In August 2013, my teenage son and I joined two friends on a two week saunter through the Central Sierras. Our mission was simple and focused highly on entertainment value: we’d take ropes, ice axes, packrafts, and tenkara fishing gear. When we found a steep snowfield, we’d use an ice axe. When we encountered steep rock, we’d use a roped belay. When we found high lakes rimmed with interminable talus, we’d paddle packrafts. And when we found water (and boy, did we find water!), we’d fish. And fish. And fish some more.
These photos represent a small bit of an epic expedition that involved travel by foot, horse, and packraft via trail, talus, and tarn. We carried packs that weighed about 45 pounds apiece, traveled overland most of the day (with one layover day spent day hiking and fishing) and supplemented our anemic calorie plan with fresh trout. We camped off grid, encountered few people, and enjoyed Sierra solitude our way - away from the beaten path of the JMT - a high route where light, storm, and granite meet human soul and suffering.
Let the photos tell the story
Mules, horses, and a grizzled packer save us the pain and work of having to haul heavy packs to the high country during the heat of the summer.
We made high crossings through endless fields of talus - but with a twist - using ultralight flatwater packrafts for traveling through lake chain corridors.
A lot of granite and little tiny patches of tundra make for beautiful, if not somewhat hostile campsites above 11,000 feet. We felt constantly exposed and vulnerable, especially during the mightiest of the many grand thunderstorms we experienced.
Atop a 13,000 foot pass that required hours of talus to reach, and hours more of talus to descend. The views were worth it, but the camaraderie gained through suffering was priceless.
Paddling a 12,000 foot tarn so as to avoid many more hours of talus hopping. Packrafting was a highlight of this trip, and a unique way to enjoy the enchainment of lake upon lake within a drainage corridor.
Pitched in a lakeside meadow during a storm, with massive peaks looming, makes you feel small.
Tenkara fishing a “lowland” (9,800 feet) stream on our last night in a desperate attempt to have something more than a 2 oz ration of dry beans for dinner.
Sierra Golden Trout.
Sierra mountain travel via rope, axe, and packraft.