13 August 2012

Sierra: Arc Pass

Sequoia National Park

This is part of a nine day backpacking trip that starts here.

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7 | DAY 8 | DAY 9

The day dawns sunny but with clouds again as I get up. Most aren't moving until the sun hits them again, and I was happy to follow suit. When it does, I untie a few knots and push my makeshift roof aside to let it dry a little and started putting other things out as well. The day was quite cold without the sun on me, but with the sun it warms quickly to something very pleasant. I pull my camera out of the bivy's waterproof stuff sack to find that I should have made sure it was drier when I put it in. There is now moisture on the inside of the LCD and it turns right back off when I try it. Today is a layover day and we are entertaining thoughts of going up one of the peaks although we don't know any of the routes. First, we'll go up to Arc Pass for a good look at Whitney. I tuck the camera into the mesh side pocket on the sunny side of my pack with the LCD out as I leave, hoping a little drying is all it needs to be more cooperative.

Halfway through climbing up to the lake that is about halfway to the pass, I decide that our route finder for today has a tendency to go up routes that are harder than I really want to go up even when there are plenty of other routes. I decide to head off to the left of the lake's outflow for what looks, to me, to be a better way, and find a use trail heading up to the lake. From below, it looks like my route will have some extra climbing and those below say so, but I figure it will be worth it for the easier route. Getting to the top, I end up following some more outflow as I crest the side of the lake on the low side after all. Trying my camera, I find it is willing to work again.

lake on the way to Arc Pass
One lake on the route to Arc Pass. Beyond it, the perfect arc of the drainage heads up to the perfect arc of the pass.

looking back, clouds are gathering
The clouds are already gathering as we climb up to Arc Pass.

green lake water
The lakes show off a lovely green in the shallows.

After the lake, the route is very easy. Just pick a direction and put one foot in front of the other. Boulders complicate things, but usually humans are capable of this sort of navigation. We find ourselves at the pass, looking over the front side of Whitney, in short order. We reach it just in time for the clouds to start coming down over the top of the high mountain as we stand at the edge of the Whitney zone, where we aren't allowed to go.

Mount Whitney
Arc Pass in the foreground, Mount Whitney nearly center in the background as the clouds come down to obscure it.

Arc Pass
Part of the perfect arc of Arc Pass.

We take a moment to look far down the valley that allows Mount Whitney to be visible from the Owens Valley far below. We can see lakes and a single tent in Trail Camp in the vast bowl of land below Whitney as the clouds close in quickly.

Consultation Lake
Consultation Lake. We plot a route around it to Whitney and find our plots tending to the east side of the lake.

The clouds close in on us and the rain starts. We pull on our rain gear, jackets then pants, as it turns again to hail. We take shelter under rocks with good overhangs. I initially try a spot without much overhang, but on the leeward side then try a spot with a much better overhang, but on the windward side. After having enough of the hail bouncing in at me with ease, I go back to the leeward side. Eventually, we just decide to go down. We won't be going up any peaks today.

Arc Pass
Heading back down Arc Pass in the rain and hail.

lake, again
Thunder and hail and rain have passed again as we pass the lake again.

Coming down, I come upon a big horn sheep. Too slow to camera, as usual, it is heading off before I can even start to snap a picture. I shout to a nearby companion who hasn't noticed yet, so at least he'll have the chance to see it when a second I hadn't noticed myself decides to take off. It waits a little longer, giving me the chance if I had gotten my camera out, but by the time I have it pointed, all I get is a bit of the end.

big horn sheep (ram)
One of two big horn sheep hanging out on the mountain with us.

Sky-Blue Lake
Coming back to Sky-Blue Lake as the skies are once again somewhat blue.

Coming down to the lake, I come upon a small tree with an even smaller friend. The top of it is dying where it pokes out from above a short rock, but it is trying its best to survive. I decided to commemorate its effort with a bit of art, and the weather decided to add a few drops of its own before I finished. It just would not quite clear up. When I got back to camp, I found I hadn't done well in keeping water off my sleeping bag. I'd folded it over in the bivy and put a rock on it to keep it that way. The rock had made a nice pool and, either because of contact with the rock or because the layer below allowed water to flow to where the rock pushed the sleeping bag down, the hood of my bag is wet. I wring it out and try to get it to dry in the spotty sun in the remainder of the day. It dries some, but there is plenty left to dry by the time the sun goes down.
Sunset gives another show of colors on the mountains.

alpine glow
Alpine glow on the mountains behind our local peaks, showing that they are much higher than those nearby.

sunset makes it look like there is fire in the sky
Sunset on the clouds makes fire in the sky. Now it's Sky-Red Lake.

I put up another shelter for the night after debating if I should. This time, I also get out the space blanket to help protect my bivy from the rocks below since my mat does not do that completely. The thin metallic thing is difficult to unfold after so many years in my emergency kit, but I manage it and have a floor again. Overnight, the sky clears to show off a beautiful array of stars again.

purple sky
Purple sky and reflection as the sunset deepens.

Continue reading: day 4

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 25 Aug 2012

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