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TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

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TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

Postby Alpinista55 » Thu Aug 18, 2016 11:24 am

We just completed an 8-day trip into 60 Lakes Basin starting from the Onion Valley trailhead. I arrived a day early to pick up the permit in Bishop, and got to the Onion Valley trailhead campground by 10:00 am and secured a campsite for our 4-person group. (Hint: if you want to camp at the trailhead, get there early, as the sites fill up fast). I did a quick acclimatization hike about half-way up to Kearsarge Pass while waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.

Day one: We hiked over Kearsarge Pass and descended to Kearsarge Lakes to camp. Trail was not too crowded, and Kearsarge Lakes offers a multitude of campsites that tend to distribute the crowds pretty well. I knew from beta from hikers coming out the day before that there was no mosquito pressure, and left my bug nest behind at the trailhead.

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Big Pothole Lake below Kearsarge Pass

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Kearsarge Lakes

Day 2: Leaving Kearsarge Lakes, we followed the lower trail past Bullfrog Lake to it's intersection with the JMT. We followed the JMT north and crossed Glenn Pass. We descended the north side of the pass camped at the bench of small lakes below the pass at 11,200'. We found a nice campsite in small trees well off the trail.

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Bullfrog Lake

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Camp below Glenn Pass at 11,200'

Day 3: We went off-trail from camp and crossed "Shortcut Col", descending into 60 Lakes Basin. This is a fantastic and easy cross-country route, saving a bunch of elevation loss by avoiding descending all the way to Rae Lakes. Once over the col we descended into 60 Lakes Basin and intercepted the old 60 Lakes trail. We continued to Long Lake (lake 3304) to camp, intending to explore the area below and up to 60 Lakes Col, and climb Mt. Cotter. We had the entire upper basin to ourselves, seeing only a single tent all day.

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Cross-country on the way to "Shortcut Col". Jamie and Emily are visible by the small pond in the center.

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60 Lakes Basin from "Shortcut Col"

Day 4: Jim left camp and climbed directly up the ridge above the south end of the lake and made a solo ascent of Mt. Cotter. The rest of us climbed over the 3rd class catwalk that gives access to the SW side of Long Lake, and had a great alpine walk up the wide open granite slabs and talus to the small tarn below 60 Lakes col. After a nice break at the tarn we did some easy routefinding up granite ramps and ledges to the col, for great views into the Gardiner Basin. We yelled up at the summit of Cotter and heard Jim respond from the summit. After investigating the descent into Gardiner Basin, we retraced our path to the tarn, then returned to camp.

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On the "Catwalk" at Long Lake

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Tarn below 60 Lakes Col

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Gardiner Basin from 60 Lakes Col

Day 5: We decided to explore the cirque below the SE face of Mt. Clarence King. We left our camp in place at Long Lake and started a gradual rising traverse that brought us to the NE Ridge of North Cotter. Rather than dropping down into the drainage north of the ridge, we opted to ascend the ridge until the terrain became 5th class. We got to 11,700' on the ridge and had fantastic views of the big steep walls on Mt. Cotter's NE Face, and North Cotter's SE Face.

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Hiking in 60 Lakes Basin

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11,000' on North Cotter Peak NE Ridge

Day 6: We finally broke our camp at Long Lake and followed the old trail down to Rae Lakes. On the way past Fin Dome, Jim broke off and did a quick solo climb of the 4th class route on Fin Domes west face. Rae Lakes was crowded, and we wanted to get a start on re-crossing Glenn Pass, so we continued south on the JMT and camped again at the 11,200' bench where we spent our second night.

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Descending from 60 Lakes Basin to Rae Lakes

Day 7: Our biggest day, we climbed back over Glenn Pass, then followed the high Kearsarge Pass trail and recrossed Kearsarge Pass as well, descending to Heart and Flower Lakes to camp for our last night.

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Day 8: An easy 2.5 miles back to the trailhead, we passed over 100 hikers heading uphill towards Kearsarge Pass.

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Time for beer and burgers!

Overall, we loved 60 Lakes Basin. We found it almost empty of other people, seeing only 6 other hikers in 3 days; a far cry from the hordes along the JMT and Kearsarge Pass trails. The mid-August timing and dry year made us too late for great wild flowers, but we loved the total lack of mosquitos.

Here is a link to a CalTopo map of the trip, including several cross-country routes: http://caltopo.com/m/51B3#
Last edited by Alpinista55 on Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:52 pm, edited 6 times in total.



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Re: TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

Postby rayfound » Thu Aug 18, 2016 11:37 am

Great trip, such a classic "sierra" landscape.
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Re: TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

Postby FeetFirst » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:18 pm

Terrific report & pictures - thanks for posting. I appreciate the map link too. I like to follow one's route using caltopo when I read reports, so it made it that much easier.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

Postby tie » Thu Aug 18, 2016 7:32 pm

Super! Love the pics (and thanks also for the map).
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Re: TR - 60 Lakes Basin - 8/6 - 8/13

Postby BigMan » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:31 am

Thanks for the nice report.

Glad to see you dedicated that much time to such a great place

(I've spent a day and half there and it deserves much more.)
In wilderness lies the hope of the world.
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