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Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

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Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby abcdethan » Fri Jul 25, 2014 3:15 pm

Hi
This is my first post on HST!

I'm new to backpacking. I did Timber Gap to Franklin Pass Loop last year with some experienced backpackers and fell in love with the Sierras and I want to go every summer. Does anyone have any suggestions for a 4-day trip in the 3rd week of September? Two of us are in pretty good shape ( we did the Timber Gap/Franklin Pass in 4 days) but the other hikers are pretty new. I would like some great alpine lake scenery and solitude. I would also like to cover a lot of ground. and some elevation change. Some cross country would be exciting. I'm also curious what to expect in terms of climate in late Sept and also the weather conditions this year considering the dry season. I went up to the Palisade Glacier earlier this year (June) and there was plenty of snow at the time.

What level of backpacking experience do you have?

Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country

What is your main interest?

- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
-Forests if possible


How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?

4 to 5

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?

10, no layovers

Do you have a route logistics preference: loop, out and back, point to point (which
may require 2 vehicles or hitchhiking)?

loop, open to anything though

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start ect.)?

South Sierras,West or East start is fine.

So far, I looked at Agnews Meadows to Devil's Postpile, or the Evolution Basin Loop. I would also be into Rae Lakes Loop, or Rae Lakes vie Kearsarge Pass. Any other suggestions?

Thanks,



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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby seanr » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:20 pm

abcdethan wrote: Does anyone have any suggestions for a 4-day trip in the 3rd week of September? Two of us are in pretty good shape ( we did the Timber Gap/Franklin Pass in 4 days) but the other hikers are pretty new. I would like some great alpine lake scenery and solitude. I would also like to cover a lot of ground. and some elevation change. Some cross country would be exciting. I'm also curious what to expect in terms of climate in late Sept and also the weather conditions this year considering the dry season. I went up to the Palisade Glacier earlier this year (June) and there was plenty of snow at the time.

What level of backpacking experience do you have?

Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country

What is your main interest?

- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
-Forests if possible

10 miles per day for 4-5 nights


Hi and welcome! Some of the usual expert advisors are out on trips, but I'm concerned about what you say you want in context of who will be coming with you. You need to be cautious about tackling lots of up and down/elevation gain, cross country travel, and lots of mileage, especially with inexperienced/new to backpacking members in your group. You will not have a great time and maintain likely partners if one or more members is miserable, spent, sore, or developing blisters (or worse ill with AMS) due to pace and route. X-country travel with lots of elevation change can be extremely time consuming and tiring compared to easy trails. Risk of injury is greater as well in rugged terrain. Now the routes you mention as examples are not exactly high risk for getting lost and not being able to find ranger stations or any other backcountry users if help is needed (of course prepare for and plan on self-reliance), but being overconfident about not getting lost could suck too (not absolutely sure you have much cross country hiking experience and skill yourself). Furthermore, you could accidentally find yourself in class 3, 4, or 5 terrain without easy ways out. But, yeah, I think the routes you suggested are mostly easy trail routes where you'd have to take sidetrips to go x-country or intentionally get into more rugged stuff.

Late September will be very dry most places, but lakes and most named streams will still have water. You will not likely see views of nor touch snow aside from glaciers. Days are shorter (12 hours) so really long days become riskier absent headlamp, moonlight, or starlight travel. Cold nights and snowstorms become more likely, but weather will likely be pleasant. Check the point forecast on weather.gov a week out and each day leading up. Be prepared or cancel if weather will be adverse. Ten miles per day is theoretically possible depending on condition of entire group, elevation profile, and route difficulty, but not likely enjoyable for all. Start slow to avoid AMS.

I was just at Rae Lakes. Anything along JMT is a zoo, especially there, but late September could be better. You could spend one night at a lake east of Kearsarge Pass (Pothole not suggested as best for you). Then go over K.Pass and spend second night at Charlotte Lake or at the stark tarn before going over Glen Pass. Then spend a night at Rae Lakes. Then turn around and spend a night at Charlotte, at a lake east/southeast of Bullfrog (no camping allowed specifically at Bullfrog), or at Vidette Meadow (farther down but more scenic and forested) before heading out. The Glen Pass area is stark, as is the immediate Kearsarge Pass area, but there are forested and water containing areas relatively nearby (mentioned).

