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Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney Portal 8-20 to 8-24
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Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney Portal 8-20 to 8-24 on 08/28/2013 01:00:44 MDT Print View

This trip actually began August 13 when I left to meet my brother, Rick, at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to pick up a permit leaving Horseshoe Meadow and exiting Whitney Portal. I didn't know if I would make it by closing time so took out the paperwork for the permit, got the number, called and as I was speaking to a lady noticed that my entry date was for the 20th of August of which the lady confirmed. Oops! I had originally wanted to get the permit for the 14th to the 21st and had marked it on my calender for those dates but couldn't get the permit till the 20th and didn't change it on the calendar. Luckily I was in Los Banos when I found out and was only an hour from home so that's where I went. In the mean time I had a tow bar put on the Jeep and when we finally left on August 19 we towed the Jeep behind Rick's truck, picked up the permit at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, took the Jeep to the Portal and headed to Horseshoe Meadow.



Monday was about midway in a series of thunderstorms which passed through the Sierra and which started the Rim Fire, which as of this writing has burned 161,000 acres west of Yosemite and the Fish Fire down in the Golden Trout Wilderness which has burned 1450 acres. Just before leaving Lone Pine a hail storm moved through with quite heavy rains, thunder and lightning. It was clear that night and I spent a nice night in the hammock and got quite damp from the dew. Dried out in the morning and headed for Cottonwood Lakes.


We were thinking about going over New Army Pass but after talking to a couple of ladies along the trail we decided to go over Army Pass. We made our way to the last numbered lakes below Army Pass and got to a camp spot just as it started to rain. We set up the DuoMid and crawled in.


Shortly after a girl came by asking about other sites. She passed us and set up a little further away. The rain was intermittent with some hail and some nice thunder and lightning so just relaxed in the DuoMid. The rain let up a little later and the girl who had passed us and set up camp came by after getting some water and we chit chatted a little while. Turns out she is a Wildlife Biologist who with others was given a sector to go to and look for sheep to count. We finished talking and she went back to camp and as we were fixing dinner she came back and said that she had spotted some rams so we went up to a vantage point and she had a pair of binoculars with which we looked at four rams across the lake. She also had a spotting scope so we got a nice closeup of them. I took a picture of them but don't know how they will show up here.



We didn't get anymore rain that night and woke to partially cloudy skies the next morning. I kept looking at Army Pass and thinking about the fatality of a meetup person who they found at the bottom of the pass after climbing Mt Langley last year. The ladies we had talked to on the way up assured us that the tread was good all the way to the top. It sure didn't look that way from the bottom.


Anyway we set out and found the tread to be as described. The assent was uneventful with a good look at the numbered lakes below.


Originally we had thought about going into the Miter Basin, over Crabtree Pass, descending down Crabtree Lakes to Crabtree Meadows but after the Shasta trip didn't feel like anymore cross country, our real objective being Whitney. We did however decide to do Langley. We opted to carry our packs to the top rather than stash them somewhere along the way. As we were about to start up to Langley we noticed three people coming down from New Army Pass and it was 3 girls who passed us up. About midway up the plateau we overcame the three girls who were talking to three rangers. We stood and listened to them for a while and it turns out one of the girls was an Archaeologist, another a geologist and I didn't catch what the third girl who produced the map was. The map was a google earth image with all the known trails to Langley marked with GPS routes. I looked at the maze of lines and thought which one should I take. We continued on the use trail that we had been following and when we hit the cliff band didn't follow the one to the east but went straight up the rubble. This put is quite a ways east of the summit and having to scramble and boulder hop. Rick and I got separated and I reached the summit about 20 minutes before he did. All the time we were climbing we were watching the thunderstorms gather and move toward us. I got a pic of a partially cloud covered Miter Basin and by the time Rick got there it was hailing and threatening lightning.




