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Rae Lakes Loop in May?

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Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby rjones787 » Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:09 am

Hey all,

My buddy and I are flying out and plan on doing Rae Lakes Loop starting May 25th. Does anyone have any ideas about the snow conditions of Glenn pass around this time? I know its like asking about the weather from a month + out, but, I think there is still some helpful information you could give, like: Is there an alternate route around Glenn pass if its impassable? How have snow conditions been at Glenn pass in the past years around May 25? Is there another trail you might recommend for us if its still too early?

We are comfortable with off trail, difficult hikes. We aren't planning on doing any kind of scrambling or climbing, but we are willing to get a little 'out there.' We are pretty experienced backpackers, just have never been out to the Sierras. We ultimately just want to go somewhere beautiful, difficult, mildly secluded. We have 3 nights/4 trail days to play with. Help! Thanks!



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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby SSSdave » Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:57 am

Expect frozen lakes.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Apr 18, 2016 9:12 am

Expect high water crossings, postholing, suncups, hungry bears, and frozen lakes.

Alternate routes around Glen Pass? Nothing easier.

If you'd gone in the past four years or so, you'd have no problem. But this year is different. The temps are trending higher so the melt will be gangbusters in just a couple of weeks.

If you're going to be below snow line, which will be creeping ever higher as the melt progresses, be ready for wet muddy swampy meadows, mosquitoes, dangerous stream crossings, and mosquitoes. Did I mention mosquitoes? I should mention there will be mosquitoes. And mosquitoes.

If you're going to go up into snow, expect crusty and crunchy in the morning, and soft slushy junk in the afternoon. Nice tall waterproof gaiters would help. There will be lots of water standing and running underneath the snow, and when you posthole you'll be in the muck. Don't walk around on the snow bridges over streams.

Don't forget the headnet, the DEET, the permethrin. Don't be embarrassed to turn around and come back the way you went in. You won't be alone -- day hiking in Paradise one spring, we talked to a long line of returning backpackers thwarted by snow on Glen. Actually, they'd hit waist-deep snow well before the pass.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:34 am

Hi rjones787,

Welcome to HST! Please read: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205
May will be to early, Rae Lake will still be frozen, Glen Pass will be difficult, ice axe and/or crampons may be needed, depending on the time of day you planned to go over, are you comfy with snow camping?
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby texan » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:59 pm

maverick wrote:Hi rjones787,

Welcome to HST! Please read: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205
May will be to early, Rae Lake will still be frozen, Glen Pass will be difficult, ice axe and/or crampons may be needed, depending on the time of day you planned to go over, are you comfy with snow camping?


Maverick is correct. May is way too early for Rae Lakes this year. Put off your trip for a least a month.

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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby Hobbes » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:15 pm

You will need both traction & an ice axe. Since an ice axe is pretty standard, the key variable is traction. The other issue is direction: ascend or descend Glen?

Clock-wise might be safer, but will require crampons since you will be ascending the steep, snow/ice north face of Glen. Glen will require either kick-stepping (if you want to proceed directly up the face) or side-stepping ie edge teeth to keep your feet flat as you track up a traverse. If you have crampon capable mountaineering boots, you might consider taking those.

Micro-spikes aren't going to work ascending Glen - they are designed for walking across flatter surfaces eg an icy trail that has been already grooved by previous hikers. Counter-clockwise might allow you to get away with micro-spikes, but there's the danger component if it's icy on the descent. PCTers will be coming through during the following weeks, and they will all be facing this challenge.

Kahtoola developed what they call hiking crampons to fill the gap between true crampons and micro-spikes: http://kahtoola.com/products/hiking-crampons/. I have no idea if they are any good. I have both crampons & mountaineering boots, but also micro-spikes & trail runners.

Your equipment and direction will also effect your timing on Glen. If you're ascending, then it's the traditional 6-7am alpine start (with boots, crampons & axe) to have a nice firm surface & avoid post-holing. If you're descending with micro-spikes, then it gets a little trickier, because you don't necessary want a super firm surface. In this case, an argument could be made that you actually want to hit it when it's soft(er). That is, even though you'd be post-holing, it might be preferable to slowly plunge step (risking your ankles & shins) vs slipping/falling and risking serious injury from hitting some rocks at high velocity.

