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5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

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5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby RaySwim22 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 2:18 pm

Hi All,

I am new on this forum and am planning on taking my first trip out west this summer for some backpacking. Let me give you background as that seems to make these posts easier to answer.

This trip would be for myself and my best friend (28 and 26 years old). Both of us are eagle scouts with a variety of outdoors experience. We are both in good shape. We both work out regularly (4 to 6 days a week). As far as backpacking goes, I would say we are about a level 3. We have done many trail hikes and camps, but do have the ability to read maps and travel off trail. I would say we are comfortable with everything except snow and glacier crossings. For this coming trip we would love to see some varying landscape. We live in the northeast and don't have the mountains like out west. Ideally we would love to do some big mountains but also get to see some forested areas.

We are hoping to do a 5 day trip entering the trail on a Monday and exiting on a Friday with Saturday as our contingency day so we can do a 6th day if needed. We have a friend that lives in Bakersfield that is willing to drop us off and pick us up where ever needed. The trip would not have to be a loop; we are open to any type of trip. We won't be hiking with a dog. We have hiked 15+ miles in a day before in the northeast where we were up and down in elevation the entire time. So we figure with altitude we would like to do between 8 and 12 miles a day with maybe one longer day and one shorter day thrown in there.

The trip we have been looking at was entering at Onion Valley and hiking down to Mt. Whitney through Forester Pass. We have also looked at entering at Bubbs Creek Trail and hiking down through Forester Pass to Mt. Whitney. On those hikes we would exit at Whitney Portal. With that being said, I've read in places that there may be other hikes that will offer more.

We have also looked at hikes in Yosemite. The lower elevation seems to bring more green. Is that the case. Is it warmer in the lower elevations of Yosemite as compared to our proposed hike. If you have a trail suggestion and have it mapped already can you provide the link. We are not familiar enough with the area to know certain peaks, lakes, etc... Any help is greatly appreciated.



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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions - NS lake loop

Postby dbogey » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:03 pm

North Lake / South Lake loop. There's enough info out there on this so I won't go into details - Lots of good scenery and can make this anywhere from 3 to 7 days with side adventures.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby balzaccom » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:44 pm

You don't mention when in the summer you plan to attempt this. Both of your trips are through-hikes....so does that mean you have shuttle transportation?

if not, you might look at a couple of loops:

The famous Matterhorn Canyon/Benson Lake loop that starts and ends at the Twin Lakes trailhead in the northeastern part of Yosemite

The famous Red Peak Pass loop in southern Yosemite that starts at Glacier Point or Mono Meadows, goes up Illiliouette Canyon, over Red Peak Pass, and then down the Merced and across the Panorama Trail to the start.

North Lake to South Lake loop---which requires a shuttle, but only a short one.

We have links to these trips, or at least major segments of these trips, on our website. And if you are having trouble finding your way around these suggestions, check out ACMEMapper--which has scalable searchable TOPOs for the entire US.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:53 pm

Great point-to-point fairly near Bakersfield: 1) Crescent Meadow-Hamilton Lake (may break this into two days) but it is a good trail and feasible in one long day if you start early 2) Nine Lakes Basin- with time to explore some off-trail lakes, 3) to Little Five Lakes or Big Five Lakes, 4) Lost Canyon, Monarch Lake via Sawtooth Pass, 5) Mineral King. From Little Five Lakes you can also go over Blackrock Pass and return to Mineral King via Timber Gap.

Personally I would not drive all the way up to the northern Sierra if you only have five days. Not that the northern Sierra is not beautiful, but I would rather spend more time on the trail than in a car. If you want to visit northern Sierra and Yosemite backcountry, flying into Reno is a good strategy that minimizes the time it takes to get to trailheads. There is fair bus service to Tioga Pass and Mammoth Lakes from Reno.

And as spectacular as the eastern Sierra is, again, if you are starting in Bakersfield, it is a long drive to the east side.

