TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

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TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby rams » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:27 pm

With my time in the Sierra running out with an upcoming move sending me to Utah, I've been maximizing my time in the range that has been my escape for 15 years. While there may be more spectacular ranges, I don't think I'll feel the same attachment to any of them but who knows?

In what may have been my last Sierra venture for a very long time, I experienced a tiny bit of everything in a short weekend. I went on well-known trails that resembled highways, went off trail with total solitude, bagged a peak, passed by lakes and streams, saw familiar places, saw new places, got redemption on a goal that evaded me on my first try, took a wrong turn that got me somewhere just as nice as my destination, and pushed myself physically to cram as much as possible. I may have even broken my personal record for distance in a weekend in an effort to see everything.

On day 1, I set off towards the north fork of Big Pine Creek to re-visit the Palisade Glacier that I had seen 15 years ago and see what it looks like after 4 years of drought when it would likely be at its iciest (no snow, just ice). Middle Palisade and Norman Clyde Peak were getting early morning sun and providing an appetizer for the views that would follow in a couple of hours, when I would reach Second Lake and the standard postcard shot of Temple Crag that everybody takes (and for good reason).

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Middle Palisade


It was understandable that I saw people camping all over the place here. Pressing on with Temple Crag dominating the landscape, I went right past Third Lake and up to the turnoff for the glacier and Sam Mack Meadow. At the meadow, a sign pointed to "Trail" with a use trail continuing up the meadow. I followed the sign but the trail disappeared shortly thereafter. That's strange; I could've sworn the route I took 15 years ago went up the hillside to the left. Oh well. I proceeded up class 2 junk looking for cairns with no luck. After about 20 minutes, I gave up on finding a marked route and just went up any way that looked good. As often happens for me, I reached a point where I knew the general direction I needed to go, but there was just something about that "other area" that looked promising, so I veered off the direct course to see what was just around the corner.

Leaving my intended course brought me to a quiet little tarn with the glacial rock flour of First through Third Lakes, but without the people. This is where I had a turquoise lake below jagged peaks to myself.

IMGP3710 (2)-min.JPG
Thunderbolt Peak, interminable talus, and rock flour


IMGP3726 (2)-min.JPG
looking back towards Sky Haven


Though Thunderbolt Peak was majestic, the endless sea of talus that I was looking at was most certainly not. Here comes the pain. One step at a time, I braced myself for what would surely be rock playing see-saw with me or loose gravel that would give way. Though the interminable slog inspired some colorful language on my part, the solitude and views of Mt. Winchell, Thunderbolt, and North Palisade provided some redeeming qualities for this route. It was so quiet and stark out here. It was hard to believe how crowded it was down by Second Lake when this place was so lonely and still.

Further up after a frustrating slog, I reached that point where you know the view is going to open up and you anticipate what you'll see, waiting for that moment that makes it worth it. Or, more accurately, you express more colorful language to indicate your disapproval of the fact that this was just a false summit and you have more of a slog ahead. Get this loose stuff over with already! The next little rollover provided the view of the glacier I had hoped to see with streams running down the ice, crevasses, bergshrunds, small waterfalls emptying into a lake, and toadstools of rock and ice everywhere. By the way, is there a technical term for those rocks balanced on ice? I call them toadstools given their resemblance to toadstool rock formations.

IMGP3799 (2)-min.JPG
Palisade Glacier


IMGP3771 (2)-min.JPG
what I'm (likely inaccurately) calling toadstools


IMGP3755 (2)-min.JPG
waterfall from under the rocks, over the ice, and into the water


Anyway, though it was sunny over the glacier, the skies behind me were building dark clouds so I had to leave this place. I took a different route down, hoping to have more stable rock, which I did. This route even had the occasional cairn. I kept thinking, though, about how I remembered the trail taking a different route 15 years ago.

I reached the meadow where I was greeted by a guy camping before attempting to traverse from Mt. Sill to Starlight. He was curious about my route and asked if it was "better than the main trail". Wait a minute...what did he just say? What does he mean by "main trail"? The sign pointed this way, did it not? I guess it did not. After parting ways with him, I looked at the sign at the other end of the meadow. Somebody must have changed the direction of the arrow since this morning, because I could've sworn it pointed in the direction I went. On the plus side, my oversight allowed me to see that tarn so it was a blessing in disguise. Really good disguise.

Having never been to any of the lakes above Third Lake, I figured now was my chance, even if only for a few minutes. So back at the junction, I went towards Fourth Lake not expecting much. Aside from a huge group of loud people fishing (doesn't that scare fish?), I was happily surprised as it was prettier than I expected, especially when the trail climbed above it to look out at the Palisades. Glad I took the little detour. At this point, I was getting tired and daylight was on the downslope. Back to the car.

IMGP3849 (2)-min.JPG
above Fourth Lake


The next day I was planning to take it easy and hike to Meysan Lake, which I'd been curious about for a very long time. However, I woke up in the Alabama Hills feeling much better than I anticipated. This, combined with having a friend camping at Rae Lakes (parked at Onion Valley) and having failed a Mt. Bago attempt due to weather a few weeks ago, made me change plans and go into "on-a-mission-mode" to bag Mt. Bago. I didn't stop much as I had my eyes on the prize and had just been on this trail a few weeks ago. It's amazing how much faster you get places when you don't take your camera out every 30 seconds. It was uneventful all the way to Charlotte Lake, except for the odd woman who decided to drop her pants and pee in full view right next to one of the most crowded trails in the Eastern Sierra just as I was walking by. At least she was 100 feet from water I guess.

At the base of Mt. Bago, I readied myself for victory as the weather was on my side this time. After passing more bucks in 10 minutes than I'd seen in years (please don't ram me with antlers) while alone (nobody would find my body), I made it to the open area where the slog would begin, though nowhere near as bad as the moraines around the glacier. At this point, I saw other people and followed their route to the top, where the first thing I caught a glimpse of was Charlotte Dome with the Rough Fire dominating the background.

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Charlotte Dome and Rough Fire


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view from Bago


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towards Kearsarge Pass from Bago


Though the smoke was seeping into our area, it didn't really ruin the views, which were as beautiful as advertised. After spending just under an hour taking it all in, I knew I had to get back. Back in "on-a-mission-mode", I got back to the car in about 4 and a half hours and waited for my friend and his girlfriend to make it back from Rae Lakes, at which point we caravanned to Lone Pine and some calorie-replenishing pizza before heading back to SoCal. Bye bye Sierra. Hope I get to see you again in the near future, maybe even before I move (doubt it but you never know).



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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby Shawn » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:38 am

Very nice TR and amazing photos. A great way to build memories of the Sierra while you're in Utah. Good luck to you....
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby windknot » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:26 pm

Wow, look at that glacial silt. Great report, thanks for sharing!
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:44 pm

Thank you for the enjoyable TR and nice pictures. You'll have Escalante, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion to just name a few places to keep you busy until you make it back out here again. ;)
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: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby deenad » Wed Aug 12, 2015 10:28 pm

Thank you so much for the report! I am going up the glacier trail on the 26th. I have made it almost all of the way there, but i have some issues with altitude. Now that I am living in Independence ten days out of the year, I am hoping to acclimate easier! You make it seem so easy, so I am very hopeful! O:)
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby Ballpeen » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:14 am

Hi rams,
Nice report. I am heading up to the Big Pine Lakes with my son in a few days. I'm not really expecting solitude but hoping to find a nice quiet camp spot. Did you notice any potential good camp zones away from the main spots? First night we'll be stopping somewhere Lakes 1-4. After that we should be able to find a good spot higher up. Thanks!
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby LightRanger » Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:41 pm

Sweet TR.

Utah is a phenomenal state. Hiking, skiing, canyoneering, etc. I'm sure you'll find stuff to do.

Close enough to the Eastside for a long roadtrip too.
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby rams » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:46 pm

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!! :)
Ballpeen, my only time off the main areas was in the talus between Sam Mack Meadow and the glacier, which would be terrible for camping as far as I could tell. The nicest empty spot I saw (in my opinion) was right next to where my Fourth Lake picture was taken (on the hill to the north of the lake), but it was right next to a trail. It was a lot of empty space though and not that crowded when I was there (was there around 5 PM). There was also a large empty area below First Lake that was far enough from the trail for some privacy. Black Lake felt deserted when I walked by it on my return trip. Hopefully it's as uncrowded when you head up there.
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:07 pm

Wow, those are some really neat photos and that's a nifty combination of two consecutive day trips. The photos of the rocks on the glacier and the Rough fire are particularly dramatic. The latter looks like a volcanic eruption in the photo.

Now, just because you're moving to Utah and it has some good hiking doesn't mean that you can't (and won't) be drawn back to the Range of Light for an occasional visit. We have a fair number of Topix members who visit the range from out of state.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby Danilushka » Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:41 am

Thanks for posting the detailed report with those beautiful pictures. The Palisade Glacier looks better than I thought it would having not seen it up close for over a decade now that I am on a hiatus from mountaineering. I may not have to get in there after Labor Day (to avoid crowds) and see how my old friends the U-Notch and V-Notch are fairing after years of drought.

As for moving to Utah, you'll have the beautiful sandstone landscape of the Colorado Plateau and the awesome mountains of the Wasatch Range. Plus you are closer to Yellowstone and Glacier Parks, and the un-comparable Rockies. The Sierra are truly a beautiful and unique range, but Utah and the Rockies have just as rich a landscape. You will not be bored at all and I am jealous. Good luck.
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Re: TR: Palisades and Mt. Bago August 8-9, 2015

Postby seanr » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:28 am

Ha! We both set our eyes on those nice views from Bago this month. It looks like your smoke timing was better than mine with more plume and less haze for you. Guess which famous area of the Eastern Sierra I have managed to put off longer than any other? Maybe I'll hit the Palisades from Big Pine Creek this fall, or maybe when there is more snow. There will always be destinations to beckon us back from afar. One could certainly do far worse than moving to Utah. Thanks for the nice pics!
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