Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trip Report from Brad: Sahale Glacier Camp Rescue

The Sahale Glacier Camp is located in the North Cascades in the middle of the park.  I found the camp in an issue of Backpacker magazine in a "Best Campsites in America" feature.  I have been wanting to do the hike for a while.  Finally finding a weekend to do it recently I asked my friend Tim if he wanted to go.  We found a weekend, and got ready to roll.  The hike gains over 4000 feet in elevation in just over 5 miles.  There is no camping permitted anywhere along the trail until you get to the glacier camp.

Tim and I left on a Friday around 5 and drove up to the park.  We got there just as the ranger station was closing...just in time to nab the last of the permits for the camp.  Only 6 are available every night, so we got a bit lucky.  We drove to the trail head, put up our tent, and ate the last couple McDonald's fries we had picked up before bedding down for the evening. 

The next morning we got up before the sun rose left the parking lot at 7 AM looking to make it to the Sahale Glacier camp that we had a permit for by 4:00 or so.  The beginning of the hike goes through some forested area that was really cool to walk through in the early morning.  After about an hour we came through the forest and hit the next "zone" of the hike -- which was more of a sub-alpine like area.  About 10 minutes after coming out of the forest area I saw what looked like two people farther up on the trail.  They looked to be sitting on the side of the trail.  
That odd thing about this was the fact that we were the first one to leave the parking lot.  With only 6 permits available it was easy to notice that when we left there were still 5 tents up in the campground at the trailhead and we were going to be the first ones on the trail that morning.  We walked the rest of the way up to the couple people and instantly noticed something was wrong.  I checked my altimeter and noticed were about 1,000 vertical feet up (around an hour and a half in to the hike).  We had run into
 a 16 year old girl who had broken her leg and her father who really needed help.  The girl's leg was in bad shape.  Her father had stopped the little bleeding there was, but besides that nothing was done.  Apparently the two had left late in the morning two days before and got up to the Sahale camp late in the day.  The next morning they left the camp late and were the last ones to leave the high camp.  Somewhere on the way down the girl (Tara was her name) had slipped and broken her leg on some of the larger boulders on the side of the trail.  Having no way to communicate with anyone they had spent the night out waiting for help the next morning (which turned out to be Tim and I).

Tim and I talked about it, but it wasn't even a decision. Tim and I both dropped our packs on the side of the trail and helped out. We splinted the girl's busted up leg with a trekking pole, and then put a sleeping pad around it.  Tim and I had nearly 5 liters of water between the two of us.  We gave all but one of those to the two of them, which they desperately needed.  To start we tried to have Tara help herself down by hobbling down the rest of the trail with a person on both sides of her (like you see football trainers doing to carry off an injured player).  However, that didn't really work.  Tara was exhausted (i'm guessing they didn't get much sleep) and she couldn't put any weight on her busted leg.  So we switched it up.   Since her dad was also exhausted Tim and I rotated between piggy-backing Tara down and carrying her Dad's pack.  After around an hour and a half of this we got Tara and her dad back to the parking lot, and then to the ranger station.  

After that we headed back up to get our packs. We ended up hiking to the top of Glacier pass (where this picture is taken from) and then decided we were just too tired to make it the additional 2000 vertical feet to the Glacier camp.  We grabbed some pictures, and then headed down.  My best one is below.

Hell of an experience for sure.  Tim and I returned to Seattle a day early, but completely exhausted.  I've done plenty of exhausting hikes and climbs, and I've never been as sore as I was waking up the next morning after we got back.  My quads and calfs were tight, but in the end it was all worth it.  Tim and I are already planning on going back to Sahale next summer to make the full trip all the way to the high camp.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trip Report from Joe - North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak

Lone Pine Peak is located between the town of Lone Pine, CA and the tall ridge of the High Sierras. Because this prominent peak is almost 13,000 ft. tall and much closer to highway 395 than its taller neighbors, many people mistake this mountain for Mt. Whitney. The North Ridge is one of several long broken ridges that radiate from the blocky summit of Lone Pine Peak. I first learned about this climb when I was back in school. One day as I was browsing between classes, I ran across a trip report from three San Diego climbers who had traversed the ridge in near winter conditions. Their description of the route and the exciting pictures stirred pangs of jealousy as I wished that I lived closer to the mountains. Now that I'm in Redlands and in striking distance of the southern Sierras, it was time to make an attempt on this peak and cross a long lived objective off my tick-list.

