One of the things we were most excited about in Colombia was a summit attempt on a 17,000+ ft glaciated volcano in the Northern Andes: Nevado del Tolima. The ascent is pretty non-technical and guides don’t require any previous mountaineering knowledge or fitness restriction. There are multiple guide services and itinerary for this trek between 3-5 days, some with a stop over to a natural hot springs, some extending to hit the two other nearby glaciated peaks. We booked a guide for four days with SAWA Travel with 12,000 ft of gain and picked up one extra person on the itinerary for a little lower cost (still $450 pp). We wanted to use a guide to help us navigate logistics, local weather and contribute to the local economy. I think a guide is required to attempt the summit, but I’m not sure.
I had some time off work to burn before the new year. I would normally go to the alpine, but it was already pretty cold at normal elevations. Let alone above 10,000ft with limited daylight. So I did some brief research and found that a sought after slot canyon backpacking trip in the desert had plenty of permits this time of year: Buckskin Gulch.
There are a few ways to do Buckskin Gulch, but the way I did it was a 44mi trip from Wire Pass to Lee’s Ferry (GPX) with no elevation gain besides when you choose to get out of the river and go over a bank. The first third is through a near continuous, close slot canyon with 200 ft walls. The second third through a wider carved river canyon with many hundred feet walls that kinda felt like The Narrows with how much time I spent in the river. The last third had some boulder sections and became more like a silt bottomed river through a more open desert and I spent much less time in the river. Surprise to me, I think I liked the middle section the best as it was a more dynamic landscape even though the first third is probably the most unique.
On our trip to the 300 days of rain, fishing village of a city that is Bergen we decided to take a trek out to an alpine hut. I chose the longest hut from trailhead in the area (Nansenbu) which also turned out to be the most easily accessible by train. The trip was 9 mi and 4200 ft from the train station in Voss to the hut. It featured an unexpected plethora of snow fields, a foot soaking amount of steep muddy trail and a picturesque alpine hut all to ourselves.
Ahhhhh permitting in the Eastern Sierra. When I moved to Mammoth Lakes, I was stoked for walk up permits because I could finally get them easily from the Mammoth Welcome Center the day before. However, after COVID, ‘walk up’ turned into two weeks before the entry date and all online. Great for non-residents like I used to be, but a bummer as a resident because it meant using an online system that can be hyper competitive. Thus we got a permit for Laurel Lakes just out of Mammoth Lakes and then went over the Laurel Col. to the Convict Lake Basin to climb Mt. Baldwin.
I had this grand idea of doing a traverse of the Pioneer Basin peaks, 8mi and 4k elevation gain of ridgeline. Followed by going over Hopkins Pass, making our way out to Duck Lake in Mammoth Lakes with peak bagging along the way. Then the plan hit reality and things were more difficult than I had hoped… (the proposed route)
Iva Bell Hot Springs are a backcountry hotspot for warm pools of water. The journey would bring us through thorny bushes, over many large logs, across bridged rivers and finally battling algae in these backcountry host springs. In all the trip would take us 35 miles, 6,800 ft over two long days.
Over “ski week” I drove off to the Grand Canyon for a multi-day backpacking trip on unmaintained backcountry trails. I am kinda a snob about the difficulty of backcountry travel outside the steep and stark Eastern Sierra, expecting the backpacking to be easy, on a beach and along a river after the way down. What I got was rugged trails, 3rd class, exposure and a tourist destination all to ourselves.
Getting in a couple more backpacking trips before it gets too cold. This weekend Sadie, Piton and I went up McGee Creek just a couple canyons down from Mammoth Lakes. It took us seven hours to hike to 11,100 ft camp along an eight mile, 3500 ft gain trail and three and a half hours back. [Map]
In late July 2021 I went on a moderate backpacking trip out of Agnew Meadows (near Devils Post Pile) hitting Thousand Island, Ediza and Minaret Lakes. I went with a group of six of which I knew only one person, my good friend Brian who I’ve done a lot with (Shasta, Williamson, Lassen, Convict Lake and Mt. Morrison). Overall we spent four easy days going 31 miles and nearly 6,000 ft, including some day hikes that Brian and I did. (map)