Labor Day 2003
By: George Wysup
|I, instead of leaders Sara Wyrens or Dave Beymer, am writing up this trip because I had extra time to plan. You see, I was the only one of our group of 8 not to go up the Nose (explanation later). But since I am writing this, it will be from my own perspective.
My alarm clock sounded off at 2 am Saturday. One reason for this is that I am too cheap a skate to overnight in a motel near Mineral King. Another reason is that Friday night traffic.. . well, you know. I made my way, almost alone on the 210 freeway, to Eric Scheidemantle’s apartment in “Valley Village” (an upscale name given to part of North Hollywood) and piled my stuff and myself into Eric’s tiny (but economical) Mazda Whatever.
This was to be a 3 day trip; backpack in 13 miles with 1500’ gain to Evelyn Lake, bag peak, backpack out from Evelyn Lake. We arrived at Mineral King Ranger Station early for the 9 am appointment, then stood around for another hour or so while the ranger slowly logged in the many groups of hikers—the usual show there.
The group finally got going from the tar Gap trail head (7400’) in Cold Springs campground at about 10:15. The trail took us, up steeply at first, then did a number of ups and downs, and fmally led us to Hockett Ranger Station (8500’) after about 10 miles. The elevation gain to Hockett turned out to be about 2100’, with a drop of about 1000’.
We spent considerable time discussing miscellany with ranger Joe Fortuna and refilling our bottles from his pump. There are several deer, quite tame, that hang around the large meadow there. After we were all quite out of the hiking mood we decided we had better get along to Evelyn Lake, some 3 miles away, before being benighted.
The short trek took us up for about 700’ elevation, then down to the lake at 8700’. There are some decent camp spots near the water. There is no significant inflow or outflow, so we elected to filter its water. I had noted that a small toe was getting more and more irritated during the 13 miles in. No matter, I thought, it will be OK in the morning.
The leaders instructed us to be ready to hike at around 8 am for the anticipated 12 mile round trip jaunt to the Nose. We duly complied, and the group ascended, under cloudy, somewhat threatening skies, from the lake up to the ridge at about 9000’. We easily followed this ridge SW and picked up the trail just before reaching Cahoon Rock (9278’). Cahoon Rock is supposedly the site of an old fire lookout, but we found no sign of this. We continued westward, enduring a raindrop or two, following faint use trails steeply down to a saddle at 8320’. From here we side hilled to the north of bumps 8378’ and 8351’. The skieshad cleared by 10 am and conditions were on the warm side of comfortable.
The terrain was easy enough, but the side hilling did a number on my little toe. No amount of moleskin or tape seemed to help. The boot was just too damned small. I opted to bail at this point, saddle 8200’, and wait for the magnificent seven to return. I killed 5 hours waiting, napping, working on my toe, and snacking. At 3:30 I decided to return to Evelyn Lake. I left a note and set off, figuring in the inner recesses of my mind that I would be better placed in an emergency if I had only a trail hike at night to get to civilization and help.
The toe was more or less OK since the side hilling was opposite on the return. I realized I had some surplus water that they would make good use of so I left a liter in an obvious place at saddle 8320. The return route was straightforward and I reached Evelyn shortly after 6 pm. Looking at the campsite, I could feel that something was wrong here. Then I noticed the white feathers. The source was the inside of a down sleeping bag, which had a large hole in it. A more careful look revealed that some tents had been slashed and many ThermaRest mattresses had been chewed up. Based on the foam rubber being gnawed, I suspected marmots to be responsible, though we had seen nary one. And, marmots do just love to chew on salty (from years of perspiration) sleeping bags. The only good news was that my equipment was unscathed. I attribute this to stuffing my sleeping bag back into my pack and putting a trash bag over the pack (in case of rain). Eric and I were going to share a tent, but saw no reason to pitch it. I use a Ridge Rest mattress, which is made of different plastic foam than the ThermaRest.
I proceed to filter a lot of water to prepare for the return of the others. When it was almost dark, I hiked up the hill to wait until dark. My plan was to wait until an hour after dark, then hightail it 3 miles to Hockett RS and report some absent peak baggers. I knew I would be embarrassed if they showed up OK, but call me a worry-wart. I was saved this embarrassment as they showed up before dark, thirsty and weary but in fine spirits. After all, they had all bagged the elusive Homers Nose!
Here’s the story on Homer as I understand it. The terrain from where I deposited myself got more difficult, but the group was up to it, going around several bumps along the ridge. There was a slight problem as they bagged bump 8942’. There is a register on it, possibly the result of several errant baggings. Realizing the mistake, they went back down the hill and on to the actual Homers Nose, which is a bit to the west of the survey marker 9023’. As I understand it the brush is not bad if you stay on route. Their hiking time from Evelyn Lake and back was about 12 hours. This was longer than one might anticipate because of a couple of sore feet (other than mine). The stats from Evelyn Lake are approximately 12 miles round trip with 2000’ gain going and another 1700’ on the return.
The group slept as best it could, what with deflated mattresses. The night was clear and warm enough that tents were not a necessity. I awoke frequently to follow the progress of planet Mars until it set at about 5 am. Next morning saw an early hike out because Sara had an important appointment in La-La land. In any case, this was a good strategy because the hike out was not short (13 miles with about 1500’ gain), nor was the drive home.
My sore toe was quite bad for the exit backpack. I signed out so not to slow the group. Then I realized that my toe might suffer a horrible fate unless I did something about it. So I operated on the boot, cutting a large flap in the leather and GoreTex in the area of the small toe. The result was miraculous; the pain had totally disappeared. [Why had I not done that the previous day? I could have had The Nose!]. I soon caught up with the group.
We reached the trailhead and the cars in short order. Some of us stopped at the Silver City store for a mountain burger and lemonade, and some took a $4 shower (bring your own towel). Other participants not mentioned above were Chris Artale, Spencer Berman, Tim McCoy, and Mumtaz Shamsee.
And we lived happily ever after.
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