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Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

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Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby mikeydc » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:28 pm

Hey Everyone
I just joined and am seeking some advice. My buddy and I are novice backpackers and would like to do a 3 night trip in August. Am wondering if you think that's do-able in the High Sierras and if so what trails/trips you would suggest.
Thanks!
Mike



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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:41 pm

Hi, and welcome to the forum.

There are hundreds of places. In order to be of help to you, we need you to do some things for us. First, please fill out your profile in more detail. Secondly, please come back to this thread and answer all the questions that are listed in this post:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

Thirdly, it would help to know how much you know about CA and the Sierra (the word Sierra is already plural and does not take an "s" on the end). Your moniker ends with "DC"; I am wondering if that means you are from the nation's capital? If you are not already familiar with the Sierra Nevada (no "s" on the end of "Nevada" either), it would be a good idea to do some online research first, particularly reading numerous trip reports on this forum.

We want to, and we can, give you a lot of help. The thing is, and I hope you will understand this is said without criticism, the Sierra is huge and asking whether one can do a 3 day trip there is akin to asking whether it is possible to take a vacation in Europe. The topic is really broad and we can assist you better if you familiarize yourself more with the Sierra and give us the information requested on the forms so that we can narrow down the possibilities.

If you can go ahead and take those steps, there are many knowledgable people who would be very glad to help you.

Tom
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby mikeydc » Sat Jun 07, 2014 6:08 pm

Just read the How to Post...section and then saw your response. Thank you for your patience with my newbie-ness. I have been reading some posts similar to my question and they're very helpful. Here's some info on me:

Level of experience: Level 2
Terrain: I'm not clear on the difference between Class 2 & 3 so let's just say Class 2 - more than just marked trails but not real comfortable just relying on a map/compass.
Interest: Lakes, forests, Big Mountain
Length: 3 nights, 4 days, 10 mi/day sounds do-able
Loop would be ideal since we'd rather not deal with shuttles.

I do have some logistics questions which I'll read up on... regarding getting permits and the typical mosquito and weather situation in August.

ps
No, not from DC. Those are initials. I'm Canadian. :)
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby rlown » Sat Jun 07, 2014 6:24 pm

Canadian, eh? are you driving down (not) or flying in? where?

Some things not covered is altitude. Do you want to keep it under 8800' or higher? Higher means you need to acclimatize.

Bear cans. do you have them or are you already planning on renting (depends on where you go of course?)

Gear. kind of guessing you have gear, but you can tell us.

Umm, you need to get comfortable with a map/compass, especially if you're not from here. you need a map for everyone in your group. They also need to know where they are. only think of GPS as a backup.

Mosquitoes will depend on when you get your permit. Later this year will be better, but still be prepared. You're probably ok. Fires will be out by August, given the drought here.

As Tom_H said, welcome.
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:37 pm

I'm going to echo Russ' questions about how you're getting here. Are you on an auto tour? If flying, where do you arrive? Are there other things you intend to do/see while in CA? This could help us affix this 3 night trip to something you're already doing. The two most popular places in the Sierra are Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. There are lots of non-hiking tourists who go to both of those. If you already plan to visit one of those with your friend, it's easy just to hit the trail from right there within minutes (you need your permit reservations well in advance, however). If you've never backpacked before and are not used to altitude, Desolation Wilderness near Tahoe is a good elevation for beginners. It has forests as well as lakes and open majestic vistas. It also has a fairly high number of people, which can actually be an advantage for someone who is absolutely new to backpacking, because if you have a problem, you will likely see someone within an hour or two who can help you. If you're going to fly to L.A., then you're closer to Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks, which are much higher elevation and have fewer 3 day possibilities, though there are some. Once we know a little more of this we can narrow down the list of locations.
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby mikeydc » Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:53 pm

Thanks for your response. Originally from Canada but we are based in L.A. and will be driving from there. Desolation Wildnerness sounds perfect (despite the daunting name) though it's a bit far. I will do some more reading on the limitations of altitude - we're in quite good physical shape but still... Also sounds like I might need to take an REI map/compass course or something. I checked the gov website and it looks like we would have to know exactly which sites we'll be on which day and book the permits accordingly. Not sure how to figure that out. This forum is incredibly useful so will keep reading.
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby tim » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:39 pm

If you're coming from LA then I wouldn't go as far as Tahoe. A nice 4 day loop is Duck Pass to Reds Meadow (out of Mammoth) (see viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5344&start=0). I would also suggest my trip from Cottonwood Pass to Soldier Lake but you would need to be OK with altitude and preferably able to navigate up into Miter Basin which is the most spectacular sight in that area (see viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6526).

However, have you thought about doing an easy overnight shakedown trip first? Any decent 4 day loop trip will take you far enough away from the trailhead that bailing out in the middle could be tricky. I started with my kids by hiking in a few miles, doing a day hike on day 2, and then hiking out on day 3. Cottonwood Lakes is good for that but there are many other east side lakes and some west side options also.
Last edited by tim on Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby balance » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:40 pm

Greetings Mike

The best trail guides for beginners are the "Sierra North" and "Sierra South" books. There's some basic guidelines and plenty of information to help decide on a trip that will work best for you. You can print free 24k USGS maps from "Libre Map Project", though navigation is a bit sketchy. Map and compass skills are essential, even on trails. You'll feel a lot more comfortable knowing where you are.

