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Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary

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Offline SA Bill

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #60 on: July 29, 2008, 06:11:55 AM »
Aaaack! Don't leave us hanging like that!  :nailbitting:

Can't wait for the next installment! Great pics Jeff.

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter,
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
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Offline russco

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #61 on: July 29, 2008, 06:29:55 AM »
Hear ya Bill! Left hangin like a hammock in a tree! :eusa_dance:
Yosemite is quickly becoming my next to-do destination.  :icon_smile:
Carved upon my stone: my body lie but still I ROAM

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
« Reply #62 on: July 29, 2008, 09:20:00 AM »
Jeff,
as always great pictures and narration.  This might be too much information :icon_eek:
Quote


What happened next can charitably be described as rising above a difficult situation. Another description is a disaster narrowly averted. It could just as easily be called a survival situation.

To be continued.

Let me see, lightning or the tree falls over.... :eusa_think:
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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #63 on: July 29, 2008, 11:05:07 AM »
Jeff,

I'm enjoying reading about your grand adventure in "Middle Earth"...very cool.  The pictures look fantastic too.  Is your G9 simply a point and shoot, or are you making adjustments?  Regardless, the images look very Tolkienesqe.  I can't wait to hear the unedited version over a couple of beers.

B

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
« Reply #64 on: July 29, 2008, 11:12:38 AM »
This might be too much information :icon_eek:

That would be knowing how many days in a row I wore those pants.  :eusa_whistle:

Quote
Let me see, lightning or the tree falls over.... :eusa_think:

No trees were hurt during the "what happens next" segment of our tale.

I'm enjoying reading about your grand adventure in "Middle Earth"...very cool.  The pictures look fantastic too.  Is your G9 simply a point and shoot, or are you making adjustments?  Regardless, the images look very Tolkienesqe.  I can't wait to hear the unedited version over a couple of beers.

There was definitely a Middle Earth vibe to the wilderness. Everything seems so big and anciently old, yet wild and raw at the same time. The G9 is a glorified point-and-shoot. Since I shoot RAW, I make few adjustments in the field, mostly messing with exposure times, ISO rating, and turning the digital neutral density filter (2 stops) on and off.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #65 on: July 29, 2008, 04:43:11 PM »
Awesome report and pics so far Jeff!  Yosemite has to be one of the ultimate backpacking destinations I'd like to do before I get too old for this stuff :) 

Good to see the G9 worked out so well for the trip.  Just breaking my G9 in now... playing around with all the settings. 

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: The Tempest
« Reply #66 on: July 29, 2008, 11:16:37 PM »
A wall of wind and rain galloped down the broad basin from Cathedral Pass, 40 miles an hour, 50, maybe more. In an instant, the single stake holding the windward side of the tarp was flung from the ground. The tarp, attached at two points to the hammock, flapped wildly in the gale. Huge drops of icy rain smacked my campsite, and me, sideways, driven by the incredible wind. Booms of thunder echoed off the surrounding peaks; blinding lightning crackled in the sky. The temperature plunged. Then it began to hail.

Where I was not already drenched with sweat from my hike, my single layer on top and bottom was now soaked with chilly rain. I threw my pack onto a flat patch of ground under the spot where my tarp should be. It, and the hammock coil, formed a wide arc, blasted by the wind. I hurriedly attached the leeward end of the tarp to a large rock and flung it on the ground. I wedged a second rock against it. The ground was already covered in ice and water. The hail was coming down as marbles. I grabbed the loose end of the tarp and pulled it over my head and the hammock. All I could do was hold it. The rain lashed at my pants. The wind tried to rip the canopy from my hand. The thunder was deafening.

The lower portion of my pack -- including the foam pad I sleep on and the heat reflector -- was getting wet. Water was running across the ground, pooling up in the duff under my feet. The other side of the tarp loosened -- the rock slid in the muck -- and now I'm holding both ends, my arms straight out from my sides, my head forming the new A-line of the tarp. The only tension it has is from my grip. Hail is pelting my head. I cannot see, as the tarp, whipping in the wind despite my attempts to hold it tight, has blinded me. But for the frequent lightning, I would see nothing at all except the ground immediately beneath me. Portions of the hammock's sheath are exposed to the rain.

Thus I stand, like a cross, desperately clinging to the wind-battered tarp while the furious tempest blasts away. It goes on, and on, and on. I pray. I pray for the hail to stop, for the wind to ease, for the rain to let off just enough for me to secure the tarp. I am shivering. My hands are cold and wet, and I'm losing feeling in my fingers. I don't dare let go. If the tarp flies back over my head, I may not get it back. Hail is piling up around me, and pools of water are getting deeper. Hail lands in the pools, splashing cold water. My boots and socks and pants are soaked. The bottom half of my pack is soaked. I pray the plastic garbage bag protecting my sleeping bag and other clothes is holding back the moisture.

