A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015 | High Sierra Topix  

A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

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

A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby KingMouth » Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:06 am

My Route


Summary: An early season solo fishing trip modified on account of weather. Thoroughly enjoyable none the less. It may have been too stormy to fish, but my sprint exit in a snow storm made it truly memorable!

Sunday: Got an early start on Sunday and was able to enjoy the drive up from Simi Valley. Picked up the permit at White Mountain Ranger Station and enjoyed an early Dinner of Mexican food in a eerily quiet Bishop. Drove up South Lake Road to Willow Campground in order to get a little acclimated. Willow is at about 9200 feet, and I didn't think there was anything that high near Pine Creek trailhead. I nabbed the last campsite which was conveniently located next to the bathroom. Surprisingly it didn't smell too bad and I didn't get woken up by the door slamming.


Image
My Convenient Campsite


Monday: Got up well after sunrise, and broke camp. Drove back down South Lake Road, and decided I would get a real breakfast and (more importantly) real coffee. Made the obligatory last call to the wife as I drove up to the trailhead.

The trailhead was surprisingly crowded considering how easy it was to nab a permit when my schedule moved up just a week ahead of time. Got my pack situated and was crossing the horse corral by 9:30. It was a bad day to get a late start, as it was already getting really warm. :(

The Pine Creek Trail ascends ~2400 feet with a fairly consistent pitch for 3.3 miles. After that the slope relaxes with some descending and level sections. It is about 4.25 miles from the TH to the first campsites on the West side of Lower Pine Lake. There is one spot to get water on the longest switchback at the 1.6 mile mark, but no other sources until the outlet of Lower Pine Lake.


Image
Creek Crossing


I approached this climb with some trepidation. I was doing 2-3 hikes per week around Southern California before my first hike of the season to Lake Ediza in mid-June. I thought I was in decent shape, and I confirmed that on a similar climb up Mt Baden Power that climbs 2800 feet in 3.8 miles. In spite of that, Pine Creek is a long hot climb. It's saving grace is the great views on the climb which meant nice pictures while I (frequently) rested. In spite of that, there were some really unpleasant sections on the trail, especially the section that skirts under the cliff face and weaves through a talus field. It was a great feeling when I reached the section with a small descent and could tell I was near the elevation of the lake. Also a great spot to take a break and refuel.


Image
Tungston Mine switchbacks


Image
Pine Creek Tungston Mill


Image
Pine Creek


Image
"Striped" Mountain


Image
The Stripes up close


Once I reached the lower lake, it is like you are in a different world. Whatever the reason (new scenery or lunch), I felt like a new man.

Image
Lower Pine Lake


The trail takes you around the north side of the lake with new views to the south. I got a lot of shots of unknown (to me) peaks, but everything was very scenic. I continued around the west side of the lake and spotted several camp sites. I found a knoll just off the trail that gave good views. It was nice I took the time to look around, because I hurried past on the way out.

Image
Unnamed peak East of Lower Pine Lake


Image
Looking North Across Lower Pine Lake


There was a short climb up to Upper Pine Lake, but UPL left me wanting. The trail was too far off the shore, and there was an absence of good views. The spot I planned to camp turned out to be a swamp, so I decided to make my way to Honeymoon Lake to make camp.

Image
Wetlands (Swamp) at the Upper Pine Lake Inlet


Image
My all-time favorite stream crossing!


Did I mention that there were Mosquitos? The !@!^@$(*^@ Mosquitos. How could I almost forget those? It was still really warm and humid so I was wearing shorts, and I was being eaten alive. The section of the trail between UPL and Honeymoon Lake was unbearable. I was close to stopping, so I decided to tough it out. Bad idea. I ended up with so many bites upon bites, that I had welts.

Thankfully the distance was short, and I was choosing from among three really nice campsites at Honeymoon Lake. There are a lot of really nice campsites with nice views.

Image
Royce Pass from Honeymoon Lake


I saw several groups camping at Honeymoon Lake who passed me on the long climb. One guy pulled about six fish out of Honeymoon, and I debated fishing before I set up camp. As it turned out, that would have been my only chance to catch fish. I decided against it as it looked like rain was threatening, and I had lots to do.

Image
Honeymoon Lake


Image
Dark Skies over Honeymoon Lake


I setup camp and started dinner, before it started raining. I was able to move my cook setup into my vestibule and cook while sitting in my tent. I got a lot of practice doing this over the next three days!

Image
Cooking in the Rain


It poured for about 1.5 hours during and after dinner. It started again after dark, but I was too tired to care. The best way to sleep well is to be exhausted. Mission accomplished.
Last edited by KingMouth on Wed Oct 21, 2015 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.



User avatar
KingMouth
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:06 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby SSSdave » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:38 am

So you were also caught in the rare epic July snow storm too.

