Sunday, July 26, 2009

PCT: Rock Creek to Crabtree Meadow and Mount Guyot

I have done the stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Rock Creek Trail to Crabtree Meadow, 7.3 total miles, on two different occasions: first on August 12, 1993 and then on July 30 and 31, 2008. The first trip was part of a larger backpacking trip where we did White Mountain, Mount Langley, Mount Muir and Mount Whitney. The second trip was part of a Redlands Stake Mount Whitney High Adventure Trip where we did Mount Langley, spent time in the Miter Basin, including a hike to Sky-Blue Lake, and then to Mount Whitney.

On both trips we spent the night at Soldier Lake after doing Mount Langley. On the 1993 trip, we went from Soldier Lake to Crabtree Meadow where we camped the next night for our hike to Mount Whitney. Rick DeLong and I also did a side trip to climb Mount Guyot, which is just off the PCT. On the 2008 trip, we went in the afternoon from Soldier Lake to Rock Creek, a short trip, to camp in preparation for our hike the next day to Guitar Lake, in preparation for Whitney. However, on the 2008 trip, I had altitude sickness and decided to hike out early. I woke up about 2:00 a.m. at Rock Creek and, with Andrew, backpacked all the way out to Whitney Portal that day, over Trail Crest, bypassing Mount Whitney.

I keep track of my mileage on the PCT and have aspirations of completing the entire trail. One issue that arises is whether you have to do every inch of the trail to say you have done it, or if slight detours are okay. The issue arises in two segments of the PCT here. First, I have not done the 4.9 miles of the PCT between the first Rock Creek turnoff (toward Soldier Lake) and the second Rock Creek turnoff (coming from Soldier Lake) because the side trip to Soldier Lake, although longer, is more scenic and offers better camping. Second, at Crabtree Meadow, there is a spot where the PCT goes left to meet up with the JMT, or goes right to meet up with the JMT again, as part of a Mount Whitney side trip. Most people doing the PCT take the Mount Whitney side-trip and skip the short section of the PCT that is cut-off by following the JMT back to the PCT (.6 or .7 tenths of a mile). I asked this question of my nephew, Rick DeLong, who is currently doing the entire PCT. He said his feeling, and that of most thru-hikers, is that excursions that skip portions of the route are okay, so long as you are still hiking through the same general area. I guess under that interpretation, I could be considered as having done the above two segments of the PCT even though I have not actually hiked those exact sections of the trail.

On the 2008 trip, not far past the junction of the Rock Creek Trail and the PCT, we stopped to camp at a beautiful spot near Rock Creek and a large waterfall. Most of the boys arrived before we did and found wonderful fishing, unlike what they had found at the Cottonwood Lakes and Soldier Lake. They made up for their prior frustrations, catching about 19 fish. Andrew had prepared ahead for this event, packing in olive oil and a mixture of spices, including a heavy amount of garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Using my frying pan, Andrew cooked fish for the entire camp. And it was wonderful. People who did not like fish tried it and liked it. I had altitude sickness, but tried it and liked it and was able to keep it down. It was probably the best trail meal I've ever had. Below, I hold the pan while Andrew stirs the ingredients around in the pan.

The same scene, seen from a little further back.

In 1993, we camped at Soldier Lake and our destination that night was Crabtree Meadow, with Mount Whitney the next day. Before reaching Mount Guyot, we crossed Rock Creek, at 9,480 feet, and began a long switchbacking, uphill climb out of the Rock Creek Drainage. In 1.5 miles we crossed Guyot Creek, at 10,350 feet, and then continued switchbacking up, until shortly before the pass, at 10,920 feet, about an additional 1 mile further, Rick DeLong and I headed toward Mount Guyot, following its ridge. Below, Mt. Guyot, viewed as we trudged up the switchbacks.
The picture of Mt. Guyot below, taken after we climbed it, was taken from Guyot Flat and shows the ridge, to the left, we used to climb to the summit.

We climbed an additional 1,400 feet to the 12,300 foot summit, much of it boulder hopping. I took the picture below with a 300 mm lense. It shows Rick DeLong on one of the summit rocks with Mount Whitney in the background. The relatively horizontal line in the picture is Mt. Hitchcock, which is in between Mount Guyot and Mount Whitney.

Below, a more panoramic view of the same picture. Mount Whitney is the peak furthest to the left. Mount Muir is the pointed peak in the center of the picture.

Mount Guyot was great for getting a sense of the layout of the country. Mount Kaweah, below, was on the other side of the Kern River Drainage.

The Kern River Drainage is below.

Below is the Rock Creek Drainage. Following the drainage, at the top of the picture, the trail up to Army Pass would follow the canyon up to the left, as would the trail up to the Miter Basin.
After climbing Guyot, about a 3 mile round trip, Rick and I hiked back down to the pass, where we met Mark and Joe Richey, David Kenison, Brian Lehnhof and Peter Walker. We continued on down to Guyot Flat. Then with a little more ascent, we begin a descent with views of Crabtree Meadows and Mount Whitney. Below, Joe Richey, with Mount Whitney in the background.

3.5 miles from the pass near Mount Guyot, we crossed Whitney Creek near Crabtree Meadow. The PCT went left for .8 miles to a junction with the John Muir Trail. However, because we were doing Mount Whitney, we continued on the right fork for 1.1 miles to a different junction with the John Muir Trail at 10,640 feet and then another .1 miles or so, near the Crabtree Ranger Station where we camped for the night.

In 2008, when Andrew and I left Rock Creek after 2:00 a.m., we were hiking in the dark until just about the time we were descending with Crabtree Meadow and Mount Whitney in the background. I felt horrible going up the pass near Mount Guyot and eventually had Andrew lead so that I could follow him without having to think about it. I was grateful to have Andrew with me. I'm not sure I had enough juice to make it out on my own. I think I might have just layed down. As we got to the campsites, right before the ford of Whitney Creek, we took a break and then passed Pete Nelson and Craig Wright. They were with a different group and had summited Whitney the day before. It was extremely cold and I was shivering badly. They registered their concerns about my being able to continue on, but we thanked them and continued for what turned out for me to be a very long and hard hike the rest of the way up the backside of Mount Whitney.

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