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Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

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Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby Sierra_Summits » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:22 am

In your opinion what would they be! I have done some class 2 passes that were really diffucult and some that were easy peasy. i remember doing chimney pass a few years back and it was hours of hiking on difficult talus and others have had easier ledges and grassy chutes..ie shout of relief pass. I have a friend that has told me that a lot of the area around courtwright resivoir has easier cross country passes. I thought i would put it out there to all of y'all. Thoughts?
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:14 pm

Hmmm so many passes to think about! Allot of factors to think about also like is it just how easy the terrain was going over or do we need to think about how much altitude gain and loss it has. Also the general approach to it might be difficult even though the pass itself is not hard. Then do we factor in if the pass has use trails or maybe even an old trail that can be followed allot such as Gardiner or Cartridge Passes.

Pterodactyl Pass in SNP is probably one of the easiest over all passes I can think of. You have almost no rock hoping at all. The whole thing is smooth granite slabs. All around class 1 with the smallest level of class 2.

Grouse Pass which is the first along the Sierra High Route is extremely easy if you think about the terrain from Grouse Lake and over and not the 6000 gain it takes from the trail head.

Grey Pass on the HST is also just an easy walk over.

Red Pass on the HST is also just a walk over with allot of use trail on it's East side.

Don't Be a Smart Pass in Yosemite

That's some I can think of off the top of my head.
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:09 pm

Off the top of my head, some easy stroll-across passes are Ice Lake Pass in Yosemite/Hoover (Little Slide Canyon to Piute Creek headwaters); Mt. Shinn Pass in John Muir (from the Mt. Shinn Lake drainage to Red Rock Basin); Harrington Pass (crossing the Monarch Divide near Mt. Harrington); the pass between Blue and Rockbound Lakes in Ansel Adams; the pass leading from Crescent Lake (KCNP) to Tableland (SNP); and the pass ENE of Lake 10785 (near Granite Pass), leading to Goat Crest Saddle.

I can think of tons of passes that are easy on the south side and kind of a pain on the north (for obvious reasons of climate & geology): Graveyard Pass, Blue Canyon Pass, the pass east of Mt. Silliman. I recall Rohn and Shout-of-Relief as more or less in this category--easy ramps on the south side, talus & loose stuff on the north--but it's been 10 years since I did the former and 20 since I did the latter, so I can't vouch for that recollection.

Then there's the passes that are easy if you know the way, and potentially a pain if you don't. Mungoat Pass (between Grouse Lake and Kid Lakes Basin, KCNP) has a steep north side that's a piece of cake if you stay way to the left. The NW side of Blackcap Pass (JMW, Guest Lake to Blackcap Basin) looks like it's all cliffed out at the top, but there's a convenient notch (take the ramp on the right up as far as it goes, then cut left on the bench just below the rim until you hit the notch). Finger Col from the east (KCNP, Goddard Creek drainage to Cathedral Lake) has a hidden notch as well (of course, once you get through that notch it's still a steep way down).

ETA: Of course, 'easy' and 'difficult' are extremely subjective; YM, as always, MV.
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby maverick » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:29 pm

Would add that a lot depends on what conditions or shape the pass is that year.
One can go over a pass and find it to be very easy and within their comfort zone
but the next year find it to have snow/ice or dry with scree & talus compared
to the previous year which makes it more difficult for the individual.
Case in point Ice Lake Pass that Tom mentioned is an easy pass, but if one goes
up in a heavy snow year or early enough in the season it can get a little involved
as I have experienced. Volcanic Pass which is easier with snow because of the
scree/talus mix, as is Harrison Pass, though timing of the day for this is important
because of ice.
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby Sierra_Summits » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:51 pm

i appreciate any ideas as i would like to put together a list of easy cross country passes as i know my knees are getting less reliable! some of my ideas would be:

shout of relief
goat crest saddle
gabbot pass
bighorn pass
pilot knob saddle
rockwell pass
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby Sierra_Summits » Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:38 pm

Thanks for reminding me of all the variables! i guess this thread could get very confusing without some parameters!

--i guess I'm looking for just easy climb to pass. but if there is miles of talus to reach the pass that would be nice to know about.

--also, if a pass is easy if you find the specific route and you know how to find that please by all means describe the route if you can remember.

