Monday, September 02, 2019

Backpacking in the Southern Sierras: Onion Valley trailhead to Kearsarge Lakes

Early breakfast at the "diner" across from the hotel, then into the car and back up to Whitney Portal. We find a decent parking spot (we hope), put on the packs, and head up to the store to meet our shuttle. He's early, so we get underway 20 minutes earlier than planned. Long drive to Onion Valley trailhead, goodbye to the shuttle driver, on with the packs and off we go!

The sun is shining like hell and we start our route up, up. We encounter a ranger in the first five minutes, show our permit, and chat for a bit and then continue up, up the trail. There are loads of people coming down with big packs, so, for the hell of it, we start counting the people coming down with big packs (final tally by the end of the day's hiking: 90!). Up we go, on a good trail, under clouds after not too long (nice to have it a bit cooler!), up, up, up towards the pass. Nice lunch spot on a big flat rock with a view of Kearsarge Pass and the final bit up. Nice leftover breakfast burrito in the sun as lunch. As we're finishing, the threatening cloud over the peak above us starts making thunder. grrrr. We decide that it's probably a good idea idea to make haste towards the pass.

There's no high speed going with the heavy packs and the altitude, but we make decent time and there's no weather there when we arrive. Still, there *is* thunder nearby, so we dont' hang out and make haste back down the other side. The lakes that are our destination are in clear view (along with a lot of other nice stuff!) and we start scouting likely tent spot locations as we descend. The thunder continues, we feel bad for the folks who are still climbing o the pass (more than a few), but we make it down to the first lake without weather-related incident.

There's a great spot a tthe top of the lake that even has a bear box, bu there are three or four tents there already, so we move on. We continue to the bottom of the first lkae, cross over to the other side, and head up to a likely looking area we had seen from above. Andrea finds a decent spot, but we keep looking even though we know full well that weather is coming. Finally we decide that's the spot and start pitching the tent as the first raindrops fall. We set a new record in getting the tent up and our stuff (and us!) inside it. And none too soon. About 30 seconds after the last backpack is in the tent, the sky breaks open and we have heavy rain and hail. Some fun times dealing with drops from the roof (the seams on the rain fly are no longer completely waterproof) and water attempting to run under the tent on greg's side.

Eventually the heavy stuff stops and it settles down to a gentle rain. This goes on, with the occasional stop, for a few hours. Luckily the drops from the ceiling stop after the heavy rain and hail (really luckily: we were considering heading back out to the trailhead if the tent couldn't take rain at all). We do enjoy a nice hot beverage in the tent while waiting for things to settle down. After the rain mostly stops, we pump water and start thinking about dinner. At some point the sun even comes out for a while and we enjoy a moment sunshine and rain sprinkles.

After dinner we do a bit of reco' for the next day (the trail-less steep shoulder we were thinking crossing doesn't look like a good idea), and then head back to the tent since it's getting dark. In the tent we plan the next day and think a bit further to be sure we're happy continuing with the unfortunate weather situation.

Dinner: Patagonia red bean chili. Pretty tasty once the beans stopped being crunchy!

Stats: 8.4km, 780m up, 260m down

Backpacking in the Southern Sierras: Overview

To be completed

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Dayhike from Whitney Portal to Meysen Lake

We get up shortly before 6 and are pretty efficient abuot the breakfast and packing up the tent and stuff and are underway at 7:25. Through the campground (still waking up) and then starting with the up, up. Pletny warm already, up past the vacation homes and then around the corner, always climbing, past lovely polished granite cliffs, up, up. Into the national wilderness and then more up. Lots of switchbacks, nice trail, some shade, hot when in the sun. We aren't moving too fast thanks to that heat (and, no doubt, some altitude). Not too many others out and about just yet.

After a bunch of climbing, things open up a bit and we pass the firs tlake. More up up after that, past the second lake, now the trail isn't so clear, but we find use trails and cairns to take us up to the flat above Lake Meysen without problems. Beautiful lake, beautiful landscapes around it. It's so nice to be in the Sierra again! Nice lunch break in the sun enjoying the views and then we turn around and head back.

Unfortunately it's the same route back, more people on it now, on their way up. Most with heavy packs, heading up for a night in the wild. Continue along, descending until we the the first of the houses and then the real campground, with water (yay!) and then the car.

We change shows, then drive down to Lone Pine for a night in "civilization". It's hot as hell! We pick up our permit at the ranger station (asking questions about conditions this time), check into the hotel, enjoy a shower and a rest, do the final packing and organization, go for burgers, and then sleep.

Stats: 14.5km, 1150m up and down.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Clean climbing above Corcelles

The forecast called for a nice day but thunderstorms in the evening, and we weren't necessarily up for a big thing anyway, so we decided to go climbing in the Jura. While planning that, we happened to find a nice-sounding multi-pitch clean route outside of Corcelles in the keepwild books, so we opted for an adventurous climb (the first multi-pitch clean route we've done on our own).

From the train station in Corcelles we take a farm road up and out of town. At the first hairpin in the woods we follow the (not super often used) use trail into the woods and up, up to the cliffs. We find the bolted routes and the giant Sanduhr (not quite sure how to translate that) and start looking for the beginning of Lapiaz fantastiques. This, of course, isn't as straightforward as finding the beginning of a bolted route (and goodness knows that we aren't alwasy great at that!), but we eventually decide that we've found a likely starting point.

On with the gear and then G starts the first pitch. The first bit is kind of mossy, but after that it clears up and is pretty easy to protect up to the top of the flake. There's a bit of a drop on the other side to a saddle that's manageable after traversing the top of the flake and halfway climbing over/through a crack. Good tree here for a belay, so G stops and A comes up. Protection on the pitch was easy to find: mostly slings around trees with one sling around a rock spike. The situation looks good for us to A continues up towards the slab, trying to stay out of the couloir to the right (per topo). There's a short bit of tricky transition to slab, but then she heads to the edge and things settle down until she comes to a big tree that's another good belay. Protection on the pitch was reasonably easy: slings around trees, one sling through a sanduhr, and a friend. At this point it's looking like we're not really on the route: we're on the leftmost pillar and according to the topo there should be a pillar to our left. Ah well, we'll see what happens with the next pitch. G leads the short distance up to the top of the pillar, find that it's an easy meter down to the saddle, and opts to do a belay on a rock spike so that we can talk about what comes next. Protection on the pitch was easy with slings around trees. A comes up, crosses the saddle and moves around the corner onto the face of the next pillar, where there's a good tree for a belay. Rather than A continuing to climb, G comes over and leads the next pitch up. More pretty easy climbing with protection on trees and a couple of friends up to the saddle, where he does a belay on a tree and brings A up.
At the saddle we shorten the rope to have about 5m between us, change into our approach shoes, and take a food break. From here on its lower-grade climbing and scrambling, so we simulclimb with ~5m between us. The first bit is somewhat steep but has some nice trees for slings (including one with a colony of ants underneath it that got very unhappy and active as G stepped on the colony to rig a sling... we both ended up brushing off ants and dealing with ant bites for the next 5 minutes). After that it was less steep along the ridge, setting the occasional sling or friend to protect things, but mainly using rock spikes and making sure that we're either on different sides of the ridge or there's a good-sized tree between us; fun stuff. At the end of the ridge we congratulate ourselves, pack up all the gear, and start the hike out.

There's a use trail that takes us up, up, to an old forest road, which we follow up for a bit and then head cross-country up to the road on the broad, flat ridge of the Raimeux. Along the road, joining where we came up on our hike earlier this year, to the Raimeux de Grandval (closed! no cool drinks for us!) and then further along the ridge (G was last up here doing a trail run), past the SAC hut (closed! no cool drinks for us!), down, down, past the Auberge de Raimeux (closed! no cool drinks for us!). Since the next cool drink chances are at the station, we check the train times and realize that we've got 40 minutes to make it down. The signs say an hour. No worries, we start moving a bit more quickly. The nice hike down along the switchbacks through the woods is great for making up time and we're at the station with 7-8 minutes to spare. Plenty of time to get cool drinks before catching the train. :-)
<40 do="" down="" hour="" minutes="" nbsp="" p="" the="" to="">
<40 do="" down="" hour="" minutes="" nbsp="" p="" the="" to="">This was great! We likely weren't on the planned route for parts (possibly large parts) of it, but what we did was still a lot of fun and no problem to find protection on. We agree that doing more of this kind of thing would be good. :-)

Track (missing most of the climbing bit):

Friday, August 09, 2019

A long weekend at the Rotondo hut

We had originally planned to do a three day weekend with the SAC, but that got cancelled due to a dodgy weather forecast. Fortunately we had a backup plan ready.

Day 1:
Hike up from Realp to the Rotondohütte. The first bit of the road is the same last time (though we saw two European adders/vipers this time!) but then we head off onto a trail that takes us to the Rottälligrat. Here we follow what is obviously the old route once we get past Stelliboden (the new route isn't on the map yet), but this still takes us up nicely into the fun alpine landscape. We rejoin the new (red-white) trail at the crossing of the trail towards Furkapass (there's a bunch of new/improved trail work up here, likely due to the growing popularity of the 4 Quellenweg). Up, up to the saddle and then we stay on the blue-white path the last bit to p2748. We're both glad to have the climbing done with - it's hot and the packs are heavy, so our legs are tired! Along the lovely block ridge with good views (though the Witenwasserenstock is in clouds), past the sign for "Mount Sunrise", and then down to the hut. We get settled in, enjoy some cool beverages and a piece of cake, rest for a bit, and then have a good dinner and head off the bed. The hut's a bit more than half full, everyone else seems to be hikers who are doing the 4 Quellenweg.

Stats:  10.4km, 1200m up, 220m down.

Day 2:
We saw the Leckihörner when we stayed at the Rotondohütte last year to climb the Witenwasserenstock. The traverse of the two peaks is also described in Dani's book and it looked really cool. That's the plan for today.
We start with decent conditions (though we still can't see the Witenwasserenstock) and follow the blue-white path down to the glacier. We rope up and start towards the Witenwasserenpass. When we get close to the long snowfield that heads up to the ridge it looks less steep than it did from the hut. Since snow conditions are good and the snow goes all the way up, we opt to head up that way. Once at the ridge we take off the crampons, get out the climbing gear and start our way along the ridge. We're in clouds and the weather is in general pretty crappy, so we don't have any views at all and the landmarks on the ridge aren't exactly easy to find/follow. At some point it actually rains for a few minutes, so we put on our hardshells and wait that out. In the approach to the Cli Leckihorn there's a spot with some 3c climbing and then an abseil we were planning on doing, but we end up taking the less technically challenging but more loose and exposed route around that since we think we're at the "reddish tower" we're not supposed to climb (the winner quote from G at the beginning of that: "there's no way going up this bit is second grade climbing, this must be where we're supposed to go around"). Eventually we end up on what we think is the peak of the Chli Leckihorn and we start to follow the ridge down to where we're expecting to hit a snow field we need to cross. At some point A catches a glimpse through the cloud of a snow field off to our left. To our left? There's not supposed to be a snowfield to our left! We figure out that we're heading down the N ridge instead of the W ridge, so we turn around to head back up. Along the way we get enough of a clearing in the clouds to see the snowfield we're supposed to be crossing and the saddle at the beginning of the ridge to the Gross Leckihorn that we're supposed to be crossing to. Yeah! We break out the ice axes, decide against the crampons since the snow is good, and cross to the saddle. A pitch of climbing up around a thin tower, a pitch of mostly scrambling, and then we shorten up the rope and continue along the really nice, mostly narrow and exposed, ridge to the peak. There's a bit of down climbing to the cross, where a family that's hiked up from the hut is sitting and gawking (must be funny to see two people emerge from the fog above you when you feel like you're alone at the top of a mountain). Total time including breaks to the cross is 5:20 (Dani says 4-5, so we're pretty happy with this).We pack the gear away, chat with the family for bit (three generations!), have some food, enjoy the occasional bit of view, and then start down. At the saddle (that G thinks is the Leckipass) we opt to head down the snowfield, which is a bit steeper than G would like, but definitely manageable. Down, down we go the rest of the way to the hut. Total trip time is just under 7 hours. Cool beverages, some resting, a dinner that's really not up to the expected standard, even for a full hut, and then off to bed. Thanks to all the fog, the bit of rain, and the difficult route finding (on a ridge!), it was not an easy day mentally, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves and are a bit proud of ourselves for having pulled it off.
Stats: 6km, 600m up, 600m down

Day 3:
Our original plan was a long traverse of the Muttenhörner, but after reading about an interesting-sounding route to the Gotthardpass in a book at the hut we opt for that instead. The day starts with lovely blue skies and the first view of the Witenwasserenstock that we've had this entire trip. We follow the blue-white path down to the lake at the foot of the glacier and then up, up the moraine to the Hüenerstock. A lot of work has been put into this trail and it's probably only still blue-white because they haven't gotten around to painting over the markings. By the time we get to the peak clouds have started to come in, so we have nice views back to the North, but it's spotty to the South. Now along the ridge on a really nice laid and (excessively) well marked red-white trail that takes us easily along the ridge with clouds blowing over from the South, past the Hüenersattel, and along the old military way over the Ronggergrat to the Passo di Cavanna. Here we take a quick food break out of the wind and then head down the other side of the pass, down, down, down until we hit the blue-white trail towards the Passo di Lucendro and the Gotthard. More nice hiking under the face of the Pizzo Lucendro, into the cloud, and then steeply up to the Cresta del Poncinetto. They're in the process of putting a bunch of chains in here to make the step easy (and, probably, to get this over to red-white too). Really high winds on the ridge and pass, but we manage to get out of the wind to have another food break by the old buildings near the pass. Given the low clouds, we opt not to take the interesting (and unmkared) route down to the pass, but stick to the normal hiking path. This takes us down, down, past the Lago di Lucendro, into ever more threatening looking clouds. About half an hour from the pass it starts to rain. Fortunately it only rains hard for a few minutes of that and we make it to the buildings at the pass before the sky really cracks open. We've got some time, so we grab some food before getting on the bus and starting the long trip back home.

Stats: 14.7km, 780m up, 1270m down