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Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

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Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby Goshawk » Thu Mar 13, 2014 8:10 pm

We're mid-40s but fit, doing regular backpacking trips each summer, 4 days, last year Ansel Adams.
We will be spending 4 days at Tahoe right before, so should help somewhat with the acclimatization.
This will be the first trip where we have to do any serious route finding, I think that is the main issue for us. One of our group is a little paranoid. Obviously you have to respect the wild and be cognizant of your own skills. I read a map pretty well and am not afraid of short cross countries to a lake, so it's not like we're starting from scratch here, but this is the first time there are no guidebooks and trails seem limited.

This year we have 4 days (late July), hoping for a little head start the night before to get in a couple of miles.

so the questions:
what are good places to hit assuming we set up a basecamp either at end of day 1 or maybe halfway through day 2? (coming up to Mono Pass)
are there difficult routes we should avoid as newbies to this level of backpacking?
how do we reassure our difficult-to-assuage pal?
good fishing lakes don't hurt

Thanks in advance, I've already looked at some of the older threads and some maps.



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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby RiseToADry » Thu Mar 13, 2014 9:04 pm

You have to hit fourth recess lake. The fishing is okay but the scenery is stunning.

I would also try to get up into pioneer basin so you can see across the valley. The views from up there are stunning too.

Here is a TR I did a few years ago, keep in mind this was a high snow year: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6947&p=48586&hilit=+Pioneer+basin#p48586
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby Ska-T » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:41 pm

Goshawk wrote:how do we reassure our difficult-to-assuage pal?


Leave him at home? :nod:
Carry a GPS, PLB, Spot and a kg of batteries? ](*,)
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:44 pm

You wont have to deal with much route finding in Pioneer Basin. The trail will take you into the bottom of it where you will have two split off options to go up. Either way getting lost is fairly impossible since the only way is either further up the basin or back down. Any way at all you go down and out of the basin you will hit the main trail on Mono Creek.

This set of images from 2010 show some of the basin. Sadly that set was back before FlickR gave you more viewing options so it's low res images or the huge original file.
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby Ska-T » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:56 pm

I was just kidding with my comment above, although leaving him at home isn't a bad idea if cross country is beyond his level of comfort.

As far as camping, if you go over Mono Pass on the first day and pass Summit Lake (which isn't a great place to camp) then you meander downhill cross country to Golden Lake. That is a nicer stop than Trail Lakes in my opinion. The use trail into Pioneer Basin is well traveled and once in Pioneer Basin it is hard to get lost, especially if you have a compass or a line of sight to the mountains south. You can monkey bar from lake to lake to keep yourself oriented on the map.

Hiking in and out, exploring the basin, and perhaps visiting Fourth Recess Lake will fill up your four days, especially if you take time to fish.
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:46 am

People who are paranoid can kill a trip. We had to turn around one time when someone had a panic attack (I am serious, and I am licensed and able to diagnose one) and she could not continue on the chosen route. I had another lady melt down with anxiety because, instead of calmly requesting help, she panicked over having a stomach ache and potentially slowing the group down/ruining the trip. You never truly know what people are capable of until they are in an environment they aren't familiar with. Whether it's social anxiety or the terrain or that LOUD NOISE (usually turned out to be a mouse or something) - also had a guy who panicked in Yosemite Valley on Mirror Lake during a day hike - he was afraid of bears to the extreme.

I would choose a trail route if you have to take him. Or, if Mr. Paranoia does not want to go cross country, and is fine with base camping while others do it, he could sit in a hammock in camp all day while you go wander off trail into other territory. Or give him the choice of staying home and waiting for another trip.
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby Tom_H » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:48 am

Hi and welcome to the forum. It helps us if you answer all the questions in the following post and include it in your introduction.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

