Hiking in the Sierras: Part 1

If you happen to be in California, aswell as being near miles and miles of coastline, you also aren’t far from a great hiking or backpacking trail or area. These hiking areas are one of the states great secrets and new found friends helped me to unravel this secret on Wednesday. A casual chat over the lunch table turned into an offer to join them on an overnight hiking trip which i willingly took up! The culdesac pulled together and next thing i knew i had a proper hiking pack, clothes and almost all i needed. All that remained was a trip to the local outdoor store to pick us some freeze dried food – mmmmm? Yes thats exactly what i was thinking too, but i was amazed by the variety they had – like Sicilian Lasagna, Kung-Pow chicken and rice and what i eventually settled on Wild Mushroom and Cous Cous! I grabbed some power bars and a packet of Granola and blueberries for my breakfast and then i was set. Wednesday we set off in the car, nice and cosy with the 6 of us and all our packs for the 4 hours drive

to the mountain of choice – Langley, located in the Sierra Nevadas.

The Sierra Nevada (Spanish: snowy mountain range) is a mountain range in the states of California and Nevada, between the California Central Valley and the Basin and Range Province. The Sierra run 400 miles (640 km) north-to-south, and are approximately 70 miles (110 km) across east-to-west. Notable Sierra features include Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America; Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet (4,421 m), the highest point in the contiguous United States; and Yosemite Valley sculpted by glaciers out of 100-million-year-old granite.

The range was first sighted by Europeans in 1542, and then explored between 1844 and 1912. The tourism potential of the Sierra Nevada was recognized early in the European history of the range. Yosemite Valley was first protected by the federal government in 1864.

Mount Langley (14,042 ft) is located on the crest of the Sierra Nevada, on the border of Inyo and Tulare counties. It is the ninth highest peak in the state and the seventh highest in the Sierras. Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, lies 4.8 miles (7.7 km) to the northwest

With this in mind we drove and drove. The coastline fog lifted and i finally saw blue californian skies as the landscape grew evermore barren and desert-like.

The car advertisements became Jerky Advertisements!

and the reassuring signs to “Death Valley” kept popping up. Situated within the Mojave Desert, it features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America! So we kept driving past there!

Until we came to the Lone Pine visitors centre and looked up see the layers of mountains looming above. Passes collected (it’s a very regulated system to keep close track of the numbers and whereabouts of campers and hikers) and then headed into the mountains

First passing through the rounded contours of the Alabama Hills which are in contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada .

driving up and up and up until we came to the carpark which is at about 10 400ft (Australia’s highest point is Mount Kosciuszko at 7310 ft). Due to the high altitudes there are ever present concerns about careful timing of the ascent to avoid altitude related illness. In preparation we’d been drinking gallons and gallons of water and we planned to camp overnight at a high level before the final summit ascent.

We set off and i was immediately in awe of the stunning pine trees, some thick with foliage, others peeling their bark to reveal bright yellow bark and my favorites were the bare trees with incredible patterns and twists.

we went onwards and upwards, seeing little waterfalls of melting snow and wobbling our way across tree planks that traverse creeks

and i saw my first Marmot! Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Marmots typically live in burrows (often within rockpiles), and hibernate there through the winter which explains how they survuve the chilly winters in the Sierras. Most marmots are highly social, and use loud whistles to communicate with one another and i couldn’t believe how used they were to seeing people. They’d just sit sunbathing atop rocks as i crept closer and closer. Once i’d gone within about 5 m they’d give me a pissed off look and scurry away!

After a few hours of hiking we came to the first of a series of lakes

and in the distance, one of our crew spotted an amazing natural wonder. A perfect heart set into the side of a rocky cliff face!

Just around the corner from the lakes was a moonscape of giant rocks

and a cemetery of beautiful gnarled trees

Then lakes again! Feeling quite tired ( i haven’t done proper exercise for about a month due to traveling through India and also hurting my foot which yes, was still quite sore) i was anticipating that each lake we came to might be “our lake”, meaning the lake we would be camping at for the night

But i knew that our lake would be situated above the tree line so we ventured ever onwards and upwards

looking back from time to time at what we’d passed

then returning my gaze to the feet infront of me

until we finally arrived at our destination – high lake!

This camp offers great views of Cirque Peak, and many possible ways to climb it

we spent the late hours pumping water, setting up camp, exploring the area

having some fun using the self-timer on my camera to run back and forth, making silhouettes against the soft lit landscape

Then it was dinner time! We boiled the water retrieved from the lake and then set about pouring it into our food packets

Lets just say we learnt alot about what to, and not to buy in terms of freeze dried food. Whilst the dumplings which needed to be cooked but instead remained a sloppy goo weren’t exactly a success

my wild mushroom and cous cous packet

was delicious!

The sun faded

then disappeared and before the stars were out we were all tucked into the tents doing our best to get a good nights rest before the morning.


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