Ski Mountaineering

Dual Trans Sierra Crossings
Aug 15-23, 2015

Two groups crossing the Sierras in opposite directions:
Wishon Reservoir, Blackcap Basin, Ionian Basin, Evolution Valley, Lamarck Col, North Lake
East-West group: Tom Marsh, Kat Seiple, Mike Rector, Randy Lamm, Spencer Berman, Lynne Buckner and Charlie Brown
West-East group: Reiner Stenzel, Sung Byun, Ken and Brian Deemer

The reason for hiking in two groups across the Range was to eliminate the car shuttling. Thus, we exchanged cars and keys and left the cars at each trailhead, so that each group would find their own cars and could drive home. We also carried spare keys of our cars in case we would not meet, which is what happened.

Two trip reports escribe our adventure. The first report from from Sung describes the West-East hike, the second one from Tom describes their East-West traverse.

Sung's West-East Itinerary and Report:

2015-08-15 Wishon Reservoir -> Chimney Lake
2015-08-16 Chimney Lake -> Portal Lake
2015-08-17 Portal Lake -> Valor Lake
2015-08-18 Valor Lake -> Valor Pass -> Reinstein Pass -> 11818 Lake (the middle lake)
2015-08-19 11818 Lake -> Wanda pass -> Davis Lake # Wanted to go to Wanda lake but had some navigation mistake
2015-08-20 Davis Lake -> the small Darwin Lake
2015-08-21 Darwin Lake -> Lamarck Col -> Mt. Lamarck (Reiner, Ken, Brian did. I baby-sitted packs.) -> Lower Lamarck Lake
2015-08-22 Lower Lamarck Lake -> North Lake

Day 1: Wishon Reservoir -> Chimney Lake in Woodchuck Country. We started from Wishon Reservoir trail head (elev 6539) on the west side of High Sierra, and hiked into Woodchuck Country. We stayed on the trail on our first day and camped at Chimney Lake (elev 9484).

Day 2: Chimney Lake ->Half moon Lake (elev 9400)->Portal Lake (elev 10120) in Blackcap Basin. We left Chimney lake early in the morning and had a break at the beautiful Half Moon Lake, and camped at Portal Lake. We stayed on the trail on our second day as well. The cross country trekking started the following day.

Day 3: Trekking from Portal Lake to Valor Lake on our 3rd day. Cross country trekking started at higher elevation. We have passed many lakes, Portal Lake, Pearl Lake, Division Lake, and Regiment Lake. We have continuously passed many lakes, and this album shows, Ram Lake, Ewe Lake, Bighorn Lake, Ambition Lake, and finally Valor Lake where we camped for the 3rd night.

Day 4: Trekking from Valor Lake to nameless Lake at 11818 ft on our 4th day. We have climbed two passes and passed many lakes like Valor Lake, Martha Lake, Mt. Reinstein, and Ionian Basin. Trekking from Valor Lake to nameless Lake at 11818 ft on our 4th day. Three nameless lakes were exceptionally beautiful and I don't understand why they don't even have any name. We camped at the 2nd lake.

Day 5: Trekking from the nameless Lake at 11818 ft to Davis Lake via Wanda pass on our 5th day. The album shows early morning view of the lake where we camped and the way to two large nameless lakes just before Wanda pass. At the top of Wanda pass we made some navigation error and ended up at Davis Lake thinking that was Wanda Lake. Well, things like that can easily happen in backcountry. We camped at Davis Lake for the 5th night.

Day 6: Trekking from Davis Lake to Darwin Lake on our 6th day via Wanda Lake(11426), John Muir Trail, 11290 Lake, Sapphire Lake(10966), Evolution Lake(10862), Darwin Bench, and the small Darwin Lake(11623) where we camped for the 6th night. Along the way we hiked John Muir Trail briefly, and all of sudden we met a lot of people. The trail felt like a super high after many days of cross country trekking. This album shows, Wanda Lake, John Muir Trail, 11290 Lake, Sapphire Lake(10966), and Evolution Lake(10862). There are pictures of Darwin Bench, 11592 Darwin Lake, and the small Darwin Lake(11623) where we camped for the 6th night.

Day 7: Trekking from Darwin Lake to Lower Lamarck Lake on our 7th day via Lamarck Couloir. I didn't do but the rest of group climbed Mt. Lamarck (13417). We camped at Lower Lamarck Lake for our last night of this trip. Pictures show four Darwin Lakes, Mt Darwin and Darwin Glacier, and Lamarck Col. More pictures show Mt Lamarck which everyone climbed except me, and the plateau area just below the Mt Lamarck, and both Upper and Lower Lamarck Lakes. We camped at Lower Lamarck Lake for our last night.