Since you will be at Tahoe, you might want to day hike nearby to acclimate a little. If you were to day hike going in at Eagle Falls and to Dick's Lake then to Lake Fontanilis, you can then go off trail but follow the stream exiting Fontanilis to Upper Velma. This would give your friend a touch of off trail hiking, but with an easy geographical feature to follow for a relatively short distance. This would begin to build confidence. After you get back to the trail at the edge of Upper Velma, you could then do another short off trail section going from the north end of Upper Velma SE then E until you again reach the trail. Both those sections are shown in yellow on the map linked below. If you return via the alternate route to Bayview Campground, you could take the little cutoff I have shown that heads over to Inspiration Point. This would give your friend 3 short XC sections in one day. By the time any anxiety begins to build, you will be right back on a trail (or highway) again, which may ease that anxiety. This would be a full day's hike, but I think you would enjoy it; there are a lot of beautiful places along the route. One in particular is where the stream exits Fontanilis, there is a long cascading fall as the water flows down the exposed pluton.

http://caltopo.com/map?id=2U2M
Last edited by Tom_H on Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:47 am

Hi Goshawk,

Its been years for me since I last visited the Pioneer Basin (79?), and if your looking for advice on how to hike cross country into it, then I'm no help as I hiked in over Mono Pass on my two visits. However, it seems to me you are wishing to follow the trail and if that is the case, IMO it is an excellent choice for those wishing to expand their backpacking a bit more. This was one of my earliest Sierra trips in 1976 and it helped to get me hooked on backpacking.

The Mono Pass trail is well maintained and easy to follow and the Mosquito Flat trailhead is up pretty high making the climb to Mono Pass bearable. The views from the top are simply gorgeous!! Ska T's advice seems spot on. I've not done the stretch to Golden Lake, but there is a use trail that one can see on aerial photos (FlashEarth is a good one), so it's likely not that difficult. With an early first day start, getting to Trail Lakes should be no problem and if your fit you could get to Pioneer of nearby Fourth Recess. As someone else said, it's worth the detour. On both my visits we went all the way in on day 1, but I was 17 and 20 at the time. I likely would do Trail Lakes or Golden Lake nowdays and on to Pioneer day two, but thats just cause I'm old and slow and like the afternoons to fish and relax.

Pioneer Basin itself is easy to navigate in and the views back across to 4th Recess as you get up higher are simply stunning. On my first visit it was stormy on the way in and I had no idea of the views from the top near Mono Pass. On my second visit in 79, the weather was clear and the views across canyon to the Basin were tremendous, not to mention the view looking down from above to 4th Recess Lake. As mentioned, the views from the Pioneer Basin back towards the pass are the types that you see in photography studios. Simply gorgeous!!

As I've not been in years, my own fishing intel is dated, but my son came in from the west in 2010 and from his luck there are still plenty of trout in the lakes with 2 through 4 producing nice pan sized rainbows, brookies and rainbow/golden hybrids. The goldens are up high ;).

Hope that helps and IMO, I say go, and enjoy yourself (and of course then send us a report with your pics ;) ;) ). If your friend doesnt enjoy this trip, then backpacking is not likely his forte. This is one of those trips that made me a backpacker for life.
"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"
D. Gilmour, Pink Floyd
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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby SSSdave » Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:07 pm

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Re: Pioneer Basin--4 days--request advice

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:37 pm

Goshawk wrote:This will be the first trip where we have to do any serious route finding, I think that is the main issue for us. One of our group is a little paranoid. Obviously you have to respect the wild and be cognizant of your own skills. I read a map pretty well and am not afraid of short cross countries to a lake, so it's not like we're starting from scratch here, but this is the first time there are no guidebooks and trails seem limited.

When you say "paranoid", what is it he's afraid of? Is it the prospect of getting lost, or is it heights/exposure, or something else?

If he's acrophobic, I wouldn't recommend the Golden Lake cutoff. It traverses a steep scree & talus slope high above lake level, which can be unnerving for someone who has a fear of heights.

If it's more about getting lost, then you can reassure him: even off-"trail" there are use trails, and even where there aren't use trails routefinding in Pioneer Basin is (as others have said) really easy.

One twist to be aware of: the Mono Pass trail between Golden Creek and Fourth Recess Creek does not follow the alignment shown on the topo. The USFS rerouted that stretch a few years back, and if you're studying the topo closely it can be kind of confusing.

Fourth Recess Lake:
Image

Pioneer Basin:
Image
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