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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 rlown » Thu May 01, 2014 4:13 pm

franklin411 wrote: 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.


Caution is good if you can't swim. I would recommend in your spare time you actually take a swimming class and learn how. You miss out on some experiences out there with that limitation.

I thank my mom for putting me in swimming classes at the age of 3.



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

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu May 01, 2014 6:17 pm

Ability to swim has little to do with surviving a crossing of a creek when the water is icy cold and it is raging at peak flow. Even those who swim are in danger. Smart backpackers avoid peak flow crossings and plan trips where there are bridges.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby rlown » Thu May 01, 2014 6:26 pm

but it helps. if you don't even have the basics down, you're dead. on that I agree with you.
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu May 01, 2014 7:04 pm

Maybe. If you cannot swim, you would not likely even try to cross a raging stream. If you think of yourself as a good swimmer but are not familiar with the dangers of snow-melt water or high flow currents, you may be stupid enough to try to cross. Yes, swimming is a good skill to have. Just know the limits.

Peak flow this year will be quite early and with the lack of snow, stream will likely be high only a short time.

Do not forget that regardless of what you find at a crossing, you can turn around and retreat! Many times I have gone out and been stopped by a crossing, but still had a good trip. Some days in the wilderness is better than none!
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby maverick » Thu May 01, 2014 7:36 pm

Number one cause of death in the National Parks, drowning. Some good reading
and useful info here Franklin: viewtopic.php?f=34&t=6043&hilit=river+crossing
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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

Postby oldranger » Thu May 01, 2014 9:40 pm

I almost lost it crossing Sugarloaf Crossing a couple of days before July 4 of 1983, a giant snow year. I was heading to Roaring River to meet up with the Roaring River Ranger and we were going to climb Brewer.

Anyhow that was about 20 years before I started using trekking poles. Luckily I did have an ice ax. About half way across the ford I started to lose it and pivited downstream and holding the head of the ax with both hands plunged the pointed end into the water to stabilize myself. I was still up to my elbows in water and gradually worked my way across the the stream. A few days later when I returned to Rowell Meadow (which was my ranger station) that year I kept on the s side of the Creek until Crowley Canyon and crossed the creek there then the outlet stream from Seville Lake. In my subsequent years I had a downed tree that I used about a half mile downstream from Sugarloaf Crossing when I had to Cross sugarloaf creek early in the season.

By the way markskor and I have a trip planned starting just before Memorial day weekend. We have a plan A, plan B, and a plan C. Plan A involves a 12,000 ft. pass, Plan B goes almost to 11,000 feet but in a s. facing basin, Plan C starts at 8000 ft. and goes down then up to about 7,500 feet. Which we choose will be a game day decision!

Personally, knowing the area well I would plan on doing Elizabeth Pass at that time but would give my self a couple more days given the uncertainty of the conditions.

Oh yeah in 83 to get to Rowell I hiked to Pear Lake then Cross country skied up over the tablelands and down to Crescent lake at the head of Crowley Canyon. Then did a miserable day of postholing through the forest between Crescent and Rowell Meadow. I didn't have to, just thought it would be fun. The Roaring River Ranger got flown in by Helicopter. They never flew me in at the beginning of the season when I was the RRR. :-({|=

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

Postby manbartz » Mon May 05, 2014 5:17 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Peak flow this year will be quite early and with the lack of snow, stream will likely be high only a short time.


When would you estimate peak flow will be this year?
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby tim » Mon May 05, 2014 6:11 pm

manbartz wrote:
Wandering Daisy wrote:Peak flow this year will be quite early and with the lack of snow, stream will likely be high only a short time.


When would you estimate peak flow will be this year?


See for yourself here: http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/awipsProducts/RNOHFSSPK.php
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby Bluewater » Tue May 06, 2014 12:29 am

I've been reading this thread since the beginning. I haven't had anything to contribute, but I recently did a trip along the west ridge overlooking Deadman Canyon. Maybe these photos will give some idea of the current snow levels, especially on Elizabeth Pass. These are from 04/21. I hope this helps. Have a fun trip.

glacier divide pano 91.JPG
elizabeth pass and horn col


This is looking north up Deadman Canyon, taken from the top of the ridge to the northeast of Lonely Lake.

dead man canyon 2.JPG
dead man canyon


This is Glacier Ridge (not Glacier Divide)

glacier divide pano 81.JPG
glacier divide


IMG_8186-PANO.jpg
great western divide
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Re: Planning for Late May Trip: Rae Lakes Loop or Deadman Canyon