You did not say if the 5 days includes getting to the trailhead, or if you are looking at five full days, excluding the drive to the trailhead.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Dec 16, 2015 8:04 pm

Sorry- I did see that 5 days is the backpack trip, with a 6th contingency. Where are you flying into? Or is that also open. There are a lot of good trip reports in the archives, that make good winter reading and may help you decide where to go. Also, use a website like "MapQuest" and see what kind of time it takes to drive around to the Sierra trailheads. Then add an hour or so to what they say, because you always get stuck behind a big slow RV or have to stop for some road construction. The Sierra is a big mountain range. It takes nearly an entire day to go from Roads End (west side) to Mammoth Lakes (east side). Fine if that fits into your plans and your friend who is offering transportation, is aware of those driving distances.

Also, the bay area (San Francisco) or LA highways can get totally clogged to a crawl from about 3PM on Friday until well after 7-8 PM. That is why I think flying into Reno a good choice if going in the east side, because there is much less traffic on the roads and it is closer.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby balzaccom » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:46 pm

Daisy makes a very good point about traffic and airports.

Other options include flying into Sacramento, Fresno, or even San Jose...
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby RaySwim22 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:12 am

balzaccom wrote:You don't mention when in the summer you plan to attempt this. Both of your trips are through-hikes....so does that mean you have shuttle transportation?

if not, you might look at a couple of loops:

The famous Matterhorn Canyon/Benson Lake loop that starts and ends at the Twin Lakes trailhead in the northeastern part of Yosemite

The famous Red Peak Pass loop in southern Yosemite that starts at Glacier Point or Mono Meadows, goes up Illiliouette Canyon, over Red Peak Pass, and then down the Merced and across the Panorama Trail to the start.

North Lake to South Lake loop---which requires a shuttle, but only a short one.

We have links to these trips, or at least major segments of these trips, on our website. And if you are having trouble finding your way around these suggestions, check out ACMEMapper--which has scalable searchable TOPOs for the entire US.


Thanks for the response. I did mention in my post that our friend is willing to drop us off and pick us up wherever so that isn't an issue. I am looking at anytime between late June and early August.

Thank you for all the info.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby RaySwim22 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:16 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Sorry- I did see that 5 days is the backpack trip, with a 6th contingency. Where are you flying into? Or is that also open. There are a lot of good trip reports in the archives, that make good winter reading and may help you decide where to go. Also, use a website like "MapQuest" and see what kind of time it takes to drive around to the Sierra trailheads. Then add an hour or so to what they say, because you always get stuck behind a big slow RV or have to stop for some road construction. The Sierra is a big mountain range. It takes nearly an entire day to go from Roads End (west side) to Mammoth Lakes (east side). Fine if that fits into your plans and your friend who is offering transportation, is aware of those driving distances.

Also, the bay area (San Francisco) or LA highways can get totally clogged to a crawl from about 3PM on Friday until well after 7-8 PM. That is why I think flying into Reno a good choice if going in the east side, because there is much less traffic on the roads and it is closer.


Hi, the 5 and 6 days does not include travel to and from. I would likely be on the trail for those days. Fly out of east coast on a friday night and hike monday through saturday and return on Sunday. My friend can pick us up and drop us off. I would probably fly into Bakersfield or LAX since he lives in Bakersfield and likely would do a red eye from newark or JFK. We would likely start on Monday as early as we can.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby Tom_H » Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:22 pm

You said you wanted to avoid snow. Hiking on packed snow is not bad IF you have the right gear and training. You might want to take an opportunity this winter to get some training in the use of ice axes, crampons, and snowshoes. The biggest problem I see is not knowing how much snow we will get this winter. The past two winters provided a dearth of snow-virtually none, and most places were snow free by the beginning of June. In mid-July of 2011 at an elevation of only 8000' I hiked on continual snowpack that was still 6-8' deep and even crossed drifts around 35' deep. The largest El Niño ever recorded is now providing good precipitation. There is also another immense warm water area being referred to as the "Blob" and climatologists do not know how the two may interact to bring even more or less precipitation. We also could get what is called a Pineapple Express, a string of heavy storms that sometimes bring warm rain which can melt the snowpack.

