Taboose Pass to a mile past the Taboose Pass Trailhead
(9 miles, +100/-7,000 feet).
Today was down, down, down. From my icy perch to the baking Owens Valley, it was a quick morning of extremes.
I slept so hard last night! I briefly woke up to see the sunset, the moonset, and the Milky Way, but each time it was easy to fall back asleep. By 4am I awoke still tired from my marathon yesterday, but antsy to get moving before the snow melted. By 5am I was packed and geared up with crampons for my descent.
I normally do not like hiking into the sun, but as you can see below this morning was an exception.
I got excited when I hit dry trail before descending to 11,000 feet.
But my excitement was premature. There was still plenty of snow to deal with, all the way down to 9,200 feet. And it was pretty icy. On the first steep slope I got out my ice axe for a fast glissade. I had to self-arrest half way through, but my speed never got out of control.
This canyon is A LOT more photogenic than Sawmill. They are both tough climbs up from the Owens Valley, but based on what I saw today I would recommend Taboose.
Even below 9200 feet there was one spot where I considered using crampons because the snow was quite consolidated and icy, but it was low angle enough that I just stuck with my trekking poles and trail runners.
Although the higher crossing of Taboose Creek was trivial (calf deep and my feet were already wet anyway) the lower crossing was just at the edge of my comfort zone as a solo hiker. The log there was submerged under 6 inches of water. I carefully walked upstream of it, using my trekking poles and the log for additional support occasionally, and I never hit anything more than thigh deep.
About two thirds of the way across the log ended, but the water was shallower and more manageable. My main problem was that I hit my head on a tree as I was climbing out! But I kept my balance after a few colorful expletives.
After the crossing the trail changed from rocky to duffy as I passed through a really pretty pine forest.
And there were flowers everywhere.
After about six miles I had cell service, so I called for someone to pick me up at the trailhead. I found a person willing to do it (Lone Pine Kurt) but it was expensive, and he could only come up part way to the trailhead because the road was still washed out from the 2017 flood.
But it beat road walking 10 miles in the heat back to my car at Sawmill Pass Trailhead!
I rushed down the last couple of miles, happy that my arduous journey was almost at a close. But I did turn back occasionally to appreciate just how stupendous this Eastern Sierra canyon really is.