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Death March

35.0 miles, +7062' elevation
August 23 - 25, 2005
Dave Sholer, Brad Steiner
The Original Plan:
  • Aug 24: 17.50 miles (meet Frankie at Rae Lakes)
  • Aug 25: 10.45 miles (Hike North with Frankie)
  • Aug 26: 17.05 miles (Leave Frankie, return to Trailhead)
    Actual Events
     August 23:
    Left Sacramento around 9:00PM and drove down to Kings Canyon National Park, arriving around 2:00AM. We found an empty campgrounds past Cedar Grove and stayed the night.
    August 24:    17.50 miles; +7062' elevation
    We woke up early to both get an early start and to avoid paying the steep camping fee for a mere 3-4 hours of sleep. We got our permit and started hiking. The plan was to meet Frankie Draeger and his friend, who were hiking in from the eastern Sierras. We planned to meet around dinner time at Rae Lakes. We would then hike up with them for another day, before hiking back out on the western side (while they continued on). That was the plan, at least. We hiked through the valley and had lunch at or near Junction Meadow (just past half way). Brad was starting to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, but we pressed on into the big elevation gain of the day. The altitude sickness caused Brad to slow to a crawl for most of the second half of the day, so we were way behind schedule. We had the next day's lunch for dinner to avoid cooking.  We were still climbing up to Glen Pass (~12,ooo ft) at sunset. It was pitch black (almost 10:00PM) when we reached the summit. I has a small LED light and Brad had a mini MagLite. Descending from the pass, we thought we could see flashlights on the edge of Rae Lakes. We were encouraged, thinking it was Frankie and his friend. As we got closer, stumbling down the rocky switchbacks in the extreme dark, we soon realize it was the reflection of the stars off of the lake. We got to Rae Lakes probably around 11PM or later, exhausted, and started yelling out for Frankie. We didn't see or hear anyone, so we set up my GoLite cave (we didn't bring a tent) right in the middle of the trail. We figured we would find Frankie in the morning. Brad was still very sick. He had been barfing all day and had a bad headache from the altitude sickness. Afterall, we had gained 12,000 ft in elevation in 24 hours, on little sleep, while using much energy.
    August 24:    17.50 miles; +1561' elevation

    We woke up early and started looking around for Frankie. Immediately, we saw a tent less than 100 yards from us and assumed it was Frankie's. We went over there to "scare" him somehow, and soon realized it may not be his. Back at out camp, we saw a guy come from the tent and stare at us. We did a "sly" pass by while checking on a few other campsites and soon realized that Frankie was nowhere to be found. With Brad being sick and our friends not where we had planned to meet, we decided to end our trip by backtracking. While descending Glen Pass, we ran into a ranger who was impressed by our two-day trek and in and out of Rae Lakes. "You know," he said, "we just had to medevac a woman out from Junction Meadow last night because of her altitude sickness. But you two did well, it seems." Ah...yeah...right, we said. Dave got within feet of a big black bear that was in the trail, several miles from the trailhead. It ran across a stream and up the hill on the other side. We got to the trailhead around 5PM and drove back home that night, stopping for dinner in Fresno.

    Subpages (1): Death March Maps