The jist of all this is that it is impossible at this point to know how much snow we will get and how long it will take for it to melt. Obviously, some places melt earlier than others. If we have a heavy winter, you may want to wait until August. I have no idea whether your occupations allow the flexibility to wait until late spring to select your time off or not. If so, it would be very advantageous to wait until then to set the date and location. If you have to decide now and set an early date, you need to be prepared to go somewhere at lower elevation. OTOH, you could go ahead and find some place near you (I don't believe you said where you are from) and get some training with snowshoes, crampons, and ice axes. You should also know that while your background in scouts (I was in scouts too) will be valuable in many ways, it will not prepare you for high altitude. Unless you are already acclimated to high altitude or are an accomplished distance runner, you could experience mountain sickness or edema of the lungs, cerebrum, or retinas, particularly if you go to high elevation destinations like Mt. Whitney.

Please continue to post here as the winter goes on and we can let you know what the snow pack is looking like. Good luck with your planning.

Tom
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Dec 20, 2015 11:04 pm

Tom brings up a good point. You need to have a "Plan B'" or two. Although lower in elevation, the northern Sierra generally gets more snow and it melts off slower than the southern Sierra, particularly the east side. 2011 was an unusually high snow pack (I think it was about 200%). This year does not, so far, look to be as much. I would guess more like normal to a bit more. I would certainly try to avoid June or even earlier than mid-July if you wish to avoid snow. Ice axe and self-arrest skills would be quite difficult to sufficiently learn over the winter if your intent is to actually self-arrest with a pack on your back. Better to invest in good trekking poles and microspikes which would get you over most low-angle snow. By summer snow is more likely to be "Sierra Cement" than soft and snowshoes are seldom needed. A better strategy is to travel early in the day before the snow becomes soggy. A bigger problem may be finding the trail as parts are covered in snow. The PCT hikers hit the Sierra in June and by July they have worn a good path through snow on the PCT. A GPS really helps when trails get snow covered. Another concern in a high snow year is high river levels. Try to plan trips where there are bridges that cross major creeks.

Two people should not have great difficulty in getting a first-come permit. Reserve a permit for your "wish trip" and then have some planned alternatives if snow prevents you from doing what you had permitted. Check on snowmelt again in May, and perhaps revise your plans and get a permit for a different trip if needed. Better yet, simply go in August. It is OK to get a reserved permit for several trips and only use one. Just call and cancel permits that you will not use. Your permit automatically is void if you do not pick them up by 11AM (unless you make arrangements to pick them up late).

Good data sites are: CDEC (California data exchange)- google into it and select "snow". It has all the snow courses and data.

Another good source is the PCT journals. These guys get into the mountains early and say quite a bit about snow conditions.

Altitude problems can be largely mitigated if you take it easy the first few days, drink lots of fluids, and never push it to the point of becoming out of breath. The west side approaches are especially gentle with the elevation gain. The east side trails often go up 6000+ feet the first day! Most people are not seriously impacted by altitude - they just lose their apatite and get a headache the first few days. Be aware of altitude issues, but I would not avoid high altitudes. Being in good physical condition does help. And keep pack weights down. No need for 60 pound packs- aim for 30-35 pounds.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby RaySwim22 » Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:09 am

Tom_H wrote:You said you wanted to avoid snow. Hiking on packed snow is not bad IF you have the right gear and training. You might want to take an opportunity this winter to get some training in the use of ice axes, crampons, and snowshoes. The biggest problem I see is not knowing how much snow we will get this winter. The past two winters provided a dearth of snow-virtually none, and most places were snow free by the beginning of June. In mid-July of 2011 at an elevation of only 8000' I hiked on continual snowpack that was still 6-8' deep and even crossed drifts around 35' deep. The largest El Niño ever recorded is now providing good precipitation. There is also another immense warm water area being referred to as the "Blob" and climatologists do not know how the two may interact to bring even more or less precipitation. We also could get what is called a Pineapple Express, a string of heavy storms that sometimes bring warm rain which can melt the snowpack.

