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Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

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Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:41 am

Three friends and I are thinking of hiking Duck Pass Trailhead - Pika Lake - Ram Lake - Lake Virginia on September 19-24. (This is hike 45 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.

This route is our backup, but we might consider it as our primary, since it sounds spectacular. I previously asked about our primary route (Bear Lakes) here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11643

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!



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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby Herm » Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:15 am

Hi wjb;

I just returned from that area on Sunday. I spent two nights in the Duck/Pika Lakes area, and one night just below Ram Lake. Trails are in fine shape. Obviously, there is plenty of water in the lakes, but many seasonal streams are dry. Between the outlet of Duck Lake and Purple Lake, there isn't any water to rely on, except for a trickle just before the JMT/PCT junction dropping down from Duck Lake. The use trail from Purple Lake to Ram Lake follows a stream, and it has good, reliable flow of tasty water. That use trail can be a little hard to follow in some places, but with four sets of eyes, you shouldn't have any problem finding the path. I enjoyed good weather, but this late in the season you never know. Just be prepared, and have a good time.

Herm
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Thu Sep 11, 2014 4:46 pm

Thanks for the info, that sounds fantastic!
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby seanr » Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:38 pm

I like your trip ideas. Both are routes I've been very near more than once, but not yet visited. In fact, I spent Labor Day weekend over Kaiser Pass beyond the dam of Florence Reservoir (Hooper Diversion Dam TH) and summited Mount Hooper. Last weekend I hiked from Agnew Meadows at the opposite end of Mammoth area from your back-up trip idea.

Although far apart via road, your two trip ideas aren't far from, nor much different from each other in terms of general area and likely autumnal equinox weather conditions. I suspect conditions will be great, but keep checking those links you've been provided in the other two threads until you hit the trail and also hope no new major fires start near those areas. If weather turns much more cold and snowy than is likely, I'd want my back-up plans to be farther away from my plan A and have a lower elevation or easy escape back-up as well. A storm could focus on the south, central, or northern Sierra, or could hit the entire Sierra, but a major storm with deep snow is very unlikely in September. Most years, northern CA tends to get hit by fall storms sooner and harder than central and southern, but it can vary, especially with the high elevations found from Yosemite south. By the way, I experienced a significant thunderstorm Monday, but it was in the weather.gov point forecasts by Saturday and thunderstorms are more common in July.

The drive to Mammoth is much less rugged and more on highly maintained roads than the drive to Edison area. I'm not sure how huge the difference is between the two trips in terms of talus/x-country travel in potential light snow. Honestly though, besides playing it safe rather than ending up sorry, I wouldn't be worried about the weather unless something starts to look more interesting in the forecasts and you've got a few more days until those start to grow very reliable. If you are truly concerned, maybe go in early September next year. Personally, I might need to head back up high to escape the heat if I don't just opt for the nearby coast. Good luck with the weather and have fun!
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby kpeter » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:32 pm

I really enjoyed my trip, which sounds very similar to your plans. Sadly I have no recent information for you, but here is the link to my trip report in case you are interested:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8159&hilit=Pika
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:25 pm

seanr, that's a really good point about these trips perhaps being too close together to serve as backups in the case of bad weather or a large fire. We did have another trip up around Yosemite in mind as a possible backup, too. But now because of the fire up there, maybe that option is out.

kpeter, thanks for the link!
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:42 pm

Looks like we're doing this one in the end, since one of our group has a hamstring problem, and this route is considerably easier than the Bear Lakes route we were going to do.

This leaves us with time for a day hike. Does anyone have any recommendations?
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby wjb » Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:50 pm

kpeter, I recall your day trips to Deer Lakes and to Ram Lake from your TR. I will keep them in mind. We will be camping at Ram Lake on night 2 and from the sound of it, it is less crowded than Purple/Pika and very scenic. A day trip from there might be particularly nice, if we can find one.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby rlown » Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:53 pm

hamstring problem.. don't even go injured.
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Re: Backpacking Trip Advice: Lake Virginia, Sept 19

Postby seanr » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:41 pm

wjb wrote:seanr, that's a really good point about these trips perhaps being too close together to serve as backups in the case of bad weather or a large fire. We did have another trip up around Yosemite in mind as a possible backup, too. But now because of the fire up there, maybe that option is out.


You mentioning backup ideas around the northeastern Yosemite area awhile back rings a bell now. I understand why you were concerned about potential for smoke there, but as it has turned out, I kind of doubt smoke specifically from the Meadow Fire will still be an issue in the places you mentioned. Maybe it is a moot point as the main issue you will deal with is a decent chance of experiencing weekend thunderstorms no matter which of your ideas you go with, and maybe your group will be down a member or rescheduling due to injury.

If you go with the trip you mentioned in this thread are you looking for first hand accounts of what would be most scenic for a dayhike while leaving some of your stuff at Ram Lake or one of your other planned overnight spots? I can't give a first hand account, but maybe just wait and see which day you feel like a dayhike, if any, once out there. Pick one or several lakes, ridges, or highpoints to visit based on what is calling to your eyes combined with what looks reachable on your map based on mileage and contours. Maybe just try Franklin, Glen, Glennette and the nearby unnamed lakes if you aren't into scrambling up ridges and peaks. It appears to require more effort, but I see several lakes southeast of Virginia as well.
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