On August 6, I drove to Kings Canyon and picked up my reserved wilderness permit at Roads End before the station closed, then spent the night at one of the Cedar Grove car campgrounds where some bear was working the area. My load was to consist of about ten pounds of base weight (including bear canister), about 13 pounds of food and fuel, and about 11 pounds of camera gear. I didn't really need that much food for seven days of trip.
On Day 1, I hit the trail at Roads End at 6 a.m. and arrived at Lake Reflection by 3 p.m. That is about 15 miles and 5000 feet of gain, and I can do that only on my first day when I am fresh. Unfortunately, the sky was not cooperating and photography was somewhat limited. It rained before 4 p.m.
On Day 2, my plan was to go over Harrison Pass, and that would require me to backtrack downhill one mile, then head east following the drainage. Instead, I followed a usage trail up to a hill northeast of Lake Reflection, then cut across the bench to reach the middle of the drainage. At the head of the drainage was Harrison Pass, but this wasn't going to be easy. There is no visible trail. It was just one long gravel-scree slope with the occasional boulders sitting around at the angle of repose. I didn't know which side of the steep chute to try, so I started with the west side. It was terrible, and the rock wall couldn't be gripped because it crumbled. I couldn't get much traction in gravel. A boulder slid in front of me and gashed my shin. I gave up on the west side and moved across the chute to the east side. That required me to swim through the moving gravel even faster. The east side was ascended, and I made it to the top by 1:30 p.m. Descending would have been much easier. At the top of Harrison Pass, I had crossed the Great Western Divide into Sequoia National Park. I walked down to Lake South America, then continued to a small nearby lake just in time for the rain at 4 p.m. I could see south into the Kern River area, Milestone Peak, and all that.
On Day 3, I descended south as I followed fresh bighorn sheep tracks that were made within the previous 14 hours. I cut cross-country east at the 12,000 foot contour to intercept the John Muir Trail, then turned north toward Forester Pass. Gaining the pass at 11 a.m., I saw a struggle between one horseman and his number two pack horse which had rolled its heavy load. I continued northbound back into Kings Canyon along the JMT for four hours, and the horseman never caught up with me [strange]. I made it to Charlotte Lake for the night, but not before the afternoon rain drenched me. Maybe you see the daily weather theme here.
On Day 4, I left Charlotte Lake, got back out on the JMT northbound, and went over Glen Pass. Descending only halfway down to Rae Lakes, I veered off northwest, over Rae Col, and down into the Sixty Lakes Basin. Guess what. Rain again. I wandered around and got over into the western end of the basin with the intention of getting a camp close enough that I could climb Mount Cotter. Then it rained again, and this time was very cold, so I sat down on the ground with just my plastic ground sheet over me. I realized that I would not want to be solo climbing the 12,700 foot peak with the rain and lightning, so I bailed. The rain soaking had ceased to make this fun. I turned around and headed back east and fled to the far northern lake of the basin and camped early. I had lots of stuff to dry out, and I ate double that night to try to consume some excess food weight.
On Day 5, I estimated that I could get more than halfway out in one day, so I started out. It took me a couple of hours of cross-country to get directly out of the basin and back onto the JMT, and then I started rolling downhill toward Woods Crossing. Turning left, I headed toward Paradise Valley, and it was still early afternoon, so I decided to just keep the pace and go all of the way out that day. I rolled all the way down and back to Roads End by 6:15 p.m., totally exhausted, but not before it rained again on me. I still had enough food for at least a couple of days, and I had used only half of my Esbit fuel. Feet hurt.
Assessment: Wishful thinking caused me to carry twice as much camera gear weight as what I needed. There wasn't a lot of wildlife to photograph. The daily rain was a big disappointment, but what can you do? Bailing out from Mount Cotter was not hard. I've never wanted to become a human lightning rod.
One box of Esbit fuel seemed to have an odd, unusually waxy texture. It left a lot of black residue on the cook pot, and it seemed to burn very slowly. It's OK for solo cooking as long as the weather is mild.