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Saturday, November 19, 2005

sierra interlude

There is special place burned into my memory called the high sierra. I have done seven long backback trips into this region : each trip has it's share of memories, some brighter than others but all memorial just the same. The best experience of all perhaps is when i ascended and descended 13,200 ft forester pass halfway thru an eight day ramble from kersarge pass south along John muir trail(JMT) on my way to Mt Whitney. The nearly vertical descent from a-top forester down the 2000 ft headwall is a zigzagging trail blasted into the rock. probably 500 zigzags in all . As I left the wall and headed away from it I looked back and beheld this gigantic black sheer vertical cliff jutting up from the glacial basin and going in a horseshoe curve arounf the basin. Think of a 2000 ft high amphitheatre. It is actually the divide between the kings and kern river watersheds and a spectacular jagged lateral spur range.

Note: While resting atop the pass i was scoping 13,850 ft junction peak just about a mile to the east , whivh would have been a difficult dangerous traverse along a jagged knife ridge about 700 ft elevation climb to the summit. Having ascended 3000 ft from centerbasin to the pass i just did not have the energy in the tank to do the climb, and needed to descend out the exposed pass to reach tyndal creek high country campsite . A missed opportunity, or a wise risk caculation? (i was backpacking solo and it was a cold blustery day with a hint of a storm, not an ideal situation for doing a strenuous 1-mile 700 ft elv . rock climb/scramble along a knife-edge traverse/ boulder-outcropped ridge to the summit.)

Back to the descent off forester pass and onto the bighorn plateau:

The ramble thru this part of the hig sierra, along the bighorn plateau, is a spectacular thrill. I took a 1 mile jaunt off the JMT to an overlook and beheld a 360% panorama of the entire upper Kern region, on my right the great western divide, to the south the GWD and east sierra divide curving together, to my left the great main Sierra divide itself including the Mt Whitney group of peaks. The place i was at is called the bighorn overlook but it is not on any topo map. You have to ramble cross country off the main JMT trail south by south west about a mile. This part of the JMT taverses a stark barren rockscape before you hit tyndall creek. This is the part about hi sierra rambling i enjoy most: desolate rockstrewn landscape with a few patches of trees and plants clinging to life at or above timberline. Patches of snow. high mountain lakes and ice-cold streams.