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1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

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1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:45 am

Not a trip report, but a brief trip record for those interested in gathering some additional information regarding the section of the SHR between 1000 Island lake and Tuolumne meadows. I considered posting this in the meet-up thread, but of course it wouldn't be easily found by anyone looking for specific information on this section. Also, there's lots of trip reports, but my intent here is to just lay out some general impressions by a late 50s hiker in good physical condition.

OK, here's my chart recording my actual mileage waypoints, elevation gain/loss and time:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... kl7fs/edit

A quick look will reveal, as expected, that trail times fall around the 2-2.5 mph zone, but off-trail x-country drops to around 1/2 to 1/3 of those numbers. What this tells me is that I can multiply (difficult) x-country by a factor of around 2-3 to get an approximate trip estimate in terms of time planning, energy staging (ie hard day/easy day), etc. In other words, taking almost 8 hours to go 7 miles on the SHR was roughly equivalent - energy/time wise - as hiking 9 hours to go 18-19 miles on the Isberg trail.

OK, general impressions:
1. Follow Roper's route instructions. For this section of the SHR, there is (IMO) only one good route, and it's the one he describes. It's a convoluted area without any real open areas that provide multiple options. You should thoroughly acquaint yourself with the book, carefully study topos, and record micro-paths on your maps.

Looking across the valley from Catherine that SHR route follows:
Image

2. Each general .25-.5-1 mile waypoint actually consists of many, many slight variations in gain/loss, traverses, contours, etc. Pay attention to his general recommendations:
- climb down the class III waterfall (below Catherine) on the north side. I considered Rocky's route when I was looking at the horseshoe cliff, but kept walking along the north ridge until there was slight crevasse at around 60+ degrees with hand & foot holds;

- getting to the "Tree Grove" is actually pretty easy. There isn't a use trail per se, but there is evidence of foot traffic in the scree. It looks worse on a map, but is actually very straightforward.

- getting from the Tree Grove to the lower Twin island lake is hard. I went very slow trying to follow his route - it's not obvious at first, but it's there, just as Roper describes. If I was to recommend anything, I would probably suggest to just phone in the whole "don't lose elevation" business. That is, suck it up by dropping 300-500' or so, do the easy walk across the narrow canyon, then up climb to the Twin island lakes.

Lower Twin island lake - outlet is just to the right. The ford is a gigantic nothing-burger. Roper must be afraid of water, because he spends a lot of time (relatively speaking) on it. To me it was calf high, zero current - I liked finally getting a chance to get wet and cool down. I hung out here for an hour or so, taking a bath and laying around.
Image

- the section between Twin island lakes and the oasis at the beginning of Bench canyon is hard. Not so much route finding, but again, talus, rock outcroppings, constant up and down can wear you down. Pay attention to what Roper suggests by staying at a constant 10.2k. Any lower, and you're in a steep, loose canyon with trees, any higher, and you're climbing a cliff. There's a narrow band that gets to the 10.2 tarn - you'll see it as you round the bend.

- from the tarn to Bench canyon, again, like Roper recommends, stay @ 10.2k by constantly orienting yourself to the SE knob outcropping. Any higher than the 10.3k knob you'll be climbing a cliff; any lower, and you'll be in a Grand canyon type of cliff wall situation.

- once you make it to the Bench canyon oasis, you're pretty much home free. I guess Bench canyon is named for all the easy open countryside strolling and benches. My type of hiking.

- your last obstacle is Blue lake pass. It looks formidable from upper Blue lake, but if you stay to the north of lake below Foerster, it's actually pretty straightforward. It has a bunch of talus gullies extending down to the lake that you may want to avoid. In my particular case, I followed the obvious drainage below Foerster, getting maybe 50'+ higher the pass and then contouring straight over 200 yards over (fairly) easy talus.

I followed an even more obvious drainage off to the right. The terrain below Foerster on the east side is straightforward. Study your topo and you will see.
Image

The view from Blue lake pass is pretty impressive. Here's Banner, Ritter & the Minarets from an angle few people see. Another photo didn't turn out so well, but I could clearly see Milestone, Langley, Whitney, Russell, Willy, Split, Arrow, Goddard, et al.
Image

- when you get down to the plateau below Foerster but above Isberg, just make a line-of-sight beeline for the 11,210 knoll. Contour around the base, turn left and descend down to the trail. If you go too far north (maybe another 200+ yards), you'll know - it's a cliff. Turn too soon, cliff. Study your topo - the route is obvious on the map.

Field o' flowers on the plateau above the Isberg trail
Image

- I really liked the Isberg trail - it's so lightly used it's almost like a well developed use trail. There's a little bit of poop just to let you know rangers & trail crews are out there, but not too much.

- I was pleasantly surprised by Vogelsang pass - very pretty. Not heavily trafficked since HSC hikers usually take the shorter route up/down to Merced.

Vogelsang lake coming down from the pass - the HSC is just out of sight. Still trying to talk my wife into doing this trip. Promises of easy 7 mile days, cooked meals and plenty of drinks/socializing to keep a city girl happy - maybe.
Image



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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:30 pm

There's an HST thread from 2007 that has some good images of the passage between Catherine & Blue lakes on this particular section of the SHR:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2209

The area where Larry injured his shoulder was the 1.5+- mile section between Twin island lakes and the pond @ 10,170 (10.2k tarn). As he mentioned, because the area is so convoluted and textured, you cannot see the tarn until you are almost right on top of it. In looking at my map, I can see I was cutting across just slightly above the 3100m topo contour line - around 3,120m or 10,250'.

I couldn't see the tarn, but I knew it was there because of the cascade dropping down into the canyon from the outlet. I just kept orienting myself towards the fold, and then all of a sudden I was standing over the pond nestled down in a (minor) cliff edged bowl.

As is typical of this entire section, you can't just 'walk around' the tarn; that would be too easy. No, you have to climb down, then climb back up. Minor, sure - we're talking 50-100 feet, but it's constant. To stay level on the 10.2k traverse - until you can finally drop down to the Bench canyon oasis and begin to reap the reward for all your hard effort - you have to first pay with a lot of up, down & around. That's why the times are so slow - if it was just talus and/or boulder hopping, then it would be more like getting over/around a standard class II pass/section. (For example, the east side approach up N Glacier pass or the west side down from Blue lake pass.)
Last edited by Hobbes on Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:52 pm

Perhaps apropos of nothing, but IMO, the reason Roper chose the Isberg/Rafferty trail to exit from this section of the SHR was because of the Cathedral range. Wandering Daisy has said it best, in that Roper created a nice, class II+ route that hits all the highlights, but doesn't require any 'real' mountaineering capabilities.

The Cathedral range reminds me of the Palisades - there just isn't any "easy" way over them without possessing skill sets few hikers (myself included) possess. Climbers? Sure, but Roper was shooting for a market comprised of advanced backpackers, not a narrow range of peak baggers. As I was hiking up Vogelsang pass, this notion really hit home. I've hiked various portions of the Roper route, as well as the so-called SoSHR (http://www.adventurealan.com/southern-s ... shr-guide/), but as I looked back to take this shot, it was readily apparent (at least to me) why he didn't "force" the route through the Cathedrals:

Gallison lake/upper Lewis creek drainage below Simmons peak
Image

Now, we all know there's experienced folks here @ HST who have hiked around/over these mountains & passes. My point is Roper understood that a 'regular' advanced backpacker trying to hike the SHR probably doesn't have the time, gear, skills or inclination to spend just getting past this particularly range. Besides, who would want the (implied) responsibility of leading people off into that type of terrain? Sandbagging is a favored practice by Roper, Secor and other old hands, but the Cathedrals put the lie to even normal understatements. Hence, the decision to bail to the trail below Blue lake pass and continue all the way to Tuolumne meadows.
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby wildhiker » Wed Aug 03, 2016 6:34 pm

Hi Hobbes,

Interesting speculations about Roper's intent in routing the SHR on the High Trail and over Vogelsang Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. Then he has a long walk on a trail paralleling the Tioga Road up to Tioga Pass, where he has the SHR continue on more rugged terrain to the north. Personally, I think that he either was not that familiar with the Cathedral Range and crest in this area, or just felt that the SHR was getting too long and he needed to "cut to the chase" to get to TM. Or maybe he thought folks would want to resupply in TM.

A more exciting route that stays high in the wilderness would be to leave the Lewis Creek trail at the junction to Bernice Lake, head up to Bernice Lake, then class 1 cross-country up the valley behind it with a steep class 2 section over talus over the pass to the Ireland Lake drainage. From here, it is almost all class 1 on slabs and meadows, with just short little sections of talus, to contour over to the pass south of Amelia Earhart Peak, then down to the lakes on Maclure Creek, then contour over to the highest lake on the Lyell Fork where you hit the JMT, then follow the JMT for only one mile uphill and leave it to contour around the headwaters of the Kuna Creek basin to the pass on Kuna Crest. Now you are back to class 2 descending a steep, but stable, talus slope to Helen Lake. Then an easy class 1 walk down to the trail along Parker Creek to the Mono Pass trailhead, with only a very short walk to Tioga Pass to continue the SHR north. This alternative is much longer, and skips TM entirely, but it is exceptionally scenic. My wife and I have done all of it in sections with our children when they were as young as 7, except for the pass between Bernice Lake and Ireland Lake (which is the hardest part), which we did by ourselves a few years ago when I just turned 60.

On the other hand, I'm glad that Roper's published SHR in this area uses the trails through TM, because my alternative route described above is little used and I'd like to keep it that way :-).

-Phil
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Thu Aug 04, 2016 8:14 am

Good points. To go one better, you could forgo N Glacier and head to Rogers. Descend Rogers to the upper Merced, then go up & over Sluggo. From there you could generally connect to your route. The same is true when the SHR joins the JMT below Dusy - Roper could have stayed high and routed it through Haeckel, Lamarck, etc. Finally, he skips the entire south Sierra; hence the SoSHR.

But all of those additions/variations would make the idea of a physically possible end-to-end SHR 'thru-hike' that much more difficult.

I don't know if I buy the notion that Roper wasn't familiar with the Cathedrals. He spent years in the Valley - it would have been trivial for the Camp 4 crew to go "slumming" up in TM now & then for a party, get together, whatever while playing around with peaks like Lyell, et al. Traversing from Catherine to Blue lakes makes it apparent he had definitely spent some time exploring/thinking about the 'best' route.

If there had been a doable class II+ route north from the Lyell branch over the Cathedrals, it would be hard to imagine why he would bail to the trail. Consider also if a path was available, everyone would be doing the alternate. Roper would suffer missing that section and have to update his book. As it is, even if you search the HST archives, you will see that while a few poke around (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2405), it's usually a dedicated trip to the area, and no one (at least from what I can find) has really put together a full traverse.

These guys went south over Rogers, but not over the Cathedrals:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum ... l-Forks-TR
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:28 am

Great TR and photos of this section posted here:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14911&p=111259#p111250
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Bluewater » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:32 pm

Thanks for the details on this section of the SHR! I will definitely review it before heading out for the final section of the HR that I haven't done (Lake Catherine to Isberg Trail). Leaving the best for last?
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:28 am

Besides its natural attractions, it's a great section hike from a logistics standpoint. Nothing can be easier than leaving a car behind @ the Mammoth lodge, jumping on the Red's bus, then taking YARTS all the way back.

No need for arranging shuttles, scheduling hiking partners, etc - just get up and go. It also fits really well for people who enjoy quick in & out trips. (4 nights from Reds, 3 nights from Agnew.) No fuss, no muss, just go hiking.
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby maverick » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:26 pm

On the other hand, I'm glad that Roper's published SHR in this area uses the trails through TM, because my alternative route described above is little used and I'd like to keep it that way :-).