Onion Valley campground is awesome, as is the host. I highly recommend it on the way in for acclimitization to altitude, good rest, hydration, ease of good eating, and good advice if you have time for it on the way in. Talk to the host, James; he is an experienced backpacker in that area and very hospitable.

Your group might do better with altitude and find more scenic solitude heading up Bubbs Creek from Vidette Meadow to Center Basin rather than heading over Glen Pass to Rae Lakes. You could x-country up to Golden Bear Lake (or unnamed lakes) from the scenic JMT and have great camping along Bubbs Creek (JMT) available most of the way there. Stop early if it becomes too much. If all goes well, camp near a lake with views of Center. Stunningly beautiful! Plus there was nobody visible anywhere up there except down on the JMT last Sunday in peak season.

Edit: there are loops possible that I did this week with both of my suggested trips from Onion Valley that keep mileage short, but the terrain is so difficult I can't recommend them for your group nor to most backpackers in general. There are also trips available entering or exiting from Onion Valley with car shuttle to THs south or north, but they would be challenging (not really advisable for your group description and number of days).
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby abcdethan » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:53 pm

Seanr,
Thanks for the trail advice. I glanced at the Rae Lakes trail via Kearsarge Pass before but your description made it more exciting. I was mistaken to say that the less experienced people were new to hiking. They are all fit, and have hiked long trails before, just not backpacking. I think we can make across the Kearsarge pass on the first day. Plus now it is more likely it will be a small group and easier to manage.

This hike sounds like it has something for everyone with a variety of terrain and not as crowded.

Out of curiosity, what were the loops did you recently complete in the Onion Valley? I'm already making a list of hikes that I would like to do next year, into the Sierras and plan my summers better.

I haven't had much cross country experience but from looking pictures of trail reviews I would really like to create some side trip opportunities hiking off trail, with the appropriate gear.
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby Silverfox » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:06 pm

Glad you had an exciting experience on your previous trip, the Sierra's majesty is breathtaking and the opportunity to get off the grid is refreshing. I do a trip every year, just for that experience. Since you are rather new to the experience and your friends lack experience, when your planning remember SAFETY in all you do, and plan for contingencies if someone gets ill, or cannot go the distances you have in mind. Prepare for bad weather and cold nights, could easily dip into the teens at night.

First day, if you get a late start or need to acclimate, Flower Lake has some campsites and you could explore Matlock Lake, there will not be many people there. If your group is feeling fine head over KP and camp at Kearsarge Lakes (great campsite at third lake back around the corner- you can see the lake from one side and the valley below from the other).
Kearsarge Lakes.JPG
Kearsarge Lakes
This will also give you a chance to get a a read on your group and see how they are doing. Day 2, hike to Rae Lakes, beautiful area you will see it from on top of Glen Pass.
Rae Lake.JPG
One of Rae Lakes view of Fin Dome
I would stay two nights at Rae Lakes and on day 3 day hike into Sixty Lakes Basin- did this two years back, amazing place (one lake after another) and if you have good route finding skills and knowledge of your topo map you can loop back to the John Muir Trail and hike back to your campsite. You will not regret going into Sixty Lakes Basin, may be the only people in that area.
Sixty Lakes.JPG
Sixty Lakes Basin (just a few lakes of the many)
Day 4- you can hike back out, long day, two passes but your packs will be lighter by then, if you plan on one more day stop at Charlotte Lake for the night.

Good luck, great area, remember to plan a trip you will all enjoy with safety as your top priority. Lots of good advice and wisdom can be found from the seasoned veteran's on this site.

Silverfox
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby seanr » Sun Jul 27, 2014 12:36 am

abcdethan,

Silverfox provided an outstanding post and trip idea!

