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Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

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Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:44 pm

Hi all,
I'm planning to hike for 3-4 days in SEKI in late May with a female friend (she's older but has lots of backpacking experience), and I'm looking at a couple of options. If anyone has any thoughts or a vote on which is better, I'm all ears:

My experience is all Class 1 and hers is too. Last year I did the HST from Crescent Meadow to Big Arroyo and back, so I'm familiar with that trail. I'd like the option of summiting something, even if I decide not to. I like high altitude, but I also like a little bit of trail luxury (bear boxes and privies are nice!)

I'm leaning towards 1:

Option 1: Start at Lodgepole, go up Twin Lakes Trail to Ranger Lakes, then along Sugarloaf Trail to Roaring River, then South through Deadman Pass along Elizabeth Pass Trail, then to the HST and out. I thought there might be some easy cross-country possibilities along this route, but I have no cross country experience. Pros: Deadman Canyon sounds cool, lots of bear boxes, starts and exits at Lodgepole for food and a hot shower on exit. Cons: part of my planned exit is on the HST, so I'm covering old ground.

Option 2: Rae Lakes loop. Pros: Looks cool on a map. Cons: Looks flat, supposed to be popular/crowded, more red tape restrictions on campsites/bear box usage

Option 3: A loop out of Mineral King--possibly to Big Arroyo and Little 5 Lakes. Pros: Never been here before and everyone says it's great, chance of nailing a summit in the Kaweah basin. Cons: Killer marmots!

Backup option in case of mildly bad weather: Car camp/day hike out of Lodgepole or Mineral King.

Thanks for any opinions!



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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby oldranger » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:58 pm

Even this dry year you are likely to have to deal with over a thousand feet of vertical over snow on north side of the passes (2000 feet on Glen). If the snow depth stays shallow the snow is likely to be sugary and unconsolidated with the possibility of significant chance of avalanche. Most years with 60% of normal snowpack or more the snow pack would be icy in the morning and then have a couple of hours of solid footing at that time of the year. But this year could be hazardous on steep slopes. If you have to go then I would stay lower. If you can wait a couple of weeks later would be safer. But things could change but then you would have to deal with even more snow (but safer).

Mike
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:28 pm

oldranger wrote:Even this dry year you are likely to have to deal with over a thousand feet of vertical over snow on north side of the passes (2000 feet on Glen). If the snow depth stays shallow the snow is likely to be sugary and unconsolidated with the possibility of significant chance of avalanche. Most years with 60% of normal snowpack or more the snow pack would be icy in the morning and then have a couple of hours of solid footing at that time of the year. But this year could be hazardous on steep slopes. If you have to go then I would stay lower. If you can wait a couple of weeks later would be safer. But things could change but then you would have to deal with even more snow (but safer).

Mike


Hmm...Ya, it's really hard for her to get away any other time because she's coming from the East Coast and what free time she does have is already 99% booked, so it's pretty much the end of May or nothing for her. I can go pretty much whenever since I live out here. She's not too picky and will probably be happy with anything. I'm the picky one, since I love the thin air! ;)

I'm thinking of applying for a wilderness permit for one of the options listed above, and if the rangers advise against it on the day of, I'd be perfectly fine just car camping and day hiking around Lodgepole or Mineral King or whatever. Of course, if a late season storm rolls in then we'd probably just drive to San Francisco or something.

Thanks for the tips! It sounds like Option 1 would be least risky, since we'd have more options for dayhikes around Lodgepole than anywhere else. Mineral King looks awesome for dayhikes too, but I guess if there's still snow then it would be riskier out there since the road is higher to begin with.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby tim » Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:57 am

Why not consider going to the East side? Cottonwood Pass to Lower Soldier Lake and Miter Basin would be a great early season trip for a very dry year (if of course it continues). And you have the option of a Mt. Langley climb (though I'd choose Sky Blue Lake in Miter Basin as first choice for a day hike from a base camp at Lower Soldier Lake). Note that you do need to take bear cans, even though there is a bear box.

