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Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

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Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby steiny98 » Thu May 12, 2016 9:54 am

Hi All,

Hoping to get some advice from the community on if a trip I'm thinking of is doable/advisable for me and a friend.

We have been backpacking in the Eastern Sierras for a few years now, and completed a bit over half the JMT before being forced off the trail due to the rough fire last year (hopefully can do it again in 2017). We are strong trail hikers, but have very limited cross country experience. We did do some cross country exploring around Red Slate Mountain a few years ago, but nothing serious. Interests are views, mileage, and we'd like to try out fishing this summer too.

After reading The Last Season I got the idea to visit both Window Peak Lake and Bench Lake. We'd like to do this in early September.

The general route would be as follows:
Climb in via Sawmill Pass
Connect to the JMT
Split off the JMT following the creeks coming off the two lakes east and below window peak (I call this window peak lake) and follow these up to window peak lake.
Then it is up in the air on how to reach bench lake.
Once getting to Bench Lake, follow the trail down to the JMT, take it south, and back over Sawmill Pass.

The passes I'm thinking of from getting from Window Peak Lake to Bench Lake are:
Explorer Pass
Combination of White Fork Saddle/White Fork Pass

Has anyone does this route before, or can they share any advice on a route? Also do you think this is feasible in 5 days/4 nights?

Thanks for the help!



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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby ExploreABitMore » Thu May 12, 2016 10:12 am

Sawmill Pass is a bit of a bear to get up. ~7000 feet of gain, IIRC? Definitely want a very early start to beat the heat, it's in the desert for a ways.

Anyhow, that's one thing to keep in mind for your trip. Also, cross country can be a bit rough with a big pack on, if you're not used to it. Throw that on top of getting over Sawmill and the trip may require a bit more exertion than what one might imagine.

I've been part of the way up the drainage for Explorer Pass, before turning back to climb Arrow Peak. I don't recall it being particularly rough, but I believe the pass itself is reputed to have some Class 3. I'm sure somebody on here can provide more details.
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby steiny98 » Thu May 12, 2016 10:27 am

ExploreABitMore, thanks for the advice. Totally understood about Sawmill... our plan is to either hike part way up with a late afternoon start or attempt to make it over in one day, but starting very early in the morning, like 4 or 5 AM.

How light are packs normally for cross country? We'd like to think we are decently lightweight, definitely not ultralight. We would probably have pack weights somewhere around 25 lbs with water.
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby maverick » Thu May 12, 2016 1:57 pm

Hi Steiny98,

Welcome to HST! See you have included some info, please read, and give us some more info: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

Even though the WFP and WPS are relatively easy class 2, I am hesitant to recommend any info, at least until you can give us some more information about what hikes you have done, what kind of mileage you can do, whether you possess good navigation skills, so on an so forth.

Cross country travel is dangerous enough for those who have the experience and understand the risks involved, but heading into areas that are seldom traveled, with no experience, based on a novel, sounds like something from a movie script that could potentially end up as a disaster.

Maybe you should consider getting some cross country experience in a place like Humphrey's Basin, where navigation is easy because the lay of the land, which is wide open with numerous landmarks to orient off of, and it gets enough traffic in case you have an emergency. Build up your experience and confidence on different types of terrain (scree, talus, creek crossing) before taking a stab at some more serious, and remote cross country.
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby steiny98 » Thu May 12, 2016 7:09 pm

Maverick-

Thanks for the reply. Well Maverick, when you put it that way... it definitely does sound like something from a movie script that could end in disaster.

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel
Eastern Sierras: Yosemite to Evolution Canyon on the JMT with an exit over Piute Pass last year; Twin Lakes "Lollipop" loop out of lodgepole (2014) , Red Slate Mountain via Convict canyon trail (2013). Other various backpacking trips on the California Coast, SoCal, and along the AT in New York. Have definitely progressed in skill and comfort over the years. Started out with a 40 lbs pack and struggling to do 8 miles, now down to a significantly lower pack weight and comfortable doing 20+ miles on trail in a day. I'm comfortable using map and compass, but prior to this September a requirement for myself is one of those REI classes that practices triangulation in the field. We also carry a SPOT with us.

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
Comfortable:
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- River crossings

Uncomfortable:
- Class 3 terrain/pass/x-country

Moderately Comfortable:
Have had some experience with crossing snow patches and going off trail on scree/talus in the below areas:
2015: Before taking the trail crossing East over Piute Pass towards Bishop we did some off trail exploring of the area. If my memory serves correctly we explored the Lower Golden Trout Lakes. This was very easy terrain to go off trail on as it was wide open.

2013:This was my first backpacking trip in the sierras and we decided to go off trail from Lake Dorothy up to the base of Red Slate Mountain. We tried to climb the mountain, but thunderstorms and exhaustion told us otherwise. We crossed snow here.

- See more at: http://www.highsierratopix.com/high-sie ... dpidz.dpuf


Proposed Route:
To be clear, I don't think Explorer Pass is for me. Definitely want to stay away from class 3 passes. I'm confident in my ability to climb scree/talus, but I have no interest in climbing a class 3 pass. Hope I gave enough information for suggestions. Thanks!
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby maverick » Fri May 13, 2016 12:04 pm

Thank you for supplying the additional information.

Would recommend that you go for 5 nights. Spend your first night at either Sawmill or Woods Lake>Window Lake (layover day)>Bench Lake>Twin Lakes or Woods Lake. Take a layover at either Window Lake or Bench Lake, take in the gorgeous scenery, no sense to run thru the area. If you fish, then Bench lake is the bomb.
Here is the info on the passes:
viewtopic.php?f=31&t=8544
viewtopic.php?f=31&t=8532

Route on the HST Map in red:
HST Map
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby SSSdave » Fri May 13, 2016 1:37 pm

Sierra pass reference:

http://www.sierrabackpacker.com/sierrapasses-new.htm

The reason Explorer's Pass is used is because there is nothing less dangerous. Someone that tried to avoid it.

http://www.sierrahiker.com/ArrowPeak-Mu ... index.html

Such places with exposure miles from help if one falls are often scary enough when one is free climbing with a small day pack to bag a peak but the problem carrying a backpack into such places as pitch gets steep is the weight of a pack on a persons back tends to pull one back off the rock. Thus while one's hands are in a death grip on some rock hold, at the same time the weight of the pack magnifies the stopping forces required for of any movement.

The less difficult class 2 choice is Whitefork Pass up Whitefork Creek.

But here is a better idea if you want some crosscountry challenge without getting in over your head. First climbing up 6k over the crest in one day is nuts for most of us. Better just to go part way and then the next morning go over and enjoy most of a day in the wonderful Woods Lake basin. Next day climb up crosscountry to Coloseum Col and bag Mount Cedric Wright then drop down scree and talus to the trail and continue over Pinchot Pass and on the trail past Lake Marjorie and vector crosscountry off past a small noname pond wandering over to these map cross hairs:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.94619,-118.44158&z=14&t=T

Then descend to Bench while traversing high enough that one can visit the noname lakelet southeast:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.95298,-118.45016&z=14&t=T

This is the kind of cross country many of us do. Little diversion away from trails to visit features that interest us. With fishermen it is often noname lakes away from trails because they sometimes have fabulous trout. For photographers like me it is often to size up what a reflection might look like early morning. For a peakbagger before climbing a peak it may be to reach a more efficient location well away from trails for them to continue on towards a later destination. For others it is just the joy of journeying freely through terrain making constant decisions.

The one really significant mistake many that venture offtrail make is leaving their map in their pack and just moving about by sight along. There is a huge advantage to continually looking at a topo while moving through terrain.

David
http://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_C ... les-0.html
Last edited by SSSdave on Fri May 13, 2016 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby maverick » Fri May 13, 2016 1:47 pm

Sierra pass reference:

http://www.sierrabackpacker.com/sierrapasses-new.htm

The reason Explorer's Pass is used is because there is nothing less dangerous. Someone that tried to avoid it.

http://www.sierrahiker.com/ArrowPeak-Mu ... index.html

Such places with exposure miles from help if one falls are often scary enough when one is free climbing with a small day pack to bag a peak but the problem carrying a backpack into such places as pitch gets steep is the weight of a pack on a persons back tends to pull one back off the rock. Thus while one's hands are in a death grip on some rock hold, at the same time the weight of the pack magnifies the stopping forces required for of any movement.

The less difficult class 2 choice is Whitefork Pass up Whitefork Creek.

But here is a better idea if you want some crosscountry challenge. First climbing up 6k over the crest in one day is nuts for most of us. Better just to go part way and then the next morning go over and enjoy most of a day in the wonderful Woods Lake basin. Next day climb up to Coloseum Col and bag Mount Cedric Wright then drop down to the trail and continue over Pinchot Pass and on the trail past Lake Marjorie and vector off past a small noname pond wandering over to these map cross hairs:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.94619,-118.44158&z=14&t=T

Then descend to Bench while traversing high enough that one can visit the noname lakelet southeast:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.95298,-118.45016&z=14&t=T

This is the kind of cross country many of us do. Little diversion away from trails to visit features that interest us. With fishermen it is often noname lakes away from trails because they sometimes have fabulous trout. For photographers like me it is often to size up what a reflection might look like early morning. For others it is just the joy of journeying freely through terrain making constant decisions.

The one really significant mistake many that venture offtrail make is leaving their map in their pack and just moving about by sight along. There is a huge advantage to continually looking at a topo while moving through terrain.

David
http://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_C ... les-0.html


Agree Dave that your outlined route is good one, if the OP was just looking for just a cross country/off-trail in that area, but the OP's main reason for visiting this section (Window Lake) was because he is intrigued with it after reading "The Last Season", and then on to visit Bench Lake.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby steiny98 » Sun May 15, 2016 1:12 pm

Thanks for the suggestion Dave. Looks like an interesting route, definitely something I will consider.

If I were to continue on the Window Lake path, would it make sense to crossover to the Whitefork drainage by coming back down to the JMT and then back up the White Fork Drainage effectively avoiding the White Fork Saddle to get from the Window Peak drainage to the Whitefork drainage? This way I'd just have to use the Whitefork pass to get over to Bench Lake.

Dave- I hear you in the sense that most people use trail and just veer off to get to points of interest. It seems like the route I am suggesting basically puts me half off trail and half on trail. If the idea of connecting Window Peak Lake and Bench Lake is ludicrous then I guess I will have to reconsider visiting both lakes on this one trip.

Thanks again!
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Re: Window Peak Lake/Bench Lake Suggestions

Postby oldranger » Sun May 15, 2016 8:51 pm

We also carry a SPOT with us.


Just to be clear--A locator device is not a permit to get in over your head. So carrying one or not has nothing to do with whether you should do a route or not.

Mike
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