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TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

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TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby dubik99 » Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:30 pm

Many people have done North to South Lake loop so this report is focused on the Keyhole Pass, for which I was not not able to find much information prior to the trip, and some of what I found was not exactly right.
My daughter and I did a North to South Lake loop July 21-26, 20014. We drove up from LA early Monday morning to Rainbow Pack Outfitters at the South Lake, met up with our pre-arranged shuttle driver (Lindsey with a pickup truck), parked our car at the South Lake TH, and got a ride to the North Lake. We were hiking by 1 pm and were at Muriel Lake by 4:30 pm.
The next day we headed up to the Lost Lakes Basin from Muriel Lake.
20140721 2004 N to S Lake 001.jpg
Our path from Muriel Lake. Hang to the left side where there is even an occasional faint trail

If you hang to the left the talus is not bad.
Fairly soon we were at the top of the slope and were looking at the lower Lost Lake and the next talus slope beyond it. There is even a clearly visible trail through the scree on the left side of the lake
20140722 0820 N to S Lake 007.jpg
Path from the lower Lost Lake to the upper lakes

Beyond that, at the top lakes, it's talus, but we did not find it too bad.
20140722 0856 N to S Lake 008.jpg
Talus around the upper Lost Lakes. It's intermingled with some grassy spots and in general was not "tedious"

At this point the the pass came into full view.
20140722 0916 N to S Lake 009.jpg
The Keyhole Pass

The issue was which notch to aim for. We had two pieces of information:
The close up picture of the pass http://www.thebackcountry.net/bb/viewtopic.php?t=684 in snow and GPS coordinates of the pass from http://donsnotes.com/places/california/ ... basin.html. From the picture we figured it was the right-most notch, but once we got close, the GPS coordinates (using Gaia GPS on an iphone) pointed to the middle notch and so we headed there. Once we got there, there was no keyhole. A perfectly good crossing with a way down, or not, to the other side, but no fabled keyhole
20140722 1106 N to S Lake 012.jpg
The view from a point that is labelled "The Keyhole" in http://donsnotes.com/places/california/humphreys_basin.html

The good thing is that the ridge is passable from notch to notch and we quickly found The Keyhole at the rightmost notch,
20140722 1129 N to S Lake 014.jpg
The Keyhole

The correct coordinates for the actual Keyhole, according to my Gaia GPS, are 37.21495 and -118.68829.
As Siecor says, there is a short Class 3 section right after you get through the hole. It's not difficult, but slightly dangerous as a fall would be noticeable.
20140722 1154 N to S Lake 001.jpg
Class 3 section below The Keyhole on the West side.

We traversed to the right and then climbed down a crack with good holds.
20140722 1145 N to S Lake 016.jpg

A more skilled climber might be able to go straight down.
The rest of the way down was pretty straightforward. We made a mistake of cutting to the left a bit too soon and ended up on steep ledges. A better way would be to go straight down and even a bit to the right (West) all the way down to the lake and then skirting the lake to the left, as the path along the lake is perfectly clear.
This is the view of the Southwest side of the pass
20140722 1258 N to S Lake 004.jpg
Southwest side of The Keyhole Pass

Beyond that the way to Darwin Bench is pretty straightforward, but with tedious talus. The last lake, Lake 11540, presented us with a dilemma: take the short way around the steep East side or the long way around the West side. We chose the West side as we were pretty tired by then and were no longer looking for adventures. The West side does get choked off by steep rock right before the outlet, so tired us had to retreat a bit and go higher. The rock was probably passable, but at this point we were not in the mood for climbing anything with a significant drop with, by now heavy, backpacks on our backs.

After this last obstacle, the Darwin Bench is an easy descent down a gentle outlet of Lake 11540.

The rest of the trip was the usual trail trip which we shared with a multitude of JMT people and regular North-to-South-Lake-loopers. The only thing of note is that there is no fish in Wanda lake (frog restoration) and if you come up to Wanda Lake from below, take the first good camping spot that you see. We did and were very fortunate as later many people came by on further only to come back and pitch their tends around our area. Apparently there weren't any good spots further on. It was quite a change to all of a sudden have so many neighbors. But that's JMT.
20140723 1857 N to S Lake 029.jpg
Our tent in the nice wind protected outcropping. With other less fortunate tents around us.



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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:11 pm

Neat report on an interesting off trail pass. This makes the Keyhole sound quite a bit better than most reports I've heard.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby Mike M. » Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:36 pm

Dubik,

Nice report!

The Keyhole is a fun route. I've been over the pass two times, once solo in 1985 and a second time in 1988 with a group of four. The views from the top of the ridge are fabulous. Either from blind luck or because the pass is fairly well marked on the old 15' map, I had no trouble finding the "keyhole" either time. We passed our packs through the keyhole and zig-zagged down the steep scree field. Steep at first but not dangerously so, even with heavy packs -- the footing was fairly firm. No need to do that dicey traverse.

Here are some pics, scanned from old slides:
Attachments
1988.020.jpg
Looking up through The Keyhole, on the Darwin Basin side -- 1988
1985.011.jpg
The Keyhole -- 1985
1988.015.jpg
Lounging at The Keyhole -- 1988
1988.012.jpg
Mt. Humphreys from The Keyhole -- 1988
1988.019.jpg
At the Keyhole -- 1988
1985.010.jpg
At the Keyhole -- 1985
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby austex » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:53 pm

1985...Ancient!? I was just out of college. Thanks for the pictures!
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby seanr » Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:29 am

dubik99 and Mike, thanks for posting. I've taken a recent liking to passes that bring challenge, solitude, and additional scenery to my hikes. I probably won't revisit North Lake until another season or year, but was impressed by the scenery on hikes from there earlier this month. Had I done some research while within internet range, I likely would have looped over Alpine Col or the Keyhole on my Lamarck-Darwin Bench hike. My map had those spots labeled and they were beckoning me, but my map was lacking detail. Oh well, exploring the ridge above (NW) Mount Lamarck to make a mini-loop on an out and back was still fun, and I enjoyed hiking over Piute to Goethe Lake on a separate day. I probably saw almost all the views a loop would have provided. Anyway, thanks again for posting the details!
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby dubik99 » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:17 am

1985 and 2014 and the pass hasn't changed a bit :D
Gee... I was still in college, 30 lbs lighter and my daughter wasn't anywhere near born.
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:57 pm

Hi Dubik99,

Welcome to HST! Very enjoyable TR and pictures, did this back in the 1984.
Would you please consider doing a write-up on this in our "Cross Country
Passes" section: viewforum.php?f=31
Thanks
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby dubik99 » Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:31 pm

Maverick, it's done.
I'm glad to contribute to something I've been using.
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Re: TR: North to South Lake via Keyhole Pass

Postby Mradford » Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:51 am

Such a cool pass. Thanks go posting some good info on it!
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