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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

High Sierra Trek: Cold and Snow‏

August 16th, 2009 · No Comments

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The rain that we prepared for on the evening of our third day of trekking the High Sierra never arrived. Instead, a cold front came in, whipped by wind far above us, as we could see by looking at the fast-moving clouds.

The morning of the fourth day cooled off to the lower 40s. Clouds covered the entire sky.

Then, as we packed up ready to break camp, snow started to fall on us. Then, lightening strikes began, some as close as 1,000 feet from us. Marv says that the rule is 1,000 feet per second difference between seeing the lightening and hearing the thunder. The snow turned into hail and followed us all the way to our camp that evening at Horse Meadow, elevation 8,450.

Bundled up Against the Snow on the Trail

Bundled up Against the Snow on the Trail

We had planned to hike up to Grizzly Meadow at 9,620. But Marv changing our plans again so that we could avoid the danger of the open high country en route to that camp.

Morning Dew at Maxwell Lake in Horse Meadow

Morning Dew at Maxwell Lake in Horse Meadow

That evening we built a corral out of a single rope to keep the inquisitive and hungry horses out of our kitchen. Now, I know why it’s Horse Meadow.

Horses, John, RC, and Susan in the Kitchen

Horses, John, RC, and Susan in the Kitchen

Marty and a Stanislaus National Forest ranger named Evan Topal, who path has crossed our half a dozen times, were the only people we encountered this day. We are many miles from the nearest road.

I stayed warmly bundled up in my down jacket, headsock, and parka. All except for my hands. Not expecting the weather to be nearly as cold as it was, I hadn’t brought any of my four pair of gloves or mittens. Marv saved the day — my hands. He mentioned that using a pair of socks on my hands would help. I always carry an extra pair in my pack, and they indeed took the chill of my hands.

At dinner the temperature dropped to 39 degrees. I was shivering even before dark.

Our fifth day on the trail dawned clear and cold. Marv’s thermometer show the temperature at 28.8 degrees when we ate breakfast. The sky was clear of clouds, promising to warm up, and the weather did warm — for a few hours. Then, another cold front came in as we climbed to Bond Pass at an elevation of 9,730. The pass marks the boundary between Emigrant Wilderness and Yosemite Wilderness.

On the trail to the pass I found a different way to fall. While I fell as usual on my left knee and right elbow, one of my boot laces caught on a snag on a log across the trail. I fell for the first and only time of this trek. John mentioned that wearing gaiters or cuffs would have prevented my fall in addition to keeping out pebbles and sand from my boots.

Then, we hiked a couple of miles within Yosemite along the Pacific Coast Trail to Dorothy Lake Pass. At this point we left Yosemite for the first time and entered the Hoover Wilderness.

Mountains Like Sawteeth

Mountains Like Sawteeth

Just within Hoover we had planned to hike cross country along the boundary dividing the two wilderness areas past Stella Lake to Lake Ruth. But when we met up with Marty along the trail, he said that he couldn’t get his mules in to Lake Ruth and instead had left our gear at Stella Lake, elevation 9,500 feet.

In 20 Minutes Marv Caught Five Trout in Stella Lake. "Like taking candy from a baby," he said.

In 20 Minutes Marv Caught Five Trout in Stella Lake. "Like taking candy from a baby," he said.

I found a great level campsite on a little peninsula jutting out into Stella Lake. Great, with one exception. The site was almost solid rock. That meant that I couldn’t pound in most of the tent pegs. And a visitor who came by just as we arrived told us that 60 mph winds often whip through the area. Consequently, I picked up the biggest rocks that I could carry and set them down on the straps that I normally pound the tent pegs into.

Our sixth day on the trail dawned crisp and clear. When I got up to pee during the night, I kept shivering for 20 minutes. In the morning, ice covered my tent, but the storm passed us by, and the night turned out to be quite still.

Under a Full Moon, Stella was Still

Under a Full Moon, Stella was Still

Continued in the fourth photo essay in this series.

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