SHR Day 18 – Mine Shaft (29), Spuller-Maul (30)

Tuolumne Meadows to Cascade Lake

We again wake in total darkness. Getting any early jump in September is difficult. I pack up and visit the flush toilet one last time. After consuming muffins we purchased yesterday at the store, we now need to get back to the trail. Roper warns of a potential river ford, which given the drought is probably not a problem, but we road walk just in case. The lack of any walking space next to the road, makes it more exciting than the wilderness.

We reach the Gaylor Lakes trailhead and head up. Across a meadow we see a huge black bear. This time there is no confusion with a dog. If the bear stood up, he would look exactly like you’d expect a Sasquatch to look.

Great Sierra Mine

Great Sierra Mine

We next work our way up a steep slope to the ruins of the Great Sierra Mine. Rock structures, in somewhat disarray, are scattered about. The walls are extremely thick, which according to Roper means they worked the mine in the winter as well. We go over Mine Shaft pass.

Dark clouds are forming around us. The 40% odds are starting to seem low.

To avoid dropping all the way down to Fantail Lake, we make a massive traverse left, across unstable talus. We then drop down a wacky chute to Spuller Lake. It begins to snow off and on, and the storm is clearly catching up to us from behind. We consider pitching tents and hunkering down, but it is only noon. We agree to push on to Maul Lake and consider our options before facing the Spuller-Maul Pass.

After a snack, we figure we have nothing to lose, other than our lives, so up we go. The snow gets serious, pelting bean bag stuffing, sleet, and fluffy flakes. It is as if Mother Nature is trying to get our attention, but we are not listening.

Spiller/Maul Lake Pass

Spiller/Maul Lake Pass

At the top of the pass, it is clear going down the other side without a flying squirrel suit is not possible. We travel up and to the left, until we find a class 2 chute of talus we can negotiate down. The sky is darkening and the snow intense-ing. We pass by Conness Lakes, and scramble over a small saddle towards Cascade Lake. It is so stormy now, we cannot even see the lake, nor anywhere to camp. We duck into a small rock cave, to wait out the worst, and consider our options. No longer moving, we are now cold, so we snack, change into rain gear and add layers.

At a brief break we pitch our tents, but it starts snowing again. There is an inch of snow now on our tents. Once set, we return to our dry rock cave and cook Indian Curries with rice. The snow stops again, and we slip into our tents. We are well satisfied with today’s milage, but realize breaking camp tomorrow may take longer than usual.