:thumbsup:
That is a very pretty route Wildhiker, there are a couple of points where one can cross the Cathedral Range between Parsons and Simmons Peaks instead of the having to do the official named pass in that area called "Hell Hole", without going into class 3 territory, it is interesting that this alternate and arguable more scenic section of the Cathedral Range was passed up for the trailed route to TM, but only Roper could answer his reasoning behind it.

My question would be why folks with solid cross-country and navigational experience continue to feel the need to follow someone else's routes and not to do their own. Solving route-finding/navigational difficulties is part of the experience of gaining total wilderness freedom, finally breaking the dependency of having to follow traffic laws, streets, highways, trails or routes that someone else has created or done.
Crossing a particular range does not have to be done in a described manner or over an official Secor listed pass, there are many unlisted/un-named passes that can be used, otherwise we will only be followers and not explorers, which is fine for the majority, but should be taken advantage of by the experienced, it is truly liberating feeling.

Meaning of Explorer: a person who investigates unknown regions, a person who travels to places where no one has ever been to learn about them
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: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 11, 2016 7:48 pm

Saying that the crossing of the outlet of lower Twin Lakes is easy (and that Roper must be afraid of water) is based on your experience, "Year 5" of a long term drought. I have been to that crossing twice in higher snow years and decided to go around the other shore. Waist deep crossings have been documented in wetter years. Waist deep on a regular sized person is chest deep on me! Call me "afraid" of water, but saying it is calf-deep is a reflection of very non-normal flow conditions.

I have done several variations on Roper's route from Catherine Lake to Blue Canyon and I would not say that Roper's route is the only reasonable possibility. If you count each way, I have done that trek eight times. Most of the variations are a "six of one, half dozen the other". Roper himself talks about trying several different routes and the difficulty in choosing one over the other. There actually is an old mining trail over some parts.

Roper's intent (as stated in his guide) is to present a general route and hopes that others find many ways. He never intended for a GPS way-point route that will eventually result in a use-trail. Between the first time I did that route and the last, someone even has put up some cairns (shame on you!). In my opinion, this has degraded the route. I am not trying to criticize you Hobbes; a GPS waypoint "guide" of Roper's route has been out there on the internet for years. If you are a good off-trail route-finder, you do not need anyone else's GPS waypoints. The terrain is complex, but solving that puzzle is half the fun of the route.
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:33 pm

Sorry, re-read my post and I did NOT imply that you, Hobbes, put up any cairns. The "shame on you" applied to that person who put up the cairns many years ago. I think there was a lengthy discussion on another thread about cairns vs no cairns for off-trail routes.

Also I am a bit late in this discussion. I just saw this post, since I was gone most of the summer.
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Re: 1000 Island -> Tuolumne via SHR trip record

Postby Hobbes » Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:34 pm

My wife gave me a heads up that the flight from John Wayne to Reno went right over the Sierra crest. I was thinking maybe Walker or Carson pass - little did I suspect that with the prop flying @ only 22k, it was only a few thousand feet right over Ritter/Banner! I didn't have my phone out/ready, but vowed to get some shots on the way back. The return was a little more west, so I was able to get a better perspective.

In this shot, you can see Lyell + glacier, Electra, Adams & Foerster, with Ritter/Banner in the background. The 2016 HST meet-up lake was at the very bottom middle of the photo (Ansell Adams directly above @ 1 o'clock). To the right of Foerster (just above the window frame in lower right of photo), you can see the two shimmering Blue lakes - Blue lake pass is just to the right of Foerster. The SHR follows the contour from Catherine (below Ritter/Banner) to Blue lakes.

Image

This shot is a little closer: you can see the canyon/cascade below Catherine. To the left is the unnamed lake above the Twin Island lakes. Even better, you can see the elusive 10.2k tarn in the middle/bottom of the photo, with just the slightest peak of the upper Twin island lake over the ridge line that is contoured around from the south.

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