4 Days & 42.7 Mile Loop
August 15th-18th, 2008
Tom Harrision Map: Emigrant Wilderness
Crabtree Trail Head at Grids 29-30 x 45-46
Temperatures: 80-70 degrees F Day, 55-45 degrees F Night
In Memory of Christopher Andrews
Emigrant Wilderness is in the Stanislaus National Forest & lies on Northern Boarder of Yosemite.
Crabtree Trail Head 7145 ft.
Car Camping Available here with paved parking spots
Trail leading out of Crabtree was quite dusty & dry
Camp Lake elevation 7630 ft. 2.6 miles from Crabtree
Unnamed Lake Near Piute Meadow which is marked on the map
Jeremy Above & West of Piute Creek
An unexpected site at Piute Creek. Elevation 7570 ft.
These two riders had traveled some 20 miles in only 3 hours
East of Piute Meadow after ascending to 8000 ft.
Gem Lake Elevation 8230 ft. 9.4 miles from Crabtree
Popular Destination. Many people camping, fishing, & swimming here
Note: 1.5 miles West of Gem Lake is Piute Lake
Jeremy at Jewelry Lake Elevation 8399 ft.
No one camping here and less than 1 mile from Gem Lake
Fish were jumping
View from the Northern Shore of Jewelry Lake Looking East
Deer Lake Elevation 8461 ft. 11 miles from Crabtree
Jeremy quickly setting up his MLD Poncho Tarp as it began to sprinkle on us
Camping on the Southern Shore of Deer Lake we met a group of Seniors who had been traveling cross country/off trail for the past week. They had setup this tarp to shelter them from the rain and were kind enough to invite us to wait out the brief shower. This was their only shelter for the night and just sleep out in their sleeping bags. Apparently, they were all long time members of the Sierra Club. The woman in the middle laying back has been a Sierra Club Member since 1968 and served as the personal assistant to the President of the Sierra Club. I can only hope that I will be able to keep backpacking as long as they have been.
Jeremy's Boil in a Bag Meal
Tony's Tools of the Trade
UrSack, MSR Pocket Rocket & Titan Kettle
Jeremy & Tony at Deer Lake
Touch of Pink
Jeremy Making Breakfast
Jeremy's Gossamer Gear Nightlight & Thin light Pads
Buck Lake Elevation 8320 ft.
View from the South Western End of Buck Lake
Meadow North of Buck Lake
North West approach to Emigrant Lake
Emigrant Lake Elevation 8827 ft. 17.4 miles from Crabtree
Looking at the South West end of Emigrant Lake
Jeremy Planning a Side Trip to Try to Kill Me
Cutting South West towards North Fork Cherry Creek
Jeremy Navigating the Rocks
A Glimpse Back
View From the Western Shore
Location: Tom Harrision Map Grid Line 28
Destination: Top of the Ridge to the Right
Unexpected Dam at the South Western End of the Lake
Start of North Fork Cherry Creek draining from Emigrant Lake
Off Trail Heading East
Surviving Jeremy's Trail
No particular trail up here, just shooting up the middle.
Pretty steep, kicked my butt, but what a view
Note: Dark Spot in the Upper Middle of the Photo is the Waters of the Lake leading to the Dam
The Pay Off: Fraser Lakes Elevation 9201 ft.
Private Swimming Hole
The Large Rock in the Middle of the Photo drops steeply off on the right side and the water was deep enough for us to do cannon balls off of. So nice to be clean again.
I would love to come back here and spend the night and gaze at the stars.
Jeremy Enjoying Lunch while drying off in the sun
Cone in the Clouds
Looking Down at the Southern Shore of Emigrant Lake
Zig Zag Navigation Down Steep Slopes
Cutting Towards the Eastern End
Looking Back Where We Came From
Heading along the Southern Shore
Gazing Back West
Looking North Across the Eastern End...notice the dark clouds in the distance.
Contast of Elements
View from the Eastern Shore
Cutting Across this Grassy Area to get to the Northern Side where the trail was, Jeremy jammed his knee in a small pot hole in the grass
Asking for Directions from one of the Pack Mule Guides
Note: Guided Pack Mule Trips are available out of Kennedy Meadows and can take you to Emigrant Lake.
