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A Gray Bushwhack Under a Blue Sky

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  • A Gray Bushwhack Under a Blue Sky

    At the last minute I found a partner for this bushwhack hike of Gray. Matt (greatexpectations) was planning on doing Marcy-Gray-Sky and saw my post the night before.

    We started at S. Meadows at the leisurely hour of 10:30. At Marcy Dam Sylvie went left to do Phelps while we continued straight to the Lake Arnold-Indian Falls x-over trail. At 1050 meters elevation we started the whack to Marcy NW (ie. Boomerang Ridge of 4400' elevation). I had two different maps, one in imperial and the other in metric. We only had map, compass and altimeter, which is all I've ever used for this hike. I've been up this ridge from 3 compass points 5 or 6 times and have never carried my GPS, which makes it like it's the first time, every time I have gone.

    We had open woods the entire way and we deliberately aimed to the right of the dike. The dike is the key to getting on and off the ridge to and from the south. The fir waves, cliff-walls and steep cripple-bush make the south side of the ridge impenetrable to bulky humans. The top of this dike is wide enough to drive a bus down and has cliff walls on either side. It is grown in however but travel is easy. We left the dike in order to aim for Gray but first had to lose about 700' of elly. This turned out to be the most interesting trip ever. I always aim for Gray,which is in full view but the trip is never the same. This time we encountered multiple cliff walls and slippery looking mini-slides. Very cool but it took us a lot longer to descend than it had to ascend ole Boomerang.

    We crossed the first drainage missing the huge open field with killer views (the perils of not using GPS with interesting features waypointed). However, at the final drainage before the ascent of Gray we decided to go off-route and rock-hop our way up inside this amazing tributary of the Opalescent River. It was achingly beautiful in afternoon sunshine and dark shadows with views of the Colden slides.

    The map and the altimeter told us where to regretfully depart the drainage and I did the map and compass thing to get the correct bearing to the summit. Then, Mr. Sun was our guide. However, we drifted to the left (to the Marcy side) bit by tiny bit and came out on the ridge about 200 yards east of the summit. Normally, this is not an issue for me when the trail dead-ends at the summit. However, here there is a strong and maintained (sawed through branches and trees up to 3 inches in diameter) herd path that runs between Gray and Marcy. Matt was a great sport when I turned back and said we had to traverse lower down to get more directly under the summit. Especially because instead of the easy open woods we were used to the vegetation became extremely dense and gnarly. I mean really thick and gnarly.

    But we persevered and did finally walk for a few yards on the path. Then we saw the usual toilet paper and knew we were there. (I had told Matt earlier that when we saw TP we would know we were at the top).

    After all that (6h30m from S. Meadows, so now 5pm IIRC) we went to Lake Tear via the wonderful herd path (rugged but faster, easier and safer than bushwhacking). Matt is a dedicated trail runner and runs 50 miles a week with 1000' of elly gain a day and he took off to do Skylight while I plodded to 4 Corners and headed for Marcy. He was gunning for a 10 minute ascent of Skylight!

    Marcy was amazing in the setting sun with very high winds that pushed me around. I made radio contact with Sylvie who was now at S. Meadows but we couldn't understand each other. Too far away. I was amazed that we even had contact.

    Matt caught up with me somewhere around the Hopkins junction and then he ran off at high speed. My walk out felt very long. Took me close to 3 hours. I went very fast at first and then settled into a slow and steady, knee and ankle-sparing pace. Even with my headlamp I couldn't differentiate between mud and water and my feet were drenched. Sylvie met me a mile up the truck road. I was worried a tree might fall on me the wind was so intensely strong and blustery. Inside the van all was still, warm and dry. Sylvie opened me a beer and I sat back and relaxed.

    Totally AWESOME pictures to be posted ASAP.
    Last edited by Neil; 09-19-2019, 06:29 AM.

  • #2
    can't wait to see pics...the Boomerang and that huge area between it, Marcy, and Gray, look like terra incognita


    • #3
      had a great time on this whack with neil. i don't want to entirely steal his thunder with regards to pics, but i can post a handful of mine quick:

      Marcy and Gray From Boomerang

      Basin (I Think) From Boomerang

      Mossy Woods Between Boomerang and Gray

      The Upper Reaches of the Opalescent