Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote! | High Sierra Topix  

Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby franklin411 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:04 pm

Hi guys,
I'm going to go up to the Eastern Sierra this weekend for a flash trip, leaving from Southern CA tomorrow afternoon, getting up super early Saturday morning and dayhiking till the early afternoon, and then driving home. The weather looks fabulous: in the 50s both day and night at 8500', in the 30s at 14000' day and night, clear and calm.

I see from the FS website that Horseshoe Meadow, Whitney Portal, Onion Valley, and Gray's Meadow campgrounds are all closed for the season. I assume that all roads are still open, but will call on the drive up. I was planning to sleep in the car anyway since it's too much hassle to set up a tent for just one night. I figure worst case I can park at the TH and sleep there, but is there any chance that the campgrounds will be open for use on a walk-up basis? Also, any chance that any of the vault toilets will be available for use? I figure no, but who knows.

Also, vote! I'm going with a friend who likes to hike but has had a bias against the Eastern Sierra because she says it's too boring (!). She likes lakes and trees, while I like peaks and high elevation.

I thought there were two possible targets that give us both trees and lakes, and peaks and high elevation:

1. Onion Valley TH to Kearsarge Pass, then either hang out at Kearsarge or Charlotte Lake for an early lunch, possibly bag Mt. Rixford, and then back out.

2. Horseshoe Meadow to Cottonwood Lakes, then New Army Pass, then Cirque Peak for an early lunch, and maybe shortcut to Long or South Fork Lake back to the Cottonwood Lakes trail and out.

Honestly, I think my friend will like the Onion Valley route better, but I was just there 2 months ago and I've never been to Horseshoe Meadow. What's your vote?

We both want 15-20 miles r/t, class 1 to easy Class 2.



User avatar
franklin411
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:54 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby seanr » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:05 pm

I'll probably be out peakbagging on the Eastside as well.
I'd expect bathrooms at closed campgrounds to be locked, so bag and carry out or deeply bury waste away from water sources. Yes, at both areas you mentioned it would be easy to sleep in your car or use walk-in sites, but either way would be a leave no trace and stealth scenario (sounds like that is your intention). Alternatively, pay camp or disperse camp legally at the few places down lower still/always open.

You have recently been to Onion Valley, but never Horseshoe. IMO the trees near the trailhead at Onion Valley are more interesting than those at Horseshoe. There aren't any long stretches from O.V. without quick access to lakes, scenic forest, or interesting terrain with views, whereas from HM there is a long stretch of ordinary forest and dull terrain without big views before getting to Cottonwood Lakes or other lakes there. That being said, ordinary forest may be fine for your friend and the reward at the end is pretty nice, especially in greener times than autumn of a drought year. Personally, I'd do O.V., but I have already been to Horseshoe a few times and haven't gone past Langley area to get to the really interesting stuff. A bit of lingering snow may make either area a bit more interesting and different than summer. Charlotte Lake snow sensor seems to be working, but Cottonwood Lakes snow sensor may be malfunctioning. Shallow snow may make some slopes, talus, and shaded terrain more challenging and risky than normal.

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/staM ... ion_id=CRL

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/staM ... ion_id=CWD

From O.V. on easy trails Kearsarge Lakes would be nice. I enjoyed Vidette Meadow area (your friend would probably like that stretch) and had some great hikes with significant class 2, but you are probably lacking time for any of that (besides Kearsarge Lakes), especially if saving time to summit a peak.

