TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2 | High Sierra Topix  

TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

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TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby hurricaniac » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:51 am

The snow started coming down as we climbed up the talus filled drainage to the southwest of the lake toward Longley Pass. About a half inch had fallen by the time we reached the first lake and the route was shrouded by fog. It finally lifted and we were able to continue on after lunch.
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Reaching Longley Lake revealed the pass and its sandy bouldery routes. The far north side was the ticket, it took about an hour to get to the top.
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There was a remnant of a cornice at the top, but no obstacles for us. The extent of the Roaring River drainage was still obscured by storm clouds, so we didn't linger for views. We headed west toward South Guard Lake and its beautiful setting.
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South Guard lake is a stark, beautiful lake. It has that calm stillness that comes from such a remote location; when you reach it you know you are privileged to be in such a special place.
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The climb out of South Guard lake is steep and rough, but not a lot of loose stuff. We took the route around the south side of the lake and made the pass over to the Big Brewer lake drainage in about 2 hrs. The views of the mtn and the valley below are very awe-inspiring. Sphinx Col (center right) also comes into view.
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Reaching the lake below Sphinx Col, the weather was worsening again and our second snowstorm commenced. Frantic tent pitching ensued and we hunkered down while another inch of snow/hail/sleet/frozen rain dumped on us. Thankfully, the typical Sierra pattern of clearing up in the evening held true and we could survey the landscape.
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The climb up to Sphinx Col was steep and rough, but solid. Views of the Roaring River drainage and the upper Sphinx Lake rewarded us, but the talus to the north down the hill didn't look inviting. We had a slow go of it for the next hour or two.
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Reaching the largest Sphinx Lakes had some welcome forest and great fishing. Again the setting is just magnificent below the Sphinx Crest with views of N. Guard peak.
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We endured another heavy rainstorm that evening (5th day of precipitation in 6 days), but got our thankful evening clearing. The next morning was sparkling classic Sierras. It was sad to be completing the loop and ending an exciting trip, but we were trail weary and ready to be off the mountain.

The route finding down Sphinx Creek was tricky with lots of brush below the lowest lake and the Avalanche Pass trail. The old use trail that had been more more evident when I was last there 40 yrs ago is pretty much gone. We stayed to the west side of the creek the whole way down to the maintained trail and then cruised home.

The Sphinx Creek switchback are still a marvel of trail-building wonder. The views of the Sphinx, Bubbs Ck, Paradise Valley and Zumwalt will help take your mind off the relentless knee pounding on all those steps. It was worth it.
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In all the loop was about 34 miles of crow flying distance, but more like 50 miles of hiking and talus strolling. It was rougher than expected, but no one got injured other than aching knees.



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Re: TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby maverick » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:11 am

Thanks for the marvelous TR and pictures. The weather made for an even more exiting trip, and totally concur about the Sphinx Creek Trail being a trail-building marvel! What condition is that campsite near the Sphinx Creek/Avalanche Trail in?
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Re: TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby hurricaniac » Sun Aug 09, 2015 4:12 pm

The campsite on the Avalanche Pass trail at the Sphinx Ck. crossing is in good shape and not overgrown (yet). It must see some kind of sporadic use, but it definitely didn't look over-camped.
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Re: TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby oldranger » Sun Aug 09, 2015 9:41 pm

Thanks for reminding me about the Sphinx Trail. I used to ride that trail leading a couple of pack animals. Always afraid I'd meet another pack train.

Mike
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Re: TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby robow8 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:50 am

oldranger wrote:Thanks for reminding me about the Sphinx Trail. I used to ride that trail leading a couple of pack animals. Always afraid I'd meet another pack train.

Mike


Has that trail changed in the last 25 or so years? I came down it in the late 80s early 90s and I swear there were spots where the steps were so tall I had to go down them backwards.
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Re: TR Reflection-Longley-Sphinx Loop July 6-13 Part 2

Postby hurricaniac » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:35 am

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The Sphinx Ck. trail hasn't changed, but they have rebuilt large sections of it where it is in the steep gullies and cliff-hanging sections along the nearly vertical granite slabs. It's in excellent shape.
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