Category: Backpacking

#HellHikeAndRaft Day 1: Goat Pass, He Devil, Shelf Lake

I’ve been dreading the writeup of these #HellHikeAndRaft posts. It means it’s really over! And I don’t want it to be over. Without getting too sentimental, this was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Thanks Tara, Russ, Scott, Val, Trevor, Shannon, Jes, Annie, Wendy, Adam, Jeff, and Becky & Parker at America’s Rafting Company!

Now for the nitty gritty… Monday morning, we woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Our guide, Marshall, picked us up from the Meadows Valley Motel in New Meadows and carted us off to Windy Saddle in the Seven Devils Wilderness. We met up with Rick, our other guide, and John and the horse team and into the wilderness we went.

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We quickly began ascending up the Goat Pass trail until we hit the ridge. We were rewarded with views of the Tower of Babel and Mirror Lake. We paused and snapped some photos. From there, we traversed across and began our descent to our lunch destination. The trail was steep and slippery with a bit of scree skiing at certain points. Sheep Lake was the reward, and we stopped to refuel.

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Post-lunch, we hiked around Sheep Lake, marveling at its cool, clear waters until we reached the junction to head up to He Devil or head to camp. Tara, Jes, Annie, Russ, Rick, and I decided to tackle He Devil; the rest decided to mosey off to camp.

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Our adventurous group began the ascent up, but quickly realized that there was no real trail. Up and up, we went, but as we reached the ridge to reach the summit, we decided to stop. It was late in the day, clouds were rolling in. All signs pointed to safety rather than summiting, and we began our descent and headed to camp.

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Shelf Lake was our home for the night! Coming into camp was like arriving at an oasis! A kitchen was set up, a fire was burning, the lake was pristine and clear. I set up camp and started to drink wine. Little did I know, guacamole, chips, and salsa awaited, and there were fajitas to be had.

I slept very well that night.

Total mileage for the day was 4.39 miles with about 1,657′ of elevation gain. This does not include He Devil.

Stay tuned for the other five days, and don’t forget to check out everyone else’s content!

Intro to Snowcamping with the Sierra Club

The San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club holds an introductory snowcamping course every year. Members and non-members go out in the backcountry to get some hands-on experience with seasoned snowcamping veterans.

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The course was… an interesting experience. I’m not sure if I would do it again. It’s definitely a great learning experience if you’re looking to transition from three-season backpacking to backpacking and camping year-round. However, the course could be infinitely more organized.

The course is taught in groups of thirty people, with about a 50:50 ratio of instructors or assistant leaders to students. Students spend one day in the classroom and two trips in the backcountry. The classroom day is meant to give you a brief overview on what to expect, how to prepare, and what you need. Then you go out on two trips to practice your skills: map and compass, snow shelters, digging, etc.

The Sierra Club Snowcamping version of backpacking is incredibly different from what I’m used to. I’m all about traveling long distances, eating fast dinners, crawling into my bag when darkness falls, and sleeping until the sun rises. I consider backpacking a nice “reset button” when everything gets thrown out of whack and I need to slow down on life. Not on this trip. The group had a five course (yes, five) meal that began around 5pm that was supposed to last well into the night.

Though everyone was great, friendly, nice and knowledgeable, the amount of anecdotal information everyone had to share was overwhelming and time-consuming. All the assistant leaders had something to say about everything; everyone had an opinion on what was right and what wasn’t. Oftentimes, the more seasoned folks repeated stories over and over again. It lead to a lot of sitting around and listening.

All in all, the instruction and knowledge were great. I got a good refresher in map and compass and route-finding. And I built an igloo-snowcave hybrid with a gear closet. I’d say the latter alone was worth it all.

If you’re interested in taking this course, please visit the Sierra Snowcamping website here. The 2014 season is almost over, but you can start prepping for 2015!

Ventana Wilderness: Cone Peak via Vicente Flat

Hike: Cone Peak via Vicente Flat
Where: Ventana Wilderness
Trailhead: Kirk Creek off of Highway 1
Level: Moderate
Duration: 3 days and 2 nights
Length: Approximately 20~ miles out and back
Cost of Parking: Free on the side of Highway 1

Fun fact: I’ve never really hiked in Big Sur until this holiday break. I got the chance to tackle Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Cone Peak! Not all in one day though.

Peakbagging in the Santa Lucia Mountains is something that has been on my to do list for a while, but I’ve been putting it off with trips to bag peaks in the Sierra Nevadas instead. With a few days off before 2014, what better way to ring in the new year than traversing across mountains?

I originally planned to start this hike at Limekiln State Park and taking the Stone Ridge Trail to Vicente Flat, but couldn’t park my car at Limekiln. Ended up starting at Kirk Creek, which knocked a few miles off the adventure.

It has been unusually dry this winter, so I was a little worried about water sources along the trail. However, the creeks are flowing above Espinosa Camp (2.6 miles in) and above Vicente Flat (5 miles in). The hike in to Vicente Flat starts with switchbacks ascending above a breathtaking view of the coastline. It then descends into second growth redwoods where the campsites are located.

From there, I took Vicente Flat up to Coast Ridge Road. The majority of this section of Vicente Flat follows a gorgeous creek, and then makes way for spectacular views of Cone Peak. Coast Ridge Road is currently open for motorized vehicles, so Cone Peak was a little busier than usual. Cone Peak was amazing with views of the coastline and Ventana Wilderness.

I then retraced steps back to Vicente Flat for another night, then back to the trailhead.

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