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

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

Postby oldranger » Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:59 pm

72 hours max? from e coast? Going over 11,000 ft el., 50 mi. Early season, shakey snow conditions. You are the kind of people I had to bail out when I was the Roaring River Ranger. Sorry if I am a little harsh but your criteria, from my experience, suggests a significant probability of a bad outcome. I certainly hope you are not planning on asking for help simply because it becomes apparent that you will not meet your deadline. Note that there will be no ranger out and about that earl in the season.

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

Postby franklin411 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:17 pm

**wasn't able to get to this thread...been recarpeting my parents' house, which hasn't had new carpeting since the 1960s. It wasn't so much pulling out old carpeting and putting in new. It was more like sweeping up the pulverized remains after ~50 years of use!**

RoguePhotonic wrote:
Honestly, I'm not very comfortable with the pictures I see of the north side of Elizabeth Pass with snow on it either. The trail is pretty faint on Google Earth. Would there be anything to be gained by reversing everything and starting from the HST, over EP from the south, and descending into Deadman Canyon? Maybe it's time to get a GPS.


Well you would probably have less snow going up the South side but it is much steeper. That whole trail on that side is an ass kicker.

This shot shows what it can be like with total coverage:

Image

But as you can see it's mostly smooth climbing. If you were post holing however that can be horrible. In 2012 I climbed up the Cloud Canyon head wall and at times it was thigh deep snow where I had to literally crawl on my knees to get up.

This shot Is from June 23rd 2012:

Image

I'd imagine by the end of May that is was a good coverage of slushy snow.


Thanks for the pics, which speak a thousand words! It looks like if there was a lot of snow by the last week of May, it would be pretty visible from Roaring River and we could make our decision about pressing on/turning back while we're still miles from the pass, right? If we decide to go for it, we're planning on camping at the north base of the pass and tackling it first thing in the morning. That should give us firm snow, but hopefully not too much ice!
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:26 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:If you found too much snow on Elizabeth Pass, you could just turn around and go back out the way you came in. Not ideal, but since it is not likely this year to be a big problem, I would not call it a deal breaker.

I agree that Tablelands is not a good route for people who have minimal off-trail experience. I have been there early season (4th july normal snow year) and melting snow over the talus was hard - lots of post holing and certainly slow enough that 15 miles a day would not be possible. Also agree that asking Rangers will not get you accurate information, only over-conservative "not possible" reactions.

I usually access Deadman and Cloud Canyon from Roads End (Cedar Grove) over Avalanche Pass -made it to the Ranger Station in one day - a bit burly but do-able. Lots of elevation gain - not for those who have only hiked in the flat lands.

Deadman Canyon has HORRIBLE mosquitoes at hatch. This year, you may hit this unpleasant event late May.


Thanks for the info...hadn't even thought much about the mosquitoes! I'll have to keep an eye out for this years' skeeter report.

I kinda want to start at Road's End, but at the same time I like the idea of being able to start and end at Lodgepole. More services at Lodgepole and I figure more people around there so the car would be safer. It's going to be a rental, but still.

Is Cloud Canyon much different from Deadman? I didn't consider Cloud Canyon because it would take a longer hike to get there, but maybe if Elizabeth Pass turns out to be a clear washout (weather, snow, or whatever) and we have time on our hands, we could take a quick peek by hiking towards it but not thru it, if that makes sense.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:33 pm

oldranger wrote:72 hours max? from e coast? Going over 11,000 ft el., 50 mi. Early season, shakey snow conditions. You are the kind of people I had to bail out when I was the Roaring River Ranger. Sorry if I am a little harsh but your criteria, from my experience, suggests a significant probability of a bad outcome. I certainly hope you are not planning on asking for help simply because it becomes apparent that you will not meet your deadline. Note that there will be no ranger out and about that earl in the season.

