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Ambition Meets Granite:
the 1999 Sierra Expedition


This trip was spectacular but relentless. We had accomplished all our goals but had burned all the reserves we would need to make decent use of Bishop Pass. This had become clear by day six but not noted explicitly until the last day. We decided to do the right thing, and our first stop was at the White Mountain RS in Bishop, where we turned in our permits so others could use them. The rangers turned pale - a man had just left who was DESPERATE for two permits to Bishop Pass! Hopefully they found him, or vice versa; his options weren't pretty ones for reaching his destination otherwise.

The next morning I drove Scott as far up the Taboose road as was practical in the Escort; he began walking after that, and drove down an hour later. We put his gear in his truck, shook hands, and parted company. At 10AM the clouds were already thick along our proposed route, and anvil-topped clouds were showing over Yosemite well before noon. It was a horrible day to be in the Sierra, and I hoped the Arizonans had managed to reach shelter before the sky fell on them. Rain fell hard near Mammoth Lakes, and no views from US395 were visible the rest of that day. I drove all the way to Red Bluff, where yet another thunderstorm awaited; the long drive back to Portland was tiring yet uneventful.

Upon returning home I immediately began re-reading "the Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula LeGuin. In several spots on this trip I quoted her characters by saying "I'm glad that I lived to see this". The experiences this trip brought me will be hard to beat; on the other hand, my interest in cross-country has been sated for the near future!

Another result of this trip was an immediate re-evaluation of my overnight gear. The rainfly-only alternative to a full tent worked great, but my inexpensive fiberglass poles were permanently bent, so a different arrangement needs to be found before next summer. My nights of going cold below the knee suggested two things: a colder-rated bag and a less-confining bag shape. Kelty's modified mummy bags were shaped to solve the problem, but curiously they sell three bags rated to 20 using different fills. I found the Polarguard HV version only at one source - Eastern Mountain Sports - and picked it up at a season-ending discount! The other modification came courtesy of the REI end-of-summer sale: a full-length foam/air sleeping pad. My previous one was 3/4 size, which left my feet virtually on the ground, and the integrated air pillow went flat halfway through the night. I hope to test the new bedroom sometime this fall.

Techical X-C details!!

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