This is the story of our trip to Great Basin National Park and the Sierra Nevada, June 27-July 5 2015. We did this trip in order to drop our kids off with my dad so they could hike the John Muir Trail after Kim and I went back home.
Participants were my 11 year old daughter Shaylee, 13 year old son Kessler, my beautiful wife Kimberly, my 71 year old dad, and me.
The photos will tell most of the story.
Trail Camp on the Mount Whitney Trail.
June 27: Wheeler Glacier (Nevada)
After spending the night in Delta to visit my 97 year old grandmother, we left for Great Basin National Park. I made a reservation for the 9 am tour, but forgot about the time change, so we were an hour early! Participants were my dad, Kim, Kessler, Shaylee, and I.
After visiting the cave, we drove up to the Wheeler Peak campground in order to reserve a campsite. We got the last one in the campground.
After setting up camp, we hiked the Wheeler Glacier and Bristlecone Trail. Kim wasn’t feeling well, so she didn’t hike very far.
The headwall of Wheeler Peak is very impressive and we went up to the glacier, passing many trees that were thousands of years old.
After visiting the glacier, we hiked back down to the forest and did the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, visiting Stella and Teresa Lakes. Luckily there was a really nice spring to drink from at Teresa Lake.
We still weren’t done, so we also hiked the Sky Islands Forest Trail. We did a total of 7.6 miles this day.
Approaching the Wheeler Glacier and headwall.
A bristlecone pine near Wheeler Peak. This one is over 3000 years old.
Hiking towards the Wheeler Peak Cirque.
Jeff Davis Peak from the Wheeler Peak Cirque.
Stella Lake and Wheeler Peak.
June 28: Wheeler Peak/Bald Mountain (Nevada)
Kessler wasn’t feeling well, so he didn’t make it very far up the trail. Kim, Shaylee, my dad, and I climbed Wheeler Peak on a very sunny and warm day. It was a beautiful climb and we spent quite a bit of time on time,
On the way down, I also did a side trip and climbed Bald Mountain. The rest of the group went straight to the campsite. Climbing Bald Mountain with Wheeler Peak made a good all day trip.
After climbing the peaks, we took down camp and drove to Tonopah Nevada. Unfortunately, my dad ran out of gas along the way.
Wheeler Peak in the morning.
High on the north ridge of Wheeler Peak.
Approaching the summit of Wheeler Peak.
The summit of Wheeler Peak is just ahead.
Summit of Wheeler Peak. Baker Peak is in the background.
Summit of Bald Mountain.
Wheeler Peak from Bald Mountain.
June 29: Logging Flat (California)
After driving from Tonopah, and going shopping in Bishop, my dad, Kim, Kessler, Shaylee, and I hiked up Big Pine Creek, past the first waterfall and then along the trail to Logging Flat. WE were out of time, so didn’t go farther than the flat.
The Palisades Ridge as seen from the trail to Logging Flat.
Sunset from the Big Pine Campground.
June 30: North Fork Big Pine (California)
Kim, Kessler, Shaylee, my dad, and I hiked along North Pine to the Big Pine Lakes. We took the trail past both waterfalls and to First Lake, Second Lake, Third Lake, Fifth Lake, Fourth Lake, and to Six and Seventh Lake before returning via Black Lake. It was a long 17+ mile day, but the scenery was spectacular. On the return trip, we got nailed by a big rainstorm which was quite long and cold. There was a bit of hail as well.
A creek crossing on the North Fork Pine Creek.
Second Lake and Temple Crag as seen along the North Fork of Pine Creek Route in the Sierra Nevada.
I believe that this is Fifth Lake and Two Eagle Peak.
Mount Sill is one of the craggy peaks in the upper basin of North Fork Pine Creek.
Looking down on Sixth Lake.
July 1: South Fork Big Pine (California)
My dad and I hiked up to Willow Lake. Since we had to pick up our permit for Mount Whitney that afternoon, we didn’t continue on to Brainerd Lake. It was a really scenic hike and the difficulty of the hike was exaggerated. The stream crossing was a bit challenging, but the trail wasn’t as steep as its reputation warrants. The scenery along the hike was really spectacular.
Willow Lake and the Palisades Headwall as seen under cloudy skies.
The Palisades Ridge from Willow Lake.
July 2: Trail Camp/Wotans Throne (California)
The original plan was for Kessler and I to climb Mount Whitney in one day, but the permit office in Lone Pine had three overnight permits, so my dad wanted to come.
Since I didn't bring an overnight backpack, Kessler would carry most of our stuff.
We set off up the trail fairly early in the morning and enjoyed the scenery up to Trail Camp. At Trail Camp we were hit by a storm right after the tent was set up.
The weather was quite bad and other people climbing the peak were turning around. We were glad that we were attempting the peak the next day.