Mike


Nah, we have about 72 hours max for her to be out of internet access so she can check in with her class. I think it's best to plan for the best feasible hiking conditions because this is all going to be put down on a permit application that will be faxed in 3 months before the actual date. Everything could work out fantastic or we could end up spending the weekend in a Motel 6 in Fresno due to a freak storm. How things turn out is impossible to know, but I do know that we need to fill out a form and send it in starting the end of the week.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby oldranger » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:21 pm

You are not likely to have a problem getting a permit that time of the year. I certainly wouldn't get one now unless they will actually send you the permit which I don't think they will. You will have to get your permit the afternoon before you start or the morning of your start. You will not be able to see the upper end of Cloud Canyon, Elizabeth Pass until you get to Upper Ranger Meadow, about 7.5 miles above Roaring River Ranger Station. (no Ranger in May). Snow this year at high elevations is likely to be very unstable due to the shallow snowpack.

So you actually have less than 72 hours for your trip because you will have really limited internet access in the park.

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

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:50 am

franklin411 wrote:
Is Cloud Canyon much different from Deadman? I didn't consider Cloud Canyon because it would take a longer hike to get there, but maybe if Elizabeth Pass turns out to be a clear washout (weather, snow, or whatever) and we have time on our hands, we could take a quick peek by hiking towards it but not thru it, if that makes sense.


No, it doesn't make sense. I think a look at a map and how the terrain is laid out might demonstrate how "quick peek" doesn't factor into it.

When you are going up Deadman it is not straight - the terrain becomes apparent as you hike up it. Cloud is going to be the same. Straight lines rarely happen in nature. These are glacial valleys, and they aren't going to reveal their treasures all at once. You cannot for example see Deadman Canyon from the top of Elizabeth. You have to hike down to the point where the trail crosses the headwall of the canyon to actually see it. And then you are only seeing the top third - the rest of the canyon reveals itself as you hike into it.

The turnoff to Cloud is at Roaring River, and you won't get to Cloud from Deadman - it's possible but dangerous and only for the mountain goat types.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:27 am

You only get a peak at the head wall when you are at Ranger Meadow but it is enough to judge the snow level.

This set from my 2011 hike goes down through Deadman with allot of snow and can give you ideas of views and where you can see them.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:04 pm

OK. I am going to put in my 2 cents worth about snow. When I moved to California from Wyoming the first summer was a high snowpack year. Everyone I talked to said "oh no" it is far too dangerous to go out- you will post hole through the snow and drown or whatever, like there was something different and sinister about Sierra snow. So I waited. The next year I just went out into the snow. Had I not been willing to get into the snow when I started climbing in the PNW or in the Selkirks of Canada, or in Wyoming, I would have stayed home half the summer. I grew up on snow. You climb those big volcanos in May because you WANT to be on snow.

The deal is you need to have experience on snow, know how to "read" it, know when it is dangerous and when not, be equipped and prepared. With snow experience the early season opens up a whole new world! You likely will post-hole, get wet, really go slow, exert a great deal of effort, but done properly, it is not inherently dangerous. You will NOT be able to go 15 miles a day - more like 5 miles. I absolutely LOVE the snowy early season! I generally camp on a big flat rock or some obscure dry spot. Because of high river crossings, you have to plan carefully. You have to be willing to retreat.

I believe we have a section for beginners on snow travel in this forum. Read those posts and then decide if you want to deal with snow. Too early to say right now what snow conditions will be in the late spring.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Ska-T » Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:54 pm

Franklin, I don't know if this thread is dead yet, but if it isn't then I strongly suggest you give up the Deadman Canyon loop route. Three days is not enough time.

Tim had the perfect suggestion for a 3-day trip, that is, Miter Basin. You said you are willing to hike 15 mi days.

Day 1: It is about 14 mi from Horseshoe Meadows over Cottonwood Pass (an easy pass and no significant snow obstacles) to lower Miter Basin.

Day 2: Drop you packs and day hike to explore the MB. There are lakes in the middle of the basin and in high side cirques on both sides of the basin to visit, Crabtree Pass to look over, Class 2 peaks to climb, etc.