--as far as snow or no snow variable. lets assume that there is minimal snow!

thanks for any input!
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:39 pm

Sierra_Summits wrote:Thanks for reminding me of all the variables! i guess this thread could get very confusing without some parameters!

--i guess I'm looking for just easy climb to pass. but if there is miles of talus to reach the pass that would be nice to know about.

--also, if a pass is easy if you find the specific route and you know how to find that please by all means describe the route if you can remember.

--as far as snow or no snow variable. lets assume that there is minimal snow!

thanks for any input!

After thinking about it some, it occurs to me that a lot of the easiest passes I can think of are on the Monarch Divide. There are lots of others besides the ones already mentioned: the route from Volcanic Lakes to Granite Pass; the pass from upper Glacier Lake to the North Fork Kid Creek drainage; the pass from upper Glacier Lake to Kid Lakes; and so on. So if you're looking for a relatively mellow cross-country adventure, the Monarch Divide is a good candidate. Tough first day however you do it, but once you're at elevation the cross-country travel is mostly pretty nice.

As far as your friend's suggestion of around Courtright, I don't know what specifically they were talking about but there is a lot of easy cross-country travel in Red Rock Basin and points east.
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby maverick » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:04 pm

To add some more not yet mentioned:
- Rae Col HST Map
- North Glacier Pass HST Map
- Knapsack Pass HST Map
- Harrington Pass HST Map
- Gimme Pass HST Map
- Crabtree Pass HST Map
- Coyote Pass HST Map
- Black Giant Pass HST Map
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby Tom_H » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:23 pm

A couple of nice ones in Hoover are the saddle between Lake Helen and Tower Lake. A bit beyond that, there is a very gentle use trail up the headwaters of the West Walker into a pass where the trail peters out into XC as you drop easily into the headwaters of Thompson Canyon.

The pinkish-purple line on this map is a nice little XC section with 3 passes and one bit of orienteering from Tower Lake to the West Walker headwaters.

http://caltopo.com/map?id=4D4F
Last edited by Tom_H on Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby ndwoods » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:26 pm

Don't be a smartass pass was easy for you? ok, I'm gonna go back to it! It's one of the early xc passes we attempted and it was impassable to us. I looked in my records and we had attempted it July 14 1996...don't know if that was a heavy snowfall year, but the pass was like one solid sheet of ice from the top to the lake and from the edge of one cliff to the edge of another....we actually tried to climb down each side along the rocks and came across scary cracks in the ice that looked like if they gave way the whole sheet would shoot into the lake below. I have often thought of going back later in the season...also now that I have quite of few more years xc...:)
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby Tom_H » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:43 pm

ndwoods wrote:Don't be a smartass pass was easy for you? ok, I'm gonna go back to it! It's one of the early xc passes we attempted and it was impassable to us. I looked in my records and we had attempted it July 14 1996...don't know if that was a heavy snowfall year, but the pass was like one solid sheet of ice from the top to the lake and from the edge of one cliff to the edge of another....we actually tried to climb down each side along the rocks and came across scary cracks in the ice that looked like if they gave way the whole sheet would shoot into the lake below. I have often thought of going back later in the season...also now that I have quite of few more years xc...:)


Um, may I ask exactly who it is that you're talking to and which pass you're talking about?
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Re: Easiest cross country passes in the high sierras?

Postby maverick » Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:07 pm

Tom_H wrote:
Um, may I ask exactly who it is that you're talking to and which pass you're talking about?


Rogue wrote:

Hmmm so many passes to think about! Allot of factors to think about also like is it just how easy the terrain was going over or do we need to think about how much altitude gain and loss it has. Also the general approach to it might be difficult even though the pass itself is not hard. Then do we factor in if the pass has use trails or maybe even an old trail that can be followed allot such as Gardiner or Cartridge Passes.

Pterodactyl Pass in SNP is probably one of the easiest over all passes I can think of.
You have almost no rock hoping at all. The whole thing is smooth granite slabs. All
around class 1 with the smallest level of class 2.

Grouse Pass which is the first along the Sierra High Route is extremely easy if you
think about the terrain from Grouse Lake and over and not the 6000 gain it takes
from the trail head.

Grey Pass on the HST is also just an easy walk over.

Red Pass on the HST is also just a walk over with allot of use trail on it's East side.

Don't Be a Smart Pass in Yosemite

That's some I can think of off the top of my head.


She was addressing Rogue Tom.
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