XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ Days 1-4

Morning in Kaweah Basin

XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ 

Nine days of Cross Country travel in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

~ Overview Map ~

Click for full size map.

In the spirit of Amy Lauterbach's Big Seki Loop and Mike White's Circle of Solitude I decided to create my own loop through the Sequoia & Kings Canyon area. . . but I wanted to stay off existing trails and use cross country routes as much as possible. At times bad weather chased me down to lower elevation but in the end I crossed 7 High Sierra passes over 81 miles.

Days 1-4: Tablelands to Cloud Canyon

After planning all winter I was excited to get into the backcountry. . . but the forecast was for thunderstorms during the first four days! I figured it couldn't be all that bad so I headed into the unknown. I had rain gear, a double wall ultralight tent and even a new custom backpack. I was ready for the worst possible conditions, and at least I could get closer to the high passes than I would if I just stayed home. It seemed like a logical decision at the time. . . 

XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ Day 5

The outlet of Colby Lake.

~ Day 5: Colby Pass to Kaweah Basin ~

Starting early in the cirque below Colby Lake I kept a fast pace almost all the way to Colby Pass. The wildflowers along the outlet creek from Colby Lake were beautiful. I took a break at an amazing camp site right above the shore of the lake (mental note: great camp for next time). The altitude, heat and humidity finally slowed me down at the base of the long boulderfield but I made it to the top by mid morning. The trailwork on the way to the top is impressive, much like the switchbacks on Mt. Whitney.

Creek below Colby Lake. 

XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ Day 6

Morning in Kaweah Basin

~ Day 6: Kaweah Basin ~

This was a beautiful clear day and I spent hours exploring Kaweah Basin and the neighboring Picket Creek Basin. So much classic Sierra scenery in one day!

Awesome view of the Kaweah Peaks from Island Lake in Kaweah Basin.

XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ Day 7

Cyrstal clear water in Kaweah Basin

~ Day 7: Pyra Queen Col  ~

Lisa, Michael and I got an early start and headed to Pyra Queen Col, one of the few passes that provide access into or out of Kaweah Basin. Pyra Queen Col is a Class II cross country pass and involves steep and loose boulder and scree fields which make for slow going at times. . . but the views are worth the effort.

Michael, Andy & Lisa

Andy & Lisa in Kaweah Basin

Starting the climb to Pyra Queen Col

XSL 2015 ~ Cross Country SEKI Loop ~ Days 8 & 9

Looking across Nine Lakes Basin toward Kaweah Gap

                                             ~ Days 8 & 9: High Sierra Trail ~

Days 8 and 9 were spent exploring some of the High Sierra Trail with a side trip to Tamarack Lake. After many years in the High Sierra I was looking forward to finally seeing Precipice Lake and Hamilton Lake, two of the beautiful lakes along the High Sierra Trail. The scenery didn't disappoint and after some bushwhacking I made camp in the dark along the shore of Tamarack Lake. 

Spring on the Pacific Crest Trail ~ June 2016

Snow dudes. 

This spring my hiking compadre Karl extended an invitation to join him on his annual early season hike on the PCT. I am used to snow in the High Sierra, and I usually bring snowshoes and serious winter gear. . . but Karl assured me that in the early spring we could go without the usual winter setup and hike on the snow with trail runners. I watched the forecast and snow level indicators online, and it looked like we lucked out and would be enjoying a rare week-long window of sunny skies and plenty of hard packed snow!

Bishop Pass ~ March 2016

Mt. Agassiz from the outlet of Long Lake.

Bishop Pass ~ March 2016

After reading a recent article about weekend warriors called The Ultimate 64 Hour Weekend I decided to create my own quick weekend adventure. To make the most of the weekend I left home right after work on Friday, drove all night to Bishop then slept under the stars in the Buttermilk area.

The next morning I sped up South Lake Road until the snow was too deep to drive and parked by the Tyee Lakes trailhead. Following a 3 mile road-walk to the Bishop Pass trailhead I snowshoed over uneven ground on a partially covered trail up to about 10,100'.

From there it was all cross country with the trail usually buried under a few feet of snow. For the rest of the weekend I had the entire wilderness to myself with no sign of tracks from cross country skiers or other snowshoers.

Evolution ~ February 2016

Evolution ~ February 2016

Lamarck Col - Darwin Canyon - Darwin Bench - Evolution Basin

Every winter I get cabin fever. I start to dream about routes for the next summer and relive past adventures while pouring over photos and videos. After a while I find myself wanting to get into the backcountry but waiting months until next summer is just too long. 

So a few years ago I started embracing the fourth season. After a few seasons a small group of my backpacking buddies started to join the winter crew and before long we had a annual snowshoeing trip. 

But last year I struggled to keep up after barely getting over a nasty cold right before the trip. I watched from behind as everyone else strolled up the 2,000 foot climb the first day. I was the slow guy that my friends politely waited for. I was sure they were really thinking something like, "no problem dude, we'll take yet another break so this sorry slow screwball can catch his breath". 

So this year I resolved not to let the gluttonous trifecta of Thanksgiving - Christmas - New Years get the best of me. I spent hours on the local coastal trails building my cardio base. After countless lunges, squats, crunches and overnights at altitude in the local mountains I felt ready to conquer the High Sierra again.

This trip was supposed to be a training hike for the annual snowshoe trip this spring, but when a long weekend opened up suddenly Alpine Mike from the popular online group High Sierra Topix was able to join me. 

Winter Sierra Gear List ~ 2016

In a recent post on Backpackinglight someone asked if it was possible to stay safe, warm, dry and well fed in the winter while keeping an Ultralight base weight (10 lbs or less). 

Fortunately the answer is yes! 

Check out my latest gear list from a recent 4 day snowshoeing trip. I stayed warm and even over-slept down to 10 F using the gear below. 

Let the gram gods rejoice.