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TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

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TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby Rockyroad » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:47 pm

This is the standard on-trail route from Yosemite's Mono Pass trailhead to Alger Lakes with an excursion to Koip and Kuna Peaks.

Map of route using Gmap4
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From the trailhead along Tioga Road, my brother and I hiked through Dana Meadows towards Parker Pass and avoided the forks to both Spillway Lake and Mono Pass. We gradually ascended as Koip Peak peeked over the Kuna Crest foreground.

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Continuing through a pleasant meadow with patches of late blooming wildflowers, we arrived at diminutive Parker Pass (compare Parker Pass to Koip Peak Pass!), the boundary between Yosemite and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Since Yosemite regulations prohibit camping in the Parker Pass Creek watershed, legal camping was not available to us until we crossed this border. We surveyed ahead for a possible campsite and settled at one of the Parker Ponds just over the hill to the left.

View from Parker Pass
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Campsite at Parker Ponds
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The next day, we were back on the trail, passing more of the Parker Ponds and spotting a beautiful glacial melt-filled lake. Even in this drought year, we had to carefully cross over fast flowing cascading falls that fed the creamy blue lake below. Shortly thereafter, serious climbing up the north face of Parker Peak began. Initially, the trail went straight up so the incline required effort. As the mountain got even steeper, the trail turned to switchbacks. The entire mountain seemed to be a +12000’ scree pile of slate.

Parker Peak's north side
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On the trail to Koip Peak Pass
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Switchbacks
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Furthermore, a fierce northeasterly wind was intent on keeping us from Koip Peak Pass. Finally at the pass, we sized up Koip Peak for the following day’s ascent before continuing down the south side of the pass, seeking relief from the wind. Halfway down, we had lunch on a soft patch of grass with views of the Alger Lakes and June Mountain ski resort. We ended our hike at the northern Alger Lake below Blacktop Peak. Having trouble finding a good wind-sheltered spot for our tents, we opted for just a scenic spot of which the choices were endless. This would also be a good test for both my new tent and my tent pitching skills. Noise from the loud flapping kept me awake most of the night but my tent survived and I had increased confidence in its sturdiness.

Northernmost Alger Lakes
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Alger Lakes
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The next day could not have started any better. Halfway back up to Koip Peak Pass, we spotted a flock of Big Horn sheep, an encounter I had always hoped for but never expected. Wary of our presence, the flock moved away up the south face of Parker Peak. Energized by this rare sighting, we continued towards our first milestone of the day, Koip Peak.

Big Horn sheep
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Fortunately, it was not as windy as yesterday. At the base of Koip Peak, we dropped our backpacks, removed our bear canisters, strapped on our daypacks and began the ascent, following traces of a use trail up the loose scree. We congratulated each other at the summit and I then set my target for Kuna Peak, the third highest peak in Yosemite. The route looked straightforward so I set off, traveling along the ridgeline. My brother decided to stay at Koip. I enjoyed the views from the ridge but then traveled slightly north of it until I reached the saddle between the peaks, site of a plane propeller. I then made my way up the eastern side of Kuna Peak, choosing a route requiring the use of my hands. 40 minutes after leaving Koip Peak, I arrived at the Kuna Peak summit where razor sharp jagged rocks were sticking up everywhere. I enjoyed the views, took pictures, and looked back at the speck on top of Koip Peak which was my brother. I returned to Koip Peak where we took a few more pictures and then began the long descent back to the Parker Pond area. We settled at the beautiful glacial lake we had seen previously before heading home the next day.

