I was enjoying the sunny hike on untracked snow (rather than pulverized dust and horse manure) so much that, when I came to the point where I should leave the HST, I decided instead to keep strolling along the trail and visit the Kern Hot Springs and Valley, though it would mean dropping down below 7,000′. I continued strolling along the plateau in perfect brisk t-shirt weather.

Decide in haste, repent at leisure. While the hike along the plateau was pleasant, and the lower Kern is impressive with its 3000-foot-high glacier-carved walls, the hike back to Junction Meadow is endless. I stopped briefly at the hot springs, but a hot, slimy, sulfurous bath did not appeal in the midday heat. An exit to Whitney Portal was impossible, but I could at least make my last day short, so when I reached Junction Meadow before 4:00, I took only a short break before continuing 4.3 miles and 2,200′ to the JMT junction at Wallace Creek. I had to continue several hundred yards up the faint trail to get past all the JMT parties camped there.

Though it had been warm hiking up the Kern the previous day, the night was the coldest of the trip: for the first time, my CamelBak hose froze solid, frustrating my breakfast preparations. I was almost out of oats, so breakfast was a disgusting paste of oil, instant mashed potatoes, and vanilla protein powder. It only needed to last me about 10 miles over Russell-Carillon Col and down to the Portal.

My knee and shin were both stiff and painful, so I started off at a limp, but fortunately they loosened up after an hour or two, before the steeper part of the col. I was tired and slow on the hills, but had enough music to last me through this familiar terrain, and reached the trailhead around noon.

KL day 5: Big Arroyo; Eisen, Lippincott, Eagle Scout

Kaweahs behind clouds

Kaweahs behind clouds

After getting up at our own paces, we scattered to several objectives: Michael to Black and Red Kaweahs, Bob and Matthew to Red Spur and a nearby 13er, and myself to the SPS peaks forming the west side of the Big Arroyo: Eisen, Lippincott, and Eagle Scout. Michael had tagged Eisen from Black Rock Pass the previous day, and reported that it sucked. From my topo, it looked like it should be possible to head straight up the valley to its east, bypassing the hideously loose ridge.

I headed up the trail to Little Five Lakes, then took off west up the drainage, following bits of trail past several lakes. As I had hoped, this way was much better than that from Black Rock: after gaining most of the elevation on nice slabs and grass, I gained the ridge between a knob and the north summit. A bit of 3rd class, with a couple detours to the shady, windy, rotten north side of the ridge, got me to what I thought was the high point. Alas, the register had been placed on the lower-looking point a couple hundred yards to the south. The connecting ridge was unpleasantly loose, but at least it was much shorter than the similarly-awful ridge from Black Rock. I congratulated myself on my route choice.

Lippincott looked far away, across several lower summits and a long, probably nasty ridge, so I took my time resting on the sunny, sheltered side of the ridge. I noted that Rick and Darija had traversed the other direction a few years ago, so it clearly went. I returned to the north summit, then vacillated. The ridge itself looked time-consuming and probably crappy. Losing a couple thousand feet off the west side, then passing above a lake and re-climbing Lippincott, looked direct. Ultimately, I followed the ridge a bit, then dropped down a nasty dirt chute to the east when it started to look tricky.

I managed to bypass one of the intermediate summits without losing too much elevation, but the line I took crossed much tedious talus and sand. I ended up climbing back up to the ridge before the last sub-summit, following the ridge for a bit, then contouring down the west side to the final saddle. There may be no pleasant way to get between these peaks. However, the final climb up Lippincott’s east face was actually pleasant, consisting mostly of slabs and stable boulders.

The wind that had been blowing all morning was starting to bring the friendly, puffy clouds out west a bit too close, obscuring parts of the remaining traverse. I couldn’t see all of the ridge north to Eagle Scout, but what I could see looked tricky, and I knew it crossed two higher summits. The east ridge, on the other hand, was still in the clear, and definitely manageable on its south side.

