Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sequoia-Kings Oddysey

Yosemite has the big granite walls of El Cap and Half Dome. The coast of Northern California hosts the towering redwood giants. The Eastside has easy access to some of the highest peaks in the lower 48. Sequioa-Kings Canyon National Park has all of these things, as well as the deepest canyon in the the country (Kings, at 9,000ft), the largest living organism in the world (Giant Sequoia), and everything in between. California is truely a land of superlatives, and an extended visit to SEKI will make that very apparent.

Mt. Silliman reflected in Ranger Lake.

With 7 college-aged students from Boston to San Diego, I set out on a 22 day oddysey which would place us at the foot of hidden Sequioa groves, atop breathtaking mountain passes, swimming and sunbathing next to crystal clear (and mostly frozen) alpine lakes, and on craggy summits which reward the mountaineer with seldom viewed panoramas.

Evening in Big Arroyo.

The storm arrives!

An emphasis was put on curriculum based in natural history, ecology and geology of the Sierra Nevada, but many of my lessons taught themselves as we traveled through the many bio-regions of the Western Slope of the Sierra. Our program was also grounded in a leadership development curriculum, and our students took on more and more responsibility as they grew more confident after living and traveling in the alpine environment for so many days.

Dylan Pritel builds another rock garden below Blackrock Pass

Finished rock garden framing the Black Kaweah

A big thanks to Leia Berg with whom I had the fortune of instructing this program with and whose hard work helped make this trip a success.

West Ridge of Mount Conness

With a dwindling number of days before having to work a 22 day backpacking course in the Southern Sierra, and a dark and ominous forecast of mega thunderclouds and deadly lightening bolts threatening to unleash certain doom, Jonathan Cooper and I decided that the best course of action would be to climb to one of the highest points in Northern Yosemite, Mount Conness. Coop is a young gun who I have had the pleasure of working with recently, and who was coming directly off of an all-you-cn-eat cruise in the Caribbean, where he was not exactly getting into mountain-shape...
The West Ridge is super dooper classic. You cannot help but have a smile on your face the entire time as you hand traverse the wild granite wave which sweeps over the massive Southwest Face of Conness.
We climbed it in a mellow day from the trailhead at Lembert Dome and decended down to Saddlebag Lake and hitchhiked back into the park to get my truck.
The day was capped off by Coop's mom coming to town and treating us to a feast of fish tacos at the Mobil Station in Lee Vining.

The Youth, Coop.

Kinda cool position...