Friday (7/27)
  • Chris and I left Redlands a little after 5:00pm and made good time up to Lone Pine, CA and the Whitney Portal. 
  • At the Portal we found a great parking spot right next to the "Hiker's Camping," and we were also able to grab the last tent pad in that small campground. There was a lot of activity around us as people prepped for their next day's adventures and others relaxed after a long day on the trails. Chris and I reviewed the route beta, stowed our food, got our packs ready, and still got to sleep at a pretty decent hour.
Saturday (7/28)
  • My "Climb Time" alarm went off at 4:30am. After a solid breakfast, double checking gear, and some last minute logistics, Chris and I drove down a few minutes to the Meysan Lakes trail head, just outside the family campground.
  • We had been a little concerned about being able to find the trail, but there was a good sign next to the road and more signs that directed us through the campground and cabins and onto the trail proper that led up into Meysan Lake watershed.
    Sign for the trail 
  • The hike up the trail was surprisingly nice. We enjoyed ideal weather on a mellow, well maintained trail that gradually made its way up the valley, running roughly parallel to the North Ridge. 
    My first view of the North Ridge from the trail. Long Pine Peak is glowing in the morning light.
  • We continued up this trail until we got to about 9,800 ft. At that point, we turned off the trail, jumped over Meysan Creek, and made our way east toward a notch in the ridge. The cross country travel was pretty easy and we even occasionally found ourselves following an intermittent trail.
  • About an hour after leaving the trail we gained the top of the North Ridge and started making our way south towards the summit. This first section was filled with enjoyable class 2-3 scrambling and easy route finding (just head towards the top).
    We gained the ridge at this notch.
  • For a detailed description of the ridge climbing, check out the trip report that Chris wrote up on SummitPost: North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak Car to Car in Only 21 Hours. His report is full of more pictures and entertaining writing.
    The requisite picture of the huge fin. Shown here, Chris making his way up and left.
  • We made the summit of Lone Pine Peak around 7:00pm, caught our breath, signed a summit log, took in the view, and then started down the descent.
    The shadow of Lone Pine Peak in the east valley as the sun sets behind us.
  • The descent has a reputation for being somewhat tricky to find, so I had logged the coordinates for the top of the correct gully on my GPS. Unfortunately, the batteries in my GPS had died, so we had to rely on what we could remember from the route descriptions; Chris was able to find it pretty quickly though. A large part of the descent includes dropping down a long gully filled with loose scree and talus. Any semblance of a trail quickly deteriorated just a few hundred feet down, and we just kicked, stepped, and slid down the rest of the way while "choosing our own adventure". 
    Chris making his way towards the descent gully.
  • The sun set and the sky darkened long before we reached the bottom, and when we did reach the bottom, we found ourselves in a muddy tarn filled with large, dumpster size boulders. Frequent map checks and our efforts to revive the GPS directed us in a north easterly direction, until we finally got to a lake. At the lake we talked to a camper who gave us directions to the trail, and Chris, totally dehydrated, drank straight from the shore.
  • After finding the trail, Chris and I, no longer in a hurry and confident that we would make it back to camp that night, took several breaks on our way back down. Chris called them his "Swamp Water" breaks because he didn't want to make himself sick by over-exerting himself after drinking tons of water. 
  • We arrived at the car and camp around 2:00am. We had been a little worried about leaving our stuff staying in the "Hiker's Overnight" campground for more than 24 hours, but everything was just how we'd left it and we were quickly asleep.
Sunday (7/29)
  • After our long day on Saturday, we enjoyed a relaxed morning in camp, waking up mid-morning, breaking camp and then grabbing some breakfast at the Portal Store. I ordered the pancake...
    Joe versus the Pancake... Joe - 0 : Pancake - 1
  • After breakfast, we drove home.
I learned a lot from my experience on the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak. 
  1. First, I learned that Peter Croft is a bit of a sandbagger: in his guide he claims that this is a good route for people feeling the altitude or hungover. 
  2. Second, the importance of checking the settings on my GPS, with the compass utility on, a fresh set of batteries won't even last a full day. 
  3. Third, I learned the importance of moving quickly over easy terrain and looking ahead to where you want to go/be. 
  4. Fourth, I need to be faster in my transitions from unroped to roped climbing (I spent a lot of time gearing up that I could have shaved down).

Overall however, it was an enjoyable climb in a beautiful place with ideal weather. We successfully summited and descended without an epic. And I finally got to cross one of my long-term goals off my climbing list!