Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks? | High Sierra Topix  

Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks?

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks?

Postby windknot » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:21 am

Hi all,

I'm mapping out various options for closing a loop route out of either LLV or Pine Creek by crossing the east spine of Bear Creek Spire from the Chalfant Lakes area to the Spire/Split Lakes area using the path of least resistance. I know that Spire Pass is the notch due E of Bear Creek Spire used primarily by climbers and I also know that I don't want to even attempt that nasty looking Class 3 pass. But there are a few other routes that look potentially possible (represented in purple and orange dotted lines):

Bear Creek Spire ridge - Copy (2).jpg


Both the topo gradients and satellite images make these two routes seem at least as feasible as Spire Pass. However, there's no substitute for actual hiker experience. Has anyone actually taken either of these two routes? Or do any of you seasoned offtrail backpackers want to offer your input based on how it looks on the map and via satellite? I'd like to be able to connect these two basins with a lot of backtracking (either over Italy Pass and then over Cox Col/Giantbrookie's shoulder to the north, or all the way down to near Pine Creek Pass TH and then back up the old Morgan Mine road), but it looks very steep and potentially dangerous. I tend to be on the more cautious side when it comes to offtrail passes, so this route is probably a no-go for me. I just was curious if anyone else has looked at this ridgeline from either side and thought about crossing it, too.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/



User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks

Postby SSSdave » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:50 am

I visited Spire lake in the 80s and have some Kodachromes I might dig out and look at. Lots of dark igneous gabbro mixed with white granite.
Brought up Google Earth. The western route on both sides of the ridge at the top of that saddle is bedrock. A bit below on both sides is talus to the bottom. One can usually find a step ladder way up steep talus but steep bedrock is unknown and potentially lots of cliff sections. If it was not that steep, the talus would extend right up to saddle level. That tends to indicate it is indeed steeper than the map shows. One ought be very suspicious of the USGS topo map vertical lines on shadowy and northern exposures of ridge lines and saddles where snow blows over during winter. That is because some of those maps were photographed when snowfields covered those areas which wind tends to snow drift on the lee sides piling up and reducing the slope gradient. A good example of that is in fact the Spire Col headwall that on the map appears ho hum not steep at all but is as you know cliff-like and for this person looked more like class 4. The south side is more probable.

Took one look at your east route and doubted that would be possible with class 3 and 4. Then looked on GE and indeed was the case. Routes like that on ridge and spurs lines tend to be lots of difficult bedrock with sharp small impediments less than the map's 40 foot granularity that are serious peak bagging puzzles to get past. The longer the distance of such a route the more unlikely it becomes. And your route is way long. The worst spot is between 12040 and 12200 on the south side ridge.


David
http://www.davidsenesac.com/2015_Trip_C ... les-0.html
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks

Postby windknot » Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:10 am

Hi Dave, thanks for your input. "Lots of difficult bedrock with sharp small impediments less than the map's 40 foot granularity" is indeed what this route looks like when switching from the 7.5" topo to the sat view, and which as you know makes proper route selection much more than merely topo map reading.

Even if a manageable (i.e. not reaching the physical level equating to peak-bagging) route is found, you're right that it would be a long and arduous journey, so probably wouldn't even save much time over going the "long way" around back over Italy Pass and then through gap back to LLV (and to Peppermint Pass). This route would have the added benefit of perhaps traversing high enough over the Lake Italy drainage to check out interesting unnamed lake at 12000+ located just northeast of Mount Julius Caesar.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks

Postby SSSdave » Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:58 am

I would suggest separating the Spire & Split basin for a single out and back backpack instead of combining it on a longer trip. Reaching the basin efficiently before late season is a difficult puzzle because the obvious class 2 route over the high saddle becomes an ice axe crampon class 3 effort. However one can come in below Split from the Morgan Lakes though it not simple route finding lest a person add hundreds of extra uphill climbing. For a photographer, the best time to visit that area is at the fall equinox when air is clear because the sun rises unblocked to the East making for superb alpenglow light on BCS. Also at 12k Spire is one of the highest lakes in the range where one can get an unblocked view east thus can potentially provide exceptional sky color phenomenon at dawn.

David
http://www.davidsenesac.com/2015_Trip_C ... les-0.html
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Crossing the divide between Pine Creek and Morgan Creeks

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:36 am

Having been to Spire twice, I've spent a lot of time looking at those walls, including this year. The named pass which you crossed out in fact has a class 5 pitch on it (see Secor). As for the eastern one I'm not sure. I'll look through this year's photos and my 1996 photos and see if anything pops up. Of course I can only evaluate the view from Spire side. I don't like the look (or sound) of that wall, though. The amount of rockfall coming down that wall during the day and night was rather astonishing.

Update (8/31 eve). I checked my Aug 2015 and Sept 1996 and I don't have a definitive view from the Spire side that shows that route. I don't know why I don't have that slope in any of my photos. It is just E of the limits of my photos of the cliffs above Spire in the 2015 and I have a distant shot of it from below Split (traversing above Bear) but the photo is too distant the perspective too oblique for good terrain examination. I guess I'd say there is the possibility that a route will go through there that is sub class 3, but I wouldn't count on it. I did in fact wonder about crossing this divide while considering alternatives for the 2015 trip (may do the stuff on the Pine Creek side plus Upper Mills in 2016--we'll see).
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
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MSNbot Media [Bot], robow8, Sierra00, Toni and 13 guests