I am thinking of using them to get my wife and 5 yr old daughter out here to experience this amazing place.
Entering Mosquito Pass...beginning of our troubles
Caught in a Hail & Thunder Storm Halfway up the Valley
The weather was a maddening contradiction in trying to determine which way the storm was blowing. The lower clouds seem to be blowing NW, yet the cloud layer higher above seemed to be moving SE. The trail in the valley was very open and exposed, the rolling rumble of thunder getting closer and closer. We decided to get off the trail and decent near a creek near a cluster of trees. For some 45 minutes we squatted down on our sleeping pads while it hailed and then rained hard on us, marveling at the fact that only an hour and half ago we were basking in the sun.
Jeremy Modeling MLD Poncho Tarp
As we sat on our pads, we were nervously trying to recall everything that we had read about what to do in the event we were struck by lightning and how to avoid getting struck by it. Half jokingly, I told Jeremy that the last thing that people might find was my camera with me taking video of us just before we got stuck by lightning. After the center of the storm passed over us and the hail and rain lessened, we contemplated what to do. Shoot for the pass ahead or retreat back down the way we came?
Tony Laughing at the odd change of events facing us while wearing MLD Poncho Tarp & Rain Chaps with wind shirt for additional protection.
Either way, we were exposed on open ground. In vain, we looked North toward Mosquito Pass in the hope of seeing clear skies on the other side that would signal the end of the storm. Knowing that a decision had to be made, even if it was the wrong one, we decided to shoot for the pass because staying exposed as we were was not a long term option.
Sprint Across Mosquito Pass Elevation 9370 ft.
After a few false starts back on the trail, the rumbling of thunder behind us causing us some doubt about our decision, we went as quickly as possible up the valley. The rain had lessened to a light sprinkle, the clouds still dark and heavy with rain. While racing across this pass, Jeremy further injured his knee.
Lunch Meadow Elevation 9040 ft.
We descended into this meadow, relieved that we below Mosquito Pass and away from the lightning, but pressed on in an attempt to out run any chance of the storm catching up to us.
Jeremy pointed out to me that the Northern side of this meadow was composed of an older rock and that the granite of the Sierras was pushing up through this older layer of rock, seen to the South.
Looking South West Across the Meadow
A constant, light drizzle of rain followed us, but we remained dry and well ventilated in our MLD Poncho Tarps
Racing to Out Run the Storm
Shelter at Sheep Camp Elevation 8790 ft.
Approximately 12.4 miles from Deer Lake with side trip to Fraser Lakes.
MLD Poncho Tarp & MLD Soul Side Zip Bivy
Tired and thankful to be out of the rain, we hastily setup camp with the expectation that a storm would blow over us that night. Fortunately, the rains never came.
Jeremy named this place Horse Piss Camp, as the site that he setup at was saturated with Horse/Mule piss.
MLD Poncho Tarp & MLD Superlight Bivy.
Dinner and a Fire Tonight
There were quite a number of other campers here who had been brought in by mule trains from Kennedy Meadows. In particular, there was a group with an 80 yr old man who had come up with his sons, & grandsons. Apparently, the 80 yr. old gentleman had hiked in 8 miles from Kennedy Meadows to Sheep Camp! They were well supplied with Coleman tents and ice chests full of provisions. They greeted us after we setup camp with wine in a box and plastic cups to share with them. It was a welcome luxury at the end of a long day.
Leaving Sheep Camp to descend into Saucer Meadow, following the Summit Creek.
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, Jeremy rinsed off his MLD bivy in a stream to try to wash the horse piss smell out of his bivy. And then we were off, feeling a little stiff from the prior day.
The DRW Momentum fabric did a very good job of beading up the water, despite being fully submerged a few times into the stream.
Mule Train going to Collect the Campers at Sheep Camp
South Western View from the Trail
Sharing the Trail with Mules
The mule trains were a combination of supplies and ferrying campers up the trail. Some of the mule train trips were all inclusive, which meant that hot meals were provided.
