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South Lake to North Lake Loop

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South Lake to North Lake Loop

Postby Take-a-Hike » Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:40 am

It's that time of year when I try to plan out next summer's trips. My first thought is to try to get this loop in. If past experience holds true, I'll get it mostly planned, get side tracked to other possibilities, change plans 2 or 3 times, but then come back to the original idea. But I was wondering while reading others accounts of this trip, or variations of it, (ie Ropers' version xcountry), does anyone have any experience or opinions on the direction to take this loop, ie, South Lake to North, or vice versa? Another question, what are some good side treks off this loop for day hike possiblities? Wife 'n I arent into climbing any gigantic technical peaks, but we like solitude areas w/lakes, granite, etc. Right now I've got this planned to coincide w/anniversary date of July 28 (?), for about 8-10 days worth. (In case I miss the exact date I at least remember the week).
I know many of you have a lot of experience in that area of the Sierras and I'm interested in hearing some opinions.
Thanks,
Perry



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Postby giantbrookie » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:13 pm

When you say "loop", I imagine you must be thinking of some kind of shuttle that would transport you between the S. Lake and N. Lake trailheads. The most popular of such options tends to be the Bishop Pass to Lamarck Col trip which is gorgeous indeed, and involves comparatively little cross country (this is the part between Evolution Valley and Upper Lamarck Lake via Darwin Canyon and Lamarck Col). The main caution here is the Lamarck Col from west to east requires a bit of care in terms of route finding if you haven't done it east-west before (and are familiar with the key landmarks on the crest). There are many side treks off of this that are nice, particularly in the Evolution region (Ionian Basin, Davis L., Mc Gee Lakes, etc) and there are shorter little side trips you can take nearer to South Lake (Ruwau L. and Treasure Lakes for example), in Dusy Basin (to the upper lakes), and as you approach North Lake (some of the little lakes above the Lamarcks).

If you wish to make this a genuine loop and connect between S. Lake and N. Lake on the east side, the sticking point is the divide between the Sabrina Lake basin and the North Lake Basin that offers little (or nothing) in the way of easy (ie less than class 3) passage (other than the road itself to N. Lake). Sabrina to South Lake drainage is easy and can be done via the trail that goes over the top by George Lake and the Tyee Lakes. I recall a friend of mine and his wife did this trip as a genuine loop by doing the Sabrina-N. Lake road in addition to the George-Tyee cutover and the standard Bishop Pass-Lamarck Col route.
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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Postby Robin » Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:01 pm

I did this "loop" the first week of July, 2006 with two friends. We started at the North Lake end, went up over Paiute and down to the JMT to take a left into Evolution Valley. We stayed on trail the entire way due to massive amounts of snow and some very tricky water crossings. In fact, when we got to the junction at Evolution Creek, the water was running fast and was easily 8 feet deep. Lukily for us, there were PCT thru hikers on the trial who told us the best spot to cross. Even still, the water--the very cold water-- came up to my waist. Then, there were the 9, constant, grueling miles of snow up and over Muir Pass...but that is another story.

All this to say, if you do it all trail, I suggest North to South. It's very beautiful, easier to get permits, and the most populated day will be on your hike out. Either way, the Evolution Lake area is well worth a lay over day for exploring.

Enjoy!
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Postby Take-a-Hike » Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:36 pm

Thanks GB for chiming in. U were one of the many I'd hoped had an opinion, as u jumped on a question of mine last summer re Grouse Lake and the trail leading to it.
For clarification, we were planning on doing the modified loop, leaving a car at one trailhead, being dropped off by son, daughter in law, at the other. Just not sure which direction to travel at this time. I read Ropers account where he went from the JMT just past Evo Lake, up over some pass, maybe Snowshoe ?, then exited via Wahoo Lakes and crossed the Piute trail nearby. I read and understand his (Roper's) opinion of why he avoids the trails, but is the Evo Valley, S Fork San Joaquin river, and then the western part of the Piute trail/Canyon that dissinteresting to be avoided all together and stay in the high country?
Right now my map inventory consists of Harrisons, but have ordered two from MyTopo.com that will cover the area between S/N lakes, west to the Muir Ranch area and everything in between. Those should give me better opportunities to follow ideas such as yours re cols, mountain passes, etc. Just about every area we visit is new to us, cross country not much of a problem as long as not too technical. Wife does have a bit of a problem w/balancing a pack and talus, but we've survived to date. It's just slower than norm, whoever norm might be. We did do a day hike few years ago around the Ruwau, Chocolate lakes area. My thought was to zip through that valley and get to Dusy Basin as soon as possible if we left from S. Lake, and have same philsophy if coming reverse direction, camping in west side of the Basin last nite out. Having a couple of not so memorable experiences in Sabrina basin, my thoughts on those areas is to get in/out as soon as possible. IMO, truck/car camping in roadside camp sites is about as memorable. Too damned many packers.
One more question, once in the Evo Basin/Wanda Lake area, is the route to Davis/McGee lakes pretty obvious? Looks like there may be a couple of different passes to pick from on the Harrisons.
TIA,
Perry
PS: Robin, while writing this, just saw your response. Thanks, does answer some questions. We were in Grouse Lake, Granite Basin area last early July, plenty of snow there too. Good year for snow everywhere, I guess.
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Postby quentinc » Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:55 pm

