Pterodactyl Pass from Lone Pine Creek to the Tablelands

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webdweeb
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Re: Pterodactyl Pass from Lone Pine Creek to the Tablelands

Post by webdweeb » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:54 pm

Bluewater, thanks for the info-great trip report and photos, both of which I will study closely!








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Re: Pterodactyl Pass from Lone Pine Creek to the Tablelands

Post by oleander » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:42 am

Hi,

I posed this question (how best to climb to Lonely Lake and Pterodactyl Pass) a couple of years ago. Did not see much recon on that at the time. So I'll share my happy experience bringing some newbies up that route. Yes, one was a complete backpacking noob and the other had backpacking experience but little cross-country experience. So I was committed to finding an easy, non-scary route for the two of them. They were awesome and they did great. Assuming your group is comfortable with trying a bit of cross-country, here is the route we found. This assumes you're doing a counter-clockwise loop.

The upper connector trail from Bearpaw Meadow to the Elizabeth Pass trail is absolutely spectacular.
[Consider a diversion to overnight at the excellent campsites on the west side of Tamarack Lake. Worth the 2 miles.]
Start up the Elizabeth Pass trail. It is also spectacular.
About 1/3 of the way to the pass, cross the Lonely Lake outlet stream
Continue up the formal trail for a couple hundred (? - can't remember exactly) vertical feet, till the trail suddenly turns eastward
From that point, contour cross-country along the gentle ridge up to Lonely Lake. High Class 1.
We found plenty of space at the tarn immediately west of Lonely Lake (we had 3 tents).

From Lonely Lake, contour toward the base of Pterodactyl Pass. Class 1 and quite beautiful.
Slab-walking up Pterydactyl Pass was great fun for our group, and no one was intimidated. High Class 1 / low class 2. Your mileage may vary (we may have been lucky in finding such an easy route.)

From Pterodactyl, I do not know how to get to Moose Lake. I'm told it's a rugged, long route (and it looks it).
If you'd like, consider (as an alternative to Moose Lake) Bluewater's approach, traveling to the little lake on the rim due west of Big Bird Lake. This lake is called Lake 11,200. The sunset here rivals and maybe exceeds that of Moose Lake. Over 3 trips to Tablelands, I've enjoyed two sunset evenings at each one.
If going to 11,200 from Pterodactyl, go generally north/northwest and stay/contour fairly high. You will top an east-west ridge and suddenly find yourself dropping to 11,200 which is immediately below the ridge. High Class 1 / low Class 2 the whole way.

From 11,200 it is a pretty easy (easier than from Moose Lake) drop to Pear Lake. Join and then follow along the north side of the creek draining Tablelands to the west. Bring an accurate altimeter. At about 9,650, cross the creek and ascend to a saddle to the southwest. This saddle overlooks Pear Lake. Do a diagonal ascent down to Pear Lake. From there, 6 miles back to Wolverton. The Watchtower Trail is the more interesting way.

If you end up staying the night at Pear Lake, do not leave your packs or things lying around unattended. Marmots there carry away personal items and small children. If you walk off to swim or explore, put most everything into the bear locker at your site.

Will you miss seeing Deadman? YES. So if you are dead-set on seeing Deadman, consider skipping Lonely Lake, and instead going over Elizabeth Pass. Did I mention that Elizabeth Pass is spectacular? Drop down Deadman as far as Big Bird Lake. From Big Bird, you can ascend westward along a Class 2 route to Lake 11,200 and then proceed down Tablelands as instructed above. The route from Big Bird to 11,200 has been commented on a bit and is searchable here. (I haven't done it.)

The option of taking the trail down (north) from Deadman Canyon, through Roaring River, then westbound through the Sugarloaf Valley (and back to Belle Meadows or to Lodgepole)? I have been known to call that the No Good, Very Bad Trail, unworthy of being included in the SEKI. Maybe it's that I went through there in September. I dunno, maybe that burnt-over, hot, viewless, endless trail is A-OK in early August of a high snow year. You may see some green and wildflowers there. Maybe someone here knows. I am not willing to go back there to find out myself. On the plus side, this trail is fast, gentle walking and you can push through 15 miles of viewless drudgery in pretty quick order.

I have some plans to return to spectacular and wonderful Deadman Canyon some non-September day, when it's green. That plan involves dropping in from Elizabeth Pass and then making my escape either to Tablelands from Big Bird Lake; or over Colby Pass via Cloud Canyon. If you do the Big Bird Lake route, please report back :)

Cheers,
Elizabeth

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Re: Pterodactyl Pass from Lone Pine Creek to the Tablelands

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:49 pm

Unfortunately, I dropped down Deadman Canyon when it was lushly green and full of wildflowers, only to be engulfed by swarms of mosquitoes at Ranger Meadow! So do not go too early. In the right conditions, lower Deadman Canon above 8200 elevation is pretty spectacular.

I have ascended the creek from Lonely Lake from the point where it crosses the Elizabeth Pass trail (9200 feet). It is easy off-trail travel and there are plenty of really scenic camp spots along the creek. I have also done the traverse from higher on the Elizabeth Pass trail. I preferred the direct off-trail route up the creek. The flat at about 10,200 feet, below Lonely Lake, has some fine views of Valhalla. This view is blocked from Lonely Lake. From a camp at 10,200 feet you can make a direct climb to Pterodactyl Pass without loss of elevation.

Tablelands can be a pain to travel through if you hit peak snowmelt. I did it once when every step was a post-hole to my hips. When I reached Lonely Lake it was so flooded that there was not a campsite to be found. I filled my platypus and continued up to the dry ridge and camped here where I had a fantastic view of both Big Bird Lake and Lonely Lake. This is actually preferable camping to Lonely Lake.

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Re: Pterodactyl Pass from Lone Pine Creek to the Tablelands

Post by webdweeb » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:59 pm

Oleander and Wandering Daisy, excellent info-thanks a lot! Lots of interesting possibilities here, and I am already studying the map and Google Earth to get a better feel for these XC routes. The latest I got from the SEKI ranger said that Tamarack lake was still covered in snow-if that is still true in early August, we may do our backup route down through Mineral King, but I am highly motivated to find a way to explore this area. Your feedback on Sugarloaf and Belle Canyons echoes much of what I have read her and elsewhere-the section from Roaring River RS past Belle Canyon is not the most scenic, so the best plan is to hurry though. My latest itinerary for a Deadman Canyon loop has us hiking from upper Ranger Meadow to Comanche Meadow, mainly to minimize the time spent in the Sugarloaf valley. However, the more elegant solution is to bypass Sugarloaf entirely, hence my interest in Pterodactyl Pass. Thanks to all the excellent comments here, I now have a fairly comprehensive description of the area, which should help quite a bit with the planning and the hike itself.

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