Mule Drop-camping: Sequoia National Park

Mule drop-camping is a fantastic way to have bacon, eggs and pancakes on a full out backcountry trip.

Mule Train

Mule drop-camping is where a packer (on a horse) comes in with a mule train and drops all your camping stuff at a predetermined location, usually a lake. You don’t ride the mules, you just walk in unencumbered. This means everything you need, and I mean everything – including coolers, tents, pads, beer, wine, eggs, bacon, real coffee, veggies, fresh meat, etc. is dropped off. Comfy chairs too, I forgot about that one. We did actually try to arrive about the same time because we didn’t want bears to snack on our stuff in the meantime. The mules can each carry 80 lbs, divided into 40lbs per side of the mule. We had a bunch of heavy climbing stuff (including bolts and drilling gear) so we ended up with quite a few mules. I think 7 or 8. Yup, we had a lot of stuff.

The packers drop if off, then come back in a week or whatever to get a much small load to bring out. It is fantastic.

Camp life in the high Sierra

And do you know what can make it even more fantastic? A cook. We brought one on one of our trips and it was sublime. We were being hit with afternoon thunderstorms so we were getting up before dawn to get out and climb before it got dangerous. We’d get up and a great breakfast and coffee would be waiting for us. Wow.

Annie the mule. She carried our big cooler with nothing but ice in it.
Much easier to go out to climb (or hike, fish, etc.) with a great base camp
Belyn and Brian
Betsy and the climb: What Dreams May Come, 5.10
Unbelievable view. This from the climb, The Subliminal Verses
Betsy on Stonehenge, 5.10a

One of these trips was notable because Betsy and I put up a new climb all by ourselves. It took us two days, but we did it, and we were even able to name a new formation because no-one had climbed on it before (well, probably someone did but no one published it before). It is called Stonehenge on The Shield. It took us two days because the first day I forgot the hammer and although we tried to use rocks as a hammer (thus the name stonehenge) we kept pulverizing them and finally gave up. And returned the next day with a hammer.

Each area in the Sierra has one packer that is permitted. For the Sequoia National Park area (and maybe Kings Canyon too) it is HC Packers. We’ve used them twice. There are other packers for the east side of the Sierra.

A few things you might not think of:

  • Walk-in kitchen tent with mosquito netting
  • Full size shovel to dig pit toilet (don’t just go everywhere)
  • Lye to put on each layer of poo in the pit toilet
  • Inflatable raft of kayak
  • Tarps and cord to set up outdoor dining area
  • Food for the packer (ask) if the pack train stays the night nearby
  • Tip for the packer
  • Fill your coolers with a few inches of water and have your local grocer freeze it. Works great to save space and the ice lasts longer

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