Evolution Valley is certainly not "disinteresting," but having done the western part of Piute and S. Fork San Jaquin once, I avoid it. As GB noted, the trek over Lamark Col, and through Darwin Basin is terrific -- infinitely preferable to the Piute, which turns rocky and nasty as it descends to the Muir Trail. Also, you'll avoid all the pack trains.

It's easy to find Davis Lake, but if it were me, the Ionian Basin would be where I would head on my side trip. Wonderful for lovers of stark, amazing scenery. Scylla is a nice (Class 2) climb. You can also be adventurous and head back by going down to Chasm Lake, and looping just north of Charybdis, around Black Giant and back to Helen Lake (now back on the Muir Trail). A climb of Black Giant offers a great view, and is Class 1, if you call scrambling through gravel on your hands and knees Class 1.

I've done that entire route in 6 days, which is a little overwhelming if you include the 2 peaks. But 8 - 10 days would offer plenty of time.
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Postby copeg » Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:14 am

I did the loop south to north in 2002 (all on trail, Bishop to Piute). (Trip report ). As the others have suggested, I'd recommend going over Lamark Col as an alternative to Piute Pass. Although this approach would bypass a nice detour into Desolation area, it'll also bypass a stretch of trail that circles the Glacier Divide that, while nice, I also found anticlimactic. Ionian Basin would be an easy detour, as would Mcgee Lakes area.
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Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:11 am

Take-a-Hike wrote:Thanks GB for chiming in. U were one of the many I'd hoped had an opinion, as u jumped on a question of mine last summer re Grouse Lake and the trail leading to it.
For clarification, we were planning on doing the modified loop, leaving a car at one trailhead, being dropped off by son, daughter in law, at the other. Just not sure which direction to travel at this time. I read Ropers account where he went from the JMT just past Evo Lake, up over some pass, maybe Snowshoe ?, then exited via Wahoo Lakes and crossed the Piute trail nearby. I read and understand his (Roper's) opinion of why he avoids the trails, but is the Evo Valley, S Fork San Joaquin river, and then the western part of the Piute trail/Canyon that dissinteresting to be avoided all together and stay in the high country? Wife does have a bit of a problem w/balancing a pack and talus, but we've survived to date. It's just slower than norm, whoever norm might be. We did do a day hike few years ago around the Ruwau, Chocolate lakes area. My thought was to zip through that valley and get to Dusy Basin as soon as possible if we left from S. Lake, and have same philsophy if coming reverse direction, camping in west side of the Basin last nite out.
One more question, once in the Evo Basin/Wanda Lake area, is the route to Davis/McGee lakes pretty obvious?

Regarding Piute, I agree that the trail end-around the Glacier Divide would be not as interesting as the rest of the trip and not in the same league as Lamarck Col. The other passes over the Glacier Divide, such as Snow Tongue, Keyhole, et al. are a bit rough and feature some monstrous talus which can be a pain with a full pack (I note your comment above about your wife and talus with full pack--my wife hates boulder hopping too, although she'll do it with style if sufficiently inspired); some of these passes also have a short class 3 pitch or two as well as steep snow. The advantage they offer over Lamarck is they give you the option to include the Desolation Basin/North Glacier Divide into your hike. I would opt for Lamarck Col. instead unless you want to raise the off trail degree of difficulty on your trip a couple of notches (and/or if you have some compelling fishing reasons to fool around on the Glacier Divide).

As far as N to S vs S to N., there are pros and cons to either. A north to south route might be better because the route finding is easier going N to S over Lamarck Col. In addition, as noted above, it is easier to get under the permit quota out of North Lake (Lamarck Lakes entry) than out of South Lake (Bishop Pass trail entry). The flip side of this is that there are only two decent camping options (Upper or Lower Lamarck Lakes) for day 1 short of going all the way over the top, and these aren't too far from the trailhead (although they'll save you over 1000' of gain on day 2). To push it all the way over into Darwin Cyn on day 1 is a fairly good haul, although that's the way my wife and I have always done it (on three trips over) and enjoyed it. The South Lake entry allows more intermediate distance options on day 1, although I agree with you that if I were doing it, I'd avoid the crowds and go all the way to Dusy on day 1. It is worthwhile to go slightly off trail and camp at one of the two uppermost lakes, by the way. In any case going to uppermost Dusy via Bishop Pass on day 1 is much easier than going all the way to Darwin Canyon on day 1 via Lamarck.

