Need advice on trip plan

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cgundersen
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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by cgundersen » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:38 am

Hi Pudgy,
Many moons ago I did a big loop from Crescent Meadow (in Sequoia) by following the High Sierra trail down to the Kern river (where there is a bridge) and then up to Lake South America and looping back to the Muir trail to go over Forester and Glen passes and down Woods creek to Cedar Grove from which you could catch the Avalanche Pass trail to get back to your starting point via Deadman Canyon and Elizabeth pass. The only questionable creek crossing on this route is Roaring River, but if that goes then you could easily pace yourself to turn this into a 2 week sojourn with some side trips (Wright Lakes, Center Basin, 60 Lakes basin) as desired. Just speculating........ Cameron




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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by wildhiker » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:11 pm

Hi Pudgy,

Here's a suggestion for something completely different, if you decide to bail on the BSL because of the major stream crossings. I'm thinking of a high mountain loop in Yosemite that stays away from major streams, except very close to their headwaters. It involves quite a bit of cross-country hiking, but most of it is class 1 (granite slabs, meadow, and dirt) with a few sections of class 2 talus. There may be some snow to cross. And it starts on a trailhead where permits are easy to get. My wife and I did this loop in a week trip. You could add some side explorations to use up more time.

The basic trip is what I call the Kuna-Cathedral traverse. You start at the Mono Pass/Parker Pass trailhead at 9600 feet just west of Tioga Pass. Actually, you leave your car at the Tuolumne Meadows parking and take the shuttle up to this higher trailhead (in the past, always ran at 9 am, noon, and 3 pm - but check the Yosemite park website). You can't camp in this drainage, so you have to leave the park to camp. That's easy, just head up 5 miles to Mono Pass and then over about 1/2 mile to Upper Sardine Lake - one of my favorite campsites with an amazing view down the gash of Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake. Since you are such strong hikers, spend the rest of the day climbing either Mt. Lewis or Mt. Gibbs (both are walkups).

Next, you go back over Mono Pass, head up a bit, and then start the cross-country over open alpine meadows to Helen Lake. From there, you head up to Kuna Crest Pass. This is the most difficult pass on my route. It is class 2 with steep, but stable talus. Don't head for the cirque or low spot of the pass - head to the right (west) up a slight side ridge and when you get to pass height, angle left towards it. My children were also strong hikers and I took my 7 year old over this pass. Once you get to the top of the pass, you have miles and miles of open class 1 terrain contouring around the head of Kuna Creek. I call this enormous open basin Kuna Basin. There are camping opportunities in the basin along little creeks in small groves of whitebark pine, or more sheltered camping if you drop down to the big lake you can see a couple hundred feet down at about 10,000 feet elevation. If you camp there, you can take a side hike up to the pass above Lost Lakes for good views over to Mt Ritter and Banner.

Continuing around the basin, staying at approximately 11,000 foot elevation, you eventually hit the John Muir trail in a big meadow just north of Donohue Pass. At this point, it would be great to take a couple extra days to head south on the JMT to visit the lake basins in upper Rush Creek and 1000 Island Lake - one of the gems of the Sierra. However, there is that darn Donohue Pass exit quota, designed to prevent enormous crowds of JMT thru-hikers gobbling up all backcountry permits in Yosemite. You probably can't get one of those exit quotas on your permit. But there is an alternative. Get out of Kuna Basin over that pass to the Lost Lakes (we have also camped there with the kids) and then follow their outlet stream down a steep slope to a large plateau like area east of the JMT. Class 1 walking on that plateau over to the JMT, now south of Donohue Pass. Exit quota foiled! No problems heading back north over the pass - that is not as popular and not subject to a quota.

Anyway, whether you take a side trip down to Rush Creek/1000 Island Lake or not, you end up back there on the north side of Donohue Pass on the JMT. Head north (downhill). You have to cross the infant Lyell Fork Tuolumne in a beautiful open basin looking up to Mt Lyell and its glacier. Normally in August, you can get across on rocks. This year you may have to wade. Follow the JMT down less than a mile until there is a bridge across the Lyell Fork. Don't cross the bridge. Instead, head cross-country down the west bank of the river. Eventually you come to a low-angle talus field (looks like the runout from rockslides off the mountain side). Cross the lower part of the talus and then contour over to Maclure Creek in a relatively flat floored valley. You need to cross Maclure Creek somewhere. Hopefully you can find a slow moving section, as you may need to wade it. Again, this is easily crossed on rocks or logs in a normal year.

Once across Maclure Creek, just follow up it on the north side - staying north of the tributary that joins it - into an open meadowy basin. Good camping in here. I especially like continuing south up to the unnamed lakes on Maclure Creek to camp. From those lakes, head up the broad slope going north and you eventually encounter a wide grass-filled ramp that takes you all the way up to the lake basin just south of "Amelia Earhart Pass" (the low pass west of Amelia Earhart Peak). Pick your way through the lake basin to the west side and then up a rib of rock to Amelia Earhart Pass. Besides the great view, below you to the north is the huge open basin above Ireland Lake. Head down the open meadows and slabs, eventually crossing the infant creek to the northeast side before it gets to some cliffy areas. Lots of camping spots below Ireland Lake on the north side of the outlet creek among small groves of whitebark pine by some tarns (good swimming in some).

At Ireland Lake, you get trail again. You can take it northwest over to Evelyn Lake and the Vogelsang area, where you will see people. But not so many this year, because the High Sierra Camp is not opening due to the heavy late snowpack. A good side trip from there would be over Vogelsang Pass to Bernice Lake. In the Vogelsang area, you have many options. If you like trails, you can head down to Merced Lake and then up Echo Creek to Sunrise Creek and climb either Half Dome or Clouds Rest (or both) before exiting on the JMT, either down to Yosemite Valley (and catch the YARTS bus back to Tuolumne Meadows) or up over Cathedral Pass and directly to Tuolumne Meadows. If you think you might want to climb Half Dome, be sure to get your wilderness permit stamped for that.

If you have been enjoying the cross-country, you get to do more traversing the Cathedral Range! From the Vogelsang area, head north on trail to Tuolumne Pass. Leave the trail at the pass and contour northwest and then gradually north up the slope to a pass over to Reymann Lake. This is all easy class 1 hiking. From Reymann Lake, head down the valley and skirt the north and west sides of the giant wet meadow above Nelson Lake. Camping at Nelson Lake is wonderful. There is amazing sunset color and alpenglow on the big cliff on the east side. At Nelson, you can pick up a weak use trail that heads down and then north over to Echo Creek, where it becomes a good trail back over the pass to Elizabeth Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. But skip that and head down along Echo Creek. You eventually get to a point where you can contour over to the north to the bigger Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek and follow up it to Echo Lake, another beautiful camp spot with a great view of Matthes Crest. A quick walk north from Echo Lake through the meadows (you may find a use trail) gets you to the JMT at Cathedral Pass. Again, you can head south to climb Clouds Rest or Half Dome and then exit to Yosemite Valley, Tenaya Lake (and catch the shuttle to Tuolumne Meadows) or back directly to Tuolumne Meadows.

Or, you can do more cross-country! After taking the JMT south to Long Meadow (and doing any side trips that you want), head cross-country north and west up Long Meadow on easy class 1 walking to a pass above Mildred Lake. It looks cliffy directly below you to the west. Instead, from the pass, head a little higher to the north and then work your way around on easier terrain down to Mildred Lake, where there is good camping. It is an easy walk up the south slope of Tenaya Peak from Mildred Lake for great views.

From Mildred Lake, you can go directly down to Tenaya Lake. Head down the granite slabs below the lake, contouring a bit north until you hit a major ramp that takes you most of the way down to a little saddle, where you turn left (west) down to the trail. Or, walk south from the outlet of Mildred Lake down a slope and then up an obvious draw to hit Middle Sunrise Lake, which puts you in position again to climb Clouds Rest and eventually Half Dome. Lots of options here.

