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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 overheadx2 » Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:03 pm

Rae lakes is crowded, but like WD said you can get plenty of solitude by going to either Dragon Lake or 60 Lakes Basin. We camped at Rae Lakes one night, but due to the crowds, we moved to Dragon Lake and then over to 60 lakes. Both were vacant all day.



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

Postby Hobbes » Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:12 pm

Well, it looks like this thread is indeed undead, so I'll chime in as well with a few observations:

1. Rae lakes is crowded in the same manner that San Diego beaches are crowded. And why is that? Because (a) SD beaches are bare ribbons compared to super-wide Orange & Los Angeles county beaches; but more importantly (b), no one ever seems to consider Arizona! That's right, if you live in Phoenix or Tucson, what's the straightest, most direct route to the Pacific ocean? I-8 baby.

And so, SD tends to be a mad house in summer, more so than OC/LA if at all possible, because you need to add SD residents + people from two large metro areas in AZ who are intent on getting out of the desert.

Now, consider the Bay area - it has two prime routes to the High Sierra: Kings Cyn & Yosemite. Yosemite is a well known clusterf**k in summertime, and besides which, the vast majority stay in the Valley proper. That leaves Kings Cyn for those fresh from their local REI store who want to get out and experience backpacking.

And what is the primo, #1 hike out of Roads End? The Rae lakes loop. The problem with RLL is it delivers big, beautiful scenery, including running rivers, lush forests and sparkling Alpine lakes on an easy, well marked trail. So who can blame anyone for wanting to go? The problem of course is you'll think you're in SF proper - Rae lakes is one of the few places in the Sierra which has a time limit on the number of nights you can stay.

For people who live in the Bay area, and need their Sierra fix, then RLL is an obvious choice. But for anyone coming from out-of-state on a bucket list kind of trip, the much wiser course of action is to approach the mountains from the East side trailheads if at all possible.

As far as preferred THs, I'm in agreement with Ska-T further up-thread, with a slight alteration: perhaps the biggest secret in the Sierra is that you can almost always get a walk-in exit permit out of Whitney. What that means is you can enter from Cottonwood, (New) Army pass, Kearsarge or even Shepherd, cruise along the PCT/JMT (or Miter as suggested) in perhaps the biggest country in the Sierra (highest peaks, double range - Great Western, highest pass - Forester), and then, just to top it off, have a snack on top of Whitney and walk out.

Now sure, Whitney is going to be crowded, but it's (a) the last day of the trip (if you're doing 15 mile days); (b) no one is camping on the peak (well, maybe a few), so it's all very transient & cheerful; and (c) there aren't any casual "party" hikers - people put in the time to train either for a day hike or overnighter. Most have a look of determination, especially those who spent months of rigamarole going through the lottery process for permits, etc.

There are a many other multi-day hikes out of the eastside that cover impressive territory and seem to miss the great bulk of foot traffic. TI lake from Silverlake, Duck pass to Tully/Silver from Mammoth, etc. Ask a few questions - all the regulars have their favorites and could provide some insight/tips.

Here's a shot taken from Diamond mesa looking towards the Kaweahs with GW divide in the background & Colby pass off to the right - no one around anywhere:
Image
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:53 pm

Hi all,
OK, we ended up sticking to the original plan and just playing it by ear, mainly because the alternatives seemed problematic. The plan is to enter via the Twin Lakes trail and try to get to Sugarloaf Meadow on Day 1. If we make that, then we should be able to get to within sight of Elizabeth Pass to make a decision about going forward or not on Day 2. If we decide not to tackle Elizabeth Pass, then we can still experience Deadman Canyon and have plenty of time to fall back to Sugarloaf or Commanche that night, hiking out the way we came on Day 3. It wouldn't be a loop, but it should still be a great trip I think.

The 3rd person we added said she can handle 15 miles per day and I'm taking her at her word, while confirming it with a 15 mile training hike with full overnight packs in the San Gabriels. If she can't do it, I think we'd do fine with the backup plan above. Are there any peaks in the vicinity of the Twin Lakes trail or Roaring River that would be easy-ish to bag for Class 1 - light Class 2 hikers? I thought if she can really only handle 10-15 miles, we should just hike to Sugarloaf, make camp, dayhike from there into Deadman Canyon or bag a peak or something, spend Night 2 at Sugarloaf, and then hike out on Day 3.

@Hobbes + Ska-T
Totally agree with Hobbes on Rae Lakes. To me, there's something more appealing about Deadman Canyon because I think fewer people are going to get to see it vs the popular hike of RLL.

I do like the East side idea, but the problem for this trip is that my friend put the kybash on Eastern Sierra THs. There's no putting my foot down with her--she'll just get mad. I can't really argue with her either because she made just that one request (Westside only) and I was free to pick any route I wanted as long as we got back on time. That said, don't think that your advice has gone to waste. I have another friend who really doesn't care what TH as long as we're in the mountains, and I'm going to put the routes you outlined to work later on with her. I did Whitney last summer, but my TH-flexible-friend hasn't so it would be fun to do it with her a second time.

I really don't know why my friend is so adamant about not wanting to do the East side, but now I have to find out! I know she has been to the Eastern Sierra but I think she hasn't done the Western Sierra at all, so that could be the reason. I suppose that would be reasonable, but of course I'm only guessing.