Postby oldranger » Tue May 06, 2014 7:37 am

Franklin…

The snow you see in the Elizabeth Pass and Horn Col pic will still be there in a few weeks.
The pic down Deadman shows lower Ranger Meadow to be snow free but you can't see Elizabeth Pass from there. So you can't make a judgement until you get to Upper Ranger which is about even with
Big Bird Lake but a few hundred feet lower. The s. side of Elizabeth should be snow free, barring a significant storm within a day or two of your arrival. If you choose to do this trip you will want to start over Elizabeth as early as possible if it is too icy be patient and wait for the snow to soften a little, then move as fast as possible so you don't have to posthole. Also be alert to the possibility of temperature gradient snow. There could be a breakable crust on the snowpack with temperature gradient snow underneath. You will recognize this condition when you hear a "woof" sound then the sound like sand pouring out of the back of a truck. If I heard that noise I would not enter any steep terrain as there is a potential for triggering an avalanche. This is a very rare condition in the Sierra, I have encountered it only one time, but it can occur at high elevations in low snow years like this.

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

Postby franklin411 » Tue May 13, 2014 10:14 pm

Well, my friend came through (booked her flights) so it looks like the plan is a go! We're going to spend 3 nights/4 days backpacking instead of 2/3, followed by 2 nights car camping/day hiking. The reservable section of Lodgepole is booked up, but it looks like most of the facility (100 sites) is on walk-up and I think we should get a site fine for a Sun-Tue. Or we might camp elsewhere in the park just to see a different area. We'll see. I really like all the luxuries you have at Lodgepole!

@Wandering Daisy: Yep, I'm definitely prepared to retreat if I don't feel safe crossing streams. I figure if we get shut down at Sugarloaf Creek on Day 1, then we can just camp there for the night and hike out on Day 2. That frees up Day 3 and 4 for the backpacking component, so we could always head north and try an overnighter around Roads' End or take the HST to Hamilton Lakes or something. I love the fact that there are so many options!

@Maverick: Perfect! Thanks for the link! I actually thought about trying rope, but the idea of getting tangled up in it makes sense. I also like the point about trying to cross in the morning, when the flows are lower. Hadn't thought about it, but again...it makes perfect sense! I think anything deeper than knee-high would make me more or less nervous depending on the speed.

I noticed that Dorst Creek isn't taking reservations anymore due to low water supplies this year, so I hope the silver lining of that will be safer water crossings.

@Bluewater: Yes, I loved your pictures! At least Deadman Canyon itself is snow-free, so I figure worst case (assuming we do get across Sugarloaf Creek) is that we hike out via the Twin Lakes trail after seeing Deadman. Not a terrible fate at all!

@Oldranger: Thanks for the tip about Upper Ranger/Elizabeth...Google Maps seems to have improved their satellite imagery of the area recently, and the place looks spectacular! I'll keep your info about snow crossing and avalanche avoidance in mind, and we'll definitely shoot for an early morning transit *if* we feel good about trying the pass. Frankly, the place looks so beautiful I think neither I nor my friend will have a frown on our face if we decide to exit the way we entered rather than risk the pass!

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

Postby franklin411 » Tue May 27, 2014 7:19 am

Well, my friend had to take a rain check because she developed a dental problem, so she's going to try to reschedule for mid-June if the airfare gods will play nice with her. I decided to go solo because I think it's 50/50 whether she'll make it out in June.

I think I'm going to go light/fast on this trip, just because I get awfully lonely when I'm by myself. As long as my legs are moving, I'm fine. The minute I stop, my morale just drops like a rock. The topo map makes it look pretty flat from Silliman Pass to Roaring River, and I've gotten my pack down to 22 lbs total including bear can, food, and water. I think I can get that down to below 20 lbs by skipping the bear can and hiking the whole 22 miles from Lodgepole to Roaring River in one day. That's a long haul but I think with a light pack it won't be so bad *UNLESS* I'm wrong that the trail is down to flat from Silliman. Last year, I hiked from Crescent Meadow to Hamilton Lake (16 miles) in 7 hours with a 30 lb pack.

Then I can do Elizabeth Pass the next day, and once I'm to the High Sierra Trail I should have campsites w/ bear boxes coming out of my ears. If Sugarloaf Creek proves un-fordable on Day 1 then my fall-back plan is to retreat to Ranger Lakes. If Elizabeth Pass proves too snowy on Day 2 then I plan to fall back to Roaring River or possibly Sugarloaf for the night, exiting back to Lodgepole on Day 3.

Hopefully I won't chicken out entirely and just dayhike, but I reserve the right to do so! ;)
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