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Lakes Trail March 31st to April 2. Trip Report

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Lakes Trail March 31st to April 2. Trip Report

Postby hikencamp » Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:50 am

Updating first post with a Trip Report.
edit
-my trip report turned into a trip story.. so here is a short report for those just looking for intel.

And thanks to everyone for the ideas and suggestions.

March 31st, 2015

-Watchtower route is marked closed at the junction sign. But for the people that wanted to see for themselves how bad it really is... Apparently still pretty bad. All people we encountered who tried the Watchtower route had to turn around and backtrack to Junction. Said was to dangerous with snow.
Said is doable with the right gear.

-Hump Route to Emerald Lake is fine. Small snow fields, snowshoes would be nice, but not needed. Gaiters would be worth it in my opinion.
-Emerald to Pear Lake, did not see it firsthand. But going from people we met who tried it. All had turned around. None had Snow shoes or gaiters.
It is doable, but longer snow fields.

-We saw big group of skiers with full snow gear coming down from Pear lake Wednesday morning. They said the skiing was amazing on the Corn? Snow at Pear Lake.

-Temps were great for our trip. mid 40s day, high 20s low 30s night. But things have gotten much colder. Check weather very thoroughly.

-Heather Lake was partially frozen, people fishing it were having great success.
-Emerald is pretty much frozen except small parts. But plenty of small streams and snow melt rivers in campground area for water.
-Bathroom at Emerald is open and in good condition.

-and finally, Hump route is one tough constantly elevating motha Fkka. But I love him for it.




OUR TRIP
My plan was to make it to Emerald and camp there Tuesday night, and then try and camp at Pear Lake Wednesday. For the route I was hoping to get more intel from any hikers coming down on conditions of the Watchtower route. I read enough about the Hump route to know it would be doable, but will surely kick our asses. So I was hoping we could manage our way up the Watchtower trail and enjoy those views.

I had some small hesitations, I know even with the unusually warm weather that it was still pretty early to be backpacking up there without snowshoes, crampons, or skis. And although I felt we were prepared fairly well with cold weather gear, I did not want to push our limits.

I knew that from multiple forecasts the warm weather was leaving and cold temps were coming, with different sites saying different dates. But it seemed either Tuesday night or Wednesday would be the day.


So we left our little campsite at Lodgepole Campgrounds and set out Tuesday around noon, got a way later start then I had planned. It had been awhile since we have both been backpacking and I suppose we got a little rusty on packing and getting things organized.
While getting ready in the Wolverton Parking lot Trailhead, 2 other guys were there getting ready to set out as well. Chatted with them and I finally started really feeling at ease knowing someone else was going up as well. I tend to overthink and overplan things sometimes when its a place I have never been. But I could finally relax and enjoy the trip.

Weather was beautiful! I would say high to mid 40s most of the hike in. You definitely cooled down fast in the shade, but the sun was gorgeous.
Saw lots of Deer and they got very close to us. We met 2 backpackers coming down the trail, got plenty of good info.


-They tried the Watchtower route, hoping they could manage through the snow and ice. They said it was a no go, and had to backtrack to the junction and take the Hump Route.
- They said they encountered to much snow from Emerald lake to Pear Lake and turned back and camped at Emerald instead. Said it was doable, but too much postholeing and snow in boots.

Later on right before the Junction we met a solo Backpacker coming down. He also said he tried Watchtower, and had to turn back. And said the same on Pear Lake.


So when we reached the Junction we ran into the 2 guys we saw down into the parking lot. We talked a minute and decided on the Hump Trail.
If I didnt have my GF with, I think I might have tried the Watchtower, stupid? Possibly, but you know that curious part of your brain that wants to see for yourself. I think the other guy from the Parking lot wanted to as well.
But we made the smart move and got our ASSES KICKED on the hump trail.... at least me and my girl did.

I know for most here, that hike would be nothing.. But for 2 kind of out of shape people who overpacked it was TOUGH!!
speaking of overpacking we each had 2 sleeping pads!! I wanted to be sure she would be comfortable and warm...

I dont need to go into details in how much it kicked our ass, but after a couple miles along the hump, I had to start taking lots of weight out of my GFs pack and strap it to mine. I was doing fine before that, but after overloading my pack with most of her heavy stuff, I was now thoroughly getting the punishment I deserve for not planning a easy Coast camping trip instead. :-({|= But I was loving it.


Anyway you know the rest, we make it to the first lake, Heather, and the downhill begins, all the pain is gone and endorphins rush into your head. My GF is no longer mumbling jibberish and delusional, she is coherant and able to make solid sentences now, I even see a little bit of a smile taking shape.
Yes that amazing feeling of getting close to your destination and the huge surge of emotions you feel when you see that Glorious backcountry scenery after so much pain.

Heather Lake is pretty Iced up. It looks gorgeous. Some decent snow fields right before you drop down to the lake. The snow is kind of slow going, when you occasionally break through its deep, and gaiters would of been very nice.

Short climb along way to Emerald, and more snow. Not to bad, just take it slow and test everything. Some spots where boulders are hidden under deep snow could easily roll or break a ankle. Just take it slow and test footsteps.

Emerald was a stunning place to camp. It felt very protected from wind. Lots of trees, and some great camping spots. We met up with those same 2 guys from the parking lot and we all shared a campsite and had a blast. I love meeting people when doing a hobby I love, and these were great guys. It made the trip that much better. We all clicked very well and live fairly close in Los Angeles, already started planning new trips.


For Tuesday night, temps really did not get too Cold. We had lots of clouds rolling in and there was some moisture in the air. But temps were around 28 when we went to bed at midnight. I woke up maybe 4am and checked and it was 33. We didnt get cold at all.

Wednesday was a beautiful Sunny day. But you could just tell it was going to be a colder day. I wanted to stay one more night, but my girl wanted to head down Wednesday.
It was a smart move, we camped in Lodgepole Wednesday night and it was colder there at 6600 elevation then it was Tuesday night at Emerald Lake.
Wednesday night was very cold.


This was an amazing trip. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I cannot wait to come back in warmer weather when we can pack less and try out the Watchtower route.

Any specific questions or comments feel free to ask. I will try and add some pics later on.





---Original Post and questions---
First off, long time lurker, finally joined to try and get some thoughts.
Want to thank people in advance who take the time to give me some input and for all the amazing knowledge and stories on this site.

Me and my GF had some days off which is rare, so really wanted to go some place cool for a little backpacking.
With the warm weather I thought it might make for a nice little trip into the Pear Lake, from my research it didnt sound like there was to much snow along the trail and with the warm front would be low 30s or high 20s at night.

The last few days it seems the warm front has left and a little more chilly temps have moved in, along with some potentional wind. Im estimating nighttime temps could get down to 10-15f but might stay around the average of 20 something.

I was in the Park 3 weeks ago and hiked from Lodgepole to the falls, and hiked up Little Baldy. Weather was actually almost hot. I know its not near the same elavation as the lakes, but was kind of hoping that warm front would stick around longer.

My plan, is to start the hike early Tuesday, hoping to reach Pear lake by late afternoon. I know I have the option of either the Hump trail or the one that goes by the watchtower, and will have to see how much snow and ice is still around to make the decision.

We would make our way back Thursday morning. Now my question is has anyone been up in that area yet this early? I would love to hear how the conditions are as far as ice/snow and what route would be the best. If snowshoes would be absloultey mandatory then I will have to plan something else last minute.

Secondly, does anyone have any good estimates on temps at that elevation, 9400. Most forecasts I see are from stations around 6800, and its in the mid 20s on some nights. So I was kind of figuring some teens for sure with possibility of lower of course.

I will give you our experience level, and gear and would love to hear your thoughts.

I would consider myself level 4, have done backpacking trips with more gain and obviously more miles then this,
I am comfortable in pretty much all terrains when properly equiped, albiet not roped in ice ax and crampon terrain, have not done any of that yet.

My GF is probably a level 3 and is comfortable in most terrain as me. We are not opposed to snow, have done many miles post holing with boots when snowshoes would of made it easier, on random unplanned day hikes.

sleeping bags, I borrowed some nice down bags from a friend when I see the weather has gotten colder. I have synthetics, but not warm enough for these temps, I also understand if down gets wet it loses insulation properties drastically.

-Marmot 800 fill down, 10 degree.
-Sierra Designs down 0 degree
Pads
- x2 REI Airrail 1.5 self inflating pad. 1.5'' thick R value 4.2
Big Agnes 2 person tent with fly
Clothes
-we both have hot chillys performance base layer,columbia convertible hiking pants, and marmot membrain shell pants over.
Tops, hot Chilly performance base layer tops, light poly long sleeve shirt over, fairly thick fleece zipper sweater jacket. fllece lined outer shell jacket.
and a marmot precip backup shell.
Beanies for each of us.
Multiple wool socks for hiking and pair for sleeping.
hiking poles, and plenty of food and snacks and all the other small gear necessities.


Im still packing stuff and plan on driving out from LA early tomorrow, while also reading any kind of weather data I can and also trying to plan a backup trip if weather looks worse. So I apologize for the terrible spelling, grammar, and paragraph structures or lack thereof.

My thoughts are either Im going to hear that Im crazy for thinking about doing this without skis or snowshoes this early, or your going to think Im crazy for worrying because the weather is actually decent and the gear can handle it. My hesitation is mainly because I wanted a more enjoyable relaxing trip with some decent temps for my girl, not a hellishly cold survival trip where we are stuck in the tent most of time, cuz I have taken her on to many of those over the years.

Thank you
Last edited by hikencamp on Sat Apr 04, 2015 1:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby sparky » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:11 pm

I have been trudging through snow in late june up there so not sure....I would plan on going over the hump. You could just see how far you can get. Understand that winter storms can come in anytime, so it would be smart to be prepared form that. I have been caught in sudden unpredicted storms before.
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby mort » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:23 pm

Hello Hikencamp,
You know there is a cabin right by Pear Lake... from Winter Hut Notes (3/25/2015)
Snow coverage from the Hump to the Cabin is scattered and variable. If you are attempting to skin this section of the route, be prepared for many transitions from skinning to carrying your ski's and hiking. There is still over a mile and a half of snow to travel over to reach the cabin.

Try this link: http://www.sequoiahistory.org/default.asp?contentid=676
I saw the link in a post by Tim, thanks to him.
Have a great time!
-mort
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby hikencamp » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:46 pm

Hey Mort,

Ya I had saw the hut keepers update on the 25th about the trail.
Seems like not to much snow left on trail and could manage without snow shoes. Will be slow going for those spots with snow.
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby tim » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:14 pm

You can always camp at Emerald Lake which will likely have less snow as it's a fair bit lower. The sites are also more sheltered in the trees. The toilet there is open all winter, as we found out last year. So that's a bonus in terms of not digging holes. If you have 2 nights then a day trip to Pear Lake and beyond would make sense - you could stop at the hut for a warm drink if people are there.

Don't try the Watchtower on the way in. You can take a look on the way out without wasting so much time if you need to backtrack. But be careful of the ice (you'll want spikes even if it is clear of snow).

And for detailed forecasts at a specific place the NWS has user selectable areas here: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/wtf/udaf/area/?site=hnx
It looks like overnight lows in the mid to low 20s this week at 10K ft
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby hikencamp » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:47 pm

Tim,
Thanks for that weather ink, very cool.

I think thats a smart plan, make our way to emerald and just take our time and judge the route as we go.
Hump route sounds better if ice or melting snow is a issue I agree.

Low 20s at night should be ok with our gear I hope.

If weather doesnt look like it will get any colder, I will for sure come back and upload a report and pics of the trip.

I tried researching something else, but cannot come up with anything else that has open road access or lower elevation then this and still fairly majestic.
Not really wanting a coast camping, and tried looking up backpacking info for Bryce Canyon. Utah or Zion area, but not enough time to find any solid info.
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby sheperd80 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:29 am

Hey Hikencamp welcome to HST. Please come back with a trip report. This trip (with a xcountry to Moose Lake) is my first planned overnight of the season, just waiting for the weather. Id love to hear all about it when you come back. Have fun!
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Re: Lakes Trail to Pear Lake, March 31st to April 2. Quest

Postby hikencamp » Sat Apr 04, 2015 1:59 pm

sheperd80 wrote:Hey Hikencamp welcome to HST. Please come back with a trip report. This trip (with a xcountry to Moose Lake) is my first planned overnight of the season, just waiting for the weather. Id love to hear all about it when you come back. Have fun!



Bumping to the top with edited trip report.
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Re: Lakes Trail March 31st to April 2. Trip Report

Postby sheperd80 » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:39 pm

Sounds like that delayed winter I've been hearing about may be starting up.

My gf and I dayhiked to the watchtower last summer. I can see how that route, especially just past the watchtower, could be pretty treacherous in snow without gear. Sounds like you made the right choice.

Glad to hear you guys made it safely and thanks for coming back with the report!
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