Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 978: (Day Three of Mineral King Loop) Lost Canyon - Columbine Lake - Sawtooth Pass - Monarch Lakes


Day 3: Sunday Morning...

Day #978 * Hike #1248 * New Track #961
Lost Canyon to Columbine Lake
Sunday July 21, 2013
My Tripometer: 1.5 Hours * 3.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: +1475 Feet
Elevation Loss: -75 Feet
Young Buck growing earning his antlers

It was a rough night sleep, for no reason.  I finally must have dozed off at some strange hour and then awoke to a, <~bah...  Was it a lamb?  I heard another <~bahh, and many footsteps trot by.  I quickly zipped open the tent and saw three deer.  I quickly snapped this picture before they left.

Robb from the neighboring camp stopped by and invited me for breakfast at his camp.  I was already fueled up at that point and eager to take on the day.  So here were are, the final ascent to the end...

After a slow up hill through the forest following the creek, the canyon opens

Across the field to the switchbacks


Climbing the switchbacks

Looking back over Lost Canyon

Mt. Whitney in the distance; I think?

Columbine Lake - Elevation 10970 Feet
There was nothing easy climbing to this lake.  The elevation may have played a part in the exhausting mild climb.  I kept thinking that there would be people up above the other side.  I was certain that I heard voices.  However, when I reached the pass to descend into the lake, it looked like the nothingness of the moon with a crater filled with water.  It was absolutely amazing, beautiful, peaceful, tranquil - INSANE!  A lake at nearly 12,000 Feet!  Snow left over on a 90 degree day, well maybe not quite that hot up here, but still.  Right now, I am on the most amazing spot on this earth - sharing it alone with my thoughts...

Make your way around the lake

Not many places to set up camp here
I took a brief rest and relaxed without the pack.  I was not hungry but I was concerned; where do I go?  I began looking at the map, the compass and glanced around.  I guess west...  You will cross a narrow stream which divots between the rocks.  Columbine Lakes flows slowly to another body of water on the other side.  Then keep going around the lake and look for the cairns, a man made pile of rocks left by the rangers.  Well, I was misguided and climbed up a steep ledge...

Day #978 * Hike #1249 * New Track #962
Columbine Lake to Monarch Lakes
Sunday July 21, 2013
My Tripometer: 2.5 Hours * 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: +775  Feet
Elevation Loss: -1425 Feet
 **Elevation includes approximately +/-100 feet for wandering lost...
I think I need to go that way...

But I end up heading this way

If you end up seeing this little lake then you went the wrong way.  Although, this wasn't a horrible wrong turn.  The rock in the clear water looked like a walrus to me.  Anyway, back down and around to the southwest...

There is the cairn I was looking for...

Rock scramble up here...
 This is important.  I probably wasted a good thirty minutes searching for the right route.  This was exhausting at 11000 feet with a heavy pack on.  Moreover, its unnerving especially after hiking over 20 miles the past two day.  Finally, once you see the cairns, they are laid out very well.  Scramble to one, look up and around and you should be able to see the next one ahead of you.

Looking back at Columbine Lake
 At one point I saw Robb entering the lake directly across in the distance.  From here he looked like an ant but I knew it was him.  Where he was was where I was and hour ago.  Hmm, strange sentence, eh?  As it turns out, Robb found my blog and emailed me that he made it through okay.  I guess his troop camped at the lake for their fourth night out.  As for me, I need to defeat Sawtooth Pass now and get off this large rock...

Anyone have a sled?

The switchback to the pass becomes evident...

Storm system is for sure coming in - Thunder in the distance



Sawtooth Pass - Elevation 11630 Feet

Say goodbye to my little friend...

Rain streaking down in the distance - it's a race!