This is from July 1, 2011 (very heavy snow year), our trip report is here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6526

image.jpg
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby oldranger » Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:34 am

Franklin

If an e side approach works for you then Tim has a great suggestion. If not consider Ranger Lakes area of SEKI or Kaiser Wilderness.

Mike
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:33 am

Without more than class 1 experience your best bet would be the Deadman Canyon Loop. You will have to face climbing snow over most of Elizabeth Pass though so you would probably want an ice axe. It's not as steep as Glen or some of the passes around Mineral King. It might be miserable post holing though.

I wouldn't let the Rangers discourage you too much as they have to worry about liability and they are always going to tell you to not do something rather than to do it. In Kings Canyon even when the water is low on the river they cannot tell you where a good place to swim is. They can only tell you "we don't recommend you go swimming".

Your best bet on that loop for a peak without going too out of the way would be to do Alta. Instead of following the HST out take the Panther Gap trail and do Alta Peak and head out from there.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby alpinemike » Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:09 pm

I would definitely recommend the Deadman Canyon Trip. I was there this summer in late June and snow was absolutely non-existent. I would say that if this year has some more substantial snow (which I seriously hope it does for everyone's water sake!) you would still be just fine. But an ice ax is a must! Elizabeth is fairly tame on the North Side out of Deadman Canyon but from the South it is not the friendliest of trails. I don't say that lightly losing the trail happened to me and to several other parties I talked with along the way. If it's covered in snow then that isn't an issue anyways. Definitely have good self-arrest skills. The canyon is beautiful and trail down from Elizabeth has absolutely phenomenal views. I've heard that Glen Pass with snow is not very fun and could be quite difficult. The nicest part about doing this trip early is the lack of mosquitoes. Last year they are absolutely horrendous in these parts!
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby sparky » Sun Jan 26, 2014 9:24 pm

You can sneak into deadman or cloud canyon early season without having to deal with tons of snow. Avalanche pass melts out fairly early, camp at roaring river and day hike the 2 canyons. Great early season trip if you dont like snow
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby GraceC89 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:15 am

I did the Deadman Canyon loop that you're describing last year in mid-June. There was about 6 inches of snow for half a mile on the Deadman Canyon side of Elizabeth Pass, but otherwise, it was bone dry. If this year continues to be as dry as it is now, I wouldn't be surprised if late May looks like mid-June of last year. As others have said, the trail up to Elizabeth Pass isn't very well defined, but there are very large and obvious cairns the whole way up. Honestly, I liked it better this way because I had an excuse to stop and catch my breath at every cairn while looking for the next one.

I'd highly recommend this loop. The scenery on both sides of Elizabeth Pass is some of the best I've ever seen, and aside from the really steep stuff on their side of Elizabeth Pass, the trails are generally pretty mellow.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby markskor » Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:31 am

GraceC89 wrote: there are very large and obvious cairns the whole way up.


Off topic but...never been a fan of "very large and obvious cairns" on any route. IMHO, spoils the fun of route finding off trail.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Kelbaker » Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:07 pm

If the east side is an option and the weather and snow condition are not a problem, I would also like Miter Basin or even Kearsarge Pass area. From Kearsarge Lakes you could try Glen Pass into Rae Lakes or Dragon Lakes, beautiful area, but it will probably be full of snow and hard to get over that time of the year being it is a North South Pass. If that does not work you could go down into Bubbs Creek and from there you could easy X-country explore Center Basin or Vidette Creek. and then back out the way you came.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:14 pm

markskor wrote:
GraceC89 wrote: there are very large and obvious cairns the whole way up.


Off topic but...never been a fan of "very large and obvious cairns" on any route. IMHO, spoils the fun of route finding off trail.


The cairns on that trail are official. I talked to a NPS trail crew a few years back and they told me how they know something needs to be done about that trail but for now the solution is they built cairns so they have really large ones that are on spec in trail construction manuals.
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