I must admit that I was a bit envious of how easy those people had it, but I seem to enjoy suffering. That which does not kill you can only make you stronger, right?
Variations of Stone
Here is a good example of what Jeremy was saying about the older layer of stone in the distance and the newer granite in the fore ground being pushed up by the tectonic plates sub ducting.
Jeremy's Last Smile for the Day
North of Saucer Meadow we turned East at a Junction and headed into Lower Relief Valley. Elevation 7700 ft.
Deer at Summit Creek
Look back at Relief Peak
Looking South East from the Trail.
Just beyond those peaks are a series of lakes, including Iceland Lake, which is at an elevation 9112 ft.
Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 SF Gate/Chronicle Reported by Meredith May
Snow prevented rescue of Hillsborough hiker
A San Mateo County hiker whose body was discovered Monday in the Emigrant Wilderness apparently slipped and fell into a ravine, according to his wife.
Christopher Andrews, 42, was cutting his five-day solo hiking trip in the Sierra a day short on Friday to avoid an incoming storm when he fell, said his wife, Amy Andrews of Hillsborough.
An avid hiker, Andrews sent a 911 distress signal from his SPOT safety beacon Friday afternoon, which sent his latitude and longitude coordinates to an emergency response center, which notified the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department.
Rescuers were not able to start their search until Saturday morning, due to high winds and snow, she said.
Searchers on horseback, helicopter and on foot scoured the remote area, crossing flooded streams and eventually found Andrews near Iceland Lake on Monday afternoon. The area where he was found was so remote they had to rappel down to reach him.
His safety beacon stopped emitting a signal on Sunday, possibly due to battery drain, according to the sheriff's department.
"He's a very experienced hiker and he was cautious to get out before the storm, but I think the speed of the storm surprised him," Amy Andrews said.
The couple met at the software company Oracle, where they both worked and discovered a shared passion for the outdoors.
Their first date was in the Marin Headlands, and they were engaged in 1996 at Kings Canyon National Park. They married a year later.
Her husband enjoyed solo hiking and camping trips, Amy Andrews said, and he always was careful to bring his safety beacon. He enjoyed taking photographs, listening to classical music and standing in awe of nature, she said.
"We felt God in the wilderness," his wife said. "It was just a very deep, unspoken thing between us." The couple had two young children.
Quote from Christopher's sister on SF Gate Forum regarding this story:
I am Christopher's sister, and I feel I have to add in a word of clarification regarding the emergency beacon. Christopher was able to trigger it after he fell, but his body moved to block the signal. He was also out of sight from above and below, given that he was in a location that the rescue crew had to rappel down to. So, the beacon did give his position accurately, but since the search crew at first didn't see him, they thought he had walked away from that location. This can give some confidence to others who might want to use this type of beacon.
Jeremy at Lower Relief Valley
Jeremy is sporting a Granite Gear Vapor Trail Pack with MLD Shoulder Pocket for his Water Bottle
East Flange Rock
Warm and Dry Stretch of Trail
Lunch Along Relief Creek
Concerned about the availability of water, we went off trail a few hundred yards and found this shaded area to have lunch and to tank up on water.
Looking Back North after gaining elevation over Lower Relief Valley
Trail with a View
An Unexpected Fence for Cows
From early in the day, Jeremy's left knee was progressively hurting him more and more, which probably was a result of him injuring it the day before in the sprint across Mosquito Pass. Most likely an IT band problem.
Pain & Beauty
The result was that with each step that Jeremy took, the mere action of bending his knee caused him intense pain. He was using his poles partially as crutches and taking rest steps to ease his pain. Having done a number of trips with Jeremy, he has never been one to complain or show signs of pain even when he was in discomfort. The fact that I could audibly hear his stifled grunts of pain with each step that he took concerned me greatly. I offered to carry some of his gear, but since it was the motion of bending his knee that was hurting him and that his load was already lighter than mine, weight was not an issue. Jeremy would endure a total of 13.7 miles of this by the end of the day.
Heading Up the Valley
Jeremy's Knee Gets Some Relief on Level Ground
Upper Relief Valley Elevation 8815 ft.