@AlmostThere and Wandering Daisy
Got it...Tablelands is definitely off the list no matter what. It sounds like we probably could handle Elizabeth Pass as long as we got an early start and allowed plenty of time to divert around badly washed out areas. Is that about accurate? IIRC it took me 4 hrs to hike from the Elizabeth Pass trail/HST junction to Crescent Meadow last year. I'm not sure if my friends can keep that pace, but I figure if we take about 2-3 hours to transit Elizabeth Pass we should still get back to the car with a couple of hours of daylight to spare.

I'm going to Mineral King 2 weeks after this trip, so don't worry...I'll get there! :)

Thanks again, everyone!
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:39 pm

Post script: Both girls ended up flaking out (first one girl because she wanted to go to a concert instead, and then the other girl because the first girl wasn't going)!

I may still do this as a solo and give myself an extra day, or maybe shift it to Mineral King as a solo (but the marmots scare me), or maybe shift it car camping/day hiking, or shift to June/July, or do something else entirely.

Kinda annoying how a person's word doesn't count for anything these days!
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby rlown » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:52 pm

Kinda annoying how a person's word doesn't count for anything these days!


As you get older, it gets harder to rope people into a trip. So many family and work challenges. Have to roll with it.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:07 pm

Welcome to the reason I hike with large groups on a regular basis - to find a larger pool of people who will do multi-day trips, with weather, regardless of time of year.

When solo, I tend to stay on trail, having the experiences with the SAR team firmly ensconced in my brain. The ones we never find - solo, off trail, unclear route left with someone ("we think he went over some pass from deer meadow? Canyon? He said something about a lake?").

There's a form posted here on the forum - you would be well advised to take advantage of it. Make sure the person you leave it with knows when and which rangers/sheriff's office to activate in the event you do not return.

You can't go wrong with Mineral King. The marmots are at the worst in early spring - we've parked without tarpage in September and October without issues. A huge blue tarp you can drive onto and duct tape up around the car is adequate.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby rlown » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:18 pm

from Mav's sig:

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0:
http://reconn.org
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:16 pm

Thanks for the replies! Well, the trip might be saved yet. I messaged a person I met hiking last summer and they seem pretty gung ho, not only for backpacking 5/29-5/31, but also for staying longer (maybe thru 6/4). I think we could keep the original plan of backpacking the Deadman Canyon loop, and we can get out when we want to. Then we can drive to different spots and dayhike (Road's End, Mineral King), or we could theoretically drive to Yosemite for a couple of days!

We'll see. Anyway I'm wondering what kind of weather conditions people would say is about average for the end of May/early June up around central Sequoia (8000-9000' elevation). I went to that mountain forecast website and looked up Kaweah Queen. The current conditions seem fairly pleasant--highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s at 8000' today, dropping about 10 degrees by the weekend. Is that about right for late May as well? I realize that mountain weather is what it is, all bets are off in the event of a storm, and be prepared to change plans to suit changing conditions, but I'm wondering about the rough averages.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:10 pm

I don't think you should go. It snowed last week and it's due to drop more next week. It won't even be fun snow you can snowshoe. Just snotty, melting, spring snow like what I stomped through for eight miles last weekend at 6,000 feet. It'll stay longer at higher elevations and it'll be deeper.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby tim » Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:07 pm

Did you see my Pear Lake trip report from last weekend? There is a lot of snow above 10,000ft in that area, and Elizabeth Pass (over 11k) certainly won't be anywhere close to melting out by the end of May, especially if we get more cool weather next week.

If you are now thinking 5-6 days for the loop and you both know what you are doing on snow (including carrying the right gear eg ice axe and snowshoes) it might start to become feasible, but I've not seen any evidence of that to date. Note also there is a non-trivial crossing of Sugarloaf Creek which will be at peak flow right about then.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby franklin411 » Thu May 01, 2014 3:43 pm

I did read your TR Tim and thanks for the tip Almostthere. While we aren't married to any particular trail, route, or section of the Park, we are married to the dates because we both teach college but on opposite sides of the country. This is the only time where our breaks overlap.

We're not married to routes and we have about 6 good hiking days. I think that gives us a lot of flexibility to change our plans to suit people's incoming trip reports and the conditions we find when we arrive. I am interested in hearing more about that Sugarloaf creek crossing because I can't swim, though. As you can imagine, I'm very cautious about fording anything. If either Sugarloaf or Elizabeth Pass looked sketchy, we could just pack out the way we came and still have a very fun trip, I think. In the back of my mind I still have the idea of switching to Road's End and doing 2-3 days' backpacking there, but is the snow/river crossing going to be any better there?

We could also switch to the East side, but I kinda feel that my friend ought to have the full Sequoia experience being that it's her first time. She probably wouldn't care, but gosh...going to Sequoia and not seeing the big trees is kind of like going to San Francisco and not seeing the big bridge!

Edit:
I found this picture of the Sugarloaf Creek crossing from July 2006. This would freak me out but I think I could handle it if I was with someone. Alone I might turn back:

http://ziggyworks.com/adventures/2006_0 ... 013_md.JPG
Last edited by franklin411 on Thu May 01, 2014 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby tim » Thu May 01, 2014 3:58 pm

If you really want to go from the west side, I would head up from Roads End through Woods Creek towards Rae Lakes and see how high you get. Just don't try to cross Glen Pass. Keep an eye on the Charlotte Lake snow sensor (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSNOWDP, showing 29in of snow there at the moment) which should be reasonably comparable for the Rae Lakes area. Glen Pass will have considerably more snow, especially on the north side.

That route starts well below snowline and ascends gradually and AFAIK doesn't have any significant unbridged stream crossings. It is a pleasant 5-6 day trip to Rae Lakes and back and you won't get stuck days from help like you might in Sugarloaf/Deadman Canyon that time of year.
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