Kessler and I decided to check out Wotans Throne when the weather cleared in the evening. We climbed up the northernmost gully on the west side, reaching a chockstone not far from the summit. It was a nasty route and I didn’t want to climb the chockstone since I was afraid that we would pull loose rock onto us. We then checked out the gully to the south, but eventually the exposure became too great considering the loose rock (either route might make a good early season snow climb). We the bench around to the south side and explored along the South Chimney Route (we had no guidebook or beta since it was an unplanned ascent), but it too was pretty exposed considering we didn’t have any climbing gear or helmets. Thus, we returned unsuccessful since we ran out of time. We should have gone around to the north side which is much easier.
We also discovered that the marmots at Trail Camp are relentless and luckily bear canisters keep them out our your food.
Not far from the beginning of the Mount Whitney Trail.
Hiking past Mount Thor.
Near Outpost Camp on Mount Whitney.
A bristlecone pine on Mount Whitney? I didn't know bristlecones grew in the Sierra, but this one sure looked like a bristlecone.
Mount Thor as seen from Mt. Whitney Trail.
Approaching Trail Camp on the Mount Whitney Trail.
Dinner time at Trail Camp.
A sneaky marmot at Trail Camp.
A sneaky marmot at Trail Camp.
The nasty scree gully that we made our first attempt of Wotans Throne from. We got stopped by the chockstone above.
Looking out over Trail Camp from high on Wotans Throne.
Kessler and Wotans Throne.
Wotans Throne showing our different explorations on July 3. Click for larger size.
The Mount Whitney Crest as viewed from Trail Camp.
July 3: Mount Whitney/Mount Muir/Trail Crest Tower (California)
In the morning, Kessler, my dad, and I set off to climb Mount Whitney. The weather was clear, unlike the day before. My dad (71 years old) lagged behind, so Kessler and I spent quite a bit of time on the summit waiting for him. He eventually caught up though.
On the descent, Kessler and I took off ahead so that we could climb Mount Muir. Mount Muir was rated class 3 and although I knew that class 3 was generally harder in California than in Colorado, we underestimated Mount Muir. It was harder than I thought it would be. It was quite exposed as well. Since we weren't planning on climbing Muir until we happened to get the overnight permit, I hadn't brought any good climbing shoes and we just had old running shoes. We also didn't have any beta and didn't bring helmets. We probed two different routes before climbing one in the center of the summit block. It wasn't too bad until we had to do a slab traverse to the left with our low-traction shoes (sticky shoes would make this a piece of cake). We got up to the rappel anchor at the overhanging rock, but with our old running shoes we didn't want to stand on the summit. It was fun, but I wish we had brought better shoes (and a helmet).
Still ready for more action, we descended Muir and climbed what our map labeled as Trail Crest Tower. Either the map was wrong or there is a non technical route up the tower, because we didn't do any technical climbing. It was still a great viewpoint.
After climbing the tower, we descended and caught up with my dad on the switchbacks above Trail Camp. We packed up camp and headed down the mountain. One sore point is that a lot of people seem to leave their poop bags at Trail Camp. I took two garbage bags and put the extra poop bags in them and tied the garbage bags to the outside of Kessler's pack. We don't like packing out other's human waste, but it needed to be done. People who leave the bags are scum and shouldn't be allowed on the mountain.
The rest of the descent was routine, but at the end, Kessler and I went ahead of my dad in order to get drinks and ice cream from the store. It was a good climb, but the only sore point was the extra waste bags.
Mount Muir as seen from the Southeast.
Looking west from the crest south of Mount Whitney. Guitar Lake is center right.
One of the spires enroute to Mount Whitney.
Kessler on the summit of Mount Whitney.
Looking north from the summit of Mount Whitney.
My dad on the summit of Mount Whitney.
Kessler descending Mount Muir.
The summit of Trail Crest Tower, or perhaps "North Trail Crest Tower"?
Mount Muir from Trail Crest Tower, or perhaps "North Trail Crest Tower"?
The tower Kessler and I climbed (we came up the easier side). Perhaps this should be referred to as "North Trail Crest Tower"? Either way, it was a really great viewpoint.
Consultation Lake as seen from just below Trail Camp.
July 4: Alabama Hills/Mobius Arch (California)
Since Kessler, Shaylee, and my dad were hiking the John Muir Trail (Bishop to Yosemite), Kim and I separated from them. In the morning, we hiked to Mobius Arch and other arches in the Alabama Hills. Unfortunately, I had left the camera in the car.
It was a great hike, but we had to head off and drive to Las Vegas, where we would visit Kim's sister. We drive through Death Valley and got out of the car for a bit just to feel the 112F/44.4C degree heat (which isn't hot for Death Valley). After visiting Vegas, we made it to Cedar City and spent the night there.
Mobius Arch. Photo from Holsti97. We forgot our camera!
July 5: Kanarra Creek (Utah)
Kim and I hiked up Kanarra Creek. What a beautiful hike! It was lovely on a hot day and the water was perfect for cooling off in. We went up past the two ladders and to the end of the narrows. It was a great hike, after which we drove back home.
Kim hiking in Kanarra Creek.
The first ladder along Kanarra Creek.
Some of the gentle and beautiful cascades in Kanarra Creek.
The narrows of Kanarra Creek. It's the perfect place on a hot summer day.
The second falls and ladder along Kanarra Creek.