HST 2005

The great West-East Traverse

Ordo Terraporcus Inflammus :: "The Order of the Enraged Marmot":


Chris "Adjective Bear", "Ultralight Joe", Jason "Chilli Bistro",

Tod "The Bishop", & George "Gunga Din"

The High Sierra trail is Sequoia’s Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal, ~ 82 miles, 10,000+ feet of up and down.

Day 0: Travel: Home to Sequoia National Park ::--> (Saturday, July 09, 2005)

Pile into Chris' Comfy Lariat at 4am and book it up to Whitney Portal with a delicious breakfast at Dennys. We arrived at Whitney Portal soon after 10am and preceded to get bit by our first mosquitoes of the trip. Soon Ultralight Joe arrives and the high-fives go all around. Gunga Din gets his new LightSaber bivy shipped to AZ and newly sealed by Ultralight Joe:

Soon Cathy from Wilderhouse Shuttle Service spots us and we load our gear into the Excursion and begin leg 2 of our long journey to Trailhead. After a brief stop and the world's scariest Subway (housed in a gas-station filled with 'locals') we survive 6 more hours in a vehicle and the crazy winding roads up Sequoia N.P. to our deluxe accommodations for the evening, Wuksachi Lodge:

A delicious dinner at the restaurant and some quick arrangements with Zac, the bartender, to meet us the next morning . . .

Day 1: Crescent Meadow to 9 Mile Creek: ~ 8.8 miles, +700 ft ::--> (Sunday, July 10, 2005)

UltraLight Joe runs to LodgePole ranger station (and back) to pick up our permits, we have a last deluxe breakfast buffet and then meet Zac for our quick shuttle ride to Crescent Meadow.

Our journey seems daunting, 71 miles to the end of the HST, plus 11 more down the east side to our truck.

The last of the big Sequoia's, we could pitch a tent in there!

Joe in his element.

Eagle View provides the first good glimpse of our first major undertaking, to go over The Great Western Divide.

Look closely, the Blair Witch Deer!

Our first beautiful lunch spot.

Mmmmm, salmon on a tortilla.

Are we lost yet?

9 Mile Creek Campsite with bear boxes is at the base of this fall.

Camp is set, "spark it up!". First appearance of Chilly Bistro's "deluxe-backcountry-couch" as Adjective Bear dawns the 'pirate look'.

Day 2: 9 Mile Creek to Big Hamilton Lake: ~7.7 miles, +700 ft ::--> (Monday, July 11, 2005)

It was very wet this year and still lots of snow, so water was everywhere which makes it so nice and beautiful (but also treacherous! as you'll see later).

The High Sierra Camp is a deluxe hotel setup near Bearpaw Meadow. There is a nice little mess hall.

with a Spectacular view.

The path from Bearpaw to Big Hamilton Lakes is lush and green. Our destination is near the top of this pass.

Cooling off at the waterfall just below Big Hamilton Lake.

Big Hamilton, our destination for the day. Time for some laundry

and a little dip! (It wasn't THAT cold.)

All my gear spread out. It's not much, but it's home.

Gunga Din seems to be happy with his new rig.

Day 3: Big Hamilton Lake to Big Arroyo Junction: ~7.0 miles, +2,500 - 1,100 = 1,400 ft net ::--> (Tuesday, July 12, 2005)

It was quite crowded around the lake but we managed to camp up the hill a bit to afford a beautiful view. Early breakfast and an early start to go over that range.

Our mascot wishes us a good journey.

Can you see A.Bear and The Bishop? Top left, very small, edge of the shadow. This is the trail up from Big Hamilton. There was a bridge that spanned this gap for a couple of years before an avalanche brought it down. Now there is a small tunnel carved into the gap at the right. Incidentally, this is the spot of our crew's first encounter with 'Carl & Larry' (more later).

Nearing the top of the pass, we've climbed a ways from Big Hamilton. Look carefully, see the trail and switchbacks on the right? Also, the large chunk of rock directly behind Big Hamilton is called 'Valhalla'. It rivals El Capitan in Yosemite for shear vertical mass.

I guess Precipice Lake wasn't suitable for camping overnight after all.

The trail was covered with snow patches much of the time as we approached Kaweah Gap. The Bishop takes a seat.

Ultralight Joe in front of a frozen Precipice Lake.

Gunga Din and Chilli.B. arrive at the pass. A view down the Big Arroyo.

Our mascot meets us at the top, and a new species of Marmot we haven't seen yet.

A much needed break and A.Bear points the way.

But before we could escape, Carl & Larry catch us and recount many splendid adventures over the years in the Sierras (PS.- notice Carl's pack size, it will be significant later on.)

Beautiful Big Arroyo is cascading with water, only to lead to trouble later on.

After fording several sketchy river crossings, we come to an impassable. So we scout down river for a quarter mile and Ultralight Joe finds a 'doable' spot. Everybody makes it across OK, but as we sit on the other side, drying off, Carl makes an attempt and goes down and under, 'til team O.T.I. jumps in and pulls him out. Carl thanks us profusely for the next day and a half. "Your welcome Carl! Stay safe buddy".

WARNING!: River crossings are much more DANGEROUS then they look. Knee-high fast moving water can exert upwards of 800 lbs. of force! Be careful and always try to go UltraLight, it could save your life!

We reach our destination for the night, Big Arroyo Junction. Standard pumping of the water by our water-bearer Gunga Din.

What's for dinner?

What a day! Lots of adventure, snow fields, frozen lakes, high passes, fording rivers, saving lives. We'll all sleep well tonight.