Day 8: Trekking a short distance from Lower Lamarck Lake to North Lake for our 8th and the last day of the trip. We started early in the morning, and just started hiking without eating breakfast. The plan was hike down fast and have a real breakfast at Bishop, CA. It worked out well as planned, and the breakfast at Jack's Restaurant was superb. Then, we drove to Keough Hot Spring and soaked our aching bodies at the free natural hot spring made by spilled over hot water from the commercial hot spring. Then, we drove back to Los Angeles, CA. What a Great Trip! --- Sung

Tom's East-West Itinerary and Report:

2015-08-15 North Lake to Upper Lamarck
2015-08-16 Upper Lamarck Lake to Darwin Bench
2015-08-17 Darwin Bench to Wanda Lake
2015-08-18 Wanda Lake to other side of Davis Lakes
2015-08-19 Davis Lakes to Martha Lake
2015-08-20 Martha Lake to Pearl Lake
2015-08-21 Layover at Pearl Lake with day hike up to Battalion Lake.
2015-08-22 Pearl Lake to Chimney Lake (or so we thought)
2015-08-23 Chimney Lake to Wishon

We started off at North Lake rather late after waiting for Spencer and Mike to arrive with the permit (no night drop on East side). There were 6 (plus 1 dog) of us that started with Lynn Buckner, Mike Rector, Spencer Berman, Randy Lamm, Kat Seiple, myself and Charlie Brown. We had a relatively easy day to Upper Lamarck lakes and camped on a bench by the trail just after the lake. The next day we said our goodbyes to Lynn and Charlie Brown and went up over the Col. The trail around Darwin Lake was harder then I remember with lots of large ups and downs. We finally got past the lakes and camped on the bench around 6:30pm. It was our longest day.

The next day was relatively easy walking down to Evolution lake and onto to the North West shore of Wanda Lake. We saw many people on the John Muir trail. Most with little day packs. I guess they got a ride in.

The next day we were undecided on the route. Based on how we felt, we thought the route through Davis Lakes would be easier and the smoke seemed to be staying on the South side of the ridge or more in the Ionian Basin. We decided on the crest between Davis and Wanda to take the Davis Lakes route. Luckily, Spencer had detailed maps on the area and had researched the best route. The route around Davis was difficult for the first part with a couple sections of very large talus. We stayed to the North of the lake because Spencer had read accounts that the South shore route would cliff off. In retrospect, we could have traveled around the south shore and crossed over a narrow spit between the lakes, but there was no way to know that from the East side of the lake. Sure enough, the south side route cliff'd out and was impassable as we discovered the next morning.

From Davis we went over a series of ups and downs going south with great views of the divide and Goddard Canyon. At one point we could see Reinstein to the south and knew exactly the direction. Spencer had hiked part of this route from Martha lake in the past, so he was able to provide good route finding to Martha Lake. I was surprised how barren Martha Lake is. I guess I envisioned trees around the lake. We camped on the East shore that night.

Spencer has decided not to do the shuttle and opted to go back to North Lake. We said our goodbyes the next morning as Spencer headed down Goddard Canyon and we headed to Valor Pass. Mike did some great route finding to find the only notch reasonable from the East side. There were a couple climbing moves, but relatively easy access to the top. We found what looked like horse poop on the top and wondered how someone could have gotten a horse up there. After that, we followed a series of ledges down to Valor Lake. It was so beautiful from Valor (I see the other group camped there on the 3rd night). We crossed over on the North Shore and to the south of the outlet to find a series of ducks leading down to Ambition Lake. We stopped there for Lunch and went swimming in the Lake. It felt really good. After that we made our way over to Pearl Lake.

The next day, we stayed at Pearl. Mike napped at the lake while Kat, Randy and I did a day hike up to Battalion Lake. It turned out to be our smokiest day. The day before we could see the mushroom cloud from a distance, but the smoke stayed to the south. On our lay over day, the wind shifted and we experienced the smoke fog. Incidentally, the smoke was not bad at all until that point.

The next day we dropped down the canyon and eventually hooked up with the Portal Lake trail. We lunched and soaked feet at Half Moon Lake wondering if we could have eaten the mushrooms that grew there. After seeing Sung's post, I see we could have. We then made the long climb up the ridge to Woodchuck land. We decided to try and make it to Chimney Lake, but finally settled for a meadow close by as we had a really long day already.

The next day (Sunday), we made our way down to Wishon Reservoir, but not before a little excitement. There was a note on the trail that read "proceed down to the trail head, rescue crews are waiting for you". Well, we all thought that meant the fire was down there. To our relief, we passed a packer that was on a rescue mission for a lost Asian women. When we finally arrived at Wishon, I was so glad to see my Suburb parked there. There were fire trucks around the area waiting for the potential for the fire to crest that direction, but they said it was only a soft closure at that time. Mike had set out early that morning, so we thought he would be at the cars when we arrived. He had stopped up trail and thought we would see his poles. So after drinking all the beers, we drove up looking for him. We found him up the road.

I had a great time and this would not have been possible without the cooperation of all of you. The route was harder then I thought (thus the reason for the change in route), but very rewarding in terms of scenery and experience. --- Tom.

Pictures from the West-East group:

Pictures from the East-West group:

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