Monday, July 6, 2015

Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park 5 day loop

I recently made a trip down to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Park for a five day backpacking trip with a couple of friends.

The original plan was to try a mostly off trail route using Andrew Skurkas new mapset for the High Sierra Basin Route. But after thinking it through and due to concern that there may still be persistent snow on the north slopes, we modified the loop to be completely on trail. Total mileage ended up being about 63 miles with 17,000 feet of elevation gain.

the route



Day 1 (~13 miles) Road's End to Roaring River

We had a leisurely start after sleeping in until 6 and managed to hit the trail by slightly after 8.

Obligatory start of trip photo

The first mile is flat and heads east through mostly coniferous forest. But after that it was pretty much all uphill until we made it to Avalanche Pass at 10,000 feet. I think we all quickly realized that the higher altitude was going to be a challenge for us sea level dwellers and we had to slow down our pace considerably.

looking down towards Road's End

climbing Avalanche Pass

Avalanche pass itself was a bit of a disappointment, it sounds really epic and cool but there is actually no view, the pass is completely tree covered. After lunch we started the descent down to Roaring River ranger station. The trail become a bit more difficult to follow and was also quite steep in places. After a long descent with alot of sliding around on loose rock and pinecones, we made it to our first camp along the river. Surprisingly, that 13 miles took us almost 9 hours and was pretty exhausting.

Day 2 (~ 15 miles) Roaring River to just past Gallats Lake

After a nice sleep and breakfast, we broke camp and headed towards Colby Pass. Jacob got all fancy and made breakfast bread, which looked better than my granola.

Breakfast Bread

The first five miles were through the river valley and were pretty enjoyable. Mosquitoes were out but not terrible and there were some beautiful meadows.

Big Wet Meadow

Looking down to Big Wet Meadow

The climbing started after we passed Big Wet meadow and continued steadily towards the pass. We were all going pretty slow and took a much needed lunch break at Colby Lake. It was a fantastic spot and we were really tempted to spend the night there but ambition and common sense overruled and we pushed on after a refreshing swim. The final mile up to the pass is really steep, with many switchbacks. I was definitely feeling the altitude.

The top of Colby pass is spectacular with wide views to the east and west.

Colby Pass

near Gallats Lake

The rest of the day was downhill to our campsite on the Kern-Kaweah river.

Moonlight over the Kern-Kaweah

Day 3 (~ 14 miles) Kern-Kaweah river to just south of Forester Pass

For some reason I had it in my head that today was supposed to be an easy day. I guess I should have paid attention to the elevation profile a bit more. We descended for the morning until we joined up with the High Sierra Trail. After that it was a steady climb up the valley and then east across to the PCT/JMT. My stomach was bothering me for a good part of the day, another sign that I wasn't acclimatized. I think the other guys were not feeling too hot either. Despite not feeling 100%, as soon as we hit the high country and everything opened up I was really, really happy to be out there.

more climbing

map check

We joined the PCT and started north towards Forester, the last time I was here everything was covered in snow and I could pump out 25 miles a day. This time around, I struggled to do 15.

looking south on the PCT near Forester Pass

Locus gear pyramid tarp

Day 4 (~ 13 miles) south of Forester to campsite on Bubbs Creek

We hit Forester in the morning and despite it being the highest pass we would cross, it was one of the easier ones. The last switchbacks up to the pass are steep but they went by quickly and very soon we found ourselves looking down. Today I had a headache, which didnt really go away until we made it to our last camp, which was at around 8000 feet.

Looking north

After Forester it was literally all down hill. The scenery is amazing and we took numerous stops to photograph and enjoy the view.

looking back towards Forester Pass

view down to Vidette Meadow

Peaks along Bubbs Creek

the last camp

Day 5 (~ 8 miles) Bubbs Creek to Road's End

Sleeping next to the creek was great, it seems that the noise from the creek provides for wonderful dreams. We packed up quickly and cruised the last 8 miles to the car.

Bubbs Creek trail

looking up Paradise Valley