I am shivering. I cannot let go. On and on the storm rages. I must hold tight. I cannot let go. My hands are cold. My core temperature is dropping. My teeth chatter. My mind wraps itself completely around prayer. I turn off the signals from my joints and muscles telling me they can't hold on much longer. I turn off the cold. I become solemnly aware that I will be hypothermic if I cannot get into dry clothes, and soon. I begin to focus. I must focus. This is a survival situation. I must keep a level head. I must make good decisions. I must try to keep my shelter and my gear dry. I shift my head, change my body's orientation slightly and, with quick reflexes, alter my grip on the tarp. I lower the angle of the tarp to block more of the sideways rain. I can do nothing about the hail. My hiking hat, still atop my head, was wet from condensation formed at the point of contact with the tarp. My head is cold, too. There's nothing I can do about it. My hands are numb. There's nothing I can do about it.

Lord, please make this storm stop. Please let the hail end, and calm the winds. I repeat this over and over. I pray for forgiveness. I pray for my family and friends. I feel myself getting colder. The hail picks up, throwing golf ball-sized ice at the earth. I kick at the duff under me, releasing some of the pooled water. I did a channel with my heel. It begins to flow away from me. I spy a large rock just a few feet from me. I release the leeward side of the tarp and lunge for it. Picking it up, I hurriedly wrap the windward side guyline around it and place it on the ground. For now, it is holding, though not at an optimal angle. I recover the other side using both hands and replace the rocks holding it down. I pile some other nearby rocks on top of them. Both sides are somewhat secured. For the first time in over half an hour, both my hands are free. My head is still providing all the tension in the tarp.

Lord, please make this storm stop. The thermometer on my pack says it's 43 degrees. It will drop into the 30s tonight. I cannot count on the sun to warm or dry anything until the dawn. What's wet can't get any wetter. I spend the next several minutes trying to adjust the canopy to cover the hammock, which is still in its sleeves. They're not wet, so maybe the hammock is still dry. With my feet, I adjust the rocks holding the canopy, pushing them further out. The wind is not howling anymore; the hail is getting smaller and slowing. The rain is still heavy; the lightning and thunder continue their scary assault.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I am shivering. My teeth are chattering. I have to get some dry clothes on. Think. Where are your clothes. In a stroke of luck, when I packed this morning -- a chilly morning, it was -- I kept my base layer top on right up until it was time to put on my pack. I usually keep it with the base layer bottoms, camp socks, and sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack. But not today. It's stuffed in one of my camp shoes (Crocs), and they're at the very top. My wind shirt is stuffed in the other camp shoe. My down vest is wedged between my cooking stuff, my rain pants, and the tank top that serves as an alternate dayhiking top. In another stroke of luck, my wool hat is in the top pocket instead of lower down, again the result of the chilly morning. I gather these items, draping them over the sleeved hammock. I am careful to cinch the pack closed and cover the lid.

I take off my drenched hiking shirt and use the camp towel to dry off as best as I can. Then I put on the tank top, followed by the silk base layer, the down vest, and the wind shirt. I put the wool hat over my head and put my hiking hat -- though wet -- over it, since my head is still providing all of the tension for the tarp. The hail has finally stopped. The wind is not as fierce, though gusts still blast by. It has been an hour since the tempest blasted over the crest.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I keep my mind focused on the next single thing I can do to improve my situation, to prevent hypothermia. I drape my foam pad and reflector over the hammock to protect them. They're damp, but not drenched. I use the pack towel to absorb some of the water. I adjust the tarp. I find my gloves, such as they are. They're actually golfing gloves, intended to help with the cables on Half Dome, and not intended to insulate and provide warmth. They go over my wet, cold hands, which I immediately shove under my arms in an attempt to warm them up. The rain picks up. Lightning strikes nearby. The concussive force of the thunder nearly knocks me down. Though the wind shirt is water resistant, it would be better not to get any of my dry clothes wet.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I keep focusing on the one thing I can do to improve my situation, and put all my energy into doing that one thing. Then I focus on the next one thing I can do to improve my situation. I keep adjusting the tarp, even venturing outside its protection for a few seconds to re-tension it. The trees are slightly too close together to get a taut pitch. I retie the sliding tensioner to gain an extra couple of inches. It seems to be holding. Finally, my head is no longer the primary A-line. I re-rig the drip lines for the hammock. I shift the position of the foam pad and heat reflector. Every minute, I rap my gloved hands against the tarp to release water. I use my bandanna and pack towel to remove condensation. It has been raining for two hours. The temperature has fallen to 40 degrees. My legs and feet are still cold. My core temperature is rising, thanks to the down vest and wool hat, which effectively trap body heat, and a wind shirt which sheds the breeze.

Lord, please make this storm stop. The rain has slowed, and there's a slight glow in the sky. I kick at the duff to break up the remaining pools of water. I need to change pants. It's too risky. I might get the sleeping bag wet, or my spare socks, or my base layer. I talk myself out of it. My hands are cold again -- sweat has built up within the gloves. I take them off and stuff them down my vest. When my hands get too cold, I put them back on for a few minutes, then take them off and stuff them back down my vest. I am still cold, and half of me is still wet. It rains for another hour.