Back to you and your group, things sound somewhat less concerning, but I'm sure you noticed how both Silverfox and I suggested flexibility in potential overnight spots and brought up safety. It seems like you are someone who will research routes, skills, and gear, who will be excited by challenge, and who will embrace adversity and learning experiences that will inevitably surface at some point in your hiking trips. You would know better than we would if your partners are similar.

As to your comments and questions, yes Kearsarge Pass is a scenic area that provides relatively fast and easy access to several other scenic areas. It has a lot to offer, including many options to increase challenge. I'm glad I piqued your interest. Personally, I preferred Center Basin to Rae Lakes, but that is pretty much just personal preference. Both are scenic and you may miss the Rae Lakes mini-city feeling by going in late September.

I hope to post reports soon, but will summarize long, strenuous, rugged dayhike loops I did:

1. Onion Valley-Robinson Lake-University Pass-University Peak-Center Basin-Bubbs Creek (JMT)-Vidette Meadow-Bullfrog Lake-Kearsarge Pass-Onion Valley
Here is the information I read before attempting the crux (University Pass): http://www.summitpost.org/university-peak/151291

2. Onion Valley-Golden Trout Lake-Mount Gould-Gould Pass-Dragon Lake-joined JMT@Rae Lakes-Glen Pass-Kearsarge Pass-Onion Valley. There is some information on this site (HST) about the crux (Gould Pass/Dragon Pass/Dragon Lake via Golden Trout Lakes), but I think I can more concisely present the easiest ways to complete it.

You can find a few more details about my hikes by clicking on links in my summitpost profile (see below). Kearsarge Pass and the JMT feel like freeways compared to the rugged trails and passes I used to start each loop. As far as traffic, I saw absolutely no other people except on the crowded JMT part of those loops on those days. If you try these someday, go in well prepared and be willing to turn around if you decide you are getting more than you can safely handle. Don't try them with a really heavy pack.

Your queries piqued my interest enough to click on some other threads; just to begin to show how much is available if you develop your x-country skills, here is a good thread discussing a couple of other options in the Kearsarge area: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... f=1&t=8907
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby brandy » Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:32 am

I just did the Rae Lakes Loop solo last week and it was only my second backpacking trip. I'm an experienced and avid dayhiker and just getting into backpacking. My first trip was two weeks ago in Mineral King when we took my 11 year to Eagle Lake.

I didn't intend to go solo on Rae Lakes, but my friend broke his thumb a couple of days before and I didn't want to bag the trip. All of that said...I LOVED the loop and felt like it was an excellent mult day trip for beginner backpackers. I had a Bubbs Creek permit and did the loop counterclockwise. I spent my first night at Junction Meadow, second night at Middle Rae Lake and third night at Woods Creek Crossing. I had planned to stay at Lower Paradise my fourth night, but the weather was shifting so I ended up hiking out the extra six miles that day.

I
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby acvdmlac » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:58 pm

For 4 days, I'll suggest heading out of Agnew Meadow to the Ritter Range. With one day of sturdy hiking, one can get to Garnet or Thousand Island Lakes for outstanding lake-side campsites with views of Mounts Ritter and Banner, or to Lake Ediza with views of the Minarets. These are rightly among the most-photographed sites in the entire Sierra outside of Yosemite itself. One day in and one day out leaves you with 2 days for day-hiking or moving camp to explore whichever of the above lakes you're not camped at first.

The trails up are well-traveled and not at all technical or scary, I did them without problem on one of my first backpack trips when I was out of shape and carrying way to much extra gear. My 81-year old step-dad who's been backpacking in the Sierra since the 1930s is planning to go back there in September because it's one of his very favorite areas. Although the straight shot up to Garnet Lake from the San Joaquin valley is unmaintained and a little rocky, the sudden view at the top when you come over the lip and see the lake with Ritter and Banner behind is a moment of Sierra hiking drama almost without parallel, IMO. And the ascent up via Shadow Lake is also extraordinarily beautiful in its own right. You can't go wrong in this area!

