Just completed instructing my first Outward Bound Course for 2012. For three weeks, eight students and two co-instructors and I explored around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We traveled over a hundred miles on foot between the hot elevation of a mile high to nearly 12000' above sea level. All eight students successfully completed a goal-oriented backpacking course with a theme of "self discovery". This update will focus on the students experience and images of traveling the Sierra Nevada on foot. Enjoy! 

Ready to hike Marvin Pass trail head - Day 2

This is our crew right before our first day of backpacking. Left to Right: D.Katz, Wes, Andrew, Carolyn, Dillon, Christian, Elana, Maggie, Damaris, Juliet and Alisa 
The first few days of course we spent teaching skills, hiking, swimming, climbing peaks and traveling off-trail. The images below help illustrate. 
 

Carrying our packs up to Sheepcamp Lake from Seville lake - Day 4

Climbing up from Sheepcamp Lake to attempt to climb the west summit of the "Fin" - Day 4

The last of the grass ramp to the summit of the "Fin" - with Sheepcamp Lake in the background - Day 4

Climbing to the summit of the "Fin" - with Sheepcamp Lake in the background - Day 4

Looking North towards the Silliman Crest and Twin Peaks from the south summit of the "Fin" - Day 4

The Crew on top of the "Fin" - Day 4

The Crew near the north summit of "Twin Peaks" - Day 5 - Photo by Josh Garrison

Dave on the north summit of "Twin Peaks" - Day 5 - Photo by Josh

On Day 6 we traveled down the East Fork of Clover Creek and that night I left the field to see a doctor due to a upper respiratory infection. I returned to my crew on Day 9 of course chock full of Amoxicillin. The trail head that I began from at Mineral King features pesky marmots that have been reported to chew through radiator hoses. This apparently is an attempt to gain much needed salt that is lacking from the marmot's diet of grass. As I have experienced my fair share of marmot related damage to my salty gear, I thought this parking lot to be an interesting stop my in journey. The picture below shows compares creative marmot-damage prevention technique to the "come eat me I'm salty" technique. 

Marmot Damage Prevention at Mineral King - Day

In order to catch my group after leaving the field I had to hike 8 miles over the Timber Gap. We got a flat tire on the way up the Mineral King road so our departure time from the trail head was delayed until 7pm. Luckily another friend, Josh L., from base camp came to hike me out to my group. We traveled efficiently and although we had to gain almost three thousand feet, we covered the distance in about four hours and arrived to a sleeping crew a bit before midnight at Pinto Lake. We caught a great sunset from the Timber Gap. 

Sunset from the Timber Gap, Mineral King - Day 9

The day I joined back up with my crew they were heading over the Great Western Divide. The climb from Pinto Lake at 8800' to Black Rock pass at 11,600' proved challenging. My co-instructors each carried 10L (20lbs) of water up the pass to supplement the student's water bottles as there is very little water along the trail. The next photos show the students hiking up to the pass. We reached the top of the pass around 5pm. On the top of the pass we caught a view of Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48 states) and the Kaweah massif. The descent down the west side of Blackrock Pass to Little Five Lakes took only a few hours. 

Headed up from Pinto Lake - Day 10

Headed up - Sawtooth Range in the backdrop- Day 10

Climbing Black Rock Pass - Day 10

Climbing Black Rock Pass - Day 10

Final steps to Blackrock Pass - Day 10

The crew descending to Little Five Lakes from Black Rock Pass (look closely) - Day 10


After we descended from the alpine we put our students out on solo where they would have a rest (both physically and socially) from the rigors of course. Secluded alone to a small space near the Big Arroyo River the individuals spent 48 hours alone. With little food or distractions, the students had a chance to reflect on their accomplishments and goals for course. During this time the instructor team monitored their well being with brief visual checks and caught up on paperwork. After solo the students were stoked to see their peers and we hiked back up into the alpine for an "Astro-bivy" in the Nine Lakes Basin. 

The crew after solo heading up into the Nine Lakes Basin - Day 13

Heading up into the Nine Lakes Basin - Day 13

Dillon chilling on boulders near Eagle Scout Peak - Day 13

Elana looking up the Big Arroyo drainage - Day 13

Maggie filling up water in the Big Arroyo River - Day 13

After we arrived in the Nine Lakes basin and completed our "Astro-bivy" we took a day hike up to a unnamed laked at 11,700'. Once there, Carolyn taught a lesson on Diversity and Inclusion. On the way up we saw a small snowfield in which a snowball party ensued. 

Students on the snowfield -Day 14

Students gathered in discussion at the lake at 11,700'- Day 14

Students gathered in discussion at the lake at 11,700' - Day 14

After we left the lake at 11,700, we descended back to our packs, and hiked over the Kaweah Gap towards Hamilton Lake. The weather was foggy and windy, but as we approached the lake the skies cleared. 

Wind and fog on the Kaweah Gap - Day 14

Various forms of Plank Challenges on the Kaweah Gap - Day 14

Descending to Hamilton Lake - Day 14

Descending to Hamilton Lake - Day 14

Descending to Hamilton Lake - Day 14

The infamous rock tunnel on the High Sierra Trail above Hamilton Lakes - Day 14

Passing by 2000' granite wall called the "Angel's Wings" near Hamilton Lakes - Day 14

Descending the High Sierra Trail from Hamilton Lakes - Day 14

Group portrait at Hamilton Lake - Day 15

Passing under the "Angel's Wings" - Day 15

Day 15 was our resupply. We split our group to pick up the food and take out the trash. This meant that four students had to carry all the crews food for 3 miles. Packs leaving the resupply were likely upwards of 50lbs.

Descending the High Sierra Trail to Lone Pine Creek - Day 15

The trail heading up to Lone Pine Creek and Tamarack Lake - Day 15

 resupply our route went off trail up to Lonely Lake. Lonely Lake is also called "Bit-o-Bob" lake as a man named Bob once fell into the lake and never came out. We spent two nights at Lonely Lake. We got up high on Lonely Peak and swam in the lake. Good times!

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake - Day 16

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Traveling off trail up to Lonely Lake Pass - Day 18

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Group portrait after completing Main and graduating to "Finals" - Day 18

After the students get to "Finals" it is their responsibility for navigating and taking care of the group. As Instructors we follow the group and intervene only when the safety of the group is in question. On this course the students navigated for three days over 25 miles of mountain terrain on their own! Quite impressive. 

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Descending into Deadman Canyon - Day 18

Descending into Deadman - Day 18

Descending into Deadman - Day 20

Campfire at Moraine Meadows - Day 19

Descending Sphinx Creek to Bubbs Creek - Day 20

Descending Sphinx Creek to Bubbs Creek - Day 20


On Day 21 the students were to report to "Roads End" at 630am, which from Bubbs/Sphinx junction (campsite for night of Day 20) lies a little more than four miles. The crew's first night hike was conducted mostly in silence. Beginning around 7am, as a final challenge to the students, we offered a Personal Challenge Event which consisted of a five mile run and a dip into the freezing waters of the south fork of the Kings River. Lunch of fresh fruits and vegetable sandwiches followed the PCE. At the end of day 21 we celebrated graduating course with burritos, a campfire and our pin ceremony. 

"There is more in you than you know. If we were made to see it, we would forever be unwilling to settle for less" - Kurt Hahn ~ Founder of Outward Bound ~ 

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