High Sierra Trail, Day 2 – Bearpaw Meadow to Precipice Lake, June 18 2015

posted in: Photos, Trip Report | 1

Gil (GoHiker.com) and I hiked the High Sierra Trail to Mt. Whitney, June 17-22. Here is Day 2 of our trip:

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The Plan

  • June 18 – Hike 9 Mile Creek to Precipice Lake (36.552500,-118.559689)
    • 9 Mile Creek to Bearpaw Meadow Camp (36.565340,-118.620522)
      • 2.6 miles || +860, – 565
    • Bearpaw Meadow Camp  to Big Hamilton Lake (36.564530,-118.577971)
      • 5.2 miles || +1375, -890
    • Big Hamilton Lake to Precipice Lake
      • 2.2 miles ||+2135, -15
    • LEG 2 Total: 10 miles || +4370, – 1470 || 8 hrs

The Outcome

While I wasn’t a fan of the idea while we were doing it (ironically, I suggested it), I am happy that we hiked the extra 2.2 miles to Bearpaw last night. Bearpaw was quiet, I slept well, and our today is 2.2 miles shorter with ~500 feet less climbing than planned. We got started early, because we knew that Day 2 was going to be very hot and challenging. We moved quickly until we crossed Lone Pine Creek, which is where the climbing for the day really got started.

Looking down at Lone Pine Creek as I crossed the bridge.
Looking back after we crossed the bridge. Old bridge below.

From that point on, the climb is relentless, offering only a few stretches of downhill or flat terrain. 3 or 4 miles in, I started struggling with some back and foot discomfort. I knew what the foot pain was – 3 weeks before leaving for our hike, I awkwardly stepped on a dog bone. I believe this injured my plantar fascia. Oddly, the only time that my foot didn’t hurt was when I was walking in my hiking boots.Two weeks out from our hike, I stopped training, hoping the foot would heal.  Taking the time off did allow my foot to heal and I was optimistic I would be ok for our hike; I was wrong. The back pain was new however and really worried me (more of this later).We took a quick break for breakfast above Lone Pine Creek, but did not take an extended break until we reached Hamilton Creek Falls. We spent some time here filtering water, eating, talking with the last hikers we’d see for a couple days and taking in some incredible views of the Valhalla, the Angel Wings, and Hamilton Towers.

In Scandinavian Mythology, Valhalla literally translates to, “Hall of the Slain”.   According to the myth, an enormous Hall was located at Asgard, ruled over by the supreme God Odin.  It was said that those that died in battle were led to Asgard by the Valkyrie. No less majestic is the small hanging valley of Valhalla, located some 15 miles from trailhead along the High Sierra Trail.  Standing at the head of the valley, like the crest from the helmet of one of the famous Valkyrie, stands the 2,000 foot monolith, Angel Wings.  The South face of which, is the largest granite wall in Sequoia National Park. (Source: Geocaching Valhalla)
The Hamilton Towers
Angel Wings

Video Courtesy of GoHiker.com

We hiked from the creek crossing to Big Hamilton Lake without taking much of a break. At Big Hamilton we filtered again and watched the rainbow trout swim around for a while. I struggled to pick out exactly where the trail would lead us, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. After getting on the trail again, the short rest stops became more frequent as the temperature rose and we started what would be one of the hardest sections of trail (for me anyway) that we would encounter on our trip. We stopped to filter water a couple of times, but reserved a long break for the Hamilton Gorge Tunnel.

Evidence of an old suspension bridge across the Hamilton Gorge.
The Hamilton Gorge Tunnel. Gil can be seen on the trail to the right.


Video Courtesy of GoHiker.com

Once leaving the tunnel, I knew we only had a couple of miles and less than 1,000 feet of climbing before we would be done for the day. Unfortunately, my body and mind were done and already at camp taking a nap and not interested in finishing the hike. By the time we reached Precipice Lake, my lower back was feeling lame, which I suspect is sciatica pain. On the trail I found myself walking awkwardly to relieve some of the plantar fasciitis and leaning forwarding much of the due to my pack weight. I am guessing this put some extra stress on my glutes and hamstrings. As a result my piriformis muscle could be inflamed and it could be irritating my sciatic nerve. Hopefully some of this discomfort can be eliminated with some stretching, pack adjustments, and being conscious of how I am using my poles and bending at the waist. The views from this part of the trail were spectacular and good distraction.

