Tag Archives: Golden Trout Wilderness

Sierra Mt High






Activity: Backpacking, Back Country Camping

Horseshoe Meadows/Cottonwood Lakes/Mount Langley: distance 20 miles, elevation change 5,124’, 17 hour duration, rated HARD

Our last day in the Sierra was bittersweet packing up and heading back to civilization. We wanted to get out of the smoky conditions that were stifling the area from the many California Fires ravaging the state. When it was good it was really, really good, but when it was bad it was horrid. We understood that we were not experiencing this location in it’s normal pristine state, but we still saw enough to know that we could hardly wait to get back up in the Sierras and as soon as possible, because this place is special.

The mornings continued to be super nice and amazingly beautiful. This day would be the best yet. Mike had us sampling his barista skills started us out with his gourmet coffee concoction. Pretty fancy for backcountry camping I would say. Craig and Mike were both glad to see that I was feeling much better after a tough day suffering from the effects of AMS high on Mt Langley.

Today we were starting at the most scenic portion from the Cotton Wood Lakes back down to Horseshoe Meadows. Our trek took us beside the still lakes, through the quiet rocky meadows and into the vast forest. On the way up by the time we got past the wooded section everything was gray smoke and unworldly. This last morning it was awe-inspiring to be there.

The mountains, the peaks, the lakes, the woods, and friends on the trail gives you sort of a Sierra Mountain High. The mountains would be calling to us again real soon.

Wow, what an adventure the three of us had. We overcame multiple adversities: The fear of three strikes and your out for Mike, Covid-19 for my buddy Craig, AMS for me, and suffocating smoke for all of us. The struggle added to the accomplishment and certainly to the adventure of it all. There were tough times to face and there were times that hurdle was balanced by stunning, unforgettable beauty. But isn’t that the reason that we were out there? Overcoming struggles by bold experiences in nature… Said another way, “Pursuing Balance Through Adventure“. Please join my friends Mike, Craig, and me for more adventures, and more soul soaring in coming issues. You can do this simply by these actions: FOLLOW, COMMENT, LIKE, and SHARE. Go to the menu and explore many more locations that PBTA travels to. Get your PBTA Merch at SHOP APPAREL. Where there is currently a SPECIAL DEAL going on.

Happy Trails-

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Up In Smoke

A Push for the Summit of Mt Langley despite the CA Fires





Activity: Peak Bagging, Backpacking, Back Country Camping

Horseshoe Meadows/Cottonwood Lakes/Mount Langley

Distance: 20 miles, altitude 14,032 ‘, prominence 1,165’, elevation change 5,124’, 17 hour duration, rated HARD

Dawn on Day 3 of our adventure, (DAY 1, DAY 2), into the High Sierras brought the clear blue skies that we had hoped for. It was a GO for a shot at the Summit of Mt Langley at over 14,000’. We were all too aware that we would be in a race with the smoke from the California Fires that could force us back, with it’s thick choking smoke that would be blowing over the mountain range in the early afternoon.

We set out straight away as we had a tough row to hoe to make it to the top. We passed the last of the Cottonwood Lakes, our base camp, and up Old Army Pass. When you first hike up to the Wall it seems formidable, even impenetrable, and it was a daunting task to be sure. It is a narrow rocky path of switch backs, with drop offs you don’t even realize on the ascent because you are looking up and concentrating on getting to the top of the pass. During the descent, however- as you concentrate on your footing, you catch glimpses of just how precarious your situation actually is. Once at the top of the pass it is an open area that you wander across before approaching a steep incline of broken, jagged rock, referred to as talus, which will be the terrain for the remainder of the climb. Much of the remaining 1,000 feet of elevation will be scrambling and there is a spot that I would call light rock climbing. At first there are cairns that help to mark a faint trail, but later the cairns are just marking an area of scrambling across rough terrain to the summit.

My own personal experience was far different than that of my companions in this undertaking. When I have been upper elevation peak bagging, over 11,000 feet, I have experienced Altitude Sickness. Climbing Mount Langley was by far my most challenging hiking adventure as it is much higher than anything I have climbed. As a matter of fact, from the moment I started climbing the Wall of Old Army Pass right up until the last 100 yards to the peak I was filled with doubt whether I would be able to make it to the Summit. The altitude was a massive struggle for me, which left me dismayed, and frustrated. I was on my own on this endeavor and I would battle every step of the way. My friends left me on the Wall, as I kept falling behind plagued by the effects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS.)

This was Mike’s 3rd attempt at summiting Mount Langley. He felt the pressure of three strikes and your out. The first time he was turned back by inclement weather, and the second because his hiking partner experienced Altitude Sickness. As for my friend Craig, he had recovered from a bout of Covid-19 early in the Summer. He certainly could not be hiking in heavy smoke, so for all of us, but for Craig in particular, it was a race against the smoke. As a side note, Craig had promised his son, whom also came down with the dreaded Corona Virus, that he would not attempt to summit this mountain because of his Covid. Craig, however, was feeling good so he pressed on.

On the Wall I met some younger hiking enthusiasts who passed me up, while I was on one of my frequent breaks. They cheered me on saying that they hoped that they could do what I can do when they are my age. My age? Geez… thanks. Later I was caught from behind by Michael Downs. We were between 12,000 and 13,000 feet above where we were both from and that was sea level.

I had just gone through a “Pity Party Seating for 1”. The altitude was really getting to me. I just couldn’t believe that I couldn’t do this?! It was hitting me hard, to the point that I had become emotional, yelling and cussing at myself to soldier on, even shedding a tear or two. I was so frustrated and displeased with my performance. As a top catamaran sailing competitor, and 2 Time National Champion, no one could push me as hard as I pushed myself, and that was exactly what was going on here. I was feeling extreme exhaustion, I was having trouble catching my breath, and even something in my chest didn’t feel right. (And actually a month later I still feel that something sometimes.) I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t hurting myself, and that perhaps I should just quit. But quitting is not part of my DNA.

I told my new trail friend, Michael Downs, about my Pity Party and that I was having to consider that maybe I am getting old. His reply was, “Your not old, I’m old”. He said that he was 65, which is a little older than myself, which he was surprised to learn as he said that I did not look my age. This guy was a real inspiration. He told me that he started right at day break, and I said oh yeah? There is a young guy, Kota, that started about that time as well, and that he is probably at the top right now. Then I realized that Michael was talking about starting from the parking lot not the base camp. He was hiking Mount Langley as a day hike and he was really moving! Michael Downs was the strongest hiker on the mountain that day. He later caught my friends, and they said that Downs looked like he was skiing moguls at his rate of descent through the talus field. Micheal Downs had been in the Sierras doing other hikes for some time and this was the crowning jewel of his trip.

I later saw my other new trail friend, Kota on his way down whom also gave me words of encouragement and too persevere. That wild man decided that he would hit nearby Cirque Peak before the smoke got too bad! Awe to have the energy of youth… actually to have any energy at that point. Then I ran into Craig and Mike on their way back from the summit, also giving me an enthusiastic boost. The smoke was now rolling in. Funny everyone was giving me an “Attaboy” you can do it!, you got this bro!, but not one person said are you sure you shouldn’t just turn around?

I continued to push on and suffered up the mountain, driving myself on, not going to let Altitude Sickness get the best on me. (For more on Acute Mountain Sickness go to my ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure‘ Backpacking and Hiking 101 Blog.) Distraught, exhausted, disillusioned, abandoned, and now breathing dangerous smoke- I took step after beleaguered step. The entire time I was not sure that I would make it. Now on the fire smog besieged summit there was nothing to see. (Note: the nice Feature Photo of the sign and the summit was taken hours earlier by Kota.) What should have been A Stairway to Heaven was Hell. But still I did it. I accomplished my goal. I was standing on the Summit of my first and perhaps last 14er. I had joined the Club. Not feeling great I did the obligatory Summit Selfie and headed down.

Now the landscape instead of exquisite was apocalyptic. Ground, sky- everything was a grayish brown color. But for me as soon as I was heading down, and without the cardio push of a steep incline at altitude, I was making good time, not having to take but a few breaks, far different than going up. But the terrain is rough so it is still slow going at times. At one point during the section that involves what I referred to as light rock climbing, I decided to throw my trekking poles across to the other side of this little chasm. I wanted my hands free when I jumped across. After I made the toss I decided against taking a chance when alone, high in the Sierras and not in the best situation. The short cut was not worth it and I would find another way, which I did. But now what about my poles? Not a good idea to chuck them across, lol… I had to climb back after them from a different, safer direction. Anyway, going down was still no easy task, and I stumbled into camp 10 hours after I had left. My friends without any problems due to the altitude had arrived 3 hours earlier and were relieved to see me.

I was not feeling well… I had pushed it to the limit. I skipped dinner, went straight to my tent and climbed into my bag. I was spent, and I started experiencing the chills. Mike and Craig were nice enough to ask what they could do, feeling helpless. I had them make me hot water which helped.

So our experiences fulfilling our goal of climbing to the summit of Mount Langley, one of the tallest mountains in California, were quite different. I wonder, does the struggle make it more rewarding? My Peak Bagging Buddy, Keith Christensen says, “If it doesn’t hurt it isn’t worth it”. Well, I can tell you, it hurt.

Photo Credit: Kota Okugawa
Above Mike and Craig is the pass we will be making our way up switch backs on the wall to get to. You can see a chute of snow even though it is the end of Summer.

Thanks for joining me “Up In Smoke”, because Mike and Craig were already back at camp with their boots off having a snack, while you, (my faithful readers), and I huffed and puffed together, getting more than we bargain for, ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ to the max on Mount Langley. It certainly wasn’t what I signed on for as an experience, but certainly an ADVENTURE! Stayed tuned for there is still the last day of the expedition to come. Find out if I survived the night or if my friend Craig had to finish the post. Since this was my toughest outing ever I contemplated hard on a Title. To see all the the somewhat humorous titles click here. If you enjoyed this post please COMMENT, FOLLOW, LIKE and SHARE. If you like my PBTA Logo hat or need a PBTA Logo Face Gator to protect you from the Covid-19 or Choking Fire Smog then go to SHOP APPAREL. Please see the menu for all the wonderful locations that PBTA wanders off to. Each location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED separately.

Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Horseshoe Meadows




Chicken Springs Lake via Cottonwood Pass Trail

Activity: Hiking, Camping

High in the Eastern Sierra is Horseshoe Meadows which lies in the Inyo National Forest. This area is a Trailhead for more than one Wilderness Area, featuring numerous hikes to quiet alpine lakes, thick lodge pole pine forests, craggy rock outcroppings, sheer rock cliffs, and a few soaring peaks with views of forever.

This would be the jumping off point for my most ambitious peak bagging adventure to date. I would join my very good friend Craig, who stood up for me at my wedding, and my new friend Mike. Mike and Craig are buddies from Ventura County. Mike acquired the overnight Back Country Wilderness Permits for our adventure.

We had set our sights on Mount Langley, sister to Mount Whitney, the highest Mountain in the lower 48. Mount Langley, one of the tallest in California, is no easy feat at 14,042’. Some believe it is tougher than Mount Whitney because Whitney has a trail to the top, conversely Mount Langley has almost 1000’ of scrambling at it’s summit with no real trail at the end.

I arrived first and secured a camp spot at Horseshoe Meadows. It was a Tuesday so it was not hard to do, especially since we had a pandemic going on, but perhaps the biggest reason for empty camp spots was Wild Fires were raging across the West. California was taking it particularly hard, and the Kern Fire, we discovered, loomed only 15 miles away.

It was disappointing as I drove up the side of a mountain on my way in as the valley below was smoggy with smoke. This area is so impressive, that I was wild eyed with amazement, but unfortunately my enthusiasm was tempered realizing I was not seeing the High Sierra at it’s best.

Due to a shuffling of participants at the last minute, I was lucky enough to be included in this endeavor. I hike quite a bit, but mostly around sea level, although I had been on a couple adventures during the month to altitude including Cooper Canyon Falls, Strawberry Peak, and Mount Baden-Powell in the Angeles National Forest. However, none of those were even as high Horseshoe Meadows, the starting point. I threw in multiple hikes just before leaving the OC to prepare my legs and feet as much as possible. Including a hard hike at my go to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach the day before.

While in the parking lot of Horseshoe Meadows I was chatting up some fellow outdoors enthusiasts and they told me about a cool hike along the Cottonwoods Pass Trail towards Chicken Springs Lake. It turned out to be just under a 9 miles hike, rated Moderate with almost 1,500’ elevation gain. It was probably rated Moderate because the first part is at a relatively lower elevation and is Easy. Then in the later parts of the hike it starts going up, and at a pretty good clip. I met people going the opposite way that were giving up on their day hike, others throwing in the towel on their backpack outing some that were days or even weeks long dashed by the smoke from the fires. I did about 7 miles of the trail before I ran out of time and besides that it was really getting smokey.

I needed to get back to meet my friends, plus I had a monster climb the next day, and it turned out Chicken Springs Lake via Cottonwood Pass Trail was more than the little acclimation hike I was looking for. I did not want to hamper my effort for Mount Langley, but that is another story…

I got back to the campground just as my friends arrived- perfect timing. Craig and Mike set up their tents, and got situated. We had a lavish meal, the kind you can only have as a car camping dinner and we prepared for our venture into the Wilderness. We made a camp friend and swapped stories into the night enjoying the many benefits of a campfire.

Abstract Art, I call it “Uprooted Tree.
If you need me, you can find me in the mountains.

Thanks for joining Craig, Mike and I on this- the inaugural posting of Central California Hiking – ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure.’ I have wanted to get back to the High Sierra and especially to share it on PBTA. This outing was not in ideal conditions, because of the CA Fires, but it certainly gave me enough of a taste of the Eastern Sierra on high that I can hardly wait to go again. Don’t go away because this posting is just the beginning- not just of the website, but of our adventure to summit Mount Langley one of the tallest mountains in California. It turned out to be everything that I thought it might, but for me oh so much more… Maybe too much more.

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure is about profound outings into nature seeking to balance the craziness of our everyday world, and I am sure that all of us feel this year, 2020, has been the craziest that we can remember for oh so many reasons. I won’t go into all of the reasons there are to many, they are complicated, and stressing, and we are trying to take a little break from all of that here. So go for a hike, ford a stream, climb a mountain, even scream if you need to. I did…

I hope that you will take a moment to LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. Look at the menu above PBTA goes to many locations in the West there are a lot of places to inspire you, and to stir your soul. Each of the listings in the menu are separate websites and thus need to be Followed independently. If you need a cap like my Pursing Balance Through Adventure logo cap in the picture than go to SHOP APPAREL where you will find many fine, top quality items for you adventure enjoyment. Plus it helps support this blog.

Happy Trails.

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure