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Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

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Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:01 am

Three friends and I are thinking of hiking Bear Dam Junction - Twin Falls - Lake Italy - Vee Lake via Bear Lakes - Bear Creek on September 19-24. (This is hike 16 from Sierra South, 8th Ed.)

Does anyone know the conditions anywhere along this route? I am particularly interested in water levels, given the drought. Also interested in the possibility of snow and bad weather that late in the season.

(Basically, I have the same question as was asked here last year:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9963 I have read that and am interested in any more up-to-date information, plus additional advice on how to evaluate the risk of snow.)

About us, based on the suggestions for how to ask for route suggestions:

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 1- Minimal hiking
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel
Level 4- Comfortable with trail and/or x-country travel

Two of us are level 3, the other two are level 2.

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- Class 3 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel/Glacier crossings

Not sure about the difference between Class 2 and 3. We have done passes and
x-country before.

Most interested in Big Mountain scenery. Lakes, forests, and photography are all nice. We're doing 5 nights. No dog.

Thanks in advance!

[Edit: this is moved to this forum from originally being posted in Conditions Reports]



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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby alpinemike » Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:42 pm

Hi wjb. You've picked an excellent route for Big Mountain Scenery. I went through most of these areas in early July. And my friend did a part of the route that I didn't do. There really aren't any route finding issues anywhere along the trail. Lake Italy is gorgeous and so is Vee Lake. The trail to Lake Italy along the Hilgard Branch is defined most of the way to the lake.. you lose it on occasion but it's not difficult to find it. Toward the end you lose it all the way but you're just heading up the creek anyways along easy rock benches so there is no problems presented there. You'll be on the right side of the creek as looking toward Lake Italy. I can't comment on the route over Dancing Bear Pass... This I believe is the pass from the Lake Italy area (Jumble Lake exactly) to the Bear Lakes, but from what I've read it shouldn't be an issue. Here's a topo of it.. http://sierrabackpacker.com/ItalyPass.htm

From the Bear Lakes to Vee Lake is lovely terrain that isn't problematic. Vee Lake down through the East Fork is also follow-able with an occasional faint trail in the lower sections. Up toward the top by Vee Lake it is pretty much follow the creek cross country.

Water shouldn't be a major concern since you'll be in drainage's that have large lakes and the water levels in the creeks will be low but I don't think you'll have to worry about a lack of water.

The most important item of concern is snow... Yes that potentially can be a problem especially if you have several hikers that are level 2. Several areas as mentioned in the topic you mentioned can be quite dangerous in a shallow layer of snow. It is difficult to predict exactly how September will pan out but it is not out of the question snow can happen very quickly. Speaking from experience.. it snowed on the Palisades this summer in early August. If that's any indication as to what the late summer into fall holds then I'd be weary. I'm an Atmospheric Science Major and just judging from what the models are saying and past experience I don't feel as though it's going to snow that early into the winter snow season. But that could change rapidly. Last year it snowed in Tahoe around that time... so it's up to anyone's guess.

If you have more questions please feel free to ask! I hope the weather holds for you..
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
Alpine Mike-

http://mikhailkorotkinphotography.com/
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby balance » Sun Aug 24, 2014 11:59 pm

Greetings wjb

I tried going into that area about three weeks ago, but driving up past Shaver Lake there was really bad smoke from what they called the "French Fire". Should be contained by now. Also possible smoke in the area from the South Yosemite fire. You'll want to check.

As for snow, the first snowfall of the year usually..."usually"...melts fairly quickly from the stored up ground heat. So if it hasn't snowed before your departure, it should be okay.

Peace.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Aug 25, 2014 6:22 am

Both the fires you mention are no issue. I was at Cora Lakes in Ansel Adams two weeks ago, not a bit of smoke. A week later we were at Huntington - no smoke.

Bear Dam is Bear Diversion Dam? That is a wicked road - if you don't have a good high clearance vehicle, you'll add a couple of miles to the hike.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:40 am

AlmostThere wrote:Both the fires you mention are no issue. I was at Cora Lakes in Ansel Adams two weeks ago, not a bit of smoke. A week later we were at Huntington - no smoke.

Bear Dam is Bear Diversion Dam? That is a wicked road - if you don't have a good high clearance vehicle, you'll add a couple of miles to the hike.

