High Sierra Trip Report; NEW Tour Announcement

Mt. Goode in morning light

Mt. Goode in morning light

I returned home from the High Sierra earlier this week after concluding a private photography tour for my client, Balaji, who hails from California’s Bay Area. This tour was initially slated to include a few of Balaji’s friends, but illness and schedule conflicts left Balaji alone with me to endure the incredible light and beauty that only the Range of Light can offer. Due to snowpack this year that
Mosquitoes!

Mosquitoes!

was 143% of normal, bountiful snow still lingered at moderate elevations and the mosquitoes were like I’ve never seen them before in the Eastern Sierra. We were surrounded at times by virtual clouds of them!

Long Lake and Saddlerock Lake

Long Lake and Saddlerock Lake

Our tour began on the Eastside at South Lake and would take us over Bishop Pass and into the Dusy and Palisade Basins of King’s Canyon/Sequoia National Park. “Would” being the key word, as Balaji contracted Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) on our second day out, which forced us to move to a lower elevation and ultimately off the mountain sooner than planned. Without medication (Acetazolamide) or proper acclimatization (a slower and more gradual ascent to altitude), Balaji would be unable to continue climbing higher without suffering further ill effects of AMS.

Balaji photographs the Sierra

Balaji photographs the Sierra

A number of photo tour and workshop leaders have written recently about the importance of choosing a tour/workshop guide who is properly insured and carrying proper permits, yet many of these articles omit what to me should be an even more serious concern: is your guide first-aid and CPR trained and certified? Do they have the experience and awareness to spot something like AMS? Is your guide an experienced mountaineer and navigator who can guide you confidently and safely through the most difficult situations? Had I not been able to correctly diagnose and know how to treat Balaji’s condition, I could have ushered him to even higher altitudes and might have seriously endangered him (AMS can elevate to High Altitude Pulmonary Edema [HAPE]). Before you hire a photography guide to lead you into remote locations, make sure that they can provide a YES answer to these questions! When remote, help is often a long way away and cell phones may not be operable; you need to be able to trust your guide to make the right decisions on your behalf and to do so while under pressure.

Water and Granite

Water and Granite

After diagnosing Balaji’s condition, we descended back to our first night’s camp on the shore of beautiful Long Lake. Although he was not yet out of the woods, Balaji’s AMS-induced fatigue prevented him from making it all the way back to the car that evening. We spent a restful night at Long Lake, and although Balaji reported feeling great in the morning, it was evident to me on the walk out that Balaji was still afflicted with AMS. Medication will likely be his only solution to again returning to higher elevations. A rigorous acclimatization process can help (“climb high, sleep low”, and with slower ascents to altitude), but rarely fits well with ambitious plans and a restrictive number of annual vacation days (damn you, American employers! :)).

Evening clouds over the Sierra

Evening clouds over the Sierra

After most of Balaji’s group had signed off the trip, I offered a couple of openings to interested parties, although it was too short of notice to have any takers. Many persons wrote me expressing great interest in this outing, so I am again offering this High Sierra photo tour on August 25-29, 2010 (Wednesday through Sunday). Eligible participants must be in very good to excellent physical condition; must have previous backpacking experience; and must have experience at high altitude (12,000′ will be our
Mt. Agassiz, 13,891'

Mt. Agassiz, 13,891'

maximum, with an option to climb higher during downtime). This tour is open to only three participants; register now! I look forward to sharing the beauty and wonder of the Range of Light with you!

Many THANKS to Balaji for another great outing to the High Sierra! I look forward to getting you back into this region in 2011!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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