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Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

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Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby seamus124 » Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:09 am

Hi all,

My wife and I are planning a 6 day trip through Ansel Adams Wilderness from July 22-28. Having read the descriptions of Bench Canyon from Roper and others, it seemed like a great destination. I am a level 3 backpacker and have spent a decent amount of time off-trail/routefinding. My wife is a level 2; she hasn't really been off-trail and is a little more apprehensive. However, I haven't done a significant river crossing (and neither has she).

My plan was as follows:
Day 1: Leave via Isberg Pass TH and follow the trail north until it peters out around Sadler Peak. Camp near Long Creek
Day 2: Follow Long Creek up to Rockbound Lake and cross over to Blue Lake/Bench Canyon
Day 3: Day hike Bench Canyon
Day 4: SHR route (in reverse) from Bench Canyon to Twin Island Lakes
Day 5: Twin Island Lakes to Hemlock Crossing
Day 6: Out via Isberg Pass TH

The section I'm most concerned about is the traverse from Bench Canyon to Twin Island Lakes and the river crossing at the Twin Island Lakes outlet. I know predicting water levels is something of a fool's errand right now, but I'm wondering if folks have any advice/thoughts on the relative difficulty of that crossing. If the water levels are quite high is traversing around the northern lake a reasonable option?

Secondly, the traverse from Bench Canyon over to Twin Island Lakes looks very doable, though it crosses that complicated basin between the two. Does anyone have specific routefinding advice for that or is following Roper's route pretty straightforward? Most of the TRs I've read have understandably focused on the Lake Catherine - Twin Island Lakes route instead of the traverse over to Bench Canyon.

Many thanks for everyone's thoughts,

Seamus



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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:36 pm

It's 15+ years since I was there, so take this for what it's worth, but my recollection is that both the outlet route and the western side of the lake (bypassing the outlet) were doable. (We did both routes--one while scouting the route beforehand, and the other on our moving day to Bench Canyon.) I believe the western side had some talus and snowfields, so it's not necessarily preferable from that perspective. But the outlet was about knee-deep in August of a dry year, so it could be a tough crossing in July of this year. Hope this helps.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby seamus124 » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:38 pm

Awesome - thanks Tom. Knowing that there is an alternative at Twin Island Lakes (even if it involves slogging through talus) is helpful. I was dreading finding the crossing too high and having to backtrack all the way back to Long Creek.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:49 pm

You will find crossing, but it may take a little scouting, just take you time.
Here is a thread where a similar question was asked: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14602

The route is pretty straight forward for the SHR route from Blue>Bench>Twin Lakes, when heading into the basin between Bench and Twin, stay at around 10200 ft, if you start east at a lower elevation you will have problems with cliffs.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby snowblind » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:39 pm

I suspect the crossing will be a bit deep now, however, it is not technical nor fast moving. I have crossed when it was calf level, but another time it was up to my crotch (as seen in the pic). I found avoiding the crossing was more trouble than it was worth.

IMG_0158-sm.JPG
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:30 pm

I have done Blue Lake - Twin Island Lake four times. The first took me 8 hours - got hung up on a lot of little cliffs and did a lot of back-tracking. Last time I did it in 4 hours. There has been a lot more use of the High Route since I first did it. Last time I did it (2010) there was a cairn that marked the spot to cross the first ridge out of Bench Canyon. First time there was none. At any rate, it is better to go higher rather than too low. I am terrible at stream crossings so I went around the west side of the northern twin lake and crossed the inlet. Although it was probably a harder route.

The trail shown on the topo map that drops into the San Joaquin is not maintained, and hard to find. I found it from the bottom up. It becomes quite faint in the upper reaches.

That last day seems pretty long. Over Isberg Pass out to where?
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:33 pm

Or do you mean go back down to the Granite Creek campground area? That makes more sense. I never thought of that as the Isberg Pass TH.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Jul 01, 2016 11:13 am

When I did the river crossing at Upper Twin Island Lake in July, the water was chest deep. (I’m short—5'7".). One possibility around it since you are going to be heading down the North Fork to Hemlock Crossing and Granite Creek is to cut down from Lower Twin Island Lake to the river. The descent might be a bit convoluted due to cliffs, but I think it’s possible to avoid class 3. At the bottom, look for a river crossing. I noticed a couple of possibilities when I was there and, in retrospect, wish I had crossed there and made my way up to Lower Twin Island instead of following Roper's route. I think it’s at least worth checking out.

Once across the North Fork, the trail is rather faint in the upper portions, but is alongside the river most of the time until the waterfall from Bench Canyon. There are a couple of great campsites in this upper portion if you're interested in stopping there. It tends to disappear and reappear in Stevenson Meadow. The wildflowers should be fabulous there—the most abundant and beautiful I ever saw in the Sierra was in Stevenson Meadow on one trip. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were also abundant.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:26 pm

The wildflowers should be fabulous there—the most abundant and beautiful I ever saw in the Sierra was in Stevenson Meadow on one trip. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were also abundant.


Have been thru there several time and if conditions are right the wildflowers can be absolutely fabulous at Stevenson as they can be in Bench Canyon. :nod:
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby seamus124 » Fri Jul 01, 2016 1:33 pm

Thanks all for the advice - good to hear there are multiple options for the crossing. I had heard that the trail coming up from Stevenson Meadow was faint in the upper reaches, so had planned to basically head southeast along the various tributaries and try to find the trail near where they all consolidate (immediately SE of the southern Twin Island Lake) - good to know that it could be challenging.

Snowblind - thanks for the photo - it's good to have a visual. I suspect if it's much deeper than your photo we'll try to either traverse around the lake or check the direct descent into the valley.

Just to answer all the questions - yeah, we were planning to exit at Granite Creek campground - so the last day is longish, but not excessively so. The worst part, I suspect, will be the climb up from from Hemlock Crossing.
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 01, 2016 1:59 pm

Keep an eye out as you ascend from Hemlock, there maybe an area that has 1000's of Shooting Star's on the northern side of the trail at about 7600-7800 ft. :nod:
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Re: Bench Canyon & Twin Island Lakes Traverse Advice

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Jul 01, 2016 4:57 pm

I like to do your last day in reverse (trailhead to Hemlock Crossing) because of Surprise Saddle (the knoll north of Bugg Meadow). When I led a trip into this area in 1999 there was a woman in the group from Indiana who was marveling at the forest. I told her I found the forested areas kind of boring (sorry, John Muir!) and she was shocked--how could I be bored by this wonderful forest? Then we got to Surprise Saddle and suddenly the view of the Ritter Range opened up wide in front of us (surprise!), and she turned to me and said "okay, now I understand."
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