The jist of all this is that it is impossible at this point to know how much snow we will get and how long it will take for it to melt. Obviously, some places melt earlier than others. If we have a heavy winter, you may want to wait until August. I have no idea whether your occupations allow the flexibility to wait until late spring to select your time off or not. If so, it would be very advantageous to wait until then to set the date and location. If you have to decide now and set an early date, you need to be prepared to go somewhere at lower elevation. OTOH, you could go ahead and find some place near you (I don't believe you said where you are from) and get some training with snowshoes, crampons, and ice axes. You should also know that while your background in scouts (I was in scouts too) will be valuable in many ways, it will not prepare you for high altitude. Unless you are already acclimated to high altitude or are an accomplished distance runner, you could experience mountain sickness or edema of the lungs, cerebrum, or retinas, particularly if you go to high elevation destinations like Mt. Whitney.

Please continue to post here as the winter goes on and we can let you know what the snow pack is looking like. Good luck with your planning.

Tom


Hi Tom,

Thanks for the great advice. My buddy and I both have some flexibility with when we can go so with what alot of what people say, I think August may be a good bet for us. We both have limitted snow experience in climbing and for now I'd rather avoid it. I think we will look at the snow melt in may or so and make a final decision then.

I am a former college distance swimmer and still train regularly. I also am a competitive cyclist. I know both my friend and I would need to do some prep work through the spring to be ready for climbs at altitude. I figure we plan a hike for 4 or 5 days, but have that 6th day there if we decide to take it easy for a day or two.

I really appreciate the help. Thanks.
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Re: 5-6 Day Backpacking Trip Suggestions

Postby RaySwim22 » Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:14 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Tom brings up a good point. You need to have a "Plan B'" or two. Although lower in elevation, the northern Sierra generally gets more snow and it melts off slower than the southern Sierra, particularly the east side. 2011 was an unusually high snow pack (I think it was about 200%). This year does not, so far, look to be as much. I would guess more like normal to a bit more. I would certainly try to avoid June or even earlier than mid-July if you wish to avoid snow. Ice axe and self-arrest skills would be quite difficult to sufficiently learn over the winter if your intent is to actually self-arrest with a pack on your back. Better to invest in good trekking poles and microspikes which would get you over most low-angle snow. By summer snow is more likely to be "Sierra Cement" than soft and snowshoes are seldom needed. A better strategy is to travel early in the day before the snow becomes soggy. A bigger problem may be finding the trail as parts are covered in snow. The PCT hikers hit the Sierra in June and by July they have worn a good path through snow on the PCT. A GPS really helps when trails get snow covered. Another concern in a high snow year is high river levels. Try to plan trips where there are bridges that cross major creeks.

Two people should not have great difficulty in getting a first-come permit. Reserve a permit for your "wish trip" and then have some planned alternatives if snow prevents you from doing what you had permitted. Check on snowmelt again in May, and perhaps revise your plans and get a permit for a different trip if needed. Better yet, simply go in August. It is OK to get a reserved permit for several trips and only use one. Just call and cancel permits that you will not use. Your permit automatically is void if you do not pick them up by 11AM (unless you make arrangements to pick them up late).

Good data sites are: CDEC (California data exchange)- google into it and select "snow". It has all the snow courses and data.

Another good source is the PCT journals. These guys get into the mountains early and say quite a bit about snow conditions.

Altitude problems can be largely mitigated if you take it easy the first few days, drink lots of fluids, and never push it to the point of becoming out of breath. The west side approaches are especially gentle with the elevation gain. The east side trails often go up 6000+ feet the first day! Most people are not seriously impacted by altitude - they just lose their apatite and get a headache the first few days. Be aware of altitude issues, but I would not avoid high altitudes. Being in good physical condition does help. And keep pack weights down. No need for 60 pound packs- aim for 30-35 pounds.


Thanks for all the info. We do have a trail GPS so that would be coming along no matter what. Like I said in my response to Tom, I think we would do ok with the altitude if we take our time and have some plans. We plan to have a plan to exit early if its too much and also an extra day or so if we need to rest for one of the days.

Thanks again for all the help.
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