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Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

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Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby wannabeamountaineer » Sun Feb 15, 2015 4:22 pm

Hello, I am looking for advice from experienced High Sierra'ers about XC travel: I'm planning a 30 day backpack trip from Mammoth Lakes down into SEKI in August, and I want to cut my teeth on a little Sierra cross country, with at least one pass. I want to go to Hamilton, Precipice, 9 Lakes basin, and also to Kaweah Basin. Pants Pass or Pyra Queen Col looks inviting instead of the long way around(back out to JMT). I'll be altitude acclimated by then obviously, but this would be my first alpine cross country pass. I'm good with essential nav skills(map & compass), fairly fit for
Sierra hiking,comfortable trying Class 2 climbing. Any advice from members familiar with these passes is appreciated. Thanks, Mike.



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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby maverick » Sun Feb 15, 2015 8:38 pm

Welcome to HST! Please read: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205
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: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 15, 2015 9:22 pm

I would hesitate to do either of those passes as a first cross-country pass. They both are very steep with lots of loose rock. It is not that you could not do them, but without a lot of rock-hopping practice, you will likely be exceedingly slow. Both are very tedious and have some real dangers if you mess up. Both have quite tricky route-finding just to be on the correct pass. Also a lot of micro-route finding required to find the easiest path. And it is not just the pass - first you have to get to the base of the passes, which is not easy. If you do Pants Pass, go north-to-south. I would hate to go up the south side! If you have ever done Mineral King to Columbine Lake - these passes are like that, doubled or tripled in difficulty. I would say Pants Pass (north-to-south) is easier than Pyra Queen. But that is just my opinion. I have done Pyra Queen both ways, but only north-to-south on Pants Pass.
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby Steve_C » Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:14 pm

W.Daisy, Pants Pass is an east-west crossing, so I am not sure which way you are describing with the north and south references.

Pants Pass location:
GPS coordinates: 36.785533,-119.794561 ... Gmap4 view (Pants pass dead center in the cross-hairs)
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:10 pm

I agree with WD that these passes are a very poor choice for someone doing an off-trail pass for the first time for all the reasons she gives. In other words, these are rougher-than-average class 2 passes even if the best routes are chosen, and good route finding (which usually develops as a result of lots of cross country experience) is required in order to keep the difficulty to class 2.

There are a lot of great cross country routes that are much more forgiving and a better choice for an off trail debut: such passes are distributed along the entire length of the range from little cross country passes in Desolation Wilderness (such as a nifty little shoulder route to go to Highland Lake from the Van Vleck trailhead) to many routes from Yosemite southward. Some of these are written up in the Cross Country Passes archive, whereas many more are described in various posts on this forum.

For example, your general route is envisioned as a Seki-Mammoth odyssey. Instead of going over Kaweahs by a cross country pass, you can go out of Wolverton and over the Tableland (off trail) then drop over the top down past Big Bird Lake to Deadman Canyon, thence around the corner if you wish to Cloud Canyon and then over Colby Pass to get to the E side of the Kaweahs. This is pretty easy class 1 to 2 and fairly forgiving. It is more direct to Crescent Meadow to Tamarack and then Lion Lake and then over Lion Lake Pass to Cloud Canyon, but more than a few folks mess up the route btw Tamarack and Lion Lake and get themselves into class 3. However, this is easier going uphill rather than down when you can see the breaks in the cliffs. If you successfully get to Lion Lake, Lion Lake Pass is pretty easy class 2 and the routefinding is not too difficult.

There are plenty of other opportunities to do an easy cross country pass later in the route. In this case, being trailbound early, you'd go around the S end of the Kaweahs via trail, or you'd take a more northerly route (out of Road's End up Bubbs Creek, for example) . Opportunities for a nice off trail diversion (if roughly following the JMT-PCT northward) might be as follows. If you took the southernmost option (High Sierra Trail) ahd intersected the JMT at Wallace Creek, you could swing up Wright Creek to the Wright Lake and then head back over the low pass at 12000+ (easy class 2 with lots of route finding options) that leads from the lower Wright Lakes to Shepherd Pass trail (and hence back to the JMT). If you took the northern option (ie Bubbs) or chose not to do the Wright Lake option, you could wait until you are north of Muir Pass to do the off trail stuff. There you have several choices: one is to go over the low saddle to Davis Lakes and thence to Goddard Canyon and then downstream to join the JMT again, or you could go over one of three little passes to the McGee Lakes and then go downstream to rejoin the JMT in the Colby Meadow area of Evolution Valley. Those are but a few of many options.

Again, there are plenty of alternatives along your general route that are far better choices than Pants Pass or Pyra-Queen Col for making your off trail pass debut.
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: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Feb 16, 2015 6:13 pm

I feel that tackling either as a first try would be off putting for future cross country travel.
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 16, 2015 9:43 pm

Sorry about direction mess up. Northeast-southwest crossing for Pants Pass, so by "north" I mean northeast or the Kern Keweah side (which you call east) and by "south" I mean southwest or Nine Lakes Basin side (which you call west). I went from the Kern-Keweah side to the Nine Lakes side. I did the traverse of the top to avoid anything steep or loose on the northeast side (in other words NOT the gully). The Nine Lakes Side was scree skiing deluxe. Very glad I did not have to go up it.
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby wannabeamountaineer » Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:21 pm

Thanks to all who replied. I will look for other possible "on my way" options. I'm going north to south(sort of with a big loop in YOSE) from Mammoth into Yosemite on the JMT, then making a loop back to Mammoth via Isberg pass to Granite Stairway before taking off south toward SEKI.
So today I started looking at two off trail passes out of Yosemite: Ritter Pass and North Glacier Pass. Ritter Pass looks easy on the east side, but maybe not on the west. Any thoughts on either of these as a first time off trail pass? If either of these would be a good start, I could take one of them instead of Isberg on trail. Thanks, Mike
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby dapperdave » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:54 am

Mike,

Did you read the link that Maverick posted? If you provide the information requested there, the folks here will know more about your experience fitness and skills and be able to give more specific advice. Without more information people are rightly leery of recommending routes that may be dangerous for you.

Dave
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:18 am

NGP is class 2 not to bad, but Ritter is more like class 3 (forget it being class 2), definately not for a backpacker
without solid crosscountry experience and comfortable in very loose, steep class 3 terrain!
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: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby oleander » Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:28 pm

North Glacier is possibly the "least-bad" of the 4 passes you mention. But it still has a short Class 3 section; and I have run across people who found it navigationally difficult.

Most every year, I bring somebody out who wants to cut their teeth on some x-country. I wouldn't dream of taking them over any of these 4 passes. Without knowing your reaction to this kind of terrain (MENTAL as well as physical), it's hard to say if you will breeze over it or if you will COMPLETELY freak out.

Most of the people I've taken out have completely freaked out on far easier terrain that that, and that was never on their first big trip/year out.

After hearing about Ritter Pass last year (scary looseness), I have no intention of ever touching it.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Cross Country pants pass or Queen Col??

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:54 am

I never found anything difficult about North Glacier Pass. Just up and over. The only problem is a short large boulder field on top. I'd be more worried about where your going from here. If your on the Sierra High Route it's allot of micro managing to get through that section.
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