We decided to get off the mountain and headed due south in some fog. It was a fairly gentle slope down to the cliff band where we found a way down through the boulders. The map the girl had showed a lot of trails but there were footprints everywhere going down the boulders. We crossed the plateau and headed down the trail to Rock Creek where we camped at Soldier Lake.




It was a beautiful clear night with a moon just past full and a beautiful morning clear and cool.


Made our way down to Rock Creek and hit the trail junction of the PCT. It was just past there where we camped last year on our attempt at Whitney. Rick had pulled a calf muscle so we aborted that attempt. Last year it took us one day to hike to that point from Cottonwood Pass and 2 days to hike out over New Army Pass. Continued on past Mt Guyot, across Guyot Creek which was flowing from the rains, across Guyot Flat and down to Crabtree Meadows.







Cowboy camped on the south side of Whitney Creek and saw a nice view of Whitney. Another clear evening with a bright moon. Some clouds came in early in the morning but by the time the sun came up they were gone.


We were in no real hurry the next morning as we were only heading to Guitar Lake. Went on past the lower meadow and to the Ranger Station. They are building a new ranger station and they have a temporary one set up just past a pit toilet a quarter mile from the trail. Went out to where they are building the new one. They moved all the logs in by helicopter one lift at a time. It will be a fine Ranger Station.









Continued up toward Guitar Lake arriving about 1PM. We were about the third group to show up and got a camp behind the rise just to the west of the lake and close to the creek. It was sheltered from the wind which wasn't really blowing very hard. Went down to the lake and rinsed ourselves and our clothes and laid around in the sun. People kept showing up all afternoon and by early evening there must have been 75 people camped at the lake.



Got up just before dawn, ate, packed up and headed out. We had watched people going up the trail from Guitar lake but lost them after they went over a little rise. We couldn't see where the trail switch backed up to Trail Crest. We climbed the west side easy enough and came out at the junction just below Trail Crest.







The first part of the trail out to the summit is a little rough so I had to take my time going across.










The summit was absolutely beautiful, clear and just a slight breeze and along with the good weather were a hoard of people. We could look straight south and see Langley in the distance where we had been three days before. It sure was a shame that it was so cloudy when we climbed Langley. Looking south we could see a smoke plume from a fire that had started down in the Golden Trout Wilderness and I think is named the Fish Fire. When we got to the summit the plume was confined to the south but the wind changed while we were up there and started blowing our way and by the time we left we could smell the smoke. All along the ridge to Trail Crest we could smell the smoke. It was pretty thick by the time we hit the crest and we started down. As we got lower the wind shifted again and started to blow toward the east moving the smoke just to the south of us.












Made it to Trail Camp and continued on down. Talked to the Ranger at Trail Camp and he said that we had only come down two thousand of the six thousand that we had to descend and that we had six more miles and four thousand more feet to descend. We could see down the valley below and that was where the smoke was concentrated.












Went ahead and hiked out to the Portal and arrived just at dark. We were hungry so got in the Jeep and headed to Lone Pine and the Mt Whitney Restaurant for burgers. By then the wind had shifted and we were smoke free in Lone Pine. We then went back to Horseshoe Meadows and got the truck and went back to Lone Pine and got a room, cleaned up and hit the sack around midnight. On the way back we were going to go Highway 120 and split at Crane Flat and Rick was going to continue on 120 but the highway was closed six miles past the western entrance because of the Rim Fire burning outside of Yosemite. He decided to go up to Sonora pass instead. I continued on 120 and went down and hit 140. As I hit Tuolumne Meadows I could see the smoke from the fire. I took some pics of the plume as I got closer. It was a good trip for us, doing two fourteeners.




Edited by meld on 08/28/2013 01:37:20 MDT.

Backpack Jack
(jumpbackjack) - F

Locale: Armpit of California
Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney Portal 8-20 to 8-24 on 08/28/2013 08:59:44 MDT Print View

Looks like a nice hike Marc, wish I could have made that one, great pictures!


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney Portal 8-20 to 8-24 on 08/29/2013 15:37:24 MDT Print View

Great report Marc!