The Sierra trip for 2002 was more than ambitious: it was an extreme challenge for all three participants. Since all returned intact it can only be considered a total success, but looking back to those exhausting days that ended late and provided little high-quality downtime, it was a bit more work than I personally like to put in for the reward.
But oh, those rewards! The exquisite Camp Two along the Kuna Crest, looking straight across the canyon to Mts. Lyell and Maclure! The shocking beauty of Camp Three at the base of Banner Peak! The ungodly descent into the North Fork San Joaquin headwaters, and its rewards at Twin Island Lakes! Even the crowded but spectacular descent into Yosemite Valley at trip's end. As we noted before the trip: even though we may miss a few fine destinations, any route we take will be amazing and beautiful. And, of course, we were right. We were right a lot on this trip, with decisions that later would prove to be extremely foresighted in most cases. So nearly everything worked in our favor: our intuition served us well, our bodies and gear held up, the weather was most excellent, the route was truly spectacular, and the rewards and lessons learned will serve us well in the future. Especially the one about ambition tempered by reason, and making time to RELAX.
* Up Bloody Canyon to Mono Pass
* Across Kuna Crest to the Muir Trail¹, presumably meeting it at Donohue Pass
* Cross to the NF San Joaquin above Thousand Island Lake via the 'Sierra High Route'²
* Head north from Bench Valley into the Lyell Fork Merced drainage
* Reach trails again where the Isberg Pass trail crosses the Lyell Fork
* Descend to Yosemite Valley, with possible stops on top of Clouds Rest and/or Half Dome
¹using RJ Secor's Sierra guidebook²using Steve Roper's High-Route guidebook
This truly ambitious route would require several days to cross trackless terrain, and from Thousand Island Lake to the Isberg trail would violate my 1999 vow to avoid consecutive days of x-c travel; I could only hope this violation would not impose too high a fine! We had eight days to perform this feat, possibly extending into day nine but with mighty resistance from Scott at the idea. Read on to see how our route and schedule fared!