Sunday, August 30, 2015

Miyuki Harwood (62) Found Alive After Nine Days

Dale Matson

Miyuki was on a Sierra Club backpacking trip in the Sierra National Forest. They were on a day hike to Horsehead Lake (10,394’) when she became separated from the group. The lake is about 20 miles west of Courtright Reservoir near the Blackcap Basin. This area abuts the western boundary of Kings Canyon National Park. The search was a multiagency effort with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office in command of the search.

She was injured with broken bones and could not walk. She was able to crawl to a water source where she could use a filter but had no food for the nine days she was lost.

The nine-day search ended with searchers hearing her whistle for help. Despite the ongoing smoke problems from the Rough Fire nearby, the CHP helicopter was able to find a path through to land and take her to the hospital in Fresno. The smoke also hindered the insertion of searchers who had to hike in 20 miles to the search area because the helicopters could not fly through the smoke.

I was not a part of this search because of health reasons but applaud my Fresno County SAR teammates for their effort and persistence under difficult circumstances in high altitude, smoke and challenging terrain.

It is always rewarding to hear of someone being found alive after such a long period and searchers will remain optimistic, keeping this experience in mind during future searches. Thanks also to the other agencies who participated. A search of this magnitude for a lost individual under these extreme circumstances, once again, demonstrates the value law enforcement officers and civilian volunteers put on human lives.

Here is a link to the story from the Fresno Bee.

Kearsarge Basin

Dale Matson

About 7 miles from Onion Valley To Bullfrog Lake
About 2,500’ Of Altitude Gain To Kearsarge Pass (11,709’)

Kearsarge Basin reminds me a bit of Humphrey’s Basin. They both have water much of the way on the civilized climbs to their respective passes. Each climb includes several lakes. For those who want a more leisurely pace to Kearsarge Basin, there are camping places at these lakes. I say “civilized” when compared to say, Taboose Pass. They are both “Trans Sierra” hikes that follow eastward flowing creeks. In this case the trail follows Independence Creek.

Kearsarge pass was named after a silver mine and a Union ship that sank the Confederate ship the Alabama. That is how the Alabama Hills (A Confederate Ship) got the name. The pass is a favorite of folks who are resupplying others on the John Muir Trail (JMT) and PCT. It is also a good way to get to the Rae Lakes Loop instead of coming east from Road’s End in Cedar Grove. Those who want to do a trans Sierra hike in one day go from Onion Valley to Road’s End in Kings Canyon Park. Sometimes two groups will head out. One will come from Road’s End and the other from Onion Valley. They will meet along the way, switch car keys and drive out at the other end.

This is the most popular pass over the Sierras with hikers and backpackers and one where you might see the endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep from the Mt. Baxter herd unit. The most convenient wilderness permit station for multi day hikes is in Lone Pine.  Make certain you resupply with filtered/purified water by Flower Lake. Heart and Pothole Lakes are too far below the trail to be practical sources.

When you reach Kearsarge Pass, the view will be both impressive and expansive. As you face west, Mt. Gould will be on your immediate right. You will be able to see the Kearsarge Pinnacles towering above Kearsarge Lakes. Ansel Adams has a photograph including both. Further west, you can see Bullfrog Lake that remains closed to camping but has excellent photographic opportunities.

After leaving the pass, you will come to a trail junction. Although the two trails parallel each other, the northern trail travels about 400’ above the trail to the south. The northern trail is intended for those folks intending to meet up with the JMT/PCT and head north over Glen Pass. The southern trail is intended for those wanting to go to Kearsarge Lakes, meet up with the southbound JMT/PCT or those headed to the popular Charlotte Lake. There is a wilderness ranger station at that location. Charlotte Lake is visible from the [upper trail] to Glen Pass.

Although I have passed above Kearsarge Basin on my way to Rae Lakes on the upper trail twice, I did have the opportunity to take the lower trail on my way to Center Basin.

 Click On Photographs To Enlarge

 Independence Creek
Gilbert Lake
 Flower Lake

 Heart Lake
 Big Pothole Lake
 Kearsarge Pinnacles And Lakes
 Bullfrog Lake In Distance

 Trail Heading To Bullfrog Lake

 Bullfrog Lake

 East Vidette Left Center
 Small Unnamed Lake West Of Bullfrog lake

   Sierra Resupply
Bullfrog Lake From Upper Trail

Friday, August 28, 2015

Yosemite: Day Hike To Ostrander Lake

Dale Matson
About 13 miles round trip

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Hike Route From Glacier Point Road To Ostrander Lake

The trailhead for this hike is off Glacier Point Road. Continue past the Badger Pass entrance (about mile 5) and pass the entrance to Bridalveil campground. The trailhead is next with signage. There is parking, a bathroom facility and bear boxes at the trailhead. Any food you are not taking with you can go in the bear boxes. There is also a trail from the Bridalveil Campground that joins this trail for those who camp there. 
I have done this hike several times over the years and as a backcountry ski destination twice. It is a much easier hike than it is a ski destination. Because of the heavy snowpack, the trail markers are high in the trees and some are old government license plates.  I have a YouTube video of one of my winter ski trips I uploaded in 2010 to Ostrander Lake here. Most folks who ski to Ostrander Lake stay overnight at the ski hut. This is a well-marked and travelled trail. We passed backpackers who intended to stay overnight at the lake. An overnight would offer better hours for photographs of this lake that reminds me of Pear Lake in Sequoia Park.

As Yosemite hikes go, this is one of the more civilized with about 1,800’ of ascent overall. The trail is mostly dirt with no water available along the way this time of year. I recommend an early start for a hike that will take about 8 hours at a casual pace. The first three miles are relatively flat and travel through open meadows and woods. There is not much of a view until you are about one and a half miles from the lake. Horizon Ridge offers the first views to the northeast of features such as Mt. Clark, Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest. Trees obstruct the panorama as you climb along the ridge.You top out about 8,600’ and then descend about 100’ to the lake. It is the only dependable water resupply for those who purify or filter their water. It is a great place to have lunch and rest before heading back. It is also a nice place for a cooling swim. Ostrander Lake is the headwaters of Bridalveil Creek, which eventually becomes Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley. The creek was essentially dry when we hiked it. In the winter, the lake is frozen and the view is starker. The ski hut is only open in the winter.

The best unobstructed view is on the way back from the lake. When you finish the climb out, there will be a series of large boulders along each side of the trail. Not long after that, there is a use trail to your right and it will take you to the best place to view and photograph the mountains.

I used three lenses for the photographs with my Sony A7R2. The adapted Canon 17-40mm lens worked best at Ostrander Lake. The Zeiss 55mm 1.8 worked as my walk around lens and the Sony G 70-200mm worked to reach out into the park from the unobstructed vista. I believe if you have a lens with more optical zoom, you could see the folks on the saddle and top of Half Dome. This combination of camera and lenses only adds about 5 pounds to my day hike gear.

Half Dome From Horizon Ridge (South West)

I have some photos and 2 small video clips on YouTube here: