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Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

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Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:57 am

Cottonwood Pass - Guyout Pass - Crabtree Pass - New Army Pass

I always keep a backpack ready just in case the opportunity arises to get away for a weekend in the High Sierra . . . so when the mountain gods provided an opening recently I grabbed my gear and headed for the backcountry.

It wasn't long before I found myself reciting the necessary regulations to the ranger, "six to eight inches, durable surfaces, bear canister, one hundred feet, carry out all trash". There was no need to speak in complete sentences, he knew that I knew the deal. The ranger hardly looked up while handing me a permit for the Cottonwood Pass trail out of Horseshoe Meadows.

I left the Cottonwood Pass trailhead at 1:00 pm on Friday and followed the familiar sandy trail toward the pass at 11,140 feet. After a few hours I joined the Pacific Crest Trail and headed north toward Crabtree Meadow.

Just before the Chicken Spring Lake I was surprised to meet a few PCT hikers. They were going southbound from Canada to Mexico and appeared to be well seasoned hikers. As we chatted one of them commented, "that's a small pack your carrying". I was traveling with one of my smallest homemade packs as part of a minimalist setup; 12 pounds with gear, food and fuel for three days.

We talked for a while but I didn't linger too long, I wanted to make the 20 miles to Crabtree Meadow before dark. . .

horseshoe crabtree miter new army south fork.JPG


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I almost made it to Rock Creek before dark, but ended up having dinner by headlamp at around 8:00 pm. I hiked a short while in the dark after dinner and found a camp near the ranger station.

I wanted to keep it simple and only brought a Gossamer Gear Nightlight foam sleeping pad. The foam pad folds in thirds and doubles as the pack frame for my backpack. By combining the foam pad with my backpack for my legs and finding an area with soft pine duff I slept well throughout the night. . . maybe a little too well because I slept in the next morning and got a late start at about 10:00 am.

10.JPG


From Crabtree Meadow I left the trail and took a cross country shortcut toward the Crabtree Lakes trail. I passed several use trails and cairns along the way then joined an 'official' trail at about 10,900 feet. After passing a horse packers camp and more switchbacks I arrived at the first of the beautiful Crabtree Lakes.

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There is a sandy beach on the north shore of Crabtree Lake #2. A perfect spot to soak my sore feet and make some dinner.

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After dinner I headed up the cross country route toward the last Crabtree Lake. The glacially polished canyon made for easy cross country travel.

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Once I reached Crabtree Lake #3 I got the first look at Crabtree Pass, the cross country pass I would be crossing the next morning. There is plenty of information on this pass online, but it looked steep from across the lake.

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I followed a use trail above the north side of the lake and found a few sandy places to camp close to the water, but it was getting windy and they were exposed. I ended up finding a nice sandy spot higher up that was sheltered from the wind and the inevitable condensation that would come with sleeping closer to the water.

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Sunset on Crabtree Lake

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(continued)



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Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Wed Oct 14, 2015 12:19 pm

(continued)

The next morning I got an early start and made it over Crabtree Pass just as the sun was hitting the lake. Instead of taking the more common route up one of the chutes I traversed along the granite benches to the north of the pass. There were cairns along the way and this seemed like a better alternative than the steeper routes up the loose scree chutes.

crabtree pass route.JPG


I dropped my camera the night before and damaged most of the screen, so the quality of these pxts is questionable. The one below is horrible, but it shows the actual angle of the chutes on the northwest side of Crabtree Pass. Like most passes it looks impossibly steep from far away but when close up it really isn't bad at all.

20.JPG


Once over Crabtree Pass I enjoyed a few hours strolling through Miter Basin. This is perfect cross country terrain, easy granite slabs with beautiful lakes and creeks along the way. . . and all down hill!

Looking back at Crabtree Lake from the top:

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Fall in Miter Basin:

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I found a use trail that provided a very direct route across Miter Basin. At about 11,100 feet I crossed over to the opposite side and headed up toward Three Tree Tarn. From this small lake there is a chute that leads down to Lower Soldier Lake.

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After taking a break on the shore of Lower Soldier Lake I got back on a 'real' trail and headed to New Army Pass. After spending a few days negotiating cross country it always feels easy to stroll along on a trail. Soon I was at the top of New Army Pass at 12,290 feet.

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Cool rock formations near the top of the switchbacks of NAP:

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(continued)
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Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Wed Oct 14, 2015 12:45 pm

(continued)

A short video from the top of NAP:

https://youtu.be/PQfVYVy53bk

I have been through Cottonwood Lakes a few times and I was excited to try a new route via the South Fork Lakes. I left the designated trail just after Long Lake and found a use trail along the first of the South Fork Lakes. Unfortunately after the first two lakes I ran into a boulder field that blocked the way to the last lake. The boulders were large and seemed to be stable and in a short time I was across and back onto another use trail along the lowest of the South Fork Lakes.

40.JPG


After the final lake there is an old use trail through the boulders to the north of the waterfall that drains the South Fork Lakes. This first section can be tricky and I would not recommend it for anyone not comfortable with some class II scrambling. After the waterfall outlet the rest of the trail is easy and follows a few meadows and creek crossings before finally meeting back up with the main trail.

A family of deer in one of the South Fork Meadows:

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Just as the sun was setting I came across this old cabin next to the creek. These old cabins were built right on the dirt and since there was no real foundation the lower logs have slowly decomposed, leaving only this short cabin. Either that or a very short old trapper built this cabin sometime in the 19th century :)

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Once back on the main trail it wasn't long before I was on the road to Lone Pine for a cheeseburger. Smoke from the Rough Fire was visible on the drive down to the Owens Valley.

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Thanks for reading. For more photos, route info and a gear list check out:

http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... -2015.html
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby rayfound » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:11 pm

Great report. Your pack kind of reminds me of a spring roll:

Image

Image
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby tie » Wed Oct 14, 2015 3:58 pm

I believe in the short trapper theory. :)

Thanks
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby maverick » Wed Oct 14, 2015 4:57 pm

Nice quick trip Blue, and the photo's still look good, even with the mishap. ;)
Yeah, those passes always look much more intimidating from a distance then they really are.
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby markskor » Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:50 pm

Nice trip report - thanks.
Interesting that have been over NAP multiple times and never have seen those unique rock formations...might have had something to due to the fact that there always was snow present and usually a cornice covering the top section in years past.

Interesting too that no mention made of any fishing done on the trip. Too bad! I took a long week on a similar loop and had some success at the Crabtrees...'nuff said.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby oleander » Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:56 am

Andy,

This brings back such great memories of my own trip over Crabtree Pass, two years ago.

Three Tree Tarn! I had never heard it called by that name. That's cool. I have a photo of a bunch of grouse hanging out in the brush there, camouflaged.

The sandy crescent beach at Crabtree Lake #2, as well as that grand stroll up the polished granite to Lake #3...Those are some of my favorite places.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Thu Oct 15, 2015 1:57 pm

Thanks for your feedbeack, I really appreciate it.

That is funny rayfound, by pack DOES look like a spring roll, filled with delicious freeze-dried mac & cheese:)

Thanks for the beta on fishing the Crabtree Lakes markskor, someday I will slow it down and do some fishing in one of the many beautiful Sierra lakes.

The second Crabtree Lake might be a good spot for a future HST meetup, there's plenty of camping and that sandy beach. I read last year on HST about that lake in Miter Basin being called Three Tree Tarn oleander. Here's a better photo of the three trees @ Three Tree Tarn:

three tree tarn.JPG
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby maverick » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:06 pm

The second Crabtree Lake might be a good spot for a future HST meetup, there's plenty of camping and that sandy beach.


That is the one that is supposed to be outstanding for fishing too. ;)
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Rockyroad » Thu Oct 15, 2015 4:42 pm

Bluewater wrote:The second Crabtree Lake might be a good spot for a future HST meetup, there's plenty of camping and that sandy beach. I read last year on HST about that lake in Miter Basin being called Three Tree Tarn oleander. Here's a better photo of the three trees @ Three Tree Tarn:

three tree tarn.JPG


I thought that group of trees looked familiar!
Image

Nice trip report Bluewater
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Fri Oct 16, 2015 3:18 pm

That's a great shot rockyroad. I have really enjoyed your website and your photos are beautiful. Maybe it's time for me to upgrade to a DSLR. . . but it would almost double by base weight :crybaby:
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