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Sierra High Route - 1998

Exploring Vee Lake Basin

Thursday, September 3   (Map)   Wow, a real honest-to-god layover day. It had rained and blown for over three hours last night, so we had been glad to get things dried out some. They did not stay dry for long, but that discussion is coming up. I think everyone was in need - psychologically, at least - of a day off. You hate to go thru such beautiful country without taking the time to poke around a bit. It seemed like everyone got up a bit later, and took their time around camp. I always marvel at Andy and Sue, with their seemingly complex breakfasts of hash browns, omelets, pancakes, etc. They have these great morning feasts and still manage to be the first ones out of camp on a moving day.

Our plan today was to make the huge hike over to Vee Lake. Actually, Vee Lake is only about a mile XC from Ursa Lake, but if you mosey enough, you can stretch it out to an all day affair. Several of us (ASTDRS, plus Barb A, and Ray) headed SW out of Ursa Lake, up a draw, and descended down to an overlook of Vee Lake. On the way, we were able to get really close to some Ptarmigans. They really do blend in with the rock, and it would have been very easy to miss them. From the overlook, we could see a couple camped down on the shores of the lake. We dropped over slabs of granite, making enough noise and taking sufficient time for the couple to get their clothes back on after their morning dip. We stopped and talked to them for a while. They were the first folks we had seen since meadow below Merriam Lake, 2 days previously, and they seemed to enjoy describing their climb of Seven Gables. They had done it by going up a prominent snow chute without ice axes or crampons, and while I was impressed with their skill, there is no way I would attempt that route without such gear. I value my body being in one piece. Anyway, they were in the process of breaking camp, and heading to one of the upper lakes in Bear Lakes Basin (like maybe Black Bear or White Bear). We told them that our visual recon of the former had suggested not much nice camping, but they seemed to feel like they would find a spot, and that it was true that us and our 7 tents needed much more space than they did.

By this time, Barb A had split off from us, and the seven of us went around to the peninsula of the lake, at which time Ray took off for Claw Lake. The six of us went out to the point of the Lake, and had lunch in the sun, although it was clear that big time clouds were gathering. Andy and Sue indicated that they wanted to poke around a bit more, but Susie, Tim, Diane, and I felt like heading back, so we parted company. On our way back, we did not have the map out, so we missed the draw leading back to Ursa lake. Instead, we went further west before we turned NE, and ended up getting into the Little Bear lake area. We felt pretty stupid, but it was just a longer way to get back. The terrain was pretty easy XC getting up to Big Bear Lake and then Ursa, although we had to go around a couple of cascades and climb a few cliffs. It made for pretty walking. We got back to camp about 1:30 pm or so, so there was still plenty of time to goof off. We bathed, and looked at the map, but it was clear that there was some storm clouds brewing. We had a nice dinner, after having to dive into the tent to avoid an afternoon shower. But our rain-free time was short: we had to go in tentia about 7:50 pm, as it started raining. Not what the Sierras are supposed to be.

A couple of comments here. Susie and I spent some time tonight in the tent reviewing the dinners we'd had. In general, they have been pretty good. However, the Lipton based dinners leave me wanting for heartier soup. The Hamburger Helper stroganoff was nice, because there was plenty of it and it was tasty. Of course, it is not like I am starving: if I were that hungry, I would be eating more of my snacks. I have hardly touched them. I think that altitude is killing much of my hunger.

Another comment: It is really nice to have someone else on the trip that has studied and really knows the route, and the issues involved with the choices. On this trip, Andy has been that person. I know that I have done a lot of study, but it is nice to have another informed opinion. I can easily get opinions, but they are not based on the amount of reading that Andy has done. Sometimes I feel like most of the folks sort just "show up." That's cool, but many times, if I ask a question as to what folks want to do, many pull out their maps for seemingly the first time, and then start to develop their opinion. So I end up discussing much of the decision stuff with Andy first, to make sure my decisions are based on some kind of reality.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1998