Dropping down a mixture of the east ridge and southeast face, I aimed for a saddle where, I hoped, I could hop over to the broad, slabby basin north well above the bottom of the valley. After a failed attempt on a sketchy, lichen-covered ramp, I found a reasonable 3rd class way near the saddle’s west end. The rest of the traverse north was mostly pleasant slabs and grass, passing around one rib, across the outlet of a decent-sized lake, then through a saddle to Eagle Scout’s southeast face. Looking back at the ridge to Lippincott, I saw that it would probably have been Serious Business.

Eagle Scout probably has a great view of Precipice Lake and the Bearpaw area, but I summited in the clouds. Somewhat worried about my exposed gear back at camp, I rushed down the sand and slabs to the Big Arroyo trail, then jogged most of the way to camp. I washed up, and was just settling into Bob’s camp chair when a few graupel kernels began falling. It was probably around 4:30 when I crawled into my sleeping bag, then doubled my tarp over it and my gear. This is where I would stay for the next 16 hours.

Tom arrived shortly thereafter, bringing some mystery treat in a Gatorade bottle. As he finished catching up and setting up his palatial tent, Michael returned, having successfully tagged both of his Kaweahs — a tough day. Matthew and Bob returned somewhat later, having caught a healthy dose of precipitation on their way back from distant Red Spur.

While I was content to sit filthily in my filthy bag and cook dinner, Tom and Bob like to stay clean. Tom accomplished this by falling waist-deep into the creek, washing himself along with his pants and shoes. Bob had packed in a solar show, which he set out to heat during the day. Despite the water being no warmer than when he drew it from the creek, he took the black bag and his chair around the corner of a boulder. A few minutes later, we heard a series of agonized gasps. While Bob probably emerged cleaner than before, I can’t imagine it being worth such misery.

The mixed precipitation came down harder, and I engineered the best shelter I could, trying defend my down bag against both the snow and condensation collecting on the tarp, with my pack serving as both pillow and prop at the head-end. Though I heard Tom snoring in his tent, I slept very little myself. When I lay flat on my back, the tarp would slowly collapse under accumulated snow and collect condensation, and my feet would get cold. Lying on my side allowed adequate ventilation, but my hip and elbow would get sore, requiring me to switch sides. I stayed warm and dry enough, but spent most of the night switching positions and punching snow off the tarp. I imagined waking to a continuing blizzard, wrapping my hands and feet in bread bags, and deciding when and how to make a desperate dash for civilization. I wondered if I would end up in Accidents in North American Mountaineering, and if they would note that I was not wearing a helmet when I succumbed to hypothermia.

KL day 4: Nine Lakes to Big Arroyo; Lion Rock, Stewart, Kaweah Queen, Lawson

A strange sight

A strange sight

After the previous day’s pack-over, it felt great to knock out a few peaks with just a daypack. Making my way around the lake, I scrambled quickly toward the ridge between Lion Rock and Stewart, eager to stay warm and reach the sun. I had hoped to find something easy on the other side of the ridge, and especially the tower east of the summit, and was disappointed. However, a bit of 3rd class got me to the notch before the tower, where easy 3rd class led around the shady side and up to the summit.

The ridge to Stewart looked long, and I was not sure how hard it might be, but it seemed better than going all the way around to Kaweah Gap. Retracing my steps, I found easy ground past a section of red rock. Things turned trickier once I got on the white granite. First came a horizontal maze of giant talus blocks, which went as class 3 with some backtracking. This ended at a steep step, with a fun-looking 5th class dihedral on one side and steep, ledgy terrain on the other. I finally found some 4th class trickery to get me up the ledgy side, where more 3rd class got me to the higher-looking false summit. I wasted some time trying to stay on the ridge, cliffing out on some giant boulders, but eventually reached the summit.

I still had hours to kill, so I decided to tag Lawson and Kaweah Queen, two fairly obscure non-SPS peaks. After peering over the high side to Bearpaw and the tiny Lilliput Glacier, I made my way down the obvious easy side, across Nine Lakes Basin, and up toward the northeast side of Black Kaweah. I was surprised to find bits of use trail in this section, since there are few reasons to pass through the area. I followed them, and the easiest-looking line, to the saddle between Kaweah Queen and Lawson, trying to minimize my encounters with the horrid loose talus.