If you can't do the dam road (or don't want to risk it), there's a bypass trail that starts another mile or so up the road (toward Edison). Shorter and less unpleasant than hiking the road to the dam.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby AaronRDavis » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:29 pm

Did this loop in early July. A very delightful trip. Although the routes aren't that difficult up the Hilgard branch and then back down below Vee lake/east fork to the JMT, I found them to be a lot slower than I had planned. Plenty of water everywhere in July.

The "road" from Kaiser road to the bear diversion dam seemed a little worse than I remembered it from a few years ago. I had no problem in my 2wd Toyota Tacoma, although at a couple spots I had be sure to keep the momentum going through some dusty loose gravel.

Spotted a pretty fat rattlesnake about a mile from the TH along Beer Creek. Beer Creek is a gorgeous trail to enter the backcountry on.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby balance » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:43 am

Greetings wjb

Glad to hear the smoke has subsided. However, winds shift, new fires can start, things are dry this year. Best idea is to check with the Forest Service or NPS. Huffing and puffing at 10,000 feet in a cloud of smoke would be no fun.

Some years fires aren't much of an issue. This year they are. Anecdotal evidence is not reliable. Good to be aware and informed.

p.s. I really like those Sierra North and South books you're using. Some of the earlier editions have more cross-country trips than the latest versions.

Peace.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:34 am

Thank you to everyone for these helpful replies. This hike sounds awesome. It's great to know your experiences from earlier this summer. Good to hear that water shouldn't be a problem, and that fires that were an issue have been contained.

We are going to pay close attention to the weather and the fire reports, and have a backup prepared in case they don't turn out. (I think it's going to be Green Creek - East Lake - Lower Virginia Canyon - Glen Aulin Camp - Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.)

alpinemike: What models are you looking at that are indicating conditions for the autumn? Are they public

Day 2 sounds like a beast: 11.5 miles, 3150 ft vertical! Glad to hear that no one found the route too difficult.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby alpinemike » Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:31 am

Hi wjb. Yes I would say they are public. But they aren't really public models. They are just chatter about the coming seasons from various local meteorologists that have been in the Sierra most if not all of their lives. You can get an excellent idea of what to expect if you keep checking these two websites. Tahoe Daily Snow probably won't come out with any update until potentially after your hike but you can read what he had to say earlier in the summer.

http://opensnow.com/dailysnow/tahoe
http://mammothweather.com/
Enjoy!
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:23 pm

We're now looking to modify the end of this route. From Vee Lake, we'll go to Marie Lake for a night, then hike out to Florence Lake, crossing Seldon Pass. We've hired a shuttle to return us to Bear Dam.

The reason for this is that several people have said very good things about Marie Lake and Seldon Pass, and this way we don't have to repeat any trail.

Does anyone have any experience with these areas?

We're hoping to take the Florence Lake ferry. Their website says they run until "late September". We'd take it on Tuesday 9/23. I'd love to call them to confirm the times and let them know we'll be customers that day, but I can't find a phone number anywhere on their website (http://www.florence-lake.com/FL-Ferry.html). Anyone have any info about the ferry?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby seanr » Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:44 pm

I'd guess the Florence ferry will still be running, but don't know. It only saves you 3-4 miles, but it does seem like your last day will be very long if you start from Marie Lake and can't utilize it.

I hear good things about Marie Lake. Here's a shot of it looking ENE from atop Mt. Hooper as the month began:

Image


A shorter, but more rugged way to make a loop back from Vee Lake would be to visit Orchid, Apollo, and Cirque Lakes and then follow Cirque Lake Trail past Bear Dome toward Poison Meadow, eventually breaking off north to your vehicle without needing a shuttle nor ferry. If you search, I've seen HST member, Maverick, speak very highly of those lakes and my National Geographic Map (809: Mammoth Lakes Mono Divide) shows trails from Cirque Lake all the way to your trailhead, but some threads make route finding sound iffy.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2044

viewtopic.php?f=1&p=59313
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Bear Lakes Trail, Sept 19

Postby Dave_Ayers » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:28 pm

The Florence Lake Ferry (also store) phone number shows up on the boat rental page at http://www.florence-lake.com/FL-Boats.html . Its 559-433-7300.

The Marie Lake, Seldon Pass, Heart Lake, Sallie Keyes Lakes area is indeed very scenic. Seven Gables is a fine peak to bag and Lou Beverly and Sandpiper Lakes are scenic too. There are many good campsites at Sallie Keyes and other sites at each of those lakes. The switchbacks down towards the JMT have mostly open views due to a fire years ago. The hike from the MTR cutoff trail out to Florence Lake is an easy forest walk, weaving in/out of the dirt road from MTR to the Lake.
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