I realize I have not seen a flash of lightning in a while. The thunder has grown distant and muted. The sky is not as dark. I peer out from under the tarp, praying to see the sun. It is hidden, but the clouds are showing some detail. There is less rain in the air. Lord, you are making the storm stop.

Finally, at around 6:30 p.m., the rain slows to a mist, then occasional drops, then mostly drips and spatters from the tree limbs above. I venture out from the protection of my tarp. The granite boulders just beyond the trees are already drying out. I stand the foam pad on end on one of the boulders. I tie the wet bandannas, pack towel, and hiking hat to limbs to dry. I pull back the sleeves on the hammock. It's damp. That means my shelter and primary insulation pad are both wet. My sleeping bag won't stay dry. What if I put the reflector on top of the pad, instead of under it? I have nothing to lose by doing that, so I will. I finally get dry bottoms on, but I hold on dry socks. My boots repelled almost all of the water -- only the tops of my socks are still wet.

The thunder fades away. It is almost sunset. The temperature has risen to 45. The sun, shining wanly through the rain clouds, lights up Cathedral Peak like a beacon, and paints a soft orange glow on the tallest pine trees.



Seeing the glow of the sun after this storm was reassuring, and I managed to stay warm and fairly dry through the night. My sleeping pad never dried fully, and the bottom of my hammock stayed damp. The reflector, atop the pad, kept my sleeping bag from getting wet under my core. It was damp at the feet. My hiking clothes were too wet to use as insulation. It paid off that I waited until I settled in for the night to swap out socks. They were warm and dry (They were in fact stuffed down my vest for half an hour before I climbed into the hammock.).

It was a cold night, dipping into the mid-30s. It was also clear, and that meant the sun would rise bright and warm over the ridge in the morning. Everything that was still wet could dry out, and then I could move on and be better prepared in case a similar storm blew up the next day. I prayed again before going to sleep. I actually slept well that night, hardly moving in my cocoon.

Indeed, it was a glorious morning:



The sun shone brightly the morning after the first hail storm battered me at Upper Cathedral Lake. I laid my gear out to dry in its rays while I explored the lake. Tresidder Peak was reflected in its still waters. It was an amazing reversal. Yesterday afternoon, the wind was blasting, hail was falling, thunder was crashing -- everything was moving, churning, tumbling. This morning, all is still and quiet and calm, as though the fury and violence of the storm never happened.

I made it through, and I would be much better prepared when the hail came again.

To be continued.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Al

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #67 on: July 29, 2008, 11:52:23 PM »
Jeff, the fact you do what you do alone shows a LOT of bravery.  I have not been so brave.  (One can't help but think of and gain even greater respect for the scouts and adventurers who discovered that vast wilderness, were truly alone and unequipped compared to you.)  A hiking buddy makes all the difference in a situation like that.  First the oncoming storm may have been seen before it hit. Second, the extra set of hands makes all the difference in getting things together when caught in those circumstances and third, the moral support of another human can make all the difference or they can freak out  and cause a hellacious situation become even worse . . . but that's another story.   Good job but Homero can't believe you didn't take any pictures while this was happening! Please!

Al


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Offline russco

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #68 on: July 30, 2008, 06:08:49 AM »
There's nothing you could do about it......amazing how humbling mother nature and her fury can be!  Great story,Jeff!
Carved upon my stone: my body lie but still I ROAM

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Offline bdhawk133

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #69 on: July 30, 2008, 06:28:34 AM »
Awesome story Jeff! :eusa_clap: I'm glad you came out of it ok. Now I know why you need that larger rainfly over the hammock!!  :icon_biggrin:
It has been discovered that research causes cancer in laboratory rats.
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Offline SA Bill

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #70 on: July 30, 2008, 06:41:11 AM »
WOW!
What an "adventure" you had. Glad you survived! It's scary how fast the weather can change and how that change can put you in grave danger. If you hadn't kept your wits about you, this could have turned out very bad. Praying was a good idea too!!  :eusa_pray:
   Bill
Bill - In San Antonio

Growing old is mandatory.
Growing up is optional.

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Offline bdann

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #71 on: July 30, 2008, 09:58:16 AM »
wow, what a story Jeff!  ...this is a great report...can't wait to hear more.   :eusa_clap:
WATER, It does a body good.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #72 on: July 30, 2008, 11:04:21 AM »
Just when you thought it was the bears you had to worry about  :eusa_shifty:.  It is always amazing the force which a storm can come in with.  Glad you made it through with just some wet stuff and nothing else.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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no shade, no water
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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #73 on: July 30, 2008, 11:22:03 AM »
I've been caught in one of those high altitude sleet/hail storms and they aren't fun at all.  Never been so cold in my life in July.

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Offline Goldilocks

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Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
« Reply #74 on: July 30, 2008, 11:43:36 AM »
It sounds like you had some really bad moments out there. I'm sure it was even more intense than your description.   So glad you are ok!


 


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