Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mineral King Loop

Route: Mineral King -> Glacier Pass -> Spring Lake -> Cyclamen Lake -> Columbine Lake -> Sawtooth Pass -> Sawtooth Peak -> Mineral King
Hiking Mineral King loop map
I need to check all my gear before High Sierra Trail, so decided to do this easy loop as 2 days hike.
Sawtooth peak on the left
There is a non maintained (old) trail on the left side of the valley, very easy to follow up to the Glacier Pass.
North side of Glacier Pass
There was still little bit of snow on the other side, but easy passable.
Spring Lake and route to Columbine Lake
I camped near Spring Lake, which was a right choice, slightly lower elevation, more beautiful, some trees around. I was worried about next part of the route, especially from Cyclamen to Columbine Lake. In Google Earth it looked way too steep, but turned out to be ok.
Cyclamen Lake and Spring Lake
Sawtooth Peak from Columbine Lake
At this point I reconnect with established trail again, easy going to Sawtooth Pass.
Sawtooth Peak from the Sawtooth Pass
One mile traverse to peak was slow and took 1:30 there and 1:00 back. Its quite sandy, last few blocks before the peak require some climbing, but not too bad. Here is views from the top:
Monarch Lakes from Sawtooth Peak

Columbine Lake from Sawtooth Peak

Sawtooth Pass from Sawtooth Peak

Going down was fast. Official trail goes way to the west, but looks like most of people just going straight down, sliding on sand, took me just 40 minutes to reach lower Monarch Lake and good trail from there back to the car. Marmots was generous enough not to eat my car during my absence.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Epic day hike in Minarets

I did a Mt. Ritter last year and like it a lot, so I come back and check out some more lakes. Here is a map of my route:
Superior Minaret Cecile Iceberg Ediza Shadow lakes loop map
I started at 6:00 from Devil's postpile trail head. Beginning of the trail was not quite spectacular, but at least mostly in the forest and well shaded. View starting to get better after intersection with Fern Lakes trail where you can see Iron Mountain and adjacent valleys. I made Superior lake by 9:00. Eat my breakfast (25 min) while thinking of the best route over the ridge.
Superior lake
That's where fun part begins. Nancy Pass is just in the middle of this picture, easy class 2, but still took me about an hour to get on the top. 10:25.
Looking north from Nancy Pass. Minaret lake in the distance.
Going down was not fast either. I saw a big bear (very light brown color) maybe 100 meters down the ridge. He look at me for 10 seconds, but as soon as I start getting my camera turn around and run away. Next valley was still flooded, so main challenge was to find dry route, which was successfully accomplished. I made Minaret lake by 12:40.
Minaret lake
West shore was still covered with snow, but pretty soft at this time of the day. Finally I reconnect with the existing trail on the north side of the lake, no more cross country I was thinking, mistake, big mistake.
Looking back to Minaret lake
Cecile lake
East side still covered with snow, but I was able to come around this time. However worst snow crossing was still ahead.
Iceberg lake
Iceberg lake covered with snow
It was 2:20 pm still enough time to complete the route, so I took it slowly and carefully making each step, did not want to swim in the cold water, at least in the clothes.
Ediza lake with Mt. Ritter and Banner peak in background
Ediza lake 3:40 pm from there it was a matter of patience, the most interesting parts was behind and view started to degrade with several exceptions such as flowers and small water falls in Shadow creek. Exit via Shadow creek was much more beautiful that enter via Beck lake trail.
Flowers Shadow creek
Mammoth Mt.
Back to the car by 8:20 pm, 14:20 total time and about 20 miles on the trail, long, but very satisfying day hike. Back home at 2:00 am.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hike to Clouds Rest in Yosemite

