Filmmaker Hank Leukart wanted to backpack Ansel Adams Wilderness, and he wanted to be able to paddle the many lakes they’d encounter on their trek. So he convinced his two friends to bring packrafts for this adventure into the High Sierras.
Hank was keen to get into the High Sierras’ backcountry, including the several high-altitude lakes. He realized these lakes are rarely, if ever, paddled and knew packrafts would be just the thing.
Take a look at their mountain adventure in his video:
Packrafting Chittenden, Lillian and Rainbow Lakes
Hank was the only one of the three that had packrafted prior to this trip. Although leary of adding the extra few pounds to their packs, his friends Rich and Jake agreed.
Once they got to their first campsite on Chittendem Lake, altitude 9,215 feet, they realized the work to get up there was well worth it. They inflated the rafts and hit the pristine waters of this alpine lake early the next morning.
“This is one of the most beautiful areas of wilderness in the world. And to be able to take rafts out, with paddles, that you’ve hiked up to 10,000 feet and just enjoy the scenery—it’s a real privilege,” Hank said.
The three men thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and isolation of these remote waters by packraft.
Rich admitted, “Alright, it’s worth it to bring the rafts! It really does feel like we’re exploring and getting to see something that we only have access to because of the extra work that we put into getting these rafts up here. That’s sort of special. You put in the work and get that kind of reward.”
They then headed towards Rainbow Lake, stopping by Lillian Lake on the way. They couldn’t resist getting on Lillian (8,904 feet), the largest of the lakes, so they quickly inflated the rafts and took to the water during their lunch break.
That night they camped on the shore of Rainbow Lake, after a rough off-trail hike to save some time. Their sunset paddle on Rainbow (9,273 feet) was their favorite yet.
The Benefits of Backcountry Trips
Jake put it very well: “One of my favorite parts of a trip like this is to have time to catch up with friends, with Hank. I also got to get to know Rich. That’s always amazing when you have a really close friend and you get to meet their other close friend.”
Rich added, “Like most people, I feel like I spend too much time focusing on working and what’s just happening day-to-day in terms of keeping my life together. It really is nice to get on the trail and meet new people and have these experiences. It’s great to be away from your own life for just a little while.”
Hank concludes, “There’s nothing better than getting old friends and new friends together and spending some time without the pressures of the world, and go on some amazingly beautiful outdoor adventures.”
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