Have been up Pine Creek several times over the years. Areas above 10.6k up to the crest are exceptionally scenic and there are some nice trout waters.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/2015_Trip_C ... .html#jul7

You mentioned just one stream to get water on the way to Pine Lake. You just didn't notice, as I've always seen flows at the 7800, 8640+, and 9640+ stream crossings as the north facing cirques above have lots of talus that drains winter precipitation slowly and those high east of crest areas usually receive numbers of summer thunderstorms keeping things green.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.35226,-118.69839&z=15&t=T

Your mosquito attack at Upper Pine Lake ought to be instructive for the many who habitually wear shorts everywhere and tend to never bring rain pants, even the lightest weight coated nylon models easily compactable to small size. Not only can such a pant shell save one from bloodsuckers and biting black flies but also is another protective safety layer during cold weather and frosty mornings.

A decade plus ago a couple of us thought Upper Pine Lake rather boring also. We made camp and after lunch and some hours napping decided to pack back up then continued the slog up the trail. But we didn't want to camp at Honeymoon Lake because not only are so many backpackers and horse packing customers always camped there but IMO is over rated scenically.

David
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby KingMouth » Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:47 pm

Tuesday: Got up early, but the inside of my tent was wetted out pretty good. Too low of a pitch and got condensation on the inside including the foot of my quilt. Wasted a while getting everything on the path to being dry, then had breakfast and packed what I could while I waited.

While I was dawdling, I noticed that there were a lot of groups camping at Honeymoon Lake. In spite of that, the campsites are spread so it never felt crowded. (And I'm a guy who likes solitude on my solo hikes!)

By the time I was leaving, everyone else was long gone. That morning was the last time I saw people until Thursday mid-morning. Worked my way back to the junction and headed up the hill to the upper Pine Creek valley.

Image
Junction


The section of the trail in the upper valley is nice, scenic, flat and well maintained, as shown in some of my pictures.

Image
Unnamed Peak 11775


Image
Nice Trail!


Image
More Nice Trail


As I was enjoying this section of trail, I noticed the weather started to look threatening just as the slope steepened! I stopped and snacked while I considered my options: keep going or stop and find shelter. A little drizzle never killed anyone, so I figured I would keep going unless it started pouring. I came upon a ugly little cattle gate like something my Father-in-law would have on his farm! My wife loved that picture.

Image
A Livestock Gate


I finally crested the pass, still dry, to a magnificent view of Mt Humphreys with the Puppet Col crest in the foreground, and storm clouds in the background. The mountain looks angry, mean and imposing!

Image
Mount Humphreys


I thought I would get alot of pictures of Humphreys, but the weather didn't cooperate. The top of the pass is flat for a while, and I missed the spot I intended to head east to French Lake. I ended up taking a harder path cross country before I got up to the ramps described by Wandering Daisy. By now I was tired, cold and in a hurry to camp before the rain came.

ImageFrench Lake

I didn't waste a lot of time finding that perfect campsite, but got a nice one shielded by piles of rock. Just beat the rain and was inside watching the hail fall. Got a couple of pictures just before and after the hail.

Image
Before


Image
After


It actually stopped hailing for a while, and I deep fished some lures in the stormy water without success.

Had a nice dinner cooked in my vestibule and slept like the dead.
User avatar
KingMouth
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:06 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby rlown » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:27 pm

Nice camp shot and the photo looking up towards Mt Humphreys.. Thanks for sharing!
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5350
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby KingMouth » Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:20 am

Wednesday: Got up and going early to partly cloudy skies. I couldn't tell whether the weather pattern was going to change, or more of the same.

I noticed the higher pitch of my Tarptent produced no condensation inside my tent. I'll have to remember that!

I figured I would make the most of the weather I have, and determine the day's destination based on how the weather cooperated. The plan was to go cross-country from French to Steelhead, L and finally Puppet. I had already given up on fishing with the weather conditions, but wanted to max out the scenery.

Worked my way east along the south shore of French until I found a slot in the hill to the south. Was able to get below the cliff band south of the lake. Maintained my elevation while I curved around the head of the canyon before starting up the ramp toward Steelhead.

Image
Upper French Canyon from south of French Lake


Image
Another way down from French Lake


Image
My path along the edge of the talus


Image
The View down French Canyon


Image
Looking across Upper French Canyon toward French Lake


I started up the hill toward Steelhead too worried about maintaining altitude. I ended up having a difficult time crossing a large boulder field to get back to where the path was easier. Live and learn! It would have been easier to stay below the talus until the base of the ramp. If I wasn't pressed for time, it would have been a lot of fun like solving a big puzzle.

I eventually made it to Steelhead Lake, but didn't stick around long enough to enjoy it. Dark turbulent waters with view of dark skies to the southwest.

Image
An underwhelming shot of Steelhead Lake


Image
Dark Skies to the South


I debated working my way around to the southwest shore, then over the saddle toward Paris Lake. I wasn't sure if the route was passable. I headed down the outlet toward L.

I'm not sure what I thought of L. It was a big lake on a big shelf, but not much for scenery.

Image
L Lake...meh!


The large peninsula was sandy with some small flowers, and had a few nice campsites on the NW end of the pack trail. It started raining intermittantly, so I hurried across the peninsula. I picked up the end of the Moon to L trail where it curves south and ends, heading to the bottom of the trail up to Paris/Puppet. I took a quick break while I decided if I wanted to head up to Puppet.

Image
View down to Moon Lake


I decided against, and hurried around the North shore. I made the mistake of cutting cross country near the inlet of Moon, and it was a swampy mess. Should have taken the trail back the way I came, and continued the long way around down to Moon Lake.

Image
View of the ramp up to Paris/Puppet looking across Moon Lake


While passing Moon, the skies got much darker, and the rain became steady mixed with Hail. My map showed several campsites off the trail just past Moon, and I planned on stopping at the first decent site. I set up camp in a hurry, and was almost done pitching my tent when the skies opened up. Didn't get too wet and was soon inside and dry.

Image
Another shot of threatening skies


The rain turned to hail, and became sporadic, so I ventured our to get water and scout around. Sitting in my tent enjoying the crappy weather, I started modifying my plans. I planned to head straight to the Royce Lakes tomorrow, and then exit a day early. I'd rather see my daughter off, than spend the extra day in this weather. Cooked another dinner in my vestibule before getting some quality time with my Kindle and conking out.
User avatar
KingMouth
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:06 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A Snowy Pine Creek - 7/6 - 7/9/2015

Postby KingMouth » Sun Oct 25, 2015 3:47 pm

Thursday: The rain woke me at about 4:30am. It was kind of soothing drifting in and out of sleep with the patter of raindrops on my tent.

When it hadn't stopped by about 6:30, I began to be a little concerned as it hadn't rained before 1pm on any of the previous days. I decided that I would pack-up the stuff in my tent like my quilt and synmat, then when it stopped pack the tent and head back over Pine Creek pass. It finally stopped at 8:00, and I packed my wet tent after a quick breakfast. As I was rolling up my tent, it started hailing which was preferable to rain.

As I passed Elba, it was foggy and overcast with poor visibility. The effect made for a couple of interesting pictures.

Image
Stark weather at Elba Lake


Image
Smoke drifting across Elba Lake


As the trail curved downhill to the North, the fog really started moving up French canyon. The views varied depending on where you were looking.

Image
Royce Falls


Image
Merriam Peak


Image
Pine Creek Pass


As I lost elevation heading down into the canyon, the hail turned to rain and I stopped when shelter was available. It was actually nice hiking weather as I had light layers on. The moisture made for some green landscapes and better views climbing out of the canyon toward Pine Creek Pass. It looked like the higher elevations were starting to get cold!

Image
Upper French Cyn with Four Gables on the right


Image
The wetlands on the plateau


Image
The plateau below the pass


Image
The tarn before the pass


I was still hiking at an easy pace as I crested the pass and started down. It was when I passed the stock gate, that it started to rain again. I picked up my pace hoping to make it to Lower Pine Lake before the heavier stuff started coming down. I put on a rain shell, and not long after the rain turned to hail/sleet, turning the inside of my jacket into a sauna. If I'm going to be wet anyway, I may as well be comfortable, so off it came. (I think I need a better rain jacket!)

In the upper valley, I passed a lady who had summited Merriam the day before, and she was struggling with foot pains. I took a message to her companion who was ahead. When I caught him, we found a nice spot under a canopy that kept the sleet off us. We had a nice chat while waiting for the rain to stop and for her to catch up again. While we were chatting it got colder and the sleet turned to snow. Snow is better if you keep moving, and it doesn't melt on you. I bid them goodbye as I felt pretty good, and wanted to make time before I started to run out of gas.

Image
Snow!


Over the next few miles the snow was coming down heavily enough to cover the trails. It was a challenge to keep my feet dry, but once they finally got wet, I was able to stop worrying about stepping around the puddles. I took a few more pictures on my way past UPL, before my camera got water logged and stopped working. Somewhere along the way I had decided to make a sprint all the way to my car.

Image
The trail near Upper Pine Lake


Image
Just past Upper Pine Lake


The worst of the hike was along LPL when the ground was frozen granite, slushy muddy trail, sleeting and the brush next to the trail was saturated with water. Nice. I just kept charging along at 4mph eating trail and staying upright & warm. I slipped and almost fell where water was flowing over the smooth granite sections of the trail just past the LPL outlet. Got my pants wet brushing against a bush, but I didn't care as I figured I had about an hour left on the trail. It should also keep getting warmer as I descended.

I got to my car, and I was toast. The last mile was tough and seemed about 3 miles long. I was tired and soaked, but never too cold. I peeled off all those wet clothes in my back seat, and put on nice dry clean clothes. That and lunch were the highlights of the trip. Snow in July? I think I'm jinxed with my trip planning.

Check out my trip report to Dusy Basin in August for confirmation: http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13453

Well there goes another hike that didn't go as planned, but I still had a great time and a lot of adventure. What more could I ask for?
User avatar
KingMouth
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:06 am
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Broot, Google Adsense [Bot], sekihiker and 9 guests