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Kings Canyon High Basin Route

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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby andrewskurka » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:19 pm

I appreciate these alternate ideas, and I will look more deeply into them when I am back at a computer and have high speed internet. (Tonight I am in Boulder UT, pop 200, and am heading into the canyons tomorrow.)

But in general I am reluctant to recommend such a circuitous route with additional vertical gain only to avoid less than 5 miles of relatively moderate bushwhacking, and when I say "moderate" I am thinking about guard spruce in NH's White Mountains, old growth slide alder in the PNW's temperate rainforests, and willow in the Arctic. That type of **** is really slow, and IMHO a step or two or three harder than what I saw below the confluence to the M Fork. It is the worst bushwhacking I have seen in the High Sierra, but the High Sierra a pretty tame compared to brush elsewhere in North America, and not worth going through such efforts to avoid it. Of course, the route description will be very clear about this.



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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby andrewskurka » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:24 pm

jenreyn wrote:Andrew, you should check it out either way.


You make a good case and I will most definitely look into it.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby rlown » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:25 pm

andrewskurka wrote:I appreciate these alternate ideas, and I will look more deeply into them when I am back at a computer and have high speed internet. (Tonight I am in Boulder UT, pop 200, and am heading into the canyons tomorrow.)


A nice place to be!! sucks that they finally paved the Burr Trail. The cafe is a nice place to eat. Been there a few times during deer/elk season.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:36 pm

I have been over the pass east of Finger Peak and it drops directly into Blue Canyon. The north side had some snow. The south side is easy. I have not been over Finger Col, but have day-hiked to Cathedral Lake and Midway Lake and they are very scenic. Also have been down Crown Basin and over the pass by Hummingbird Lake as a way to get to Blue Canyon. The problem seems to be getting from Blue Canyon to Simpson Meadow.

Enchanted Gorge is a case-in-point for a route that has vastly different conditions. The Arnot book makes it look almost pleasant. Weather was perfect and the stream was low enough that they basically walked in the streambed or hopped from rock to rock. When I did it, in late August of a high snow year, first I had to do a controlled self-arrest down an icy snowfield that blocked the entire upper section. Then when the river hit the wall, I had to belly crawl across a 1-foot thick snow bridge; the stream was too high to cross safely. I did this as a 16-mile day-hike loop from Chasm Lake, and I do not think I could have crossed that snow bridge if I weighed more or had to carry a big pack. Then I had to re-cross on another snow bridge, swing from branch to branch in a vertical jungle before the pleasure of bushwhacking though stinging nettles. Rogue did it in a rainstorm - double the misery and making everything slick. And Ionian Basin can be more like a mountaineering route in a high snow year. Lots of snow cornices, even in late August in a high snow year. You definitely want an ice axe and know how to self arrest. The benefit (scenery)/cost (misery) ratio is also just too high for Enchanted Gorge to be a part of any major thru-route. When I finally headed up Goddard Creek, it was like paradise! Now, Goddard Creek, to me, is worth the effort. So is Ionian Basin.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby ndpanda » Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:41 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote: The benefit (scenery)/cost (misery) ratio is also just too high for Enchanted Gorge to be a part of any major thru-route.


This is my take on it too. When I went down the gorge in the early 1980s I had similar issues with multiple sketchy snow bridges. My only source of advance information was the James Hutchinson article in the 1924 Sierra Club Bulletin. Though he had a fairly epic journey the conditions that year were definitely less extreme than those I encountered.

The nature of Enchanted Gorge is that once you're in the thick of it and things get interesting it's not that easy to get cold feet and decide to turn around. You suppose that the worst must be over. You decide that it's better to muddle on than re-take some of the risks you've already run. In my book that's the kind of crap-shoot you want to warn people away from unless you're personally acquainted with their backcountry skills and experience.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby andrewskurka » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:05 pm

rlown wrote:
A nice place to be!! sucks that they finally paved the Burr Trail. The cafe is a nice place to eat. Been there a few times during deer/elk season.


Wish I could bottle up some of the grooviness here and take it back to the other Boulder. Love the tranquility, slow pace, and sense of community. There are drawbacks of being way out here but there are tradeoffs with any location. At least what they do have here for services is generally excellent -- after a long day in the car I had just a salad for dinner at the Burr Trail Grill, tasted great and was farm to table, but here that is just expected rather than needing to say it is.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby andrewskurka » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:07 pm

Anyone have a geological or ecological explanation for why Goddard is "like Paradise" versus Enchanted?
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby alpinemike » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:55 pm

I participated in the misery that was mentioned last year with Rogue when we traveled down the Enchanted Gorge in 5 hours of pouring rain. As many have said earlier I will never recommend the route nor do I have any intention to ever go back.

In terms of paradise in Goddard versus Enchanted Gorge. I think WD was referring to travelling up Goddard Creek and not down it to Simpson Meadow as being more paradise. The section that travels up from the confluence of Goddard Creek and Disappearing Creek is not nearly as brushy as the section that travels down towards Simpson Meadow. Rogue mentioned to me that there were beautiful cascades and falls in the upper section and eventually the lake right before the final climb into Ionian Basin.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby Bluewater » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:58 am

I have been working on a version of the Big Seki Loop for this summer that includes a mix of trail miles and cross country passes. A friend sent me a message a few days ago when the pre-edition became available and I could tell from the overview map that the route covered many of the areas I have been working on. I could appreciate the work that went into the SHR data and map set and considering Andrew Skurka's resume I was very interested in the route. I bought the pre-edition (which also includes the final edition).

I was excited to go through the maps and other info in the pre-edition. Seeing some of Rogue's unofficial passes on the route was cool. I have experience on much of the route and it was interesting to see how the areas that I have not been through yet were linked together (Gardiner & Arrow basins). The data sheet with the mileage and elevation data have already been helpful in fine tuning my own ideas for this summer.

After reading the many negative reports about the Enchanted Gorge here on HST over the past few years I was surprised to see it included. I assumed that if it was included that he must have had a better experience. To say that I was surprised to read that it was part of the route without the personal experience of the author would be an understatement.

If Andrew Skurka is still following this thread would it be possible to confirm if there are other sections of the route that you have not been through yet? I am especially interested in the route up to Arrow Basin from Woods Creek.

I have been through Ionian Basin, down to Lake 10,232 and over Finger Col. Blue Canyon Pass looked easy from what I could see on the north side and the route to Dykeman Pass and Alpine Pass might be a good way to access Tunemah Lake while staying below the higher route described earlier. I read a post recently about following the outlet of Tunemah Lake east down into Goddard Canyon. This might be a good alternative to EG although it still leaves the bushwhack down to Simpson.


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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Apr 14, 2015 5:58 am

Anyone have a geological or ecological explanation for why Goddard is "like Paradise" versus Enchanted?


Well most of the route down is typical easy cross country terrain. It's not till your much lower and getting ready for the final drop down to the bushwhacking that you encounter any serious problems with brush or talus or pretty much anything too difficult. I also did not run into any stinging nettles while there.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby andrewskurka » Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:17 am

Bluewater wrote:After reading the many negative reports about the Enchanted Gorge here on HST over the past few years I was surprised to see it included. I assumed that if it was included that he must have had a better experience. To say that I was surprised to read that it was part of the route without the personal experience of the author would be an understatement.

If Andrew Skurka is still following this thread would it be possible to confirm if there are other sections of the route that you have not been through yet? I am especially interested in the route up to Arrow Basin from Woods Creek.


Will be taking a 5 day break from this thread in about 10 minutes.

I really did not find EG to be as terrible as everyone says. Not easy and hard enough to make looking at alternates worthwhile, but not something that cannot be part of such a l a route.

The only section of the route I have not done is Bubbs to Woods. Pre Edition explains such and alternate route given, though this appears to be a straightforward section -- Gardiner Pass and then King Col.

The climb from Woods to Arrow can be rough if you do not pick the right ascent path. I have been over White Fork Pass too but overall I like Arrow better. Explorer Pass is another option but I have not been over it yet.
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Re: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:52 am

Yes, I meant upper Goddard Creek north of the confluence with Disappearing Creek is very scenic.

My "day-hike" was not even intended to be the loop it turned out to be. This highlights the fact that under some conditions, it is difficult to back out of Enchanted Gorge! I got a late start and just intended to go to the upper lakes but once down that icy snowfield, I was committed to do the entire route and ended up spending the night at Lake 9787. I met two fellows at the confluence who were on their third day from Chasm Lake, both with big packs and one fellow having sprained an ankle. That section took me about 6 hours with a small day pack. The confluence of Disappearing Creek and Goddard Creek is a hell of a place to be with a sprained ankle.

One thing I appreciate about Roper's High Route, is that he sought a route with the highest scenic benefit and close to the Sierra Crest for the least misery or risk. Sometimes that criteria simply puts you on a major trail, even the JMT. His objective never was simply to stay off trails or make the route gnarly and macho. Additionally, Roper devised his route after years of exploring the Sierra. Rogue- if you were to write a guide, you would not make much money from it anyway. I just think that you have paid your dues and earned the right to be the off-trail guru of the Sierra. And thanks for all the great photos! Your photos are almost as good for checking things out as Google Earth.

If the goal is to get from the Evolution area to Simpson Meadow (not quite sure why Simpson Meadow is a route goal) there are other
ways that achieve a better balance of return for your efforts. I do think a jaunt through Ionian Basin is worthwhile, although trying to make it a "straight line" does not produce the best route. Enchanted Gorge looks like a good line on the map but is a lousy route. At least go down Goddard Creek so you only have to deal with the part below the stream junction, although I will say that I have not personally done that lower section. Another factor is that when the Middle Fork of the Kings is at peak flow, you are not going to safely cross it to get to Simpson Meadow. Minimally, you should have an alternate route to use early season or in high snow years, keeping in mind river crossings as well as snow conditions. Read the PCT journals for 2011 - these folks describe high snow year conditions that make crossing streams, even on the PCT, quite dangerous. Le Conte Canyon and the trail to Simpson Meadow have bridges and honestly, scenery as good as you get in Enchanted Gorge. You can still loop over Wanda Pass into Ionian Basin and return to the JMT via Black Giant.
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