If you want to be conservative, you might plan hiking in (this basically means gaining elevation) for two days; spending a day at your destination; then one day hiking back, as the going is a bit easier.

Welcome to the Sierra Nevada! Congratulations on leaving the campgrounds behind and really getting to know the Range of Light.

Peace.
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:44 pm

There are many things closer to LA than Desolation (the beauty belies the name-in the early days it was empty of people and hard to reach-therefore desolate). In fact, from LA you can go up both the east side as well as the west side.

If you want to take a vacation to Tahoe and hike at reasonable altitude for a beginner, this trip with great views would be a possibility: Begin at Glen Alpine Spring trailhead near Fallen Leaf Lake. Hike to Lake Gilmore for night 1. On day 2, climb Mt. Tallac for a birds eye view of all of Lake Tahoe, return to camp, hike to Susie Lake and camp night 2. Day three, hike past Heather Lake to Lake Aloha where you will have a stunning view of the Crystal Range on the other side of the lake, which is filled with dozens of granite islands. Camp at Aloha on night 3. Final day-return via Angora Ridge trail to road just below Glen Alpine Spring and return to vehicle. This route will have many people and will have some steepness, but the views are magnificent and you will have people nearby if you encounter trouble. There are other routes nearby that are not as steep and have fewer people, but they are not as pretty. Southern Sierra routes are not my area of expertise, but there are plenty of places much closer to LA and I am sure other members will chip in with suggestions for a 3 night/4 day loop.

Route map: http://caltopo.com/map?id=0G7P
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Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby Bluewater » Sun Jun 08, 2014 11:36 am

Welcome to HST mikeydc. I also live in Southern Ca and start most of my hikes from the east side.

Horseshoe Meadows is the closest and most convenient way to easily access the high Soerra. It is a four hour drive (or less) to the Interagency Visitor Center just before Lone Pine. After picking up a permit I usually drive up to Horseshoe Meadows and sleep at the trailhead to acclimate. There are a few campsites by the parking lot, but if they are full it is possible to just camp by the meadow.

A loop that I have done a few times in the area would fit your schedule (10 miles/day for 4 days).

Day 1: Cottonwood Pass to lower Soldier Lake is 10 miles with only 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Cottonwood Pass is the easiest pass over the crest and a good way to start. There is a be bear box and camp sites at the lake although there are usually other campers.
Day. 2: Take any of the obvious cross country routes over the ridge to the west of the lake into Miter Basin. From there it is easy cross country travel into the basin. After a brief section of trees along the ridge it opens up and the way up into the basin is unobstructed. Camping in the trees just below Sky Blue Lake is nicely protected. It's only 3-4 miles to Sky Blue Lake, but there are many options for exploring the basin. Expect a huge glacially carved granite basin filled with waterfalls and surrounded by giant peaks.
Day 3: Follow your route from the day before back to Soldier Lake and then take the Rock Creek trail to New Army Pass and camp by any of the Cottonwood Lakes. 8-10 miles depending on where you stay in the Cottonwood Lakes area. Some possibly strenuous hiking over the pass.
Day 4: hike back to your car at Horseshoe Meadows. 8+- miles, easy downhill.

There are many ways to tailor the trip to fit how you are feeling. For example Miter Basin is worth two nights to explore, then just hike back over Cottonwood Pass the way you entered. . . or bag Langley on the way out (follow the easy route near NAP up to 14,000+ ft!).

There are several worth while 4 day trips out of Bishop if you want to drive another hour. Have fun!


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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby macchiolives » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:23 pm

The Jennie Lakes/Weaver Lake Loop in Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a nice beginner loop. From my understanding, a permit is not required for the area:

http://www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/jennie-lakes

I'll second the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead. I did that last summer and summited Mt. Langley in mid-July. Base camped at Cottonwood Lakes #4. But if I was to do it again, I'd probably base camp at Cottonwood Lakes #5 and head up Langley via Old Army Pass. After messing around on Instagram after the trip, I guess Tom Hanks was supposedly hiking in that area (some other hikers that we met hashtagged Mt. Langley and took a photo with him on the trail). So, I guess you might see a celeb??!?!?! Two birds with one stone I guess.. esp if you're on vacation. Not many people can say they summited a 14er while meeting Forrest Gump in the process. Btw.. if you're interested, here's a link to my trip report up to Langley:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-r ... 47785.html
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Re: Advice wanted re. beginner Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:37 pm

macchiolives wrote:The Jennie Lakes/Weaver Lake Loop in Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a nice beginner loop. From my understanding, a permit is not required for the area:

http://www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/jennie-lakes

I'll second the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead. I did that last summer and summited Mt. Langley in mid-July. Base camped at Cottonwood Lakes #4. But if I was to do it again, I'd probably base camp at Cottonwood Lakes #5 and head up Langley via Old Army Pass. After messing around on Instagram after the trip, I guess Tom Hanks was supposedly hiking in that area (some other hikers that we met hashtagged Mt. Langley and took a photo with him on the trail). So, I guess you might see a celeb??!?!?! Two birds with one stone I guess.. esp if you're on vacation. Not many people can say they summited a 14er while meeting Forrest Gump in the process. Btw.. if you're interested, here's a link to my trip report up to Langley:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-r ... 47785.html


Hey there macchiolives,

Welcome to the forum. First post and you're already giving helpful information. Thanks.
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