I decided to tag Kaweah Queen first, and was surprised to find that, although it looks like a big mound, it requires a bit of classic Kaweah rib-and-gully work to reach the summit. I found a surprising number of (mostly familiar) names in the young register. The peak is nothing special, but its position gives it great views in all directions, including into the seldom-visited Kaweah Basin to the southeast. Lawson, an easy traverse away, is similar: a nondescript talus pile in a good location. I even found a couple wind-breaks on the summit plateau, perhaps built by particularly hardy backcountry photographers looking for a sunrise shot.

I took a more direct path down from Lawson, where I found some truly awful talus. After a long walk back to camp, where my stuff was pleasantly dry and aired-out, I packed back south, meeting the Big Arroyo trail below Kaweah Gap. Along the way, I passed a herd of free-roaming mules, then some cowboys walking another dozen of them up-canyon, who asked if I had seen the first ones. Michael had already claimed a campsite when I arrived at the bear boxes, and Bob and Matthew arrived perhaps an hour later. Michael had even packed in meat to share, a welcome change from my standard pot of oil, bean and mashed potato flakes.

KL day 3: Lake NE of Kern Point to Nine Lakes; Kern Point, Centennial, Triple Divide

Triple Divide's east ridge

Triple Divide’s east ridge

The sun rose relatively early on my east-facing camp, so I was able to start at a reasonable time. Reaching the large lake north of Kern Point, I saw bootprints and strings across the lake; according to Bob, the strings are gill nets to kill the fish for the frogs’ benefit, though I can’t imagine any sane frog living in such a frigid place. The first slope up from the lake, normally covered by snow, was loose misery made worse by my heavy pack, but fortunately things got easier after a couple hundred feet. Though Kern Point looks like a big talus mound, I topped out on a surprisingly sharp northeast ridge, and enjoyed slightly more scenic and interesting climbing to the summit.

From my perch on the summit, I looked down at the Kern-Kaweah valley leading west from Junction Meadow, at 8300′, to Colby Pass near 12,000′, and on to Triple Divide, my next destination. Heading west, I made a descending traverse to about 11,000′, then stayed around that level to the lakes and meadows below Colby. Though there were one or two unpleasant talus sections, most of the traverse was on pleasant slabs — preferable to, and possibly faster than, dropping down to the Colby Pass trail and regaining 1000′.

Though it wasn’t on my agenda, I realized that I could tag Centennial Peak with only a short, 2,000′ detour. Though the peak is a complete nothing-burger, a class 2 mound surrounded by higher neighbors, it may be the only officially-named Sierra Peak I will ever reach before Bob; I couldn’t resist. One slog later I was at the summit, looking north along a jagged ridge to Milestone, and west across Whaleback and Glacier Ridge.

I returned to my pack, took 50 steps or so on the Colby Pass trail, then left it to the southwest, crossing a class 2-3 ridge and making my way over rolling terrain to Triple Divide Pass. I am not sure why people use this pass, but there were footprints. From a bump southwest of the pass, a long, gradual ridge leads to Triple Divide. The ridge is mostly class 2, with a few class 3 moves, and the rock is pleasantly solid for the area.

After enjoying the view for a few minutes, I started worrying about how I was going to reach Nine Lakes. This was my first visit to this part of the range, and I was unfamiliar with the topography. It looked like I could drop to Lion Lake using either the west ridge or southwest face, then climb an ugly slope over Lion Rock’s east ridge to reach my goal. The other option would be to follow Triple Divide’s south ridge to where it met that ridge. I went a few yards down the west ridge, but retreated when I found left-handed traversing and terrible rock. Then I dropped a bit down the southwest face, chickening out when I couldn’t see whether my chute cliffed out. The ridge it was.

Starting from a short way down the southwest face, I contoured south over classic Kaweah terrain: endless fins and gullies of crappy rock. Reaching an impasse, I retreated, crossed through a notch to the west side, and found that I could have simply walked down easy class 2 terrain from the summit. Oh, well. The top and west side of the ridge continued to work surprisingly well, though I could see it growing steeper ahead.

After a miraculous ledge took me around one impasse, a tower with a sheer left side forced me back to the right. Shortly thereafter, I arrived at a steep cleft, and thought I was hosed. Carefully walking along the narrow ridge, I found a 4th class downclimb on the left side — tricky with 1.5 hands and an overnight pack — that took me to the notch. Past this notch, the top of the ridge was an easy class 2 walk to the head of Nine Lakes. I looked over at Lion Rock, but was too low on water and too tired; it would have to wait for morning.

KL day 2: Crabtree Meadow to Lake NE of Kern Point; Ericsson

Panorama west of Bighorn Plateau

Panorama west of Bighorn Plateau

One normal way to get from Crabtree to the Kaweahs is to drop down Wallace Creek to the Kern, take the Colby Pass trail back up and somehow squeeze through between the Kaweahs and Great Western Divide, perhaps via Pants Pass. This is direct, but requires dropping down to the Kern River at Junction Meadow (8,300′). Having plenty of time to reach the Big Arroyo, I made a detour around the head of the Kern to tag Mount Ericsson, my last SPS peak in the Shepherd Pass area. This route had the added advantage of allowing me to stay above 10,000 feet for the next few days.

After packing up, I made my way down to the JMT and listened to some NPR as I made the morning “commute” to Lake South America. I do not normally enjoy extended trail hiking. However, crossing the Bighorn Plateau in the morning, with the sun rising on the Kaweahs and Great Western Divide, put me in a good mood; I even took out one headphone to be friendly to the south-bound JMTers. Mount Ericsson’s distinctive, jagged south ridge loomed for hours in the distance.

Just past Tyndall Creek, I turned left on the Kern cutoff trail, then right on the less-traveled, new-to-me trail to Lake South America, leaving the JMT to wind its way up Forester Pass. This unmaintained trail follows a long, grassy valley to its headwall, passing a few smaller lakes. I was surprised to see two herds of deer, and I in turn surprised the heck out of a fox (I think) stalking something next to one of the lakes — when he finally noticed me, he sprinted all the way to the opposite shore.

After crossing the headwall, I made my way past a scenic, unnamed lake, then dropped my pack at the next trail junction, cramming as much trail mix and water as I could stand before heading for Harrison Pass and Ericsson’s east face. Since it is class 3, I had glanced at Bob’s trip report for beta on the route; I learned, most importantly, that the northernmost high point was the summit. The climb is mostly forgettable but not unpleasant class 2. Near the summit, however, things get trickier. Heading north too soon, I got into some tricky terrain near the steep chute just south of the summit, but managed to zig-zag my way to the summit ridge with some creative hand-and-a-half climbing.

The summit views were well worth the climb: to the southwest, I looked down the Kern from its origin; to the northwest, the deep valleys holding East Lake, Bubbs Creek, and the Kings River, as well as Charlotte Dome and the steep side of Bago; to the east, Stanford, Deerhorn and, behind them, University; to the west, Brewer and its companion peaks. Unable to find the register, I scrambled along the west side of the summit ridge and up the class 3-4 cracks to a lower, southern summit, which at least had a cairn. I found the “correct” route partway between these two summits on the way down, then finally made my way across undulating terrain to my pack.

Following the extremely faint Kern trail southwest, I was surprised to see an older woman backpacking by herself. I said “hello” to try to avoid startling her, and remarked that I did not expect to meet anyone; she did likewise, but seemed not to want to talk, so I went quickly on my way.