Day 3: Make the trip a loop by exiting over New Army Pass and back to Horseshoe Meadow via the Cottonwood Lakes trail or the South Fork Creek Trail (not shown on all maps). (Note: If there is too much snow on New Army Pass you can turn around and go out Cottonwood Pass.)

Franklin, you need to put your foot down and insist on this east side start. The driving time from LA to Lone Pine (3 1/2 hr + 1/2 hr to Horseshoe Meadows) is less than the time from LA to Sequoia. If you drive up the afternoon before you start your hike you can car camp at the BLM Tuttle Creek campground just west of Lone Pine for $5. They have bear boxes and privies!!

If you absolutely have to do a west side loop, then from your menu I'd choose the Rae Lakes Loop. If you do Glen Pass in the middle of the day the snow should be soft enough to get up (or down) the north side without too much difficulty. If you have to turn around the trip will still be a good adventure, especially if you go clockwise from Road's End. If you have to turn around and you started counterclockwise you could visit East Lake and maybe Lake Reflection, but that depends on being able to cross Bubbs Creek in early season. All that said, Miter Basin is still a better bet by far.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:40 pm

Thanks for the replies guys! Nope, the thread isn't dead yet. I've been focusing on my academic work, and trying not to procrastinate too much by thinking about future vacations.

Another friend (female also, but new to hiking) signed on for the trip so I'll have to use my one free permit modification to add her. I'm debating changing our route as well, for three reasons:

1. I'm not sure the new person can handle 15+ miles per day.
2. Conflicting info about the route length. My Trails Illustrated map puts the trail length at 48 miles, but I found trip reports listing up to 54 miles.
3. I tried climbing up Elizabeth Pass from the HST last September for about a mile and found it to be pretty overgrown. On that same trip, I talked with a party that had transited Elizabeth Pass from Deadman Canyon to the HST and they said it was pretty rough going down. So I'm a bit concerned that it'll be slow exiting Deadman Canyon.

I'll look at the map some more. Thanks for the suggestions, Ska-T! My friend was adamant about not wanting to do the Eastern side and I don't know why. All I know is she can be really stubborn and you have to choose your battles. I decided to let her have that one. I kinda don't like the idea of going off-trail too. I think if I did go off-trail, it would be to try to cut across the Tableland to Lodgepole instead of doing Elizabeth Pass > HST.

Rae Lakes is a possibility though. I dunno. Maybe I'm just a contrarian, but the fact that it's a "must do" trail makes me...not want to do it. Ha!

I may just decide to figure out a loop based on this thread that starts at Road's End or Marvin or w/e, or maybe just a double back to the Roaring River area. I dunno.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:20 am

I came down Elizabeth Pass after bailing off a trans Tablelands offtrail route. The trail was barely there - but I am relatively good at finding faded and nearly gone old trail. I had experienced people with me. I think inexperienced backpackers uncomfortable with cross country in steep terrain would be nervous with the south side of the pass. It's not so much overgrown as it is eroded and unmaintained.

I never trust National Geographic's maps for mileage. Tom Harrison's maps are more accurate.

Navigating through the Tablelands is an exercise in navigating granite slabs, boulders and ridges. Staying on the ridges reduces elevation loss and gain rollercoasters.

Rae Lakes is worth seeing. I'm planning a variant of it myself.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:21 am

If you are in doubt about Elizabeth Pass, traversing the Tablelands is probably not a good idea. I have never had trouble on Elizabeth Pass (lost it a few times but quickly found it again). But I thought navigating Tablelands was very tricky. Partly because there still was snow and lots of post-holing.

On the Rae Lakes Loop you can avoid most crowds at night if you just get off the trail. A few hundred yards off trail and you can have solitude. Two nice add-on day hikes - from Junction Meadow go up to Lake Reflection. From Rae Lakes go over to 60 Lakes.

A loop out of Mineral King would also be through some really nice country and not nearly as crowded.
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