The one thing you won't have is solitude right along the JMT, which is hard to find anyway with only 4 days out, unless you go somewhere boring. Though by the 3rd week of September the crowds are likely to be less. That's in part because the weather can get a little sketchy by then--what would be an afternoon thunderstorm in July or August can be a snow-storm with temps in the teens and lower 20's at night--cold enough to freeze and crack water filters and containers and make isobutane hard to light in the a.m., unless you put them all in the bottom of your sleeping bag. But as long as you're prepared with appropriate gear and clothing for freezing temps and some snow dusting, as others have suggested above, you'll have a great time! Go for it!
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby abcdethan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 4:30 pm

From my two trips to the Sierras, I experienced temperature drops into the 30's but not low into the teens. In terms of sleeping bags and clothes, I think our group will be well equipped but I didn't think about freezing temps affecting fuel and water filters. What is the likehood of snowfall in Sept?
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 28, 2014 5:16 pm

Hi Abc,

Welcome to HST!

Does anyone have any suggestions for a 4-day trip in the 3rd week of September?
Two of us are in pretty good shape ( we did the Timber Gap/Franklin Pass in 4 days)
but the other hikers are pretty new.


All of you are new to backpacking, one or two does not gives you the experience to
try crosscountry, and especially not to try to lead 2 other friends with no experience
into the backcountry.

You are the leader of the group, and I understand the excitement of wanting to
tackle the world, but taking on this responsibility without any experience is
irresponsible!

Do you have any wilderness first aid experience? Do you have a contingency
bail plan in case you need to get out?

Do you know how to read the skies for the tell-tail signs of a system moving in? Snow
is possible in any month is the Sierra, but the tail end of Sept is when things can
turn, though odds are higher in Oct, but cannot discount anything, and surely not the
weather.

What emergency plans do you have set up if someone, or more than one person,
gets injured or gets AMS?

How well do you know the members of your group? What medical conditions
do they have? Have they been above 10,000ft before? Do they have the proper
equipment and clothing, and do they know how to use it?

Do you have a SPOT or electronic device in conjunction with a form similar to
our Reconn Form in case your electronic device fails? viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10192

These are only some of things that as a leader of a group you must consider
because everyone in your group is your responsibility.

Please do not embark on a trip of this nature lightly, once you have gained more
experience you can tackle progressively more difficult routes and then lead a
group, teaching them and showing them how to become better and safer
backpackers, but you cannot do this now, since you yourself do not have the
experience, blind leading the blind.

If you want easy crosscountry travel, where you can learn to navigate and gain
experience, then I would highly recommend Humphreys Basin to do this. But do
this with an experience backpacker who can show you the ropes and then once
you have learned and become experience, then you can lead inexperience folks
into the backcountry, but not crosscountry, they to must learn the ropes too.
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: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby abcdethan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:09 pm

Don't worry I'm not going to brave any significant cross country hiking with less experienced people or without some more experience myself. I would like to do it in the future, maybe beginning with small side trip along a main trail but not without being prepared. It was a mistake to lsit cross country in the beginning.

In terms of first aid experience, I don't have much but last year I brought a kit and it came in handy when we stumbled upon another injured hiker. She had hurt her foot so bad that she was unable to walk. We bandaged it and stayed with her overnight so here friend could hike out the break of dawn to find a ranger. Because of that experience, I do my best to be well-equipped and prepared for adverse weather conditions and emergencies, and insure that other members of the group are as well.

That is also the reason why I joined this forum-to research future backpacking trips as well as possible so nothing unfortunate will happen!
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby davidsheridan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:35 pm

You are getting some nice tips on where to go. Heading out of Onion Valley and over Kearsarge is great. Camping at Kearsarge Lakes provides great fishing, awesome peaks and beautiful lakes. From there you can head north or south on the JMT, this section of the JMT is great. If you can get a Mount Whitney exit permit (should be possible in late September) doing the 1 way hike from Kearsarge to Whitney Portal is fantastic. There is a book by Paul Richins "Mount Whitney" which I used to plan my trip. It is worth reading to learn a lot about popular Southern Sierra routes.