Another Owens weekend is left behind. Friday night I camped in Alabama Hills and hoped for some flying at Saturday in particular from 9-Miles or Walt's point, but Saturday's morning forecast indicated some north wind, which is not good. Dave & Co. was flying from Bazooka ridge near Mono lake, but its 2 hours drive from Lone Pine and I was more interested in out and return from the Flynns. Hiked to Flynn's just by myself, it took me about 1.5 hours. Launched at 12:00, but probably too early, scratched in the bubbles for 15 minutes and landed next to my car. Oh well, not the best day of flying, but at least I went out there and try. You would never get a great flight sitting at home and finding excuses not to go. Since it was only 12:00 I decided to check out Clouds Rest peak in Yosemite, its 15 miles round trip with only 600 m (or so) elevation gain, pretty flat in my opinion. It took me 2:30 up and 2:15 down, 4:45 total time. View is indeed awesome, reminded me of Angles Landing in Zion, but on the larger scale. Here is few pictures:
Meadow near Tenaya Lake
Half Dome from the Clouds Rest
Looking south-east from Clouds Rest
Looking north-east from Clouds Rest. Tenaya Lake in the distance.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

McGee to Lee Vining, 32 miles

There was few pilots looking for the big flight from 9-Mile this weekend, but weather did not cooperate with mostly east wind and north after Boundary peak. Since big flight was not in the cards I decided to do some exploration to the north of Bishop and joined Kia, Will and Dave who was camping at Rock Creek Lake campground with a big group of climbers. We launched from McGee:
McGee paragliding launch
Launch is small grassy hillside just below the road, you need to sort all the gear on the road, so strong cycles does not pick up your wing. I launched at 11:05 right after Dave. Original plan was to fly south toward Bishop, but wind was already from south east, so after we established above McGee we headed north west toward Mammoth Lakes. Will and Kia flew locally. Big thanks to Nadia (Kia's friend) for driving the car from the launch. After Mammoth Lakes there is a 10 miles "no landing" section until June lake. Dave was leading and reporting some head wind over this section and potential of top landing and long hike out, but this is his home site and he was confident. On another hand it was my first flight in this area and I had no idea where nearest roads may be if I land out. I try my best to gain some altitude over Mammoth Mountain and it was only 13K with surface altitude around 9-10K, so I bailed and decided to fly around. "Flats" covered with forest as well, but there're few landable fields along highway 395. It took awhile to push upwind toward 395, but when I got there things improved significantly. I finally got to the cloud base at almost 17K and was coursing at 70 km/h with nice tail wind. Dave made it through the tough section and landed near Grant lake. I enjoyed the view of Mono lake during a long flats crossing toward the Lee Vining. I had an option to cross slightly more to the west to connect with mountains sooner, but it was a longer route and I choose direct line. I did not get any good thermals near Lee Vining and wind changed to north east, so I landed at the small airport. All the crew was there already waiting for me.

After lunch we went for glass off flight from Bazooka (also called Lee Vining on Leonardo). Excellent grassy launch overseeing Mono lake. Here is Dave soaring on his Ice Peak 6:
Bazooka (Lee Vining) paragliding launch
We try to fly back, wind was already from the north, but flight was only 30 minutes, pretty mellow conditions. We did not even get over the ridge. Kia and Will landed at the airport. Dave attempted to jump back to the mountains where most of the clouds was with some starting to overdevelop and I try slightly more front line, but we both landed near Grant lake.
Clouds over Grant lake
Waiting for retrieve on highway 158

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Out and return to Keller peak, 29 miles

Interesting day, pretty late start almost at 2:00 pm, strong wind at Marshall, took me few attempts to get off launch and then it feels too windy for XC, so I headed toward Cloud then over 750 took a good climb to 8K and there was almost no drift during the climb, which means that all wind down low was thermal induced. Flew toward Strawberry peak and high school, but surprisingly no thermals, so I have to bail out to 330 where I eventually get a next thermal back to 7K, which was enough to glide to Running Springs, get to 10K there and 12.8K over Keller peak. It was already 4:00 pm at that time and I was not confident I have enough time to join Owen over San Gorgonio (he climbed to 16K out there) and still make it back, so I turn around and glide back whole way to Marshall with nice tail wind.

My track log: