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TR-Photos/Video Added - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

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TR-Photos/Video Added - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby nobadays » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:34 am

Thank you to all the forum members who suggested we stay in the high lakes areas rather than doing the Rae Lakes Loop!

We just returned from 5 days, 4 nights in the Rae Lakes vicinity. We picked up our permit on the 19th and headed straight for Onion Valley CG, bypassing Grey's Meadow where we had a reservation in hopes of getting a "first come" campsite at Onion Valley. We arrived about 10AM and were in luck as there were a couple of campsites left. Our plan was to spend a couple of days there to acclimatize a bit before hiking into the back country. The first day was spent doing nothing but hopefully growing a few more red blood cells! (We are from the mountains of AZ at 5000' and often hike at and above 7000' so are not sea level dwellers.) The second day at Onion Valley we decided on a short 2 mile hike into Golden Trout lakes - only we didn't look at the map very carefully! The trail to GT Lakes rises about 2400' in that short 2 miles and is often more like scrambling than hiking! We did make it to the lakes which are more like puddles due to the drought.

Day 1 - Up before daylight so we could get an early start on Kearsarge Pass. We were on the trail at sunrise making our way slowly toward the pass. We just weren't sure how we would do at and above 10,000'... we are fit with over 350 trail miles (85 of that backpacking) in at the start of the trip but we soon found out that straining enough oxygen from the air as we got higher meant a slower pace. (We regularly come out of the Grand Canyon at a 1.5 or faster pace for 6-9 miles...not so here!) We made the pass in 4 hours and thought that respectable for a couple of 60 year-olds! We were stunned by the beauty as we looked over the crest of the pass... and we had thought the scenery on the way up had been gorgeous! After a bit of a break we headed down to Charlotte Lake and set up for the night. (Mosquitoes were not too bad, we had treated our clothing with Permethrin and used a bit of Aeroguard (like deet) and they left us alone for the most part - head nets were not needed.)

Day 2 - Up at daybreak after sleeping like a toddler (babies wake up often, I didn't!) we got some coffee down and a good breakfast for the climb ahead. We left Charlotte Lake just before 8AM. The going was slow, not so much from the exertion as from the desire to stop and take in the beauty and take pictures! Somewhere above the first several tarns we crossed a stream and were certain that we must be not too far from the summit of the pass. Not too far from there I heard someone hollering as as I looked around I spotted 2 figures up on the top of a dark grey ridge. My first thought was "what are they doing up there?" As an old climber I could tell from there that the rock just didn't look that solid...a lot of scree under it. Then it hit me, that is the top of Glen Pass.... head down, keep moving upward! We made the summit ridge at just before noon taking about 4 hours to get there from Charlotte Lake, we were pretty trashed! This was our third tough climb in as many days so I shouldn't have been surprised. If possible the view that greeted us on the other side of Glen Pass surpassed the beauty we had witnessed to this point! After 30 minutes we started down the other side with intentions on hiking on into 60 Lakes Basin. We made it down to the junction and started up the climb to 60 Lakes, after filtering some more water. I looked at my clock and realized it was after 3:30, at the rate our legs were now carrying us we would be at least 2-3 hours getting into the basin, we decided to turn around and camp at upper Rae Lake. The best decision of the trip! (The hike down to Rae Lakes goes through some wet areas, the mosquitoes weren't too bad but if you stood still very long they would find you.)

Day 3 - We spent a good night at Rae lake and made the decision to just use this as a base camp and day hike from there. After breakfast we emptied my wife's pack, adjusted it to fit me then put both of our bladders and some snacks in it and headed off toward Dollar Lake. Part of the reason for this trip was to experience some of the Sierra and decide if we wanted to do a through hike of the JMT next year. We talked to every JMT hiker on our way to Dollar Lake, young and old (like us!). They were friendly and offered advise, talked about their hike so far and were an encouragement to us! (As a side note, my wife now wants to do the JMT next year, heck she would leave now if we could!) We had a great day hike and took some great (we hope) pictures! (The mosquitoes were not horrible at Rae lakes though the second night the wind died off and we had to wear head nets for a time. For the most part there were few in the daytime but dusk and early morning they could be a nuisance.)

Day 4 - Up early this morning and on the trail before the sun broke over the ridge. Maybe it was the easy day yesterday or maybe we were getting a little more acclimatized but the hike up to 60 Lakes Basin was not too hard at all. We hiked through the basin following the trail...and not. We meandered around finding good vantage points for views and picture taking. Back on the trail we followed it up to the highest lakes where we had lunch. I continued up that faint, old trail nearly to the end of the lake and it seemed to keep going. Wondering if this is the old trail to Gardiner Basin? Had a great day exploring the Basin! We made our way back down to Rae Lakes and our base camp and spent part of the afternoon repacking our backpacks for the next days journey back over Glen Pass.(Mosquitoes again were not too bad but we did have to use head nets while we were eating lunch...sit too long and in they come!)

Day 5 - Up this morning before just 3AM so we could get up the trail early.Making coffee and breakfast with headlamps and our Luminaid light hanging in a tree. (We are used to early starts hiking the Grand Canyon where late starts are uncomfortably hot if you are lucky and fatal if you are unprepared.) We were on the trail by 5:30AM, just as it was good and light enough to see well without a headlamp. We intentionally slowed our pace knowing that the hardest part of the climb was at the end. I was pleased to see my wife just marching forward with very few breaks unlike the trips up Kearsarge and Glen a few days earlier where it was obvious she was struggling a bit. Less than 4 hours after starting out we popped over the ridge, not fresh but certainly not as wiped out as the first trip over this pass! We started down the other side after a short break and by the time we were past the lowest tarns on that side we began to discuss our plans. Originally we had planned to only hike to Kearsarge lakes this day then over the pass the next day. Here it was like 9:30 or 10AM and it was obvious we would be at Kearsarge lakes by around noon. Should we just hike out today? (this after deciding on the way up Glen that you would have to be crazy to do 2 passes in one day!) It was decided that we would take the "high trail" and make the final decision when we reached the junction below the pass. We arrived at the junction about 12:15 and knew that we might as well go over Kearsarge. At 1PM we headed up the trail making the summit 45 minutes later pretty pleased with ourselves to have done the second climb of the day in under an hour! Another short break and off we went for the long slog back down to Onion Valley where our van, and hopefully cold beer awaited! Just a little over 3 hours later we arrived at our van to find the refrigerator operating flawlessly in our absence and 36 degree beer ready to be drank! (2 other hikers who we had shadowed all the way from Rae lakes thought we were mythical gods of beer heaven when we brought them cold ones as they waited for their ride!)

It was a great hike and we are now planning our JMT through hike for next summer - fingers crossed that we can figure out how to navigate the permit process!

A few pictures (sorryI don't know how to embed the pictures... and my cheap photo editing software went overboard a bit)

Camp at Upper Rae Lakes
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Top of Kearsarge Pass
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Top of Glen Pass
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Looking South toward the Painted Lady from one of the small lakes north of Rae Lakes
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Here is the video footage - warning 26 minutes long...

Don and Susan
Last edited by nobadays on Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:45 pm, edited 6 times in total.



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Re: Trip Report - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:45 am

Thank you for coming back and posting this enjoyable TR, it is always great to read about folks first time experiences on areas many of us have been before, we all can relate to your fresh perspective. Any photo's to be added Don and Susan?
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trip Report - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby nobadays » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:35 pm

I am currently processing/editing my Gopro footage to a manageable film length, haven't started on the stills yet. When we get the images sorted I will post some.

Don
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Re: Trip Report - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:44 pm

I am currently processing/editing my Gopro footage to a manageable film length, haven't started on the stills yet. When we get the images sorted I will post some.

Don


Great, thanks Don! :)
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trip Report - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby overheadx2 » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:15 pm

Don, I loved the Glenn Pass experience. My brother and I had hiked from the trail head to Rae lakes and our experience at Glenn was exactly the same. At the tarns, we thought we must be close so we stopped for a snack. While sitting there we happened to notice something moving on the wall behind the lake. Just like you, that is when we realized that was the trail and that the hard part was not behind us. Your description vividly brought back that day, thanks. Phil
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Re: Trip Report - Rae Lakes Area via Onion Valley

Postby cslaght » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:11 am

What a great TR! This is something that I'm thinking about next year. I can't wait for the pics on this. I can't wait to crest Kearsarge Pass and have that fantastic view of the Pinnacles and Lakes just below. Excellent work!
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