Day 17 High Sierra Thunderstorm
the video's original audio was not very good quality so i recorded the rain and thunder during another storm a few years later once i had purchased better sound recording equipment. I have a BandCamp account where the natural soundscapes that i record are available for download. wildernesswanderer.bandcamp.com/ Day 17 No rain at all last night, after yesterday’s storms, and clear skies this morning when I awoke early before sunrise. I wandered around Bear Paw Lake, past Ursa Lake and continued onto Big Bear Lake. I finally have a good view of the twin summits of Seven Gables Peak (13100). After climbing over an outcropping of rocks, and quietly passing another tent from a distance, I made my way to a stream that flowed down from Black Bear Lake into Big Bear Lake. From here I photographed Seven Gables peak in the alpine glow, with Big Bear Lake reflecting it's multifaceted peaks. After photographing sunrise I headed back to camp. Along the way I followed, as best I could, the shoreline of the three lakes. As I walked numerous small fish darted away from my shadow and escaped into deeper water as I passed by. Once I reached my camp I pulled out my map to decide what to do next. I had planned to stay in the Bear Lakes Basin for two nights because there are lots of small lakes in close proximity to one another that I’d like to explore. I want to check out Vee Lake (11163) but I also want to spend the night on White Bear Pass (11800), just above the lake of the same name. I eventually decided to pack up and head to White Bear Lake, drop pack there, set up my tent and water proof my pack, then do a day hike over to Vee Lake, after which I will come back to White Bear Lake and sleep there. I took down my tent, packed up my gear, ate a cliff bar and started the short hike back to where I photographed sunrise, then I began to climb up where the creek flowed down from Black Bear lake. The clouds have grown significantly larger since I consulted my map. The view on the climb up, looking back over Big Bear Lake towards Seven Gables Peak, is stunning. It is by far the best view I have seen yet on this journey and I wish I had seen it while I was shooting photos this morning. After reaching Black Bear lake I turned left and continued climbing, passing two tarns, then continued up a bit further until finally I could see White Bear Lake. At this current position I am above the lake, looking down on it. Seven gables Peak rising over it from a distance away. I traversed a slope of dirt and scree, and finally reached White Bear Pass. From here I was greeted by spectacular view, Brown Bear Lake far below in a valley to the to the northwest with Mt. Hilgard (13361) rising beyond that with an eagle soaring overhead. Tomorrow I will be climbing down into the valley on my way to Lake Italy, Gabbot Pass and Mills Creek Lakes. After dropping pack I grabbed a cliff bar and headed over to a perfect place to sit and enjoy the view. After eating I explored the area and found a spot I wanted to photograph at sunrise, a large pond of snow melt, a snow patch on the far side and a ridge of jagged pinnacles rising behind the snow. The clouds are now covering three quarters of the sky and it appears a thunderstorm is imminent. The darkest clouds are moving in from the north, partially obscuring Mt. Hilgard in a veil of rain. There are no good places to shelter up here on the pass, so I decided to head back down to the closest tarn to seek shelter. I water proofed my pack and began walking back down to the tarn. (I forgot to set up my tent.) Rain began to fall, not much and not for long, once it passed there was a distant rumble of thunder. I started to look for places to shelter, and saw a large boulder, with a spacious over hang sitting just above the tarn. Another rumble of thunder and a few more large drops of rain. I was almost to the rock when I saw another backpacker headed up. When we got closer we greeted each other. "Where you headed?", I asked. "Granite Park.” He responded. “How's it look for shelter up there?” "Not good, I'm headed to that big rock", I pointed. "Wow that's the best shelter I've seen for the last three days, I didn't even see the overhang from the other side. You mind if I join you?" "Not at all." We both headed to the rock. THUNDER! After reaching the rock we crawled underneath it and were able to sit up with plenty of room to spare. For the next few hours the weather was indecisive, teasing us with rain, some thunder far off in the distance, a few bursts of tiny hail, then nothing. The sun would break through, followed by a loud crack as thunder broke the silence. Then it would get dark again. Finally a steady rain began falling. During that time, Carl, the other backpacker was growing impatient. He wanted to reach Granite Park before sunset. He was a photographer too and wanted to photograph that area in the morning. Then it dawned on me. "Where you over in Humphreys Basin five days ago?" "Yeah." He sounded confused. "I think we passed by each other there." Then he remembered. We had come across each other five days earlier as I made my way to Marmot lakes beneath Mt. Humphreys. Carl remarked, “Its amazing that the two of us have crossed paths twice in this vast wilderness while both of us are doing different cross county routes, without trails.” We talked about our journeys so far, he had been out for a week. After our meeting in Humphreys Basin he had gone on to explore the Turret Lakes, Three Island Lake, the two lake basins on both sides of the Pinnacles just south of Gemini, as well as Seven Gables Lakes and had spent last night at Vee Lake. The last three days of storms I had only been on the edge of them, he had been directly beneath their heart for all three. He showed me a video of intense hail, then showed me the bruises that went with them. After more indecisiveness from the weather, finally the full force of the storm hit. All of a sudden the light rain turned into a torrential downpour, the wind began gusting and the area was illuminated over and over by the flashing of lightning (of which we never saw the actual bolt) followed by cracklings of thunder, bouncing and resonating of the surrounding cliffs and peaks. After a good long while of heavy rain, it started to hail. The hailstones were about one inch in diameter and the tarn below us looked as though it was boiling. Then I remarked, “Well, if I want epic hail, I know who to go backpacking with.” And we both had a good laugh. The wind couldn't make up its mind and was gusting at us from all directions. Then as suddenly as it began, it stopped and the hail turned into a light rain, then to a mist, then stopped all together. The sun came out as the storm moved south. There was so much hail that it appeared as though it had just snowed. The sky to the south, where I had been yesterday was dark beneath the towering white clouds. After getting photographs of the the hail covered earth and retreating storm clouds we headed up to White Bear Pass, the crunching of hailstones under our feet. It was getting late, and Carl was wanting to continue on to Italy Pass and Granite Park, but he was unsure of making the trek over wet slippery talus. When we reached the top of the pass, the sky darkened again and more rain began falling. To go back down to the rock we decided was too much trouble so we huddled below the leeward side of some cliffs on the east side of the pass. The rain turned to small hail and continued on for a good long while, then turned back into a light rain. "Well, I guess I'm not making Granite Park today, do you mind if I camp here with you?" Carl asked. "No, not at all that would be great, I'd love the company." I answered. Finally the rain tapered off and we looked for a flat place, that wasn't a puddle, to set up our tents. As I removed the pack cover I noticed the outside of my pack was wet, but I didn't think much of it. After moving a few rocks out of the way, we set the tents up side by side. The sun was now setting and shining through a gap between the storm clouds and the horizon. The alpine glow, made even more intense as the sun shone through the smoke from the Soberanes fire near Monterrey Bay, was gracing the peaks and the pass we were on, all the wet rocks and everything around us turned a vibrant pink. We both photographed that until the sun sank beneath the horizon and the light faded. Then we made our dinners. He shared some sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil with me and I gave him some smoked almonds. Each night, before I go to sleep out here I put on a clean pair of socks to help keep my feet warm as I sleep. Tonight when I reached into my pack to get out a pair of socks I was disappointed to find that all my socks were damp. It sucks, but it's not a big deal, I just won't wear socks tonight and tomorrow when the sun comes up I will lay them out to dry. My pack cover must not be working very well anymore.