This was truly a beautiful place with carpets of green grasses dotted with small yellow and lavender flowers everywhere you looked.
Tony Entering Whitesides Meadow Elevation 8850 ft.
Cows in the Meadow
At the end of this meadow, we came across a father with his 12 yr. old son. They were doing a multiple day trip together, which gave us hope that our own children might be able to do trips of the same length and distance when they got older.
North Eastern View from the Trail Elevation 8750 ft.
Somewhere past the junction going to Meadow Lake.
Pressing on to Lake Valley
Cutting South to Chewing Gum Lake. Elevation 8750 ft.
Chewing Gum Lake Elevation 8697 ft.
View from Camp
Welcome Relief at the End of a Long Day
Time to wash up, tank up, and rinse away the dust from our faces and feet.
Ripple in the Mirror
The Day's Damage
Since Jeremy's left knee was hurting him, this caused him to favor his right leg most of the day, which resulted in this lovely blister to add to his troubles.
Sleeping out on the Rocks under a Full Moon
That evening we were treated with the sight of a full moon rising from behind the peak that you see in the background.
Sleeping with my bivy open in my Marmot Atom 40 F degree sleeping bag, the full moon shined brightly in my eyes as I tried to fall asleep. Despite temperatures being in the mid-forties F, I felt cold spots on my legs. No doubt a result of my bag having sewn through baffles.
Little Joys, Full Moon and a Bright Fire
After building up and improving an existing fire pit, I was able to find some fallen logs that were termite eaten. The pyro that I am, I managed to gather up enough wood to last us well past midnight. There is nothing like staring a cracking fire, dancing in the night sky to lose your thought and to reflect on the day's events.
Night Time Visitor
This little guy was hiding in plain sight by my backpack, blending in with the white granite.
Jeremy Stopping to Do a Little Foot Care
Jeremy's knee was doing much better this morning as we set off from Chewing Gum Lake to make our way back to Crabtree Trail Head via a secondary trail which was not well marked or maintained well. After heading South East from Chewing Gum Lake on what we thought was the trail, we were reduced to following a series of Cairns. Frustrated by the lack of clear markers, I took time to build up some of these Cairns to be more visible. Unfortunately, I was helping to build a path to nowhere.
Duct Tape Damage Control
A the point that this photo was taken, it was clear that we were following a game trail at best. With Jeremy's knee still sore, he had no interest in marching back up the rocky terrain that we had rapidly descended. We both agreed to continue descending off trail and shoot for Bear Lake some 2 miles away.
Lost Off Trail to Bear Lake
As we cross large expanses of granite and crisscrossed a dry river that most likely drained out of Chewing Gum Lake, we came to a shelf that gave us a clear view of Bear Lake. Our only concern was reaching a point where it was too steep to descend and would force us to back track the way we came.
Fun Bushwhack & Scramble
Fortunately, we were able to make our way down with out too much trouble. There were a few times where we had to help lower each other down a section of steep granite rocks or to use our hands or a thigh to provide a foot hold for the other person to climb down safely. At one point, I had to stow my hiking poles and lash them to side of my pack so that I could use both of my hands to climb down certain sections. I was loving it!
Following Lily Creek
The worst behind us, it was merely a matter of following the Creek to Bear Lake. To my dismay, as we were two thirds of the way down our scramble, we saw two adults with a handful of young boys. Had they followed the cairns that I had helped build up? I had yelled to them that we were lost and not following any particular trail. I did my best to yell out to them the path we were safely able to navigate down.
Muddy Grass Flats
We were supposed to be on a trail that was up on that ridge and further North.
Forest of Stumps
From Bear Lake we traveled 1 mile South West and intersected the trial we had come in on at Camp Lake. Then we hiked 1.6 miles back to Crabtree on the same trail we had started our journey on.
Jeremy's Medicine in Sonora, CA.
Other Photo Essays by Tony:
High Sierra Trail to Mt. Whitney
Yosemite: Glacier Point to Red Peak Pass to Lake Merced
Yosemite in Winter
Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
Yosemite: Tenaya Creek