Friday, July 09, 2004

Middle Kings Day 1

Middle Fork of the Kings River

After our 5 hour Devil’s Postpile shuttle ride through Yosemite, the strain of the trip could be seen on everyone’s faces (or maybe it was the strain from John Grace’s driving. Still glad to be alive and on the other side of the Crucible, we were facing a steeply dropping Middle Kings. The High Sierra had been experiencing massive thunderstorms since before we set out on the San Joaquin. We needed to rest and recoup, shop for 6 days worth of overnighter foodstuffs, and organize our pack mules for the trip over the pass.

Buffy flew into LA on Monday for a visit with friends, and then headed to Bishop via bus. Clay Wright and Jed Weingarten caught wind of our trip and rang up to see if they could join our group. We gave them a big “thumbs up” and planned a sunset rendezvous at the Hot Creek Hot Springs just outside of Mammoth Lakes.

The hotsprings, very rejuvenating.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Al g taking the dare and swimming across the “hot spot”.

Sunrise at our high desert camp.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Along with Jed and Clay, Dixie-Marree Pricket and Christie Dobson joined us at our desert camp. We spent the next two days fixing kayaking, loading gear and related off river work. We spoke with several mountain climbers in Bishop trying to arrange human porters to help schlep our gear the 13 miles to the put-in. We found prices high and enthusiasm low, so we headed up to the Rainbow Pack Station to work out a mule train at least to the top of the pass.

The bizarre weather of the previous 6 weeks had led to a minimum of snowmelt at the highest elevations. The packers felt that the chance of clearing the pass was grim to none. Faced with the reality of hauling our fully loaded boats most of the way to the river, we repacked our gear, attempting to save valuable ounces of weight. Due to a previous ankle injury and lack of porters to carry all of his gear, Jed bailed out the night before we were to start. Our group called it an early night, falling asleep to the sounds of Clay packing his bags.

To our surprise we awoke to Clay also saying he was out, fearing the 6.5 miles of downhill into the Le Conte canyon would ruin his knees. Fred, who suffered a lower abdominal tear also backed out, due to his inability to perform even the smallest sit-up.
So we headed to the pack station three less and six strong.

The hike to the top of the pass (5ish miles) was a real pleasure with just our kayaks and no gear. Sooner than later we reached the first snowfield and decided to wait to ensure that the donkeys could clear it. Sure enough they made it most of the way to the top, but were stopped mid switchbacks. Our crew attempted to clear the way, but the first Donkey fell and was unable to get up until her pack was cleared from her back. It was here that we reunited with all our gear. Day hikers Clay Wright and Al G helped the boaters get their gear to the top of the pass.

The top.

photo by Nikki Kelly

John Grace and Baloo the Dog

photo by Nikki Kelly

After a short break we headed down the hill into Dusy Basin. We hiked for another four hours fully loaded until we reached ‘the brink”. The river right wall of the LeConte Canyon of the Middle Kings lay across the large pit below us. We hiked half way down “the switchbacks from hell” aka the Knee Buster walk and made camp on a lower bench. We met two Pacific Crest Trail hikers who were headed to Bishop for a resupply. The one who had come from downstream informed us that there was “some stuff” down there and that we were going to have to get out of the river a lot.

The view of LeConte Canyon from the brink.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Kicking it at “the Brink” after 8 hours of hiking.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Video from Day "The Big Hike"
Click Here


At 12:50 PM, Blogger Chuck said...

Dude, these pics and this blog are over the top. Great stuff. Great, great stuff.


At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My prayers go out to Daniel and his family. He will be missed.


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