Big Hamilton Lake.
Upper Hamilton Lake

While I was miserable for much of the hike up from Big Hamilton, I forgot about much of this (at least temporarily) as soon as I got my first look at Precipice Lake. My biggest motivators for planning this hike were 1) seeing Precipice Lake in person and 2) putting Gil in a favorable situation to summit Mt. Whitney (Day 6 would be our 3rd attempt together). While I had looked at many photos of Precipice, none of them did justice to what I was seeing with my eyes. Within 5 minutes of arriving, I was trying to figure out how to get back there, with my wife and father-in-law. As hard as it was to step away and take care of the things that needed to be done, I knew they’d be tougher to take care of the longer I waited. Precipice Lake was likely to look it’s best around sunset and I didn’t want to miss it. After setting up camp, stretching, and eating lunch, I decided to do some laundry. I hadn’t been planning on doing laundry so early in the trip, but it was early (~3 pm), the sun was hot so my stuff would dry quickly and I had finally found some sort of threshold with my Farm To Feet socks. After 25 hours of use, including 15+ hours with excessive sweating, my socks still didn’t stink, but they had started to feel stiff. We were planning to hike 18 miles on day 3, so I figured it was a good time to wash them.

Laundry day with WoolX and Farm To Feet
My bivy and Mountainsmith Pack.

After laundry, a run in with a marmot with an appetite for hiking poles, a nice nap and dinner, I eagerly waiting for sunset. It did not disappoint!

Gil taking in the sunset
Gil looking at Precipice

Leg 2 (as tracked): Bearpaw to Precipice Lake || 7.8 miles || +4405′, -1585′ || +2820′ net elevation gain || 8 hours

Water & Food

I drank over 200 ounces of water during the 8 hours we were hiking and used about 1/2 of the NUUN electrolyte tablets that I have left for the trip. I also used some of the sodium & potassium capsules to ensure I wasn’t drinking myself into an electrolyte imbalance. Random thoughts on food:

  • I managed to eat 2 days worth of Triscuits and Jack Link’s Beef Sticks. I definitely should’ve brought more.
  • I hadn’t thought about the inconvenience of making a PB & J Tortilla wrap at lunch, since the tortillas and PB & J best stored in the bear canister.
  • Ritter Sport Chocolate keeps well when buried in the bear canister, but not so well in the top lid of my pack (doh!). Lesson learned. Another lunch item that’s best eaten after camp has been setup.
  • After 3 days in the bear canister, my 1+ lbs of macadamias have taken on the taste of my toothpaste. Gross.


A few notes on the gear I used.

  • WoolX Merino Wool
    • Explorer 1/4 Zip Baselayer Top
      • I started and ended my day wearing this top. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of clothing.
    • Outback TeeBoxers
      • After 2 days of lots of sweating, there’s no smell! In the the thin air at this elevation, the black Outback Tee feels warm. Not sure it’s the color and the weight of the shirt or if I’d feel hot no matter what I’m wearing
  • Farm to Feet Merino Wool Socks
    • High Points
      • Wore these for Day 2, without washing them at all. I just let them air out after Day 1. No stink or crustiness.
  • Delorme InReach, provided by LowerGear.com’s Rental Service
    • Day 2 Battery Usage
      • Start of Day 2
        • my iPhone was at 100% (charged with solar charger)
        • Delorme was at 91% (not charged since leaving the hotel)
      • End of Day 2:
        • iPhone was at 87%
          • was connected to the solar charger for much of the hike.
          • used for panorama photos
          • Earthmate was active, but I did not use it much.
        • Delorme was at 82%
          • sent 10 tracking points and 7 messages, including 6 custom messages.
          • I did not use the Delorme for navigation.
          • I turned the Delorme off once we arrived at camp (2 pm), but turned it back on before going to bed to check for messages (7 pm).
  • Oboz Beartooth BDry Hiking Boots
    • With the exception of some arch pain(dog bone incident mentioned above), the bottoms of my feet feel pretty good. They don’t feel like they’re getting beat up too badly.
    • On some of the downhill this morning (when I was still half asleep), they saved me from an ankle sprain twice.
  • Hydrapak Stash & Nalgene Cantene
    • While I had originally planned to use my Geigerrig bladder as my principle means to carry water, I found that the Stash & Cantene were more convenient due to the frequents stops to filter.
    • I’ve been using the Stash for electrolyte replacement, as well as filling with water and completely drinking it (and then refilling) at each place we filter.
  • Vivobarefoot Pure
    • I haven’t used them for any stream crossings yet, but since we finished hiking so early (2 pm), I was very happy to have these with me.
  • Mountainsmith Boundary 75L Backpack
    • Not training with this pack is creating some problems, but after some final adjustments at camp, I think Day 3 will be better. I started making these adjustments this morning and seems that I am close to getting it dialed in now.
    • An older pack (2007?), but the capacity and padding have been nice on this trip. Until I can cut down on my pack weight and volume, this will be my go-to for multi-night trips.

I tend to take lots of photos on my hikes. On this trip, I was hoping that I would be more selective about the photos I took. This totally went out the window on Day 2. I took a total of 800 photos on this trip. 400 of them were taken on Day 2!

The  gallery below (70+ photos) loads slowly. Thank you for your patience.

  1. Dave Bell

    Great photos! I do not remember an old bridge on the way to Kaweah Gap. If you want a different view of Precipice Lake then climb Eagle Scout Peak 12,042 from the Big Arroyo. The view is straight down from above.