Any chance you can squeeze in the extra drive to South Lake TH out of Bishop?
User avatar
seanr
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 257
Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:46 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby cloudlesssky » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:28 pm

Going up Rixford will be more peakbagging than lake scenery enjoyment. Cirque peak would be a mix of both. Rixford will also be significantly more strenuous: class 2/3 vs 1/2 and 2x total elevation gain. If it were me I'd try the trail not yet taken.
User avatar
cloudlesssky
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 116
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 4:19 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby seanr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 12:26 am

Franklin, cloudlesssky brings up a good point about elevation gain and terrain, especially with the potential for lingering snow. The miles to and from Cirque are not as strenuous as going over Kearsarge Pass to Kearsarge and Bullfrog Lakes and then up Rixford before heading back to OV. It will likely be easier to stay on class 1/very easy 2 with your Cirque idea and those lakes out there are scenic. I bring this up because I know you have the stamina and positive experiences at high altitude to do either hike, but don't know anything about your friend aside from that she is interested in covering a decent amount of miles with lakes and forest. Poor sleep followed by suddenly jumping right into a long dayhike at high altitude with lots of gain and some class 2 in snow has potential to turn partners inexperienced with such scenarios away from going with you again. Plus, I know you have run into some challenges as you gain class 2 experience and snow could complicate route-finding. Cirque can be very easy and you're familiar with the area around Rixford, but I suggest that you thoroughly research either option on summitpost.org and communicate clearly with your partner about how you both are feeling before and during the hike, especially if she is less experienced than you in the High Sierra.

Maybe you've seen this great map already if you go with OV:

Image
http://www.summitpost.org/rixford-bago- ... 0/c-732790

Here's an idea for a Cirque loop if conditions are good enough for some class 2. Even though the ones near Old Army Pass are slightly out of the way, all of the Cottonwood Lakes are worth visiting if time permits.

http://www.summitpost.org/this-map-show ... 7/c-152203
User avatar
seanr
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 257
Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:46 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby franklin411 » Sun Nov 09, 2014 4:50 pm

Thanks for the advice, folks! My friend and I ended up going to Onion Valley. We took your feedback into consideration but still couldn't decide, so we flipped on it. I was fine with the outcome because it was late by the time we got to Lone Pine (9 PM), and since it was dark I kinda felt it was better to go where I knew the drive up. Also, I was worried that my friend might not like Horseshoe because it less "green" to me.

We got up around 4:30 AM, on trail by 5:30, Kearsarge Pass by 8:15. Decided to try to at least get to the southern slope of Rixford just to see what the talus/scree looked like, because it was quickly obvious that my friend is afraid of heights (before the trip she described it as being a fear of class 3 climbing, but really any kind of exposure...even just a scree slope...makes her nervous).

We failed to get to the slopes of Rixford because I took this guy's advice http://angeles.sierraclub.org/sps/archives/sps00749.htm to go cross-country from Kearsarge Pass. We ended up too low to navigate efficiently, and the time/energy we wasted going cross-country far outweighed the effort we would have had to put in had we stayed on trail to Bullfrog Lake and then ascended. So we got to a point about 1/4 mi from the southern slope before deciding to turn back around 11:00 AM. Had we stayed on trail, we would have been to the slope by 9 AM I think. Also, I didn't research Rixford as thoroughly as I should have...I wasn't even 100% sure what it looked like.

Anyway, we were back at the car by 2:00. My friend developed a bit of mountain sickness (slight nausea), which I think was caused by her unwillingness to eat or drink enough. Patchy snow on the ground maybe 1-2" deep, more bare ground than snow. The slopes are all lightly dusted. Little Pothole was about 1/3 frozen for some reason, but the rest of the lakes were clear.

Fall color is done at Onion Valley and above (bare trees), but Grays Meadow and Lone Pine were in full fall glory.

Anyway, it was a fun trip, and hopefully what I learned about cross-country navigation will come in handy in the future. I was disappointed not to get a peak, of course, but she was happy. Maybe in the future I can bag a peak or two while she holds the fort and/or calls 911 if I don't come back at night! :cool:

Thanks again!
User avatar
franklin411
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:54 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Onion Valley / Horseshoe Meadow this Weekend + Vote!

Postby rlown » Sun Nov 09, 2014 6:04 pm

you learned something, had a good time and didn't die! Always a good trip. Don't flip on it in the future. make the choice. It helps with the planning.

russ
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5325
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: acugirl, Bing [Bot], kursavwilage and 13 guests