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TR: Colby Pass Loop

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TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby sashe » Tue Dec 24, 2013 2:04 pm

Long time lurker and enjoyer of many other peeps trip reports motivated me to do a quick write up of last summer’s trip into the Sierra. The loop went out of Crescent Meadow onto the super highway known as the Sierra High Route, looped around Triple Divide Peak and the Kaweahs, and returned over Kaweah Col. It was a great trip; big miles, but fun.

Day 1: Left the trailhead about 10 after staying the night in Three Rivers and picking up our permits. The trail was nicely graded and the scenery was spectacular. When we got to the Bearpaw Meadow area, we took the “Over the hill” trail (named by the Ranger at the Lodgepole RS) to the base of Elizabeth Pass. Big mistake as this trail was overgrown and pretty tedious. There was a pretty good campsite area just up the trail going to Tamarack from where the trail started going uphill to the pass.

Day 2: THE HORROR!! This was a big day. We started up the Elizabeth Pass early, which was beautiful, then when down a bit, turned right, and headed toward the saddle west of Copper Mine Peak. It was easy going, but then it started to rain, then thunder. Freaked some of the group out, but it let up soon after. The grunt up to the mine was obvious and pretty cool as there were some nice specimens of malachite outside the opening, which was still filled with snow. Up to the ridge, and we found the use trail on the south side which takes you to a notch at the head of Cloud Canyon. I passed on the peak bag since I was running on fumes and it was a bit chilly. The long grind down Cloud Canyon was beautiful and easy walking. Not really a trail and some areas near to bottom were choked with willows. When we hit the trail, it was mosquito city. We then had to get up to Colby Lake, which we did in the dark.

Day 3: From Colby Lake we went up and over Colby Pass which was nice and not as rough as some past reports identified. The east side was a mixture of sand and gravel so it was rough on the legs after grinding up the west side switchbacks. It rained a bit on the marched down the upper alpine canyon, but we were soon in the trees. The steep notch trail down near the bottom was pretty cool, almost straight up! At junction meadows, we rested, but we still had to make it to Kern Hot Springs. The hike down canyon was more of a death march, as all peeps were feeling it, but the trail was nice and almost level. The torture is almost worth it when you get to the hot spring. One other party was there and was the first people we had seen since we left the SHR.

Day 4: From the Hot Strings we headed down canyon, then up and out when was pretty dull. Not the up part, but walking through the burn area was not pretty. Then when the trail started to level off and go downhill, a huge thunderhead formed in the area and dumped a truck load to hail on us. We made it down to Big Arroyo to camp.

Day 5: The upper part of the canyon is stunning and in my opinion is the perfect example of high altitude ecosystem. The hike up and over the Col was beautiful, and down to Hamilton Lake was stunning. But then there’s Hamilton Lake. The lake is beautiful, but crowded and over used. It was in stark contrast to what we had experienced in the previous days.

Day 6: The hike out was nice and quick as most last day “I need a shower and burger” mindsets go.



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sashe
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:19 pm

You certainly have more stamina than me. Those are some pretty long days!

I'm surprised you passed on peak 12,345 since it can't be more than 50 feet or so from the old mining trail to the top.
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby alpinemike » Tue Dec 24, 2013 10:53 pm

Nice areas you went through. I did a somewhat longer but similar loop this summer as well. I started at Lodgepole and went through Deadman Canyon and did your loop essentially in reverse. Was wondering though.. Did you do this trip in early July? I had some really nasty weather that mimics yours exactly particularly with the hail storm. I experienced the hail storm at the Big Arroyo Jct. What an experience that was. I believe it was the 4th of July it happened. I'm a big weather junkie so it would be fun to know if it was the same one..
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
Alpine Mike-

http://mikhailkorotkinphotography.com/
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby sashe » Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:27 pm

Yes, Mike, we started June 30th (quiet in the park) and exited July 5th (Saturday and a madhouse). That hail was intense!
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby The hermit » Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:58 pm

This loop was done off the high sierra trail not the sierra high route, correct? Ive never heard of the high route described as a super highway.
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Dec 25, 2013 6:55 pm

Well also the Sierra High Route is not located in that area. Either way that is some beautiful country side.
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby sashe » Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:38 pm

Yes, you are right (my mistake for not proofing it), the route off the HST.
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Re: TR: Colby Pass Loop

Postby cgundersen » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:12 am

Hi Sashe,
I'll second Rogue's comment that those were some long hiking days, but at least you had lots of daylight in between the storms. A few years back, my wife & I spent two nights "trapped" in a tent while it snowed at Hamilton (it was mid-June). Boy, was it gorgeous when it finally cleared and the snow coating erased the signs of heavy use; meanwhile, it never really cleared completely on that whole trip; we kept getting chased by little black clouds and experienced every form of precipitation you can imagine along with a couple that are hard to imagine. After 12 days of dodging storms which precluded anything more than a rare head dunk, I've never been more happy to hit a shower. The hot springs would've been great.
What's on tap this year?
cg
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