At around 10,500′, I crossed the “mighty” Kern (all of a foot wide at this place and time of year) and picked up the old Milestone Basin trail. I left it before it started climbing, crossed the creek south, and was surprised to find another creek flowing in a sheer, deep valley. I was forced to climb slabs to the west to where it rose to join the level of the valley, where I easily crossed, then climbed some annoying talus to pass through the ridge to the south. I was surprised to find a couple of cairns along the way, though there were no other signs of human traffic. I spent the rest of the afternoon contouring around 11,000′ along the plateau west of the Kern, finding a convenient lake north-northeast of Kern Point around sundown.

KL Day 1: Whitney Portal to Crabtree Meadow; Hitchcock, Newcomb, Chamberlin

Endless ridge toward Hitchcock

Endless ridge toward Hitchcock

Racing down to Lone Pine after tagging Red and White Mountain, I made it to the visitor center late and was happy to snag the last Whitney entry permit. After stuffing various foodstuffs into my rented bear canister in the McDonalds parking lot, I crashed in the Alabama Hills, having already packed my sleeping bag, then drove up to the Portal in the morning. Just for the heck of it, I hung my pack from the trailhead scale, which reported 37 lbs. (including 1-2 liters of water) — not bad for 7 days.

Putting on some music, I took the old Whitney trail to the new one, then cruised up the endless switchbacks. I started passing wag bags below the switchbacks, and Whitney hikers shortly thereafter. I reached Trail Crest in about 3h30, poked my head into the wind blasting through the gap, then retreated to leave the trail and pick my way around the sheltered side of Discovery Pinnacle.

Somewhat suboptimally, I chose to tag Hitchcock first. Traversing south of the ridge, I followed a line of ducks, then left them as they descended toward Crabtree Lakes. This side of ridge is easy but endless, an obstacle course of boulders and sand common to this part of the Sierra. I eventually reached a chute dropping to Hitchcock Lakes, where I dropped my pack before scrambling to the summit, which sees regular traffic from the Crabtree ranger. Returning to my pack, I dropped southwest down sand to the big Crabtree Lake, then took out my daypack for an extended excursion to Newcomb and Chamberlin.

I knew nothing about routes on these peaks, but I spied a chute that appeared to lead to the ridge near Newcomb. It worked, though there were some utterly horrid loose sections, and I soon found myself on the easy side of the peak a short distance west of the summit. I turned west toward Chamberlin, and was surprised to find that the easy side became non-easy in the middle. Dropping down to easier terrain was too painful to contemplate. This section turned out to include some fun class 3, with a bit of block maze and some tunnels and catwalks.

Passing over Chamberlin’s summit, I continued to a chute I had seen across Crabtree Lake, and found encouraging footprints leading down. The chute worked, but was not as nice as I had hoped, with far less skiable sand and scree than I had thought to find.

Once again carrying my heavy pack, I picked up increasingly well-established bits of trail leading down along the lakes. I met a group of backpackers at one who had come in via Meysan Lake and the hideous death-chute between Irvine and Mallory, having failed to acquire a Whitney Permit to come in over the slightly less hideous Arc Pass. We chatted for awhile, and I gave them a few pointers on coming out Russell-Carillon Col. Anticipating a long next day, I did the extra miles to Lower Crabtree Meadow, found a maintained trail, and hiked upstream to the Crabtree bear box (not all my food fit in my bear can yet). I stowed my trail mix, cooked dinner and, after reading until my hand was too cold to hold the book (about 10 minutes), turned in embarrassingly early.

More backpacking: Kaweah Loop

I spent six nights on another backpacking excursion, this time starting at Whitney Portal and looping around the Kaweahs. I did some peak-bagging along the way: Hitchcock, Newcomb, Chamberlin, Ericsson, Kern Point, Centennial, Triple Divide, Lion Rock, Stewart, Kaweah Queen, Lawson, Eisen, Lipincott, Eagle Scout.

Here are the stats:

Day mi +
1 15.7 8800 6500
2 21.4 6500 6300
3 10.7 6900 6600
4 13.1 5300 6900
5 10.7 5700 5700
6 23.8 5200 4300
7 8.7 3400 5500
Total 104.1 41800 41800

And here is a map: interactive online version; multi-page detailed PDF.