Prepare to head down Sawtooth Pass - 4000 Foot Decline from here to reach the car


Yeah, I just came down from that...
If you are interested in doing this loop chances are you read up on the dangers of Sawtooth Pass.  Well let me tell you, they are true to some extent.  You will be forced to slide down on your hianus in several places.  If you were hiking this up from the opposite direction, I can't imagine the might you would need to muster to accomplish this task.  I shot some video of this section.  I will edit and update the entire trip - soon?  Stay tuned...
Monarch Lake comes into view - so do the thunderous booms
Upper Monarch lake waterfalls through a dam below...

Bear box - Monarch Base Camp

An Outhouse!

Have fun, I'll take the bush

Monarch Lake Elevation ~10400 Feet
Monarch Lake and Waterfall
Ah - Relaxing...

Flying Fish...
There were several people here; not many - but several.  I spoke to a father fishing with his son.  He told me that his plan was to camp at Monarch that night and then head up over Sawtooth tomorrow, hike through Lost Canyon and then come back out by Franklin.  He talked as if this would be no big deal.  After the raging battle that I just went through to get down here, I gave him heads up on how difficult climbing to the Pass would be.  Moreover, the long draining trek up Soda Creek to then climb the switchbacks to Little Claire Lake would test even the fittest of soldiers.  In final, heading up Franklin Pass from Forester Lake would be anything but easy...
It was already 3:30 and I had the time to chill out and set up camp.  However, with only 2+ hours to go, I decided to make a run for it...
Day #978 * Hike #1250 * New Track #963
Monarch Lakes to Sawtooth Trailhead
Sunday July 21, 2013
My Tripometer: 2.5 Hours * 5 Miles
Elevation Gain: +75 Feet
Elevation Loss: -2775 Feet
Make your way through the colorful rocky area

Starts off relatively flat and then the forever switchbacks begin

Crystal Lake Option
This 1.5 mile split to the lake would appear to be a popular day hike or overnight excursion from the Sawtooth Trailhead.  After glancing at the map, one would think you could explore off trail to reach Amphitheater Lake.  Hmm, maybe one day...
Colorful Mineral King
If it wasn't so gloomy, the late afternoon sun would have likely lit this colorful mountainside up.  And then, the rain began...
Quick change artist - my pack has protection...

And so do I - rain jacket on, put away the good camera, using the old one now

Switchbacks galore...

Closing in on home...

4 Point Buck!  Wish I had the good camera here...

Overlooking Aspen Flat Farewell Canyon - The trailhead!

Heavy Rain Drops in motion - cool!

Bypass the Timber Gap junction

Finally, Sawtooth Trailhead!!!!
Ugh, I parked at Franklin.  A 0.3 mile hike, +/-25 Feet Elevation.  Torture on pavement in the rain.  Finally back at the car, no marmot problems!!!
I got the heck out of here.  I dropped off my bear canister at the Mineral King Ranger Station and took the hour+ long ride back to the 198.  From there, ah, easy highway.  Mineral King Road got me sick and all I could think about was, where is there a fast food hamburger?  Nothing through the town of Three Rivers.  However, a drunk driver passed me at 100 mph!  He negotiated the turn ahead poorly and ended up spinning into the bridge wall.  Luck he was on a bridge with a wall to protect him.  I raised my hands up and was cautious - do I ask if he's okay?  Before I could reach him, he peeled out and took off.  I drove through the debris and though about calling the police but decided to just keep rolling to look for some fast food.
About 20 minutes later, that same car came flying past me!  What, are you kidding?  His front bumper was hanging off.  This was a little zoom zoom civic with a purposely noisy muffler, internal added rpm gage and ground lights.  Oh yeah, you so bad... 
I called the cops because this guy is out of control.  About 30 minutes later, the good guys called me back and said that they stopped the guy at a 7-11.  He was drunk and got into an altercation with the cops.  Anyway...
Visalia - Sunset, late, in the rain - 100 degrees still!
Day Three: 11 Miles
Elevation Gain: +2325 Feet
Elevation Loss: -4275 Feet
Three Day Recap:
30.25 Miles ** +/-8375 Feet



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