Also heading north from Kearsaerge on the JMT to the Rae Lakes/Sixty Lakes basin to the North. Scrambling up the painted lady makes for an easier peak to bag near Glen Pass.

For a non-Sierra backpacking trip, you could also consider the Trinity Alps, although not as vast or high as the Sierra, the Trinity Alps are a worthy desitnation. Hiking the Canyon Creeks Lakes and excursions to El Lake and camping at Boulder Creek Lakes would be great that time of year. I spent 4 nights there in September a few years ago.

I agree with some of the cautions that have been stated. Last time I went over Kearsarge Pass with friends, we came straight from sea level and my friend got altitude sickness and we had to cut our trip short. This was the same guy I climbed Mount Shasta with earlier that year, he was in very good shape. I like to spend 1 night at one of the car campgrounds at 9000 ft before I start a backpacking trip up that high, it seems to really reduce the risk of altitude issues and is worth it to extend your trip one more day for this purpose. Onion Valley campground is nice and high, as are some of the campgrounds in Eastern Yosemite. I would also recommend not including cross country travel as part of your itenerary to get form point A to poitn B with a backpack on. Try out some stuff with your daypack first. I have been the leader for multiple trips with friends backpacking, some experienced and some not. I have basically decided that it is no longer worth it to me to take a group of inexperienced people out to try anything very ambitious or difficult, For that I would rather go with jusdt my trusty partner (wife)
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Re: Advice for 4 day trip in South Sierras in 3rd week of Sept

Postby SSSdave » Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:35 pm

Generally I have negative reactions to notions of taking new backpackers, even those who are supposedly otherwise fit on daily mileages beyond 5 or 6 miles. There are a list of ways equipment and clothing can become issues. Thus better to do something with less trail mileage carrying a pack leaving more time at destinations to explore dayhiking. That will get your friends familiar with what backpacking is about in an easy way without gambling with the real chance of making them never want to participate in the activity again.

A fair amount of backpackers tend to create itinearies as though it is all about the journey on the trail with little interest about doing anything at destinations. Some of those become thru hikers on long trails reveling on long mileage days as though it is the prime directive. Others are maybe afraid they may become bored if they have to be creative and DO SOMETHING else besides carrying a pack. Thus trips end up being long days on trails where people tend to get up slowly each day well after sunrise, make breakfast, take care of chores, and get on the trail by mid morning. Then they hike all day till late afternoon, make a camp, dinner, and are usually too beat to do anything. This is nothing new. The Sierra Club on their national outings seemed to grow leaders with that narrow trip style maybe because it gauranteed simplicity by keeping everyone occupied and too weary.

My suggestion would be to take your friends to a lake basin with several lakes of modest distance that is awesome and then spend half of each day enjoying those places. Heck even climb some easy class 1 or 2 peak. Or visit each lake in a basin. Or get up on a layover day at dawn and watch the early morning unfold from some beautiful place when wildlife is likely to be active. Much more.

An example of a fine destination at that time of year when dwarf bilberry and arctic willow are turning turf areas reds and yellows with color would be Dusy Basin. That would give you a layover day to go over Knapsack Pass or climb Columbine Peak. Cross country travel there is easy if you use a topo. Others would be Pioneer Basin or Moon Lake out of Sabrina among a list I could suggest. Another in the area you just talked about would be the Kearsarge Lakes. Make a base camp at the outlet of the largest lake directly below the pinnacles. Believe me, its one of the best camp zones in the High Sierra. Although the lakes are very popular, the majority of groups plunk down immediately at the third lake by the bear boxes (they are locked) right where the trail ends, And then most never even bother to visit the other lakes, becoming camp bodies after they arrive all clumped together in visible sight, like campsites are about being in some village. On your first layover day spend the early morning at nearby Bullfrog Lake's inlet area then ramble around the south side of the lake and up the hill with views into the immense canyon to the south with East Vidette. Or visit the lake below University Peak. And lots of easy climbs. Enough in that area to basecamp a week.
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