Over the past few years, our team has embarked on a summer backpacking trip. In 2021, we were lucky enough to get permits for the Cables On Halfdome. We backpacked to Little Yosemite Valley from Happy Isle on the first day. After spending a night, we summited the cables. We then returned to Little Yosemite Valley and celebrated with a dip in the cool Merced River. In 2022, we received overnight permits for the Whitney Zone. In this trip, we backpacked to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet and spent the night. After a restless sleep, we summited the highest peak in the lower 48 and returned to camp.
We conduct these trips for several reasons. First, they help us practice our muti-day backpacking skills. Each of the trips have been a three-day, two-night adventure. Secondly, these journeys test our physical conditioning. These over 20-mile round trip hikes at elevation try our legs and lungs. Most importantly, we schedule these events to have fun and build camaraderie. Nothing builds teamwork, trust, and companionship like struggling together. It is these difficult endeavors that bring us closer together.
This year, the team had a permit for the Cottonwood Lakes area of the Inyo National Forest. We planned a four-day, three-night trip to help us acclimatize. On 9/15/23, we went to Horseshoe Meadows and camped at the trailhead. This night at 10,000 feet was useful. The next day, we hiked to Long Lake via a trail that passed to the west of Flat Top. The trail took us through beautiful meadows and gave us a close view of Cirque Peak. The 6.5-mile hike was fairly gentle with only 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
On 9/17/23, we woke early and went for the summit. We choose to go via New Army Pass, as Old Army Pass had mixed reviews on its safety. We slowly hiked our way to the top of the pass. Once at the top, we saw the daunting profile of Mount Langley. Undeterred, we hiked until we arrived at the base of the peak. From there, giant cairns guided us up the mountain. Between the gravel soil, the steep incline, the height elevation, and the small class 3 scramble, the final mile was very challenging. Thankfully, everyone was feeling strong and arrived at the top by 1 PM. The views were breathtaking, and the weather was perfect. It was the perfect setting for a quick summit lunch and celebratory pictures. Once our meal was completed, we made the long hike back to camp in a few hours. In total, the summit day was near 11 miles and 9 hours of time.
On 9/18/23, we woke up for the last time in the beauty of the mountains. We packed our camp and made the 6.5-mile hike back to the car via the traditional route. We took one final picture at the trailhead and drove down to Lone Pine. Once in town, we enjoyed a well-earned burger at one of the local restaurants.
With the 2023 trip in the books, we will look forward to next year. We have several ideas of where we would like to go, but for now, we are enjoying the pictures and memories.
Until next time, stay safe and carry your ten essentials!https://montrosesar.org/blog/navigating-angeles-national-forest-safely-the-montrose-search-and-rescue-teams-guide-to-the-10-essentials/