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Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

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Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby oleander » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:12 pm

Hey everyone,

This is a lazy post, in that I haven't studied the topo map too carefully yet. I hope to get some starting points from people here, from which I'll go back and comb over the map carefully.

We want to go from Tamarack Lake up to the lake at the edge of Tablelands at 11,100 feet, due west of Big Bird Lake.

I do have some sense for the terrain, as I've been to Lake 11,100 before (approached from Pear Lake); and I've also been over Elizabeth Pass.

Here are some first thoughts on routes,

1. Walk up to Lonely Lake via its outlet (looks a bit steep?), then over Pterodactyl Pass.
2. Walk up to Elizabeth Pass, then presumably over Horn Col, then...?
3. Go over Elizabeth Pass to Big Bird Lake,then follow the string of lakes up to 11,100. I realize that is a lot of down, only to turn around and go back up...However, we have a lot of time on this trip, and it might be nice if I could show them beautiful Deadman Canyon. I've been up Deadman but never to Big Bird myself.

Which of these do you think would be the most interesting?
The most enjoyable?
The least frightening given we have someone in our party with a fear of heights?

After Lake 11,100 we hope to have time to get to Moose Lake as well, somewhere else I've never been. From Moose Lake, do you prefer hiking out the Alta Trail way, or over the hill to Pear Lake?

Thank you,
Elizabeth



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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:59 am

Do you mean the little lake that is more like 11,200 feet on the top of the hill West of Big Bird?

Scenery wise going into Deadman than to Bigbird would be the way to go.

Climbing to Lonely Lake is not very difficult. Mostly granite slabs. But if you climbed to Lonely Lake then wanted to go over Pterodactyl Pass you would have to turn around and then drop down a few hundred feet before beginning up but that pass is mostly class 1.

Don't climb Elizabeth Pass then Horn Col. It would be a whole lot of effort going up only to turn around and go the other way.

I've never taken the Alta Trail from Moose Lake but going out to Pear Lake is easy enough.
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby oleander » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:51 am

RoguePhotonic wrote:Do you mean the little lake that is more like 11,200 feet on the top of the hill West of Big Bird?


Yes. Lake at 11,200, right at the rim of Tablelands.

Climbing to Lonely Lake is not very difficult. Mostly granite slabs.


So is Lonely Lake worth the visit? (Compared to the other options.)

I should have clarified our general route. Wolverton-Alta Trail-High Sierra Trail-cutoff to Elizabeth Pass trail-side trail to Tamarack Lake-return to Elizabeth Pass trail. From that point on the only place that is an absolute "must" is Lake 11,200. Moose Lake is a close second.

Exit needs to be Wolverton, but logistically it doesn't matter if we get there via Alta trail or the Pear Lake trail. If we make it to Moose, them I'm leaning toward exiting the Alta trail, because if we return via Pear Lake we'd have to do it via the Hump trail, which isn't as interesting to me as the Watchtower (too scary for some in our group). However, if one way of exiting Moose is less exposed/scary than the other, I'd take that into consideration too.

We have 6 days, though I should note that this is the first trip/first altitude exposure of the season for most of the group, therefore we won't be doing big miles. Probably max of 10 miles/day on trail and 5 miles/day cross-country.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:04 pm

In 2012, a group of us went through Deadman to Big Bird Lake and then up to Lake 11,200. From there, we went to Moose Lake and out the Alta Meadow trail. From Deadman it's best to find the trail to Big Bird Lake which (if I remember correctly) follows Big Bird's outlet stream. We left the Deadman Canyon trail too soon (left turn up through brush) and thought we would hit the trail. We were all tired and the decision was made to keep climbing. We ended up on some steep slabs but did get to Big Bird.

From Big Bird, our destination was Lake 11,200 and Moose. After walking up on a ramp east of the Big Bird (someone with our group who was afraid of heights was nervous about the ramp, but there's much more room on the ramp then appears at a distance). At the top of his ramp, we examined the topo and decided it was best not to follow a big hollow gully area with conifers, which looks like an easy way (but would take us off course and require more of a climb), we went straight up where the ramp ends over boulders, then right around one side of a peak-knob and far above one of the chain of lakes. There's some huge talus there that we just had to step around to see that the way was good. After a while, we then had to drop to a short gulley, and make an easy short climb to the outlet of Lake 11,200. I was happy to see it because I needed water at that point.

From Moose, it's off trail down into a meadow where there's a spring on the map. We headed through the spring area and kept straight ahead and then to the right until we ended up on the use trail, which was in pretty good shape, easy enough to follow anyway. We caught the trail after about half mile to a mile after trying to guess (based on the landscape) where it should be. The trail went all the way to Alta Meadow. I thought it was a beautiful way to go (saw a bear), though there's some off trail and bushwacking (not bad). I've never been from Moose to Pear but I've read that a person should look for an obvious big snag north of Moose as a guidepost.

Edit: from Moose, after dropping over the lip, go the ridgeline to the north before a field of talus. (some of us went through the talus. Slippery, steep. Not good. If you go to the ridgeline, follow the ridge west down a short way to a grove of beautiful conifers. That's where we dropped steeply down to the spring)
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby oldranger » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:55 am

Any of your alternatives are good. If you decide to head to big bird after going down Deadman go down to the campsite just above the the second large cascade going down canyon, cross copper creek on the slabs just below the campsite before the slabs get dangerously steep. Then just follow the path of least resistance to the relatively flat area at the ne end of the lake. I've been up to big bird more times than I can remember and this route is much faster than the old trail or any other route I tried.

Not saying you should go down Deadman (but there is a great flower garden on the E. Pass trail on the e. Side of the first steep cascade in Deadman). But if you do this is the best way to big bird.

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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:12 am

Mike wrote:
Not saying you should go down Deadman (but there is a great flower garden on the E. Pass trail on the e. Side of the first steep cascade in Deadman). But if you do this is the best way to big bird.


This flower garden can be spectacular, but timing is key, and with the drought, who knows what it will turn out like this year, and when exactly it will happen.

The outlet creek of Lonely Lake can have some great wildflowers lower down, but the same applies as above.

You will really enjoy Tamarack Lake, and if you have been to Hamilton Lakes, it is interesting to see how different the scenery is in comparison.

Moose Lake is very pretty, and as SweetSierra mention, the route up to Lake 11,200 takes a little route finding, but nothing extreme.

If your friends have not been to Pear Lake, I would take them this route as opposed to the Alta route, unless you plan to climb Alta Peak, which is a fun climb, and worth the effort.
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby MountainMinstrel » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:56 am

maverick wrote:If your friends have not been to Pear Lake, I would take them this route as opposed to the Alta route, unless you plan to climb Alta Peak, which is a fun climb, and worth the effort.


I would completely agree with this. The view as you inter into that gigantic granite bowl with Alta peak as a backdrop is what hooked me on backcountry hiking. I must have uttered "OH MY GOD" about 100 times. To top it off I was blessed see a mountain Blue bird just past the Ski hut.
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby oleander » Tue Jul 07, 2015 7:25 pm

Is there nice camping at the top of the Buck Creek watershed? There are a couple of lakes at about 10,800, roughly on the route between Pterodactyl Pass and Lake 11,200.

1. If we decide to head directly for Pterodactyl Pass directly from the Elizabeth Pass trail, is it pretty obvious where to leave the EP trail? On the topo, it looks like the place to leave the trail is around 9900 feet, where the trail takes a steep bend to the east. None of the terrain between there and Pterodactyl looks steep at all, at least on the topo.

2. If we decide instead to visit Lonely Lake first, and approach it from the south...Would you be inclined to just walk up its outlet stream where the outlet crosses the trail? A variation is that one could continue walking up the trail till where it bends east at 9900, and then angle up towards Lonely Lake from there, trending north till you hit the outlet again. Once again it looks fine on the topo, but the ground reality could be different...Which is why I ask.

3. Regarding the version where we go up Elizabeth Pass, around over Horn Col and down to Lonely Lake. Granted Rogue's point that this is roundabout. But we have the days. I think Elizabeth Pass itself is spectacular, and it might be worth climbing just to see it again.

4. If I were by myself I would undoubtedly go the Big Bird Lake route. With my group not wanting "exposed," I still have some doubts about this route. It is definitely the steepest of my four options, at least on the topo. If it's all gently sloping slabs, benches, or stable talus, that might be okay. If there is anything too loose, steep, or exposed - even slabs that are too steeply pitched - that'd be the deal killer.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby oleander » Sat Aug 08, 2015 11:21 am

I wanted to update people on the routes we took and how it went, in case it helps others with their own trip planning.

I'll repeat that on this trip I had one person who is highly experienced but very scared of heights; one person new to cross-country travel; and one total newbie to backpacking in general. It's always instructive to see which routes the relative newbies can handle, or people who can't handle exposure. I have had to learn, over and over, to scale it back for people. I'm pleased to say that this route turned out to be something that anyone new to cross-country can probably handle, assuming you don't crack the whip on them and make them do too many miles per day, or tackle 11k elevation too soon. We had SIX FULL DAYS to complete this distance so take that into consideration.

Day 1 - Wolverton to Buck Creek (HST) via Panther Gap. Although 10 miles (people were tired), this turned out to be not too much to ask. All on trail, pretty undulating, nothing above 9000 feet.

Day 2 - Upper trail from Bearpaw Meadow, to Elizabeth Pass trail briefly, to Tamarack Lake. This was only ~5 miles, and all on trail, but it kicked people's butts. Starts with a very steep climb; and then there's a lot of south-facing heat exposure on this route. Glad we didn't try to do more than this today. The fifth person we had along, someone with very extensive x-country experience, wanted to climb Triple Divide from Tamarack. He took one look at that difficult route above Tamarack towards Lion Lake, and decided instead to kick back on the granite recliner chairs that we found at the shores of Tamarack Lake. I'll repeat what I've heard here from people who have done that route, it looks like no joke.

Day 3 - Returned to Elizabeth Pass trail (early to avoid sun), and started up. Original intention was to climb all the way to the pass so I could show them view down to Deadman; then traverse to Horn Col and down to Lonely Lake. Once we reached the point @9200 elevation where the Elizabeth Pass trail crosses the outlet from Lonely Lake, we found our newbies unhappy at the looks of Elizabeth Pass, which admittedly is visually intimidating from there. So we got off-trail @9800 (where the Elizabeth Pass trail leaves a northbound ridge and abruptly turns east), and side-hilled the ridge directly to Lonely Lake. That was not-super-difficult walking and OK for the newbies, but actually it looked like it would have been easier to just follow the outlet directly up from 9200 instead of following the ridge. Lonely Lake's outlet forms a wide, beautiful valley that I'm sure would be good for camping/views, too. Camped at Lonely Lake.

Day 4 - Traversed to Pterodactyl Pass and then over the top of Buck Creek drainage directly to Lake 11,200. That whole day was a real highlight for the newbies, as the traverses were quite gorgeous and the going was mostly Class 1. I'd recommend this pass without hesitation to any x-country newbies provided you do have experienced navigators.

Day 5 - Intention was to go to Moose Lake, but people didn't want 4k of knee-pounding downhill on our Day 6. So instead we walked via Table Meadows back to Pear Lake. Another section I recommend without hesitation for newbies, *provided* you have good navigators (trick for getting to the correct passage over to Pear Lake is to leave the creek draining Tablelands at 9650). After that we challenged the newbies to take the lead on cross-country navigation back to Pear. They were game, and a good time was had by all.

Day 6 - Out, some of us via the Watchtower, the others via the Hump. Don't take your scared-of-heights people past the Watchtower.

This route turned out to be very elegantly designed. In the counter-clockwise direction, we got the crowds out of the way first, and were able to have a gradual, not-too-sudden introduction both to 10k+ altitude and to cross-country. Doesn't work that way in the other direction. Plus, if people had been restless, there were plenty of built-in side trips had they wanted to pursue them, such as a scramble to Horn Col, descent into the basin above Big Bird Lake, a visit to Moose, or a climb of either of the two regular routes to Alta Peak.

Hope to post a full trip report (with photos) at some point!

- Elizabeth
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Re: Tamarack Lake up onto Tablelands

Postby Cross Country » Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:35 pm

I once did a trip around there using two cars. Thats a great way to visit that area.
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