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TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humphrey

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TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humphrey

Postby jkenagy » Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:46 pm

Three of my friends and I took our annual Sierra backpacking trip on 7/19/16 to 7/23/16 in the Humpreys Basin and French Canyon area via Piute Pass from North Lake outside of Bishop. More detailed trip review follows below but a highest level summary is as follows:

-- Mosquitos were out but we've seen much worse in past years and the wind helped. Just bring some deet and head net.
-- Wildflowers are out in incredible force. I've never seen anything like it.
-- It's nice to see lots of snow still! Last year, this area was completely bare at this time. Now it's not but micro spikes or similar are not needed.
-- This is an awesome area to do mellow cross country hiking in. Very simple XC passes and easy navigation compared to other parts of the Sierra. Very easy to change itinerary around based on weather, interests, etc.

I recorded our tracks with photo waypoints included using Gaia GPS on my iPhone and have embedded those links in the more detailed trip report that now follows:

Pre hike day, 7/18/16, at North Lake outside of Bishop:

The Northlake campsite does not take reservations so we made sure to pick up our permit and some pre-hike grub plenty early and got to the campsite before 2pm. We had reserved a campsite at Four Jeffrey via recreation.gov just in case but ended up not using it since we scored a great site at the Nortrh Lake campground after all. We got campsite #4 which is a short walk-in site and is right on Bishop Creek. We stopped by the excellent Manor Market on the edge of Bishop for beer and ribs on the way up the hill and had a nice night acclimatizing evening. Some mosquitos but no biggie and no tents needed.

Day 1 of trip, Over Piute Pass to Piute Creek / Packsaddle Lake area:

It's a little under 5 miles to the pass and it's a very mellow, easy hike. Very pleasurable. Water is flowing beautifully and there's some snow visible fairly quickly but nothing hindering.

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Big snow field at the east side of the pass.
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After the pass, we took the lower trail to golden trout lakes and then continued past until we got the a nicely running Piute creek.

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Post hike swimming in the creek.
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We dropped packs and a couple of us hoofed it over to Packsaddle Lake. It was windy and my buddy lost the spindle to his reel on the way over so we didn't stay long. We headed back for dinner and then had nice weather that allowed us to sleep tentless.

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The view from bed, waking up after night 1.
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Here's a link to our day 1 track on GaiaGPS.com that includes photo waypoints: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/b9bfed257802bdda36b074d4ef34f13e/

Day 2 of trip, Down to Hutchison Meadows then up French Canyon to L Lake:

It was a very pleasant mellow trail all the way until we decided to cross country up to the basin for the last couple miles, which was also quite mellow.

The falls above French Canyon were flowing wonderfully as you can see in this picture:

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We hiked past Elba lake then past Moon Lake then past L lake until we decided to stop for the night. A couple of us hiked up to French Lake and caught a few fish but threw them back. Nice lil goldens.

Here's a link to our day 2 track on GaiaGPS.com that includes photo waypoints:
https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/2b1e4308a428519a5b7cf4ede4592185/

Days 3 and 4 of trip, 2 nights at Elba with Pilot Knob day hiking and lake cruising:

Waking up after night 2, we remarked that Lake Elba looked like it had some sweet camp areas when we passed it the day before and so we decided to go explore down there and if we liked it, we'd overnight there for 2 nights so we could do relaxing and day hikes.

Before heading down though, we went fishing at Steelhead lake. We caught a couple nice 12-14 inch goldens there and cooked them up for lunch.

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Upon arriving at Lake Elba, we found a great site and immediately decided to stay two nights. Lake Elba has GREAT sites and I recommend it highly as compared to Moon, Little/L, French, Steelhead, or Puppet Lakes. All of these aforementioned lakes are easy to get to from a base camp at Elba.

From our groovy Hobbit Land base at Elba, we had a great time playing frisbee, fishing, and going on day hikes to the summit of Pilot Knob.

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Headed back to Elba from L Lake. The purple flowers were EVERYWHERE and were super fragrant. Amazing.
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The falls visible in the distance from Lake Elba.
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Looking up at Pilot Knob from Lake Alsace. There is a couple ramps from Lake Elba all the way past Lake Alsace and then to the base of Pilot Knob (see Gaia link for route). Lake Alsace has nice looking camp areas too but we liked our Lake Elba.
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My buddy Jordan chillaxin on top of Pilot Knob. GREAT views all around. One of the best pano views in the Sierras that I've seen.
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Here's a link to our day 4 track from Lake Elba up Pilot Knob on GaiaGPS.com that includes photo waypoints:
https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/a33d0a3bb1bc45d03174de6c4ac9b554/

Day 5 of trip, Over Puppet Pass / Carol Col then back over Piute Pass:

We ascended directly from Lake Elba to the basin that holds Puppet Lake and then cruised on to Roget Lake where the access point to Puppet Pass / Carol Col is. Follow the wall up on the left hand side of the bowl/ridge and you'll easily get up the pass. See our Gaia GPS track for the exact route. Once over the pass, we travelled through more amazing fields of super purple wildflowers until we eventually got back on the trail to Piute Pass. From there, more pleasant hiking until we headed out to drink beer and gorge at Schats Roadhouse before the drive back to San Diego.

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The top of Puppet Pass / Carol Col. See our Gaia GPS track for the specific route.
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Me relaxing amongst the millions of super fragrant wildflowers (with my full pack on with no problem since its a bitchin Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrunner 4400 pack).
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Here's a link to our day 4 track on GaiaGPS.com that includes photo waypoints:
https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/b9587f6ec5be28d8cebae7c4fd24f079/

As usual, rain or shine (but all shine this time), it was a great trip. The Sierras are THE BEST!



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jkenagy
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Re: TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humph

Postby notis » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:13 pm

Thanks so much for the Gaia GPS route--going over Carol Col in a week for the first time. The ability to drop your pictures to waypoints is really cool. I can't wait to see those wildflowers in a week! Mesa Lake looks like it's got a beach!

What are your thoughts on the North Lake campground on a Wednesday night? We're rolling in late (from San Diego as well) and I know it's summer. How busy was it on that Monday you were there?
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Re: TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humph

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:40 pm

Nice report. The wonderfully fragrant blue/purple flowers are lupines. Many lupines have little fragrance, but some of them are simply wonderful. I remember whole fields around Martha Lake in 1994. I almost wonder if this varies seasonally, too. I walked through some nice lupine fields in the Humphreys Basin-Glacier Divide area last summer and don't remember them being so fragrant. Last week I was up near Tioga Pass and the lupine fields had some of the best fragrance I can ever remember.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humph

Postby jkenagy » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:39 pm

Notis, the Northlake campground had a few sites open when we rolled in at around 2pm on Monday but there were zero sites when we exited on Saturday at 4pm-ish. Of course there's a big diff between Monday and Saturday and I think Wednesday would be closer to Saturday. We got a site the year before at mid week too. It's a small campground but pretty much all the sites seem good -especially the short walk walk-in sites #2, 4, 5, etc near the bathrooms (and I think we happened to score by getting what seems to be the absolute best site: site 4). Have fun!
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Re: TR: 5 day Piute Pass to French Canyon, Pilot Knob, Humph

Postby notis » Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:58 pm

Great, thanks my friend! I'll try our luck there and have Four Jeffrey as a backup like you did. I can't wait!
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