Day 4: Big Arroyo Junction to Kern Valley Hot Springs: ~14.0 miles, -3,000 ft ::-->(Wednesday, July 13, 2005)

We begin our journey down the Big Arroyo by climbing the east slopes up to the Chagoopa Plateau.

The plateau is a beautiful combination of lush meadows and ultra-dry desert.

Moraine Lake was a short detour that wound up being well worth the extra third of a mile walk. The water was pool-temperature warm. Check out Chilli.B. floating in the center.

On our way out from Moraine Lake, we make our way South-SouthWest to Kern Canyon, across Sky Parlor meadow we get our first view of Whitney over the tree line.

Just before we hit the switchbacks which drop us straight down into Kern Canyon, the view South is big, VERY BIG!

At this point we are at 12 miles plus, earned for the day. Just when we think it's all gonna be easy and we're almost there, we realize the valley is wet, lush, and flooded; water is everywhere.

We finally arrive at Kern Valley Hot Springs and Chilli.B., Gunga Din, & A.Bear soak in the 100+ degree hot tub (not ALL at the same time of course). Highly recommended.

Day 5: Kern Valley Hot Springs to Wallace Creek Junction: ~12.1 miles, +3,600 ft ::-->(Thursday, July 14, 2005)

Chilli.B. takes one last quick dip before departure in the morning

Gunga Din carefully navigates the first of many treacherous crossings that day.

We pass through Endor.

Can anyone say, "bouncy"? ;-)

Getting pretty tired at this point. We've just decided to move on past Junction Meadow and go for the gold today, by tackling the first big up section towards Whitney. Carl's gods repay us kindly by summoning some nice high clouds to take the heat off.

The last and one of the hairiest of the river crossings just before our destination, Wallace Creek Junction. In the first picture Chilli Bistro is re-assembling his pole because he lost the bottom section trying to scout to high in this raging river. After Ultralight Joe fines the saner and safer path, Chilli gives it another attempt.

We reach our destination for the night. Another long day tackled with lots of elevation gained behind us. Gunga Din skewers his sandal! Luckily it went right between his toes.

We quickly get swarmed by more mosquitoes then you ever want to meet. We find out later that Wallace Junction is the worst spot for mosquitoes in the entire Sierras, and we run out of DEET to boot! We learn all kinds of funny tricks to keep them off of us: layer up with all our rain gear, eat while walking around the meadow, etc. Don't even ask what kind of shenanigans you have to pull to relieve yourself (just think 'lots of flailing arms').

Day 6: Wallace Creek Junction to Upper Crabtree Meadow: ~4.2 miles, +200 ft net::-->(Friday, July 15, 2005)

We walk what seems like for a ridiculously SHORT amount of time. Gunga Din finishes off the rest of the infamous 'Chex-mix powder'.

So 4 miles and we're done for the day. That's because this is the last bear-box before Whitney portal. We have to stay here, then hump it all the way out the next day. Lots of rest, eating all we can, and a little bit of cards too. We get the 'scoops' from the Ranger about goings at the Summit the day before, some old man turning blue and needed some rescue. We see a "ton" of people come through here, like 10! More people then we've seen total in the past 3 days.

Actually, one of the nicer of the pit toilets we came across, 'cept for the bozos who camp within site of it. We said 'Screw-'em!' and just went about our business, let them deal with it.

An early bed in preparation for our early wake-up for summit day . . .

Day 7: Upper Crabtree Meadow to Whitney Portal: ~20 miles, +4,000 - 6,000 = -2,000 ft net::--> (Saturday, July 16, 2005)

Summit day! 5:30 am wake-up.

We march right out of camp. Have breakfast in the early hours near guitar lake before the big push up.

What can you say, the trail is steep. Lots of vert. It's 11,000 feet from here and just all switchbacks and rocks 'til 14,495. Ultralight Joe's camera was running low on batteries so we saved the picture taking until we got to the top. And now, finally, the end of the High Sierra Trail.

The hut with the registry and some snow inside. Built in 1909, I think

And behind us, way over the furthest mountain range you can possible see, was the beginning of our trip; 4 mountain ranges west, ~ 71 miles.

This is down one of the several "Don't slip bridges" that winds up from Trail Crest to the summit. Our destination for the day is the Truck at Whitney Portal way down near the flats in the distance.

Trail Crest, ~ 13,600. Ultralight Joe's pack and the mother-of-all-trail-karmas, a giant rusted kerosene cans he is going to haul all the way down the mountain.

A lively bunch, ready to hike the last 10 or so miles out.

The walk out is relatively crowded, of course. Lots of day hikers and overnighters on their way up and back. Trail Camp is like a third-world shanty town. Outpost camp seems a little nicer. Near the bottom it was a huge conga line walking off the trail. We make it to the end, which is the beginning of the Mount Whitney Trail.

82+ miles, lots of adventure and camaraderie, and a little note left on Ultralight Joe's car, from the "Dark Service".

We stay the night at the Best Western, shower off, and swing into the 'Whitney Cafe' for some delicious eats.

Day Last: Travel: Whitney Portal to Home::--> (Sunday, July 17, 2005)

Our long drive home to the loved ones.

Thank you team O.T.I.,Especially:

Ultralight Joe and Gunga Din for documenting the journey

The Bishop for help with the trip logistics

Adjective Bear for . . . well, fending off all the 'regular' Bears

'til next time. Team Ordo Terraporcus Inflammus signing off.

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