TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby papercup » Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:09 pm

I took a group on a hike which entered the Sierra via Bishop Pass, then looped through Dusy and Palisade Basins via Knapsack and Thunderbolt Passes. This was a different kind of trip for me-- I haven't done this much cross-country before, and I usually do longer mileages. It worked out great-- the cross-country was a ton of fun and well within my comfort zone, and the shorter days gave me more time to explore, fish, photograph, and relax. Beyond being gorgeous, this trip also gave me more confidence in my ability to navigate off-trail (at least above treeline) and to find my way through varied terrain.

We arrived at the South Lake trailhead around 3:30 PM on the first day of our trip. We hiked up to Bishop Lake and set up camp, giving us an evening to adjust to altitude. One of us took a wrong turn and wound up at Treasure Lakes; he traversed cross-country to rejoin the trail at Long Lake and showed up to camp well after the rest of the group. The trail to Bishop Pass was crowded, but Bishop Lake itself wasn't too bad-- I only noticed two other groups camped there, although I imagine others were around.

The next day, we knocked out the rest of Bishop Pass. I have never been over Bishop before, so I took a few moments with a map and compass to figure out the topography, and we then started descending into Dusy Basin. In an effort to avoid unnecessary elevation loss, we left the trail somewhere in the vicinity of the second lake and headed southwest across the basin. The topography took us right toward the base of Columbine Peak. We split up as we reached the pass, with everybody picking their own route to the top. Some of us did better than others. The easier routes involved ledge walking with a bit of boulder-hopping, and the harder ones involved lots of boulder-hopping and traversing some loose sandy slopes. If you pay attention to your route and take your time, this pass doesn't get any harder than easy class two. Some of us stuck to that and some did not.

Image

Dusy Basin seen from the top of Knapsack Pass.

We reached the top of Knapsack and found a group of three already atop the pass, having day-hiked up from Dusy Basin. Palisade Basin was beautiful. After relaxing for a bit, we headed down. We descended a series of easy grassy ledges on the west side of the pass; the route down these ledges was obvious from above but may be more difficult to identify from below. While at Knapsack Pass, we had spotted a camp at the long, skinny lake, so we decided to avoid that area and set up camp at one of the two large Barrett Lakes. We walked over the ridge to the first, smaller lake, and walked straight into a surprise-- a couple sunbathing nude on the shore of the lake. We quickly turned away to look for a campsite where we wouldn't disturb them, but unfortunately we were too late-- as we climbed away from the first lake, we could see the couple pack up and move away. The second, larger lake also had a group camping on the shore, so we ended up camping on ledges above the southern end of the first lake.

After setting up camp, we spent some time wandering the area. We did some fishing, climbed up on ridges with beautiful views of the Palisades in one direction and a huge open view of endless mountains in the other, did some photography, and a few of us scouted part of the route to Thunderbolt Pass. This is just a beautiful basin-- rocky, rugged, with beautiful views in all directions.

Image

Knapsack Pass from Barrett Lakes.

The next day, we headed for the larger of the Barrett Lakes, circled the northern shore, and began climbing toward Thunderbolt Pass. The route was obvious and easy to follow-- just find the inlet and follow the stream up. Once we got to the base of the pass itself, it looked like we had two options-- either head left and scramble directly up to the pass via what looked like kind-of-steep-but-safely-doable ledges, or climb an easier ledge system to our right and then boulder-hop underneath Thunderbolt Peak to the pass. We chose the latter and encountered no complications. As with Knapsack, it was easy to keep this pass to class two.

Image

Final approach to Thunderbolt Pass from Palisade Basin.

Thunderbolt Pass was beautiful, with flat slabs to lay on and gorgeous views of both Palisade and Dusy Basins, along with huge mountains right behind us.

Image

View from Thunderbolt Pass.

We relaxed for a bit before beginning the loooong boulder-hop away from the pass, sticking to high ground as much as was feasible. There were a few snowfields on the north side of the pass, but all were easily crossed or easily avoided, at our discretion. After descending most of the way, we found another surprise-- the same group that we had met on top of Knapsack Pass yesterday, now day-hiking Thunderbolt. We stopped to say hello and continued on, eventually splitting up to pick our own ways back up to Bishop Pass.

Image

Descending the north side of Thunderbolt Pass.

After resting on Bishop Pass for a few minutes, we descended to Saddlerock Lake, headed along the shore for a ways, and set up camp. This was far busier than Bishop Lake had been two nights prior-- it was hard to wander without walking straight into the camp of another group. We did some exploring and fishing and eventually went to bed with some light showers falling, before hiking out in the morning.

In general, the trail was very busy up to Bishop Pass itself, which I suppose is not surprising for a beautiful July Fourth weekend on one of the most popular trails on the East Side. Dusy Basin was substantially quieter, with Palisade Basin quieter still. I was surprised by the number of people we saw in Palisade Basin-- we probably spotted about a half-dozen groups sharing the basin, which is more than I expected. It is a big basin that can easily accommodate that number, but if you are looking for a place where you're guaranteed to have a lake to yourself on a busy holiday weekend, it might not be the best choice.

Mosquitoes were present everywhere. They were terrible at Treasure Lakes and Saddlerock Lake, and they were fairly bad in the morning at the smaller Barrett Lake. Everywhere else they were a nuisance. I managed to get bit while standing in the middle of a large snowfield at the base of Mount Agassiz, above Bishop Pass, which was a surprise.

Water was not a problem. Peak flow is clearly in the past, with several smaller seeps and steams dry, but many streams are still flowing and nobody felt a need to carry more than a liter or two of water.



User avatar
papercup
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:40 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby maiathebee » Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:59 pm

Nice TR! I had Dusy Basin completely to myself (except one couple I saw for five minutes my first night) not two weeks ago, but I guess the holiday weekend makes all the difference. I'm really surprised by the number of people you saw in Palisade!
oh hey! you're reading my signature.
that's nice. want to check out my blog?
here it is: plutoniclove.com
User avatar
maiathebee
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 103
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:59 am
Location: Oakland, CA
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:19 pm

You saw other groups in Palisade Basin because it is not surprisingly the preferred staging point for climbing the several Palisade Crest peaks. Aesthetically I will add best views of the big peaks are from upper Dusy Basin areas.
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:27 pm

Dave wrote:
You saw other groups in Palisade Basin because it is not surprisingly the preferred
staging point for climbing the several Palisade Crest peaks.


Exactly. Thanks for the TR and pictures Papercup.
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
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8039
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby BigTime » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:02 pm

Nice report. And timely too. I'm hoping to have a layover day in Dusy Basin on my next trip and was planning on day hiking into Palisade Basin via Knapsack Pass and Thunderbolt Pass, so this was helpful as I was just starting to research Thunderbolt Pass. Now I'm even more excited to get there....if that's even possible. :D
User avatar
BigTime
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:39 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Knapsack Pass, Palisade Basin, Thunderbolt Pass 7/3-7/6

Postby papercup » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:40 pm

BigTime,

Here are a few more pictures of Thunderbolt that may be helpful:

Image

This is from most of the way up the green drainage that leads up to Thunderbolt Pass on the Palisade Basin side.

Image

A bit further up, showing the final climb to the pass.

Image

Looking down into Dusy Basin from the top of the pass.

Image

Thunderbolt from Dusy Basin.
User avatar
papercup
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:40 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests