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9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Canyon

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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby paul » Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:28 pm

That all sounds great - I'll just throw in another plug for lake 9911. I would plan to spend some time there - preferably a nice afternoon or so. At the north end there's a nice beach. It's right on the way to Harriet - if you're coming from Red Devil just take the higher trail, not the one down by the Triple Peak Fork and ther's a nice gentle valley that takes you up to 9911; then from there to Harriet you just go due north then curl around to the outlet of Harriet. Great campsites on a little rise west of the outlet, and great views from the edge of the Harriet shelf just a little further west of that.
Coming back after you have been ove Blue Lake Pass, go to the south end of Harriet, through a little saddle, down to the lake below, then to the one due west of that, and so down to the trail that takes you back to Isberg. And yeah, those lakes just west of Isberg - very nice spot. Anywhere around there is nice in fact - you can't go wrong!
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Foerster Peak from Harriet
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby Anish » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:07 pm

I appreciate the continued input! As the trip draws near, I am trying to finalize my itinerary.

Though I considered switching the plan and aiming for the Clark Range Circuit, the mystique of Bench Canyon kept calling to me. I finally got my permit out of the Isberg TH. In reviewing my original trip plan, the one concern that kept gnawing at me when assessing the Long Creek return was locating the use trail out of Long Creek, and then even more so, locating the correct path through the forest to the trailhead. From the reports I can find, the "trail" heading from the Sadler saddle back towards Chetwood Cabin seems to have faded considerable. I'd be worried about overshooting the TH or veering far off course.

Then it occurred to me that I can reverse and take the route counter clockwise. I found a report that describes the cross country from around Cora lakes to the Sadler saddle to be straight forward. I figure I can follow my compass straight north from Cora Lake for a couple of miles after which Sadler should appear above us. From that point, the Sadler saddle should be visible and easy to reach. Then if I can find the use trail, heading down to Long Creek should be straight forward. From there we hop over to Bench Cyn, over Blue Lake Pass, then back via Isberg Pass (aiming to hit the highly regarded Lake 9911 along the way).

I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on the counter clockwise variation, specifically with the route finding up to Long Creek. Having never been to the area, I am basing my assessment on map review and the limited info in can find.

In the end, if I still have reservations about the cross country route, I can always skip the XC section and just go in and out via Isberg Pass. But I would certainly LOVE to visit Bench Cyn, if I can gain some more clarity on the route.

Thanks again to all, and looking forward to sharing my report and pics upon returning!
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby Pietro257 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 5:29 pm

My two cents:

Bench Canyon is well worth visiting -- one of the most beautiful places in the Sierra. You can get from Bench Canyon to the San Joaquin River and Stevenson Meadow and Hemlock Crossing without having to go to Twin Island Lakes. Below is a trip report I wrote about getting from Hemlock Crossing to Bench Canyon by crossing the San Joaquin above its confluence with Bench Canyon Creek. You can cross the San Joaquin there this year, as it's so dry. I wouldn't attempt it on a wet year.

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8190

Here is an interesting discussion of the terrain between Lake Catherine and Twin Island Lakes:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9746
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby paul » Mon Jun 08, 2015 8:58 pm

A few thoughts - one is that the route finding in either direction doesn't look bad from the map to my eye, but everyone's ideas on that are different. But if you come from Harriet and go back the same way, the route finding is definitely way easy. What is your plan for how to "hop over" to bench canyon if you come form Long creek?
A loop always has more allure than out and back.
As for coming from harriet and going out via long creek, finding that sadler sadlle seems like it would be pretty easy. Once there, if you see no signs of the use trail all you have to to is drop down just a bit, then veer a little west onto a sort of shelf that will take you across to a little ridge coming almost due south off of Sadler Peak, take the first draw west of that ridge and follow it down, if in doubt just go due south . There are two little knobs - 9288 and 9443 - to go between and the draw as it drops out of that gap heads you right towards Cora Lakes - if in doubt head a little west. Seems like it would be tough to miss the trail at that point. Haven't done it but that sure looks pretty simple. Although if I were doing it I might be very tempted to stay on the shelf and contour all the way around to the little lake at 9570 and thus to Sadler, as that little lake just seems like a nice spot.
Dang - too many places, so little time!
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby oldranger » Tue Jun 09, 2015 7:29 am

Re: passage between Bench Canyon and Long Creek

From either side there is an obvious "slot" to the low point in the divide between the two ridges. on the bench side this is easy walking. On the Long Creek side it is filled with talus that requires a good deal of attention and effort. however, just to the w. of that slot there are slabs and grassy areas that are easy to negotiate.

Finally the trail route I previously mentioned has got to be a much more efficient route that the Sadler/long Mt off trail route as you can just pound up or down the trail with no worries about navigation and reduces elevation gain in both directions by 600 feet.

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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby Anish » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:18 am

Thanks for the additional feedback, guys!

Paul, the route Mike mentions is what I had in mind with regard to passing from Bench Canyon to Long Creek. I've read reports on going both directions over this ridge and it's been described as pretty doable, noting the advice not to come directly down from the pass on the Long Creek side (or go directly up depending on which way I'm going), but rather to move west from the low notch. If I choose the counterclockwise variant, then I would approach this pass from around the outlet of Rockbound Lake.

But the more I think about it, clockwise may make more sense. On day 1, our packs will be heaviest and we will not be fully acclimated (though we will arrive the day before starting). Trail walking may be more appropriate to kick things off. We will definitely be feeling better and more nimble on Days 8/9, so I'm thinking we will be more prepared to handle the cross county portion at the end of the trip rather than at the start.

Reading the additional feedback above and studying maps, I can see that the route finding probably will not be any easier/harder one way or the other (CW vs CCW). Paul, your description below is very helpful in planning the return portion from Long Creek.

I thought a lot about taking Bench Canyon all the way down to the NFSJ confluence, but this would seem to add a lot of distance. If I cut the Red Peak Fork out from the early part of the trip, then I may have the time to make this route, but that stretch of trail along the Clark Range has been calling to me for years!

Any thoughts as to whether I should bypass the Clark Range section in favor of more time in the AAW around the NJSJ?
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby Ballpeen » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:49 am

This is an intersting discussion on how to create a loop from Bench Canyon back to Isberg Trailhead. I've been consiering a similar trip. One option I was looking at for a return was Blue Lake to Rockbound Lake to a traverse around the ridge that extends southwest from Long Mountain, over the saddle at 10820+, to McGee Lake. That would avoid the Long Canyon concerns but may be a whole lot of talus. Has anyone done this route or have input?
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby paul » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:46 pm

Well, I guess this thread inspired me because I just got back from a trip over the weekend: Isberg trail, McGee Lake, over long Mtn. Saddle to Harriet area, over Blue Lake pass to Bench canyon, then Long creek and out via partly the old trail and partly the Stephenson trail.
Having been that way now I'd say the old trail is not so easy to follow at the moment - at every meadowy bit it disappears pretty well. Someone has ducked some of it, but not consistently, so just when you think you can count on the ducks you can't. We found it coming down Long Creek, or rather, soon after starting the climb out of Long at around 9200 feet or so. Lost it and found it few times, particularly before the Sadler saddle; from there it was pretty good until we hit the next creek, there it crosses the creek, with an old blaze on a tree, and disappears. Unfortunately the map I had did not show the trail, so I had only my memory of seeing it on another map to go by which was not enough. So we looked around some and then decided to just drop down a ways and catch the Stephenson trail. Which turned out very well as we were pretty close to it and it has some very nice views of the minarets.
I would think that following that old trail is easier going into Long Creek than coming out, and of course if you have a map that actually shows the trail!. On the other hand, going by way of the Stephenson trail and peeling off of that to catch the old trail just to go over the Sadler saddle and drop down into Long Creek would actually save you some climbing and has nice views. Probably just a hair longer but not much.
Regardless of how you go in there, the upper part of Long Creek is mighty nice. And getting over to Bench is easy.
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Re: 9 days in early Aug, eyeing southern Yosemite/Bench Cany

Postby Anish » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:43 am

Much appreciated, Paul. You've confirmed what I had already suspected and concluded from the data I could find - the route finding should be more straight forward going counter clockwise. I've just assumed for planning purposes that there is no trail going over Sadler saddle. Studying Google Earth and the topo shows the route to be fairly clear. I plan to stay at Cora Lakes night one, then Long Canyon night two. My primary plan is to head straight north from Cora towards Sadler Peak. Then contour over to the saddle. Even if I can't find the use trail down to Long Creek, the route doesn't look too bad.
I did consider the Stevenson Trail, but I couldn't locate a good camping option for night one (unless Chetwood Creek is flowing and there are good camping options thereabouts). I know I cannot make it to Long Creek in 1 day. The hike via Cora doesn't look too exciting, but it does seem to be the most direct route to get to Bench Canyon.
I leave in just over 3 weeks, cannot wait!!
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