Regarding the McGees and Davis, the routes to Davis are easy and numerous. There are easy routes to the McGees too, but there are a few small steps that can hang you up if you are not careful. I don't have my topo with me right now, but I can tell you at least one of the viable routes in. I agree with quentinc that Ionian Basin has a unique wild charm to it (even if the entire basin is fishless). Ionian Basin is rather rough cross country with a pack, though, given that it consists of splintery metamorphic rock. The old saying that "there isn't anything flat in Ionian Basin" is totally true. Stuff that looks easy on a topo is much harder, owing to small drop offs and strategically placed snow patches. In any case, I would recommend, at minimum, a day hike exploration of Ionian Basin. If you have a real peak bagging urge, Mt. Goddard is recommended, given that is one of the truly dominant landmarks of the Sierra with an otherworldly view. The con side is that Goddard is a very tedious climb over horrid metamorphic talus and the hike from Wanda is a rather long one. Note that there are a number of nice class 1 or 2 peaks along your route, should you be inclined to climb a peak or two; just a few examples are: Mt Agassiz and Mt. Goode on the Bishop Pass side, Black Giant, Mt. Goddard and Scylla in the Muir Pass area, and Mt. Lamarck as one goes over Lamarck Col (Mt. Lamarck exceedingly easy from just east of the col). There are also some very fine fishing lakes, too, of course.
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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Postby tory8411 » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:53 pm

I did the SL to NL loop this last July at the end of the month. There's only one thing I can say, MOSQUITOES. Tons of them. We couldn't escape them. I know last year was wet, but we didn't find one place, except the tops of each pass where we weren't mauled. If you could postpone it a few weeks I would recommend it. SL to NL was great. We stayed to the main trail though, over Bishop, down into LeConte the first night. Then over Muir Pass the second day and camped at the edge of Evolution second night. Down through the Valley and up as much of Piute as we could stand until we were exhausted and couldn't go any further. (still didn't escape the little buggers!) Out over Piute pass last day. We seriously had to wear wind gear the whole time, for the mosquitoes. It was a great route though. We parked one car at North the night before we took off and stayed at the cabins at Parchers. Very comfortable to acclimate. The worst climb was the route from the JMT up to Piute at the beginning, but pretty mellow after that. Muir Pass wasn't that much fun from that side, but not a killer. Only a couple snow fields. Lots of water crossings. None too, too serious. The ranger left a note for the alternate crossing in the Valley. Great trip and with that many days you should be able to do a lot of day hikes and peaks. The climb from North Lake looked pretty steep for a first ascent, but I was going the other direction. Have a great time!
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Postby Take-a-Hike » Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:01 pm

Thanks for all the comments. RE mosquitos I remember too well, we took the kid and his wife on their first backpack jaunt last Aug, 2nd weekend to Sabrina Basin. It was the absolute worst I've ever seen for the winged devils. The kids got altitude sick, lasted one nite, they bailed, wife and I stayed to do the day hikes to as many lakes as we could there, then slithered out the next evening. It was no fun with the bugs and the horse/mule packed troop that might have well as brought the kitchen sink in. I"ll never go back to that place again. Where's the backcountry spirit if you bring in coolers of beer, (and I love the stuff), large lawn lounge chairs, and tents the size of igloos. I just don't get it. But that's the subject of another segment of the forum.
I've not set anything definate yet so the dates can, and may very well be, pushed back a week or so. Although last year I'm not sure it would have mattered. The only compelling reason for the last week in July was the anniversary date. But, we might do a short 3 or 4 day trip to the Tablelands instead, another of my long list of goals. Wife wants in the worst way to do the High Sierra Trail....I'm more inclined to zip by it for points less traveled. For whatever reason, maybe it's just the time of year we've been there, but west side has been much less populated with mosquitoes than the east side.
Keep thoughts/opinions coming. I like the idea of hitting a peak or two, I think we'll have the time now that I know about the passes and cols. Roper mentioned a couple of easy ones and 13,050 (Mt. Dana) or so is about as high as we've been. I'd like to top that.
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Postby stevet » Sat Feb 17, 2007 8:37 pm

Either direction works but the entry from North Lake over Paiute Pass is easier than Dusy Basin. Can bypass Hutchison Meadow and enter via Lamarck Col. Can sidetrip to Desolation Lake/Humphreys Basin on route to Hutchison Mdw. Can side trip down to the hot springs a Blaney Meadow. Bypass evolution valley/basin via Davis Lakes. Or can climb The Hermit on a layover day from Evolution Lake or Sapphire Lake.

I am sure others can provide additional ideas. If you travel light you can cover the entire route in 4 days so give a week the alternates list is extensive.

Steve
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