Being that I was starting my backpack career, I sought to do a local, exploration adventure. Surmising that this late in the spring, there wouldn't be too much snow. I don't think that I had ever been in this area, aside from an early fishing trip when I was a very small kid. With new, makeshift backpack gear that I had put together for under $50, I set out from my home in the suburbs. Hitch-hiking out onto the freeway, I got rides to the trailhead at Echo Lakes.
Taking what was later to become the PCT about Echo Lakes, the trail was snow-free, here. Because my memory of this is 43 years old, the details may be a little fuzzy. I had my Super 8 movie camera, but didn't take any pictures till later in day. Encountering snow about Haypress Meadows, I plodded on, plunge stepping through the snow. It was firm enough, though, so I didn't turn back.
My goal was Lake Aloha. When I finally got there, I was overjoyed at seeing the area. It was completely snowbound, and I had to find a place to camp. Hiking over what was probably still the frozen lake, I found a large boulder to sleep on. The weather wasn't too good, so I used my three dollar tube tent for shelter. My sleeping bag was an old, cheap, synthetic one, borrowed from family. I had my pea coat and sweater.
Standing on that rock for hours, I may have gotten a bit chilly, but I was just awed at being there. Shooting some movie film, I saw two backcountry skiers, who I yelled at, but they didn't respond. Finally, as it began to get colder, I got into my sleeping bag. I began to shiver a little bit and worried a bit about surviving the night. Dwelling on things in my mind, I just marveled that I wasn't dying.
Getting up in the morning, with mostly no sleep, I decided to get going. I did a little exploration about a side lake, and I climbed a small peak that, I believe, was Cracked Crag. Instead of going back in the same way, I decided to go out to Fallen Leaf Lake, because it was downhill. Hiking down through the snow, I came to the lip of waterfalls and cliffs. With a map, I wasn't completely lost.
Losing a lot more elevation, I recall that I found some footprints. Then, I was hiking through the cabins at Glen Alpine, and finally made it to about location of the trailhead. I had run into a lone hiker, who informed me of the name of Modjeska Falls. I had never felt that I was in peril, and now I was back to the paved highway.
Hiking out to Highway 89, I had been refused rides by motorists. Now, it was a matter of getting rides on my way back to town. This went well enough, and shortly I was walking through town with my backpack, on my way home.
About then, I learned by the TV that there had been a terrible disaster for four climbers on Mt. Ritter. I was safe and secure from my little snow adventure, with no such terrible weather for me. They had mostly died of hypothermia, and experienced conditions where their eyelashes would freeze shut. A fifth climber had come back to civilization, days later, with the story. He had a down jacket where the others, supposedly, had gone light. They had made a lot of mistakes, and paid for it, with the ultimate price. Essentially, for what looks like reasons of ego, they didn’t turn back.
This was the beginning of my many snow adventures. The next winter, I was to go with the Sierra Club on a little snow tour for the day. Then, to meet their peak section chair, and to learn their ways. Their outings have a military tone, where you get orders. They have people who regularly comply, to do as they're told. That some of them are worthless in the wilderness without guidance, I can see why this is.
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