-Phil
Last edited by wildhiker on Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:22 am

Phil, thanks for so much detailed information!

After some phone calls and thinking about it, we have decided to bail on the BSL (bummer, we were really looking forward to it!).

From what we've read, the portion of our planned trip on the JMT is okay for conditions (some spots to take care, but overall doable), it's just getting to there from the western side that is a problem. Since our resupply food was already shipped and have already familiarized ourselves with the JMT portion of our trip, we are going to attempt to get walkup permits for that area (ideally between Cottonwood Pass and Bishop Pass trailheads). No idea of our odds getting permits or how early we have to be at the visitor center, but are going to try. Logistics were tougher for a one way hike and we just bit the bullet and made a reservation for a second rental car in Mammoth (maximizes our flexibility and avoids transport issues).

Thanks again everybody for your feedback. Phil, I'm filing away your post for future reference (although my husband swears we are sticking to Wyoming after this and avoiding permit hassles in the future, lol).

I'll be sure to report back after our trip!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:37 am

Adding that my husband was actually able to score us a permit (entry Cottonwood Lakes and exit South Lake) for the dates we wanted. We can still use our resupply plan and this makes it so much easier knowing we have a permit and plan.

Thanks again everybody!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:07 am

Wanted to come back to this and say we had a fantastic trip. We ended up hiking from Horseshoe Meadows to South Lake. I posted a trip report thread here: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... =1&t=17258

Thanks again everybody for the responses!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by bascdfj » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:57 pm

Hi Phil -- I found your post last year before my (abbreviated) big seki loop trip (due to crossings)..it was great none the less...
I was intrigued with this alternative you posted... and so this sept (2018) going to try it with a friend.

I was wondering exactly what permit I need from Yose park to pull this off... the park permit page says the following:

"Trails providing access to national forest lands through day-use-only areas of Yosemite, including Mono/Parker Pass, are not considered valid trailheads for overnight wilderness trips in Yosemite. Those beginning a long-distance trip at Mono/Parker Pass trail may do so, but must camp in the national forest and head south of Yosemite via Koip Peak Pass. The daily trailhead quota for Mono/Parker Pass is 15."

So what permit do I need to camp in the park per your suggested route? Did not plan to go over Koip Peak pass but use your suggestion to the Kuna basin. We may just stay in the park and avoid exiting as time may be short (only 6-7 days)...

Do I just need a single entry permit from mono pass trailhead...

many thanks
Ford

wildhiker wrote:Hi Pudgy,

Here's a suggestion for something completely different, if you decide to bail on the BSL because of the major stream crossings. I'm thinking of a high mountain loop in Yosemite that stays away from major streams, except very close to their headwaters. It involves quite a bit of cross-country hiking, but most of it is class 1 (granite slabs, meadow, and dirt) with a few sections of class 2 talus. There may be some snow to cross. And it starts on a trailhead where permits are easy to get. My wife and I did this loop in a week trip. You could add some side explorations to use up more time.

The basic trip is what I call the Kuna-Cathedral traverse. You start at the Mono Pass/Parker Pass trailhead at 9600 feet just west of Tioga Pass. Actually, you leave your car at the Tuolumne Meadows parking and take the shuttle up to this higher trailhead (in the past, always ran at 9 am, noon, and 3 pm - but check the Yosemite park website). You can't camp in this drainage, so you have to leave the park to camp. That's easy, just head up 5 miles to Mono Pass and then over about 1/2 mile to Upper Sardine Lake - one of my favorite campsites with an amazing view down the gash of Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake. Since you are such strong hikers, spend the rest of the day climbing either Mt. Lewis or Mt. Gibbs (both are walkups).....

