TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

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TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:39 am

Route: Green Creek TH > West Lake > Par Value Lakes > Virginia Pass > Return Lake > Soldier Lake > Summit Pass > Nutter Lake > Green Creek TH

Route taken (Note: GPS died between West Lake and Par Value Lakes.)

After waiting too long this spring to secure a permit to a more in-demand east side trail head, we took a chance and were able to get a permit in the Hoover Wilderness departing from the Green Creek trail head.

Four of us arrived at the Bridgeport Ranger Station just after 11 am on Wednesday. We grabbed our permit, our fifth member arrived shortly later, and we decided to skip lunch in Bridgeport and head to the trail head. This would turn out later to be a mistake, at least for me.

At the trail head, we prepped gear and ate from our plentiful supplies of trail mix, jerky, and crackers. Excited to get on the trail, I barely ate. We started hiking by 1pm, with the heat of the day building. Halfway to West Lake, I started to bonk. My companions were gracious enough to wait while I rested and offered me food, but it was too late. By the time we finished the climb to West Lake I was jittery and spent. After some miso soup and rest, I regained some energy and we enjoyed the evening at the established campsites on the east side of the lake. Fish rose, but I was too tired to give it a try. A slight rain came and passed quickly.

Climbing up above Green Lake
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Trail to West Lake

West Lake
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Later that evening, after we had gone to bed, I noticed a flashing light. I poked my head up from my bivy expecting to see one of my companions with a headlamp. Instead, I saw a huge fireball as it streaked eastward. It had twin tails and flashed in bursts as it slowly moved across the sky. I thought I was witnessing an extinction level event and quickly did the calculus: Will we survive the shockwave? How fast could we get out of here? How long to get back to our families? I did hear an explosion or sonic boom about 5 minutes later, but nothing that warranted bailing on the trip. Turns out I had witnessed the reentry of a Chinese rocket launched in June. (A quick YouTube search will yield a few videos of the event.)

The next morning, after relaying what I had witnessed, we packed up and started the day’s hike. We hiked overland up to Par Value Lakes, then followed the drainage down to Glines Valley and hooked up with the use trail that goes up to Virginia Pass. Most of this was pretty straight forward, just following the obvious contour lines with some bush whacking and modest route finding as we descended into Glines Canyon. The largest Par Value Lake was a beautiful spot with fish rising in the morning sun. The descent offered great views of the valley and upon reaching the use trail we stopped at the creek crossing and refilled our water. Everything was beautiful.

Route to Par Value Lakes
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Looking back at West Lake
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The largest of the Par Value Lakes
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Par Value Lakes drainage
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Looking down upon Glines Canyon, Gabbro Peak to the left
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The climb to Virginia Pass is steady, but the trail is in good shape, making for relatively easy climbing. Upon reaching the pass, we were afforded a wonderful view of Virginia Canyon, Shepherd Crest, and our target, Return Lake. I choose a route from the pass that followed the contour lines and avoided losing as much elevation as possible. I was told that I’d “step over my own mother” to avoid losing elevation. The walk around the canyon was a bit taxing on our feet, and we hiked from the loose rock on the edges of the canyon down to the percolating water in the marshy bottom. We reached Return Lake easily.

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Up to Virginia Pass
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Looking across Virginia Canyon, a sliver of Return Lake visible just right of center, Virginia Peak to the right
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We camped near the outlet, not finding many established or good spots anywhere else around the lake. As the evening progressed, the thunderheads grew to the east of us. The wind shifted many times, but rain never came. The clouds did shine in the evening light—a show to be sure.

Evening light across Virginia Canyon
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Last edited by Carne_DelMuerto on Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:54 am

The next day was our layover day with a day hike up to Twin Peaks on the schedule. I has studied the route and believed the drainage that leads between the two peaks to be the best choice. We looked at it, and although it may have been passable for us, we decided on the safer, more obviously class 2 route up the eastern drainage. We struck out early and worked our way up the talus. It varied from large stable rocks to small loose ones that demanded more attention. The occasional snow patch offered quick movement up the slope. About halfway up, we took a break to eat. I looked above my friend to see an irregular shape in the landscape—like a surfboard fin sticking up above a rock. We found a Bighorn Sheep skull. What luck!

Climbing up, Grey Butte and Shepherd Crest in the background

Talus! Our favorite!
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Bighorn skull
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We continued on, leaving the skull for the next lucky hiker, and climbed the up the west side of the drainage to just below the west peak. We reached the shoulder below the peak and the views opened before us to the north. The mountain dives straight down and we could see the snow fields and left over glacier tops along with a few cyan lakes. The true peak would not be climbed by us—this spire on the east shoulder was just fine. We ate and felt quite content in our accomplishment. Desk jobs don’t compare.

