TR: Alta Peak, Silliman Pass, and Mist Falls (5/28-5/31) | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Alta Peak, Silliman Pass, and Mist Falls (5/28-5/31)

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TR: Alta Peak, Silliman Pass, and Mist Falls (5/28-5/31)

Postby franklin411 » Sat May 02, 2015 4:32 pm

Hello again,
I retitled the thread again after having returned and posted a report/photos, which starts on page 3.

Old posts:

Hi everyone,
I retitled the thread because it had evolved. I want to present my hiking partner, who is coming in from NYC this Wed, with two scenarios. One is a backpacking overnighter to attempt Mt. Brewer this weekend via East Lake, which most of this thread has hashed out. Then I had an idea: What about extreme dayhikes as an alternate plan. Here is my idea, which is also Post #16:

***
Let's say we decide to bug out of the backpacking idea entirely. Neither of us enjoys backpacking at all. We just put up with it because sometimes you have no choice if you want to see the really cool stuff. But if I had my 'druthers, I'll hike 15-20 miles r/t if it means I get to come back to an already set-up campsite, eat good food, and use a nice flush toilet instead of pawing at the ground like an alley cat.

What about Goat Mountain as a dayhike? Not that long (8.5 miles one way), TONS of gain (7000'), but reportedly doable. How hard is the route-finding?

Then the next day, we could do something easy, like go up to Mist Falls and possibly beyond if we feel like it, then back to the car and spend a leisurely afternoon driving out of Kings Canyon.

Then the third day, which is our last, could be another extreme dayhike? A second crack at Sawtooth out of Mineral King (yes, I've become open to that possibility)? What about White Chief Peak? I've always been intrigued by the name on the map, but I can't find any info at all on how to get there!

Thanks!


Original Message, preserved for posterity.

Hello all,
My friend is coming over from New York City and this will be her first time in the Sierra, so my goal is to introduce her to it and hopefully get her addicted! I'm looking for some feedback on the best route for us to take on an overnight backpacking trip to Mt. Brewer. Here goes:

Our profiles:
We're both in our 30s, both work out regularly, and both have plenty of Class 1 hiking experience. Both have some backpacking experience, both are capable of 15-20 mile days, both seem to tolerate high altitude well.

Me: Dipped a toe in Class 2 but I lack confidence when I'm alone. I don't mind easy scrambling, but Class 3 is not fun for me.

Her: Some Class 2 and Class 3 experience. Loves Class 3. Normally, other people limit how far I get to hike in a day. With her, it's the reverse.

The Plan:
We arrive at Lodgepole late Wed, May 27. Thurs, May 28 will be for acclimation hiking--probably Alta Peak but maybe Pear Lake.

We'll be overnight backpacking Fri, May 29 + Sat, May 30 to climb Mt. Brewer.

Options:
1. Bubbs Creek to East Lake, cross country East to Mt Brewer, then NW via Sphinx Creek to Avalanche Trail and eventually Roads End. The East Lake route appeals to me because it's on a trail for more of the way, and you have the option of using bear boxes/an established campsite at East Lake. (Loop)

2. Bubbs Creek to Avalanche Trail, then SE via Sphinx Creek to the NW slope of Mt. Brewer. The Sphinx Lakes route appeals to me because I read the W/NW slopes are more gentle, but you'd have to bring a bear can.

I'm leaning towards Option 1 because we'd get to see more by doing a loop, but this is all highly theoretical so I'd like some advice. I'm thinking this loop will be about 30 miles, and we'll have to go slow on the cross-country parts.

Sat Night...Depends on where we're hiking Sunday I guess.

Sun, May 31: I dunno.
1. We could hike out of Lodgepole to Silliman Pass and look over the edge (done that before and it was fun), or we could do Pear Lake/Alta Peak (whichever we skipped on Thursday).

2. We could hike out of Cedar Grove up to Paradise Valley and look over the edge.

3. We could hike out of Mineral King up to Sawtooth Peak, which I failed to summit last year due to weather. But I dunno if we can get a campsite at Mineral King on a Saturday night, and it's an awfully long drive to be disappointed (plus we'll be tired from Mt Brewer), and I don't want to deal with any marmotry.

Actually just thought of Option 4:
4. If we like the backcountry experience...no reason we can't stick around and hike out Sun.

I'm also leaning towards Option 1 here as being the safest.

Head home Sun night or Mon morning.

Votes/thoughts?

Thanks!
Last edited by franklin411 on Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.



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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby thegib » Sun May 03, 2015 12:05 am

I know it seems like there mustn't be any snow at all this year - but May is still very early in the high country. You will read every available trail report to gauge snow level. Of course you have some experience hiking all day through snow. You might consider heading up Sphinx Ck on Thursday. You'll have to make it to 8000', where the trail crosses the ck, to camp, but that shouldn't be difficult. Friday you follow the creek up, off-trail but simple, past Sphinx lakes at 10500' and camp at ~11000' at a lake west of Cross Pk and Farquhar Pk, or you pass through the obvious notch at 12000' and camp above or at Brewer lake. I imagine the Sphinx creek drainage, being largely north facing, will hold snow through May. Passing through the notch will take you to a west facing slope (better in terms of melting out sooner), but you will be very high up. If you find a good dry spot at 10500' you may well decide to stay put. Summit on Saturday and hike all the bloody way out if you like (8500' descent), or be reasonable and hang out @ Sphinx lakes and backtrack Sunday.

Or, you can make it to East lake in a day (along Bubb's Creek) if you're in shape, (assuming you make it across the river at Junction Meadow). But for a loop you've got to make it all the way up and over the shoulder of Brewer, with packs on, bag the summit, only to hope you find a snow free camp spot at 11000' or up on the west side. Hmmm. Could work, but I don't recommend it. Silly intro to cross country. You can camp at East lake and make a full 4000' summit day, then backtrack out. Either this or above will probably give you enough off trail time that you won't mind backtracking on trail. It's all pretty.
Any ol' way, have a great time.
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby seanr » Sun May 03, 2015 11:25 am

From what I recall, there have been some previous adventures that turned a little more exciting than desired due to last second planning and limited experience reading somewhat steep class 2-3 terrain. Planning and seeking advice weeks in advance is good. Experience and good partners are key to potentially gaining comfort and skill in such terrain. At the same time, I think this trip may be more than you will be comfortable with, especially with lingering snow. I haven't done it myself but likely will within a few years when dog and kid situations change. It sounds like a lot hinges on the skill and experience level of your partner as well as your ability and comfort to follow her lead. Being in shape can help get you out of trouble or deal with trouble more effectively, but how experienced is she at navigating? There is a big difference between liking a bit of class 2-3 terrain to bag a peak at the end of a class 1-very easy class 2 approach and successfully/safely navigating long sections of moderate to challenging class 2 terrain with potential for lingering snowpack and potential to accidentally enter class 3-4 terrain.

There are other trips you can do all over the Sierra that could be very fun and exciting, but less committing. Anyway there are members experienced with the Brewer area and I'm sure we could come up with backup plans if you decide this may be more experience than you are looking for. Maybe something out of Onion Valley, Taboose Pass, Bishop Pass, North Lake, Agnew Meadow/Mammoth, or something easier/more class 1 mileage out of Lodgepole/Road's End. I could be wrong about the challenge level of the routes and don't know your partner, but you didn't seem to find your experience fun and safe enough in the easy part of Mineral King area. Calling rescue is not an option.
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon May 04, 2015 7:42 am

franklin411 wrote:Options:
1. Bubbs Creek to East Lake, cross country East to Mt Brewer, then NW via Sphinx Creek to Avalanche Trail and eventually Roads End. The East Lake route appeals to me because it's on a trail for more of the way, and you have the option of using bear boxes/an established campsite at East Lake. (Loop)

2. Bubbs Creek to Avalanche Trail, then SE via Sphinx Creek to the NW slope of Mt. Brewer. The Sphinx Lakes route appeals to me because I read the W/NW slopes are more gentle, but you'd have to bring a bear can.

I'm leaning towards Option 1 because we'd get to see more by doing a loop, but this is all highly theoretical so I'd like some advice. I'm thinking this loop will be about 30 miles, and we'll have to go slow on the cross-country parts.

Sat Night...Depends on where we're hiking Sunday I guess.


I'd bring a bear can regardless. why be tied to sites that have bear boxes?

Sun, May 31: I dunno.
1. We could hike out of Lodgepole to Silliman Pass and look over the edge (done that before and it was fun), or we could do Pear Lake/Alta Peak (whichever we skipped on Thursday).

2. We could hike out of Cedar Grove up to Paradise Valley and look over the edge.

3. We could hike out of Mineral King up to Sawtooth Peak, which I failed to summit last year due to weather. But I dunno if we can get a campsite at Mineral King on a Saturday night, and it's an awfully long drive to be disappointed (plus we'll be tired from Mt Brewer), and I don't want to deal with any marmotry.

Actually just thought of Option 4:
4. If we like the backcountry experience...no reason we can't stick around and hike out Sun.



1. Or, you could go up Silliman creek to the lakes below Silliman, summit, go up the ridge and come down through Twin Lakes.

2. ... edge? of?

3. A tarp takes care of the marmots, however, there is still snow up high, and no idea if there is more coming - the weather is fairly unpredictable this early. Mineral King is a long way out to get into something like that - if it snowed on Silliman it's a much easier exit on paved roads, instead of mushy dirt road.
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby oldranger » Mon May 04, 2015 9:37 am

About Brewer. You don't say if either has experience at high elevations. Two nights at lodgepole are good but Climbing Alta might be counterproductive due to cumulative days of strenuous hiking. It is possible to make it to Sphinx lakes in a long day but you are talking about 5,000 ft plus elevation gain and another 3,000+ the next day to Climb Brewer and return to camp. To me the crux of the trip is the talus field between Sphinx lakes and the pass into the brewer drainage. If there is snow covering the talus (it is a n. Slope so even in this dry year it is a possibility) because it is shallow there probably will be a crust over temperature gradient snow (sugar snow with no cohesiveness). This means there is a significant risk of breaking through the snow and slamming into a rock and getting a significant injury (especially on your return in the afternoon). If there is no snow the talus is pretty stable and is just tedious. With good snow covering the talus it is a walk in the park. The routes to cinder col and Brewer Pass and up The SE Ridge are pretty straight forward. Weather in late May and Early june can be great or nasty so pay attention to the national weather service spot forecasts.

Going up to E. creek is a longer and tougher route in my opinion and if you insist on two nights I wouldn't do it.

Mike
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon May 04, 2015 11:24 am

I have done the Sphinx Creek route. The "use-trail" up Sphinx Creek is difficult to find if there are numerous snow patches covering it. Additionally, we had to cross the creek twice to find the best path and if peak runoff, it can be difficult. This year late May could be peak runoff. There is no class 3 if you stay on route, but considerable distances of class 2. I feel you need more off-trail micro-route finding experience to do this trip, especially in late May. Others may disagree but this is not an easy off-trail route and has plenty of potential to really get into a pickle.

I have climbed Brewer from East Lake and it is not too difficult. And you will not have to do any off-trail carrying a full pack. Nice day-hike up to Lake Reflection from East Lake too. The only potentially hard part would be crossing Bubbs Creek. There are lots of trip reports on the routes on Mt. Brewer at climber.org
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby maverick » Mon May 04, 2015 12:25 pm

Have only done it from East Lake, but have done the Sphinx to Longley route a few times.
Would not recommend doing it from the west, climb up Bubb's from RE, and then the
staircase is a long climb.

Also agree with old rangers caution about the gradient snow around the Sphinx Pass area.

It is a fun climb from East Lake, would recommend that you add at least day or two to you
itinerary or find another/easier location.

The cross from Junction Meadow over Bubb's could be very difficult/dangerous at or near
the peak run-off, if at all possible, make sure to call about the status of it.

There are many other places that require much less, and will have her hooked, without
being wasted.
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby franklin411 » Tue May 05, 2015 12:14 am

Thanks for the replies, all! Your time and effort is much appreciated! I think we'll dump the cross-country/Sphinx Creek loop idea, and keep the East Lake route idea for now. I requested permits for 3 days (Fri/Sat/exit Sun) for Bubbs Creek, but we can change that if something better comes up.

I'm afraid we're married to the West Side because she wants to see the Giant Sequoias, and I certainly don't blame her since it's her first time. What drove me to Mt. Brewer was that I read Clarence King's *Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada* recently, it's a nice tall mountain with good prominence, and it's doable from the West Side. It's a classic!

Is there another peak that might be a better target, but doesn't carry the risks of Mineral King? One nice thing about our Bubbs Creek permit is that it's flexible. We could go to Mt. Brewer, or we could decide to just hang out at East Lake, or we could even rush the Rae Lakes Loop if we wanted, right?

The next trip for sure will be to the East Side. Actually, another consideration--I can take her to the top of Mt. Brewer, point to the peaks to the East, and say "all this can be yours...from the East Side!" :)
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby KathyW » Tue May 05, 2015 3:08 pm

If for some reason you decide to stick to day hikes, you could grab a campsite at Lodgepole and do day hikes to Alta Peak and Mount Silliman from there. That would give you a couple peaks with nice views and more time to do other hikes and check out the big trees. Sometimes less is more.

I did Brewer from Sphinx Creek a few years back over 4th of July weekend. I didn't enjoy the bushes along Sphinx Creek when I lost the use trail, but that is just a short section and the rest of the trip was fairly easy. It's hard to tell, but there might be some patchy snow to deal with out there at the end of May. I'd say you'll want 3-days to do Brewer and enjoy it. Why not make a loop of it and come out Sphinx Creek like done on this mapped route by Bob Burd: http://www.snwburd.com/bob/maps/brewer_2.html
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby seanr » Tue May 05, 2015 7:26 pm

Franklin, Brewer would indeed be a great adventure and depending on conditions several ways of doing it could work out fine. One of the main ideas I'm seeing shared is that just doing Brewer and stopping by a big sequoia grove may be plenty to fill your time and use your energy. Have you been out on long, rugged backpacks with lots of gain in 2015? It is not an easy first trip of the year/season. All of your ideas seem a bit ambitious as far as how fast you think you will move. Why rush if backpacking?

Another major concept, especially up high on the westside, or up really high anywhere, is that it is still hard to know exactly when snow and water hazards will become minimal for the summer. Even in this drought, May is still early for easiest conditions. You could argue for going elsewhere based on condition reports if they end up better elsewhere. :wink:

One of the routes sounds like the level of experience you are looking for. Other routes could be fun, but involve more risk of failure/injury/suffering. Experienced folks have described it all really well. Look for condition reports, see what rangers can tell you about conditions if you call ahead, and check weather.gov starting a week out and up until your trip. Think about how strenuous you both want your hike(s) to be. Think about what will be fun for both of you. Think about any experiences or challenges you hope to avoid. Plan a trip/route that you think will work out well.

If I were you, I'd want another crack at Sawtooth, but it can wait, and I don't see backpacks there being suggested to you yet. I doubt you'll get to both that and Brewer. The dayhikes mentioned to peaks and groves are definitely a fun idea if weather, conditions, or challenge level make Brewer feel like too much. Y'all won't have a bad time either way with a good attitude and realistic assessment of what you both are up for. Experience will help you get better at knowing what is just right for you. Have fun!
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby sekihiker » Wed May 06, 2015 12:54 pm

A log of a three day loop over Mt Brewer is here. http://sierrahiker.home.comcast.net/~si ... /index.htm
Even in this low snow year I would worry about patches of snow here and there that might be dangerous or really slow you down.
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Re: End of May Overnighter to Mt. Brewer -- Route advice?

Postby franklin411 » Sun May 17, 2015 3:17 pm

Thanks for the feedback, folks! I asked my friend and she definitely prefers sticking with the trail, so that's the plan for our trip. We'll see, of course, what the weather brings (or, has brought). Both of us would rather be safe than score a summit, and both of us would be fine if conditions forced us to just overnight at East Lake and then pack out the next day.

The only thing I'm a bit iffy on is the creek-crossing at Junction Meadow. I guess we'll just have to talk with the Rangers to ask about that the day of.

Now, assume we get to the crossing and are surprised to find that we aren't comfortable crossing. Maybe it's around 2 PM and there's still a good chunk of hiking time in the day. Would it be a feasible contingency plan to continue hiking East towards Vidette Meadow to spend the night somewhere in that area, or would we just be making things worse?

It would be rather ironic to backpack 12 miles to practically the same area I dayhiked 7-8 miles to via Onion Valley just about 6 months ago!
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