My thoughts are if you have boots/crampons, then go clockwise. If you don't, then take hiking crampons/spikes and consider going counter-clockwise. You can hike to the top of Glen from the "safe" south side, but if it's looks too sketch, then you can bail on the loop. Bailing in this case, is not a big deal, because (a) you're close to your car, so it's not that far back; and (b) you can hike up to Kearsarge, take a look around the basin and/or hike back down to Vidette, then head further up Bubbs to below Forester. This whole area is beautiful regardless if you do the actual loop.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:40 pm

Forgot to mention, if you do not know how to use an ice axe and/or crampon, then don't try without taking a class, inexperience with these tools can lead to injury or death!
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Apr 18, 2016 2:24 pm

Since they didn't say they were mountaineers, I went with "just turn around" -- because ice gear does take instruction and practice.

I am surprised to find that rangers when folks call the parks are mentioning that people need ice axes for things like this, but not going on to say that such tools are very dangerous without instruction and practice. So I'll just say that here. If you can't already use gear intended to keep you from falling to certain death, please don't go try to use that gear without taking some mountaineering classes.

Seeing a lot of posts in various forums asking if they need snowshoes for this or that -- the answer is sometimes -- no, you need mountaineering skills. And snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, winter clothing, navigation skills, and to stay out of the mountains if you don't have any of that.

Below snow line may be a short trip, and a little muddy, but it will be better than sliding into rocks under melting snow. The coast is nice right now, maybe a little warm, but we were swimming in a really deep hole in the Little Sur River on Saturday.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby Ska-T » Mon Apr 18, 2016 6:09 pm

rjones787 wrote:Is there another trail you might recommend for us if its still too early?

The southern Sierra snowpack is about 20% below normal levels. So that is one area of consideration. Also, as always, lower elevations melt out before higher elevations. With those thoughts in mind,

(from the east side)
1. Golden Trout Wilderness - Many trails like this loop for example: Horseshoe Meadow > Trail Pass > Templeton Meadows > Kern Peak > Big Whitney Meadows > Cottonwood Pass > Horseshoe Meadow.

(from the west side)
2. Sequoia National Park, High Sierra Trail - Crescent Meadow > Hamilton Lakes and/or Tamarack Lake and back.

(low elevation in the northern Sierra)
3. Tahoe National Forest - Grouse Ridge > Five Lakes Basin (and many other lakes in the area) and back.
4. Yosemite National Park - Happy Isles > Little Yosemite Valley > Merced Lake and back.

(Rae Lakes without the loop or the Rae Lakes)
5. Road's End > Junction Meadow and/or Vidette Meadow. Probably can get to Charlotte Lake. Might be able to get to East Lake. Possibly could get to Center Basin.

Pros & Cons of each trip by number (besides mosquitoes). Take gaiters and microspikes.
1. Snow shouldn't be an issue. Won't be crowded. Cattle are allowed to graze there in the summer so treat your water. Not nearly as scenic as the Rae Lakes Loop or 2 or 4.
2. Hamilton Lakes are beautiful, but the area is overused. Tamarack is also beautiful and sees fewer people.
3. Snow could be an issue. Tons of lakes. Good trip for fishing.
4. Waterfalls, cascades, and you are going before Memorial Day so it shouldn't be crowded.
5. Spring run off. Could be a fun flexible trip.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby rjones787 » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:55 am

Yeah we don't have any experience with mountaineering, so I appreciate the 'turn around' approach. I've been looking at the Hetch Hetchy to Tilden lake loop...anyone have experience there? Good? Bad? Any special contingencies in May?
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:57 am

Hetch-hetchy to Rancheria Falls should be a cake walk. Tiltill Valley could be covered in snow, and a postholing nightmare, particularly later in the day. But you could hike to Rancheria Falls, and climb as far as you like towards Tiltill. Or take a day hike to LeConte Point, which has great views over the area. OR backtrack towards the Beehive and hike up to the rim of the valley and cross country to the top of Wapama Falls.

The challenge of Grouse Ridge is whether the road to the trailhead is open.
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Re: Rae Lakes Loop in May?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:00 am

Hetch Hetchy has no steep high passes but it does climb quite a lot depending on whether you do the shorter or longer loop. Sections can be flooded or the streams impossible to cross. But it's not likely that you'll be in any need of an ice axe.

The trail along the lake (Hetch Hetchy) can be hot in the afternoon, and rattlesnakes, bears and poison oak thrive there. Check with the ranger about Wapama -- though there is a bridge, the water in the falls can sweep the unwary hiker from it -- three people died there a few years back in high flow in spring.
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