Once again, up and over Taboose Pass (August, 2009)

For some information about Taboose Pass itself, see the notes for my 2004 trip over Taboose Pass.
Also, see my notes on the four nasty passes

Permits and Driving

We called ahead to reserve a permit, paying $5.00 each ($25.00 total). Taboose Creek was my first choice, and I had 3 alternates, but there was no trouble getting a reservation for 5, to enter at the Taboose trailhead.

We got on the road (in northwest Tucson) at 7:00 AM Sunday August 9. Even with this early start, there was just no way to get to the multi-agency center at Lone Pine before closing at 5:00 PM. They have not been allowed for several years (so the nice ranger lady told me the next day) to put permits for people entering the SEKI parks in the overnight lock box. And self serve permits are only allowed during off season (November till May I think). In other words, there is no option other than picking up your permit in person during open hours.

This means that if you want an early start on the trail and are driving from Tucson, you will need to either leave much earlier than 7 AM, or split your driving into two days so as to arrive during open hours the second day of driving. This is all fine as long as you have plenty of time to do all of this along with your hike.

Driving from Tucson to Lone Pine (about 700 miles) took us about 12 hours, including a long stop at the Needles Dennys (not bad for a Dennys, what Dennys used to be and should be) for lunch. A long but not absurd day.

Trip Outline

Day 0 - 8-9-2009 Drive from Tucson to Lone Pine, camping at the Tuttle Creek BLM campground.

Day 1 - 8-10-2009 (Monday) Get the Permit, hike most of the way to Taboose Pass.

Day 2 - 8-11-2009 (Tuesday) Go over the pass, and down to a camp on the Kings River.

Day 3 - 8-12-2009 (Wednesday) Climb up the trail to a lake below Cartridge Pass, Climb Mt. Ruskin.

Day 4 - 8-13-2009 (Thursday) Hike into Lake Basin and to Marion Lake.

Day 5 - 8-14-2009 (Friday) Begin the return, hike back to secret lake near Taboose Pass.

Day 6 - 8-15-2009 (Saturday) Hike over Taboose Pass and down to the truck at the trailhead.

Day 7 - 8-16-2009 (Sunday) Drive home.

Gear, food, and packs

This was my first trip when I was agressively trying to go lightweight, even ultralight. My baseweight was 18 pounds, which makes me lightweight, but not ultralight (8 pounds to go!).

Here is a list of items I expected to be carrying prepared prior to the trip. Sadly, for this trip, I did not prepare a spreadsheet like list of items and weights like I would probably do now if planning for the same kind of trip.

I carried 2 pounds of food per day (12 pounds overall) which was definitely too much. 1.5 pounds per day would have been plenty, even for a skinny and hungry guy like myself. So I carried 3 pounds of food in and out (mostly Cliff Bars). I am cured!! I probably will never buy another Cliff Bar again in my life, there are many far better options. My goal was a 25 pound pack starting out, and I began with 30 pounds. That 3 pounds of food would have dropped me to 27 pounds, and I would have had to ditch 2 more pounds somewhere. And I could have, some changes in clothes and sleeping bag would have saved me a pound. I could have left behind the shorts I carried and the jetboil canister for luxury coffee. Even 30 pounds though was a delight compared to what I have carried on trips like this in the past.

On the first day, we did some pack swapping. When I changed from my 30 pound pack to the 40 pound Gregory my friend Eric was carrying, I was impressed by the comfort, but every step I could feel my quads working just a little harder and I noticed that very soon my pace was not what it had been, and the muscles in my shoulders began to feel an old familiar burn that my 30 pound pack was not inducing. Even carrying a 35 pound pack affected my pace. 5 pounds of extra load is nothing to sneeze at. With a 30 pound load, my Gossamer Gear Miniposa could have benefited from the waist belt I had removed. With 20 pounds and under though, the waist belt is silly. The pack is only rated for 20 pounds, and I think that is a wise limit, but it did fine carrying 30 pounds (with due care putting it on and taking it off). The lesson from all this: every pound matters!

I carried (and wore) a black Patagonia long sleeve biostretch top (7 ounces), but would have rather have traded it (and the 9 ounce cotton tee I also carried) for a synthetic white long sleeve shirt. I had meant to bring one and it was an oversight not to. Making this swap and leaving behind the cotton Tee (9 ounces) and the R-0.5 top (9 ounces) would have saved me 18 ounces. Another mistake was that I grabbed my nine-trails jacket instead of my Houdini. This would have been a bad thing only if I had been caught in a rain shower (which I was not, we had perfect weather), the weight is the same.

Sleeping bags, weight, and warmth

Most nights were about 37 degrees, but the last night temperatures dropped to an amazing 22 degrees! I was carrying the 35 degree rated "Big Agnes", with some extra layers to add warmth. My analysis is that I can be comfortable sleeping if I add 20 degrees to the rating of the bag and wear light thermals (like Patagonia Capilene 2). In other words I can be comfortable in the Big Agnes wearing light thermals at 55 degrees. To be comfortable at 35 degrees with light thermals, I need a 15 degree bag! I am unusual to be sure, most people would be roasting (even on this trip, I was chilled when others were too warm). On the 22 degree night, I was not happy; shivering and unable to sleep even wearing everything I had.

Also, my decision to carry the 35 degree bag plus thermals was faulty. The bag weighs 31 ounces, and the Patagonia wool 4 tops and bottoms I carried weighed 12 ounces each (a total of 55 ounces). My 15 degree rated Marmot Pinnacle 15 degree bag weighs 52 ounces, and with a hood would almost certainly have been warmer.

Mount Ruskin

One of the things we did on this trip was to climb Mount Ruskin. Here are some links to stuff on the web about this peak: The class 3 rating on this peak is outrageous and dangerous. Getting to the top of this peak will definitely require some class 4 climbing.

The east ridge (which we gave up on in 2004) is apparently started from the very east, which consists of a stack of 5th class blocks, each about 10 feet high. Apparently most of the difficulties are right here. Move around to the left (as we did) and a crack system will take you to the first ledge, then you can find a spot to climb to the next ledge and so on. One writer says that this is nearly fourth class, and also calls the moves to bypass an overhang higher up as fourth class also, (several other writers confirm the latter).

We climbed the peak on this trip by following the ridge from Cartridge Pass until we found staying on the ridge unreasonable, then we took to the west face, traversing below difficulties until we found a gully that led to the summit (but requiring some class 4 moves before the summit was reached).

Ruskin is one of the 35 "mountaineers peaks" in the SPS peak list. They have selected 50 peaks as being of special note, the top 15 are considered "emblem peaks", the next 35 are considered "mountaineers peaks". Arrow Peak is also a mountaineers peak and has a class 2 route from the southeast.
The emblem peaks are (from south to north):

Of these I have climbed Whitney (via the east face) and North Palisade. I climbed Mount Goddard via Starrs route (an interesting route on an otherwise dull mountain), but did not finish the hike up the talus to the summit of Goddard, so cannot actually claim it Finding Split Mountain on the list is a bit of a surprise.
Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's hiking pages / tom@mmto.org