Taboose Pass ~ October 2015

Sunset on Arrow Peak from Taboose Pass.

Taboose Pass ~ October 2015

Taboose Pass - Center Basin - Lake Marjorie - Bench Lake

With only a few more days of good weather before the first real winter storms hit I headed up Taboose Pass for a five day cross country solo trek. Taboose Pass is one of the four steep passes that provide relatively quick access over the Sierra Crest and directly into the High Sierra. The price for such convenient access are big climbs of around 6,000 feet in under 10 miles. In the summer a very early start is required to avoid the hot temperatures at lower elevations, but by starting in the fall the weather was enjoyable the entire way. 

Once over Taboose Pass the plan was to cross three off-trail passes into some remote basins that have been on my radar for a few years. The fall colors were beautiful but unfortunately there was enough snow lingering on the north facing slopes that I had to avoid my cross country plans and stay in the relative safety of Center Basin, Lake Marjorie and Bench Lake. 

Shoulder Season Gear List - 2015

Let the Gram Gods rejoice! The latest gear list has finally arrived for all of us gearheads out there interested in keeping our packs lightweight while having some fun in the backcountry during the colder shoulder season. Only use lightweight gear if you have the experience and skills necessary to stay safe, warm and well fed in the backcountry:

Horseshoe Meadows Loop - September 2015

Sly Blue Lake in Miter Basin.

Horseshoe Meadows Loop 2015

Cottonwood Pass - Guyout Pass - Crabtree Pass - New Army Pass

I always keep backpack ready just in case the opportunity arises to get away for a weekend in the High Sierra . . . so when the mountain gods provided an opening last weekend I grabbed my gear and headed for the backcountry. 

It wasn't long before I found myself reciting the necessary regulations to the ranger, "six to eight inches, durable surfaces, bear canister, one hundred feet, carry out all trash". There was no need to speak in complete sentences, he knew that I knew the deal. The ranger hardly looked up while handing me a permit for the Cottonwood Pass trail out of Horseshoe Meadows. 

I left the Cottonwood Pass trailhead at 1:00 pm on Friday and followed the familiar sandy trail toward the pass at 11,140 feet. After a few hours I joined the Pacific Crest Trail and headed north toward Crabtree Meadow. 

Just before the Chicken Spring Lake I was surprised to meet a few PCT hikers. They were going southbound from Canada to Mexico and appeared to be well seasoned hikers. As we chatted one of them commented, "that's a small pack your carrying". I was traveling with one of my smallest homemade packs as part of a minimalist setup; only 12 pounds with gear, food and fuel for three days. 

We talked for a while but I didn't linger too long, I wanted to make the 20 miles to Crabtree Meadow before dark. . .

3 Season San Gorgonio Gear List ~ 2015

For a recent trip on the Forsee Loop trail in the San Gorgonio Mountains I used a comfortable but lightweight gear setup. Since this was only an overnight trip I brought a few luxury items like a full size (extra large) Therm-a-rest X-lite inflatable sleeping pad, warm puffy down anorak style jacket and a full size camera. . . all while still keeping a base weight of 6.5 lbs. So if you are interested in making your trip a little easier next time I hope some of the ideas in this gear list will help. See you on the trail! 

Miter Basin and Mt. Langley ~ October 2014

Falls colors in Miter Basin
There is something special about fall in the High Sierra. The days are shorter and the weather is much colder but the crowds are long gone and the colors are beautiful. Over a long weekend and over 30 miles in the backcountry I saw only four other hikers.  

After spending the night at the trailhead the night before I got an early start on the Cottonwood Lakes trail. I slept in a homemade sleeping bag, but it was only rated to 40 degrees. It was below 40 that night! 

Fortunately I brought warmer gear for the hike in. 

Mt. Brewer Loop ~ October 2014

Kings Canyon

Earlier this summer I planned on traversing the Great Western Divide during a ten day solo trip through the Sierra, but when bad weather approached I had to cut it short. This time I rejoined the Great Western Divide near Lake Reflection for a four day trip over three cross country passes, three remote basins and an attempt at climbing Mt. Brewer.

The plan was to finish the north end of the Great Western Divide during a 40 mile loop out of Roads End in Kings Canyon. Although the total mileage didn't pose a problem the daily climbs were a challenge. The daily elevation change on trail ranged from the 5,000 foot ascent on the first day to the 6,980 foot descent on the hike out. Ouch.

Great Western Divide ~ July 2014

Sunrise on the Kaweah Peaks

Great Western Divide ~ July 2014

Kaweah Basin - Milestone Basin - Thunder Basin

~ Overview Map ~

(Click for full size map)

Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail

The Trans Catalina Trail.
With a total elevation change of over 32,000 feet and a complete lack of switchbacks the Trans Catalina Trail delivers some challenging terrain. The official trail travels 37.2 miles from one end of the island to other and is made up of a collection of old fire roads and use trails. With excursions to Silver Peak, Ben Weston Beach and Lands End my route covered 62 miles in 4 days.

I decided to start the hike at Twin Harbors. My plan was to take the ferry from San Pedro to Twin Harbors, hike to the official end of the TCT at Starlight Beach then follow the trail all the way to Avalon Harbor and catch a ferry back to Dana Point. 

Summer Sierra Gear List 2014

For this years summer gear in the Sierra I used the lightest and most functional options, except for my sleeping pad. After being uncomfortable using the Therm-a-rest ProLite and other thin inflatable pads I finally decided to use an extra large Therm-a-rest Xlite. It is 2.5 inches thick which provides plenty of padding on hard granite surfaces and the 25 inch width leaves room for my shoulders and elbows. Plus, by only partially inflating it the pad follows the contours of my shoulders and hips which means a seriously luxurious sleep every night!! It weighs about a pound but the extra weight is well worth a good nights sleep. 

Even with the addition of the heavy sleeping pad my base weight was only 7 pounds. Since it would not be possible to resupply in the remote areas I would be exploring this summer, I had to carry everything I would need for the whole trip. With food for 10 days and 1 liter average water carried my pack weighed in at 23 pounds on day one. See below for details:

Seven Day Sierra Snow Gear List ~ 2014

This UL gear list has everything I need to stay warm, dry and well fed for a week long trek into the Sierra backcountry. I have used this setup in temperatures in the low teens this winter and slept like a baby. 

The standout piece of gear is the Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid. I custom ordered the Solomid with the lighter 0.51 oz/sqyd cuben material to save some weight. Understandably Ron Bell would not provide the normal warranty with this lighter material as he prefers the slightly heavier 0.70 oz/sqyd cuben. Fortunately the lighter material has held up well even in an all night wind storm at 11,000 feet earlier this year.

If you have any comments, criticisms, recommendations or questions please feel free to send me an email at