View north from the shoulder of Twin Peaks
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We worked our way down with relative ease, staying in the bottom of the drainage—a route we probably should have followed on the way up. After clearing the talus, we crossed the green valley enjoying the wild flowers everywhere. After reaching camp, we swam on the west side of the lake. Cold Sierra lakes and streams are likely the best thing ever after a long hike. A couple other parties showed up at the lake, a group of three and a solo hiker enjoying life. We drank bourbon and enjoyed the stars.

The next day was to be a big hiking day with and with out packs. We struck out toward Soldier Lake, aiming for the small saddle between it and Return Lake. The route was obvious and upon reaching the top we stashed our packs and headed west toward the plateau overlooking Spiller Lake. Following the shallow ridge top, we made our way to the empty plateau and over to the edge. There Spiller Canyon opened up and we could see Whorl and Matterhorn along with many peaks in the distance. We made our way to the high point north of Spiller Lake and southwest of Stanton Peak. Now that’s a view.

Up to the saddle above Soldier Lake, Grey Butte to the left
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The plateau above Spiller Lake
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View of Spiller Canyon, Whorl and Matterhorn on opposite side
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I always carry a Frisbee. Necessary grams. One our way back we chucked it across the plateau to each other. There is no sport like High Sierra Frisbee. I’m sure there are like-minded people on this forum.

We returned to our packs and headed down to Soldier Lake. It’s a stark, desolate area with not much but open granite and a few trees. We pumped some water and then headed down the slabs to Virginia Canyon. The slabs, while taxing on the knees, were easy compared to the irregular talus and then steep mixed soil of the canyon slopes. The walk down hurt my feet. We found the trail after walking through the forest and then crossed the creek and started the climb up to Summit Pass. As we had crossed Virginia Canyon, the rock around us changed from the white granite on the west side to the dark red and grey volcanic stone of the east side. My feet were on fire at this point and I just wanted to make it to our target: Hoover Lakes.

Soldier Lake
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The slabs below Soldier Lake
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Summit Lake was stunning but windy. We made our way down, hoping to find a good spot to camp between the Hoover Lakes. Sure enough, there was a perfect spot there, with some shielding form the non-stop wind. And it was taken. We decide to look below the lower Hoover Lake for a spot, but there was nothing. I was amazed at the dearth of good camping spots in the area. The broken volcanic stone is not as generous as the white granite. We decided to eat then head down the trail, hoping to find a decent campsite before we reached East Lake.

The trail by Summit Lake
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Looking down upon Hoover Lakes
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We came across on older couple walking up the trail and told them of our troubles finding a campsite. Turns out, they were the ones camped between Hoover Lakes, but they told us about a spot above Nutter Lake. We spoke for a while and then headed down, intent on finding that spot. I had to get the pack off and my feet into the water. Sure enough, we found a good campsite for the five of us above the lake. We quickly dropped gear, set up camp and got in the lake. While not as nice as the other lakes we had visited, it was good to clean up and relax. We took in our last night with some more bourbon and then all had our best sleep of the trip.

In the morning we awoke to smoke. While we had occasional haze during the trip, this day we could smell it and see the thick blanket that had travelled from the fire in Big Sur. We ate, packed, and hit the trail fast—all of us thinking of a cheeseburger in Bridgeport. We were back at the car in two hours. A quick dip in the cold water of Green Creek refreshed us and then we stuffed our faces at the Burger Barn in Bridgeport.

Morning haze and Nutter Lake
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It was great trip with good friends.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:26 am

Question to admin: Can I change the coding so the photos don't need to be scrolled?
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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

Postby ERIC » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:33 am

It's the dimension size of the original photos that causes that. If you're resizing your photos for upload, concentrate on file size rather than dimensions. The photos that are scrolling are very similar in size (width) to the thumbnail setting so rather than creating a thumbnail the script opts to scroll.
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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness/NE Yosemite July 27-31, 2016

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:01 pm

Nice report and a nice loop--this is an area that I'd called "underrated". Either take off point (Green Creek, Virginia Lakes) works for something like this, but I particularly like the Green Creek takeoff. West Lake is a place that flies beneath the radar a bit because it is off to the side of the drainage (many more folks go to East Lake) but it is a very beautiful destination. I really like the Return Creek headwaters around Virginia Peak and Twin Peaks. This area has a nice contrast of rock colors and ruggedness with the patches of trees, brush, and the various lakes.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: ... ayshi.html
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