View of Alger Lakes from route to Koip Peak
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Koip Peak from Kuna Peak
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Propeller from an unlucky plane
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Parker Pond
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Smoke from a Yosemite fire
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Panorama from Kuna Peak - smoke from fire is right of center
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby maverick » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:03 pm

Thank you for the TR and wonderful pictures, really like the colors of the peaks
in this area, reminds a little of the area above Convict Lake.
Cool shot of the sheep.
Is that the new tarptent you purchased? How do you like it? Remember when you
inquiring about tent a while back.
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: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby Rockyroad » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:12 pm

Hi Maverick,
Glad you enjoyed the TR and pictures. I was really excited about the sheep. Thanks for remembering my questions regarding the tents. I was sooo close to getting a Tarptent but ended up with a Zpacks Hexamid solo tent. I don't recall the exact reasons now but I think I was mainly swayed by the weight savings. If Tarptent used cuben fiber, it might have been a different story :)
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:46 pm

Nice report. It looks like several of us were in the same area within the space of a week or so and just missed each other by a few days or hours, depending on the group. I was up there 7/30 to 8/2: see TR viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11528 Also in that thread canukyea mentions that he dayhiked up to the Algers from Rush Creek on 8/2.
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: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby Rockyroad » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:06 pm

It's too bad we missed each other. In fact, I'm surprised how few people we came across, considering how accessible and scenic this area is. Both you and canukyea logged some serious and tough miles on your trips!
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby canukyea » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:51 pm

HST members think alike apparently. Nice trip, definitely did not know there were bighorns in that area.
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby beretta391 » Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:29 pm

Just joined the forum, and I will be headed up to this area for some fall color photography and some good hiking. I would hope to see the Bighorn Sheep to get some photo's of them as well. I will post upon my return
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby flyzapper » Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:45 pm

This looks like it was an amazing trip! I'm thinking of doing a trip this summer starting in Yosemite and going over Parker and Koip Peak Passes all the way to Devil's Postpile via Thousand Island lakes. Based on your experience in July, do you think there will be much water in the Parker Creek watershed between Parker and Koip Peak Passes in August or September? All the other camps I am planning are at or near major lakes, but the first night will be between Parker and Koip Peak Passes, and I don't want a dry camp before going over a 12,200+ foot pass.
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby Rockyroad » Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:02 pm

Hi Flyzapper,
I had the same worries last year which was pretty dry but there seemed to be plenty of water in the small lakes/ponds (not sure what to call them). In fact, I was surprised to see the creeks flowing as much as they were in late July.
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The lakes were shallow in some areas but if I had to make a prediction, I don't think it will be dry. Once you crest Parker Pass, you'll see a few shallow lakes which might have enough water for you. If not, the lakes further down which are fed by these creeks should have water.
Have fun!
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:58 am

flyzapper wrote:This looks like it was an amazing trip! I'm thinking of doing a trip this summer starting in Yosemite and going over Parker and Koip Peak Passes all the way to Devil's Postpile via Thousand Island lakes. Based on your experience in July, do you think there will be much water in the Parker Creek watershed between Parker and Koip Peak Passes in August or September? All the other camps I am planning are at or near major lakes, but the first night will be between Parker and Koip Peak Passes, and I don't want a dry camp before going over a 12,200+ foot pass.


There will be no problem with water. The reason is that Parker Creek is not fed solely by seasonal snow melt as most High Sierran streams are--it has the added advantage of being fed by some rapidly shrinking small glaciers. Because of this you get year-round water in Parker Creek even during the fall following a dry winter. Even with our warming climate we still have several years before those tiny glaciers are gone so we can enjoy Parker Creek and its wonderful whitewater cascades through the dry seasons for a few more years.
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: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby Rockyroad » Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:42 am

Ah, that's what I suspected from the creamy blue color of the lakes. Thanks for the confirmation.
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Re: TR: Alger Lakes, Koip and Kuna Peaks 7/24-7/27

Postby dougieb » Thu Apr 16, 2015 3:24 pm

Parker Pass was the second place I ever backpacked in the Sierra and I'll never forget it. At that time I was such a rookie that I didn't bring a down jacket, thinking a rain jacket over a thermal would be proper insulation. :confused: I've logged a few hundred trail miles since then and thankfully I've gained some wisdom since then. Anyway, thanks for bringing back the memories and good work spotting those sheep!
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