Next, you go back over Mono Pass, head up a bit, and then start the cross-country over open alpine meadows to Helen Lake. From there, you head up to Kuna Crest Pass. This is the most difficult pass on my route. It is class 2 with steep, but stable talus. Don't head for the cirque or low spot of the pass - head to the right (west) up a slight side ridge and when you get to pass height, angle left towards it. My children were also strong hikers and I took my 7 year old over this pass. Once you get to the top of the pass, you have miles and miles of open class 1 terrain contouring around the head of Kuna Creek. I call this enormous open basin Kuna Basin. There are camping opportunities in the basin along little creeks in small groves of whitebark pine, or more sheltered camping if you drop down to the big lake you can see a couple hundred feet down at about 10,000 feet elevation. If you camp there, you can take a side hike up to the pass above Lost Lakes for good views over to Mt Ritter and Banner.

Continuing around the basin, staying at approximately 11,000 foot elevation, you eventually hit the John Muir trail in a big meadow just north of Donohue Pass. At this point, it would be great to take a couple extra days to head south on the JMT to visit the lake basins in upper Rush Creek and 1000 Island Lake - one of the gems of the Sierra. However, there is that darn Donohue Pass exit quota, designed to prevent enormous crowds of JMT thru-hikers gobbling up all backcountry permits in Yosemite. You probably can't get one of those exit quotas on your permit. But there is an alternative. Get out of Kuna Basin over that pass to the Lost Lakes (we have also camped there with the kids) and then follow their outlet stream down a steep slope to a large plateau like area east of the JMT. Class 1 walking on that plateau over to the JMT, now south of Donohue Pass. Exit quota foiled! No problems heading back north over the pass - that is not as popular and not subject to a quota.

Anyway, whether you take a side trip down to Rush Creek/1000 Island Lake or not, you end up back there on the north side of Donohue Pass on the JMT. Head north (downhill). You have to cross the infant Lyell Fork Tuolumne in a beautiful open basin looking up to Mt Lyell and its glacier. Normally in August, you can get across on rocks. This year you may have to wade. Follow the JMT down less than a mile until there is a bridge across the Lyell Fork. Don't cross the bridge. Instead, head cross-country down the west bank of the river. Eventually you come to a low-angle talus field (looks like the runout from rockslides off the mountain side). Cross the lower part of the talus and then contour over to Maclure Creek in a relatively flat floored valley. You need to cross Maclure Creek somewhere. Hopefully you can find a slow moving section, as you may need to wade it. Again, this is easily crossed on rocks or logs in a normal year.

Once across Maclure Creek, just follow up it on the north side - staying north of the tributary that joins it - into an open meadowy basin. Good camping in here. I especially like continuing south up to the unnamed lakes on Maclure Creek to camp. From those lakes, head up the broad slope going north and you eventually encounter a wide grass-filled ramp that takes you all the way up to the lake basin just south of "Amelia Earhart Pass" (the low pass west of Amelia Earhart Peak). Pick your way through the lake basin to the west side and then up a rib of rock to Amelia Earhart Pass. Besides the great view, below you to the north is the huge open basin above Ireland Lake. Head down the open meadows and slabs, eventually crossing the infant creek to the northeast side before it gets to some cliffy areas. Lots of camping spots below Ireland Lake on the north side of the outlet creek among small groves of whitebark pine by some tarns (good swimming in some).

At Ireland Lake, you get trail again. You can take it northwest over to Evelyn Lake and the Vogelsang area, where you will see people. But not so many this year, because the High Sierra Camp is not opening due to the heavy late snowpack. A good side trip from there would be over Vogelsang Pass to Bernice Lake. In the Vogelsang area, you have many options. If you like trails, you can head down to Merced Lake and then up Echo Creek to Sunrise Creek and climb either Half Dome or Clouds Rest (or both) before exiting on the JMT, either down to Yosemite Valley (and catch the YARTS bus back to Tuolumne Meadows) or up over Cathedral Pass and directly to Tuolumne Meadows. If you think you might want to climb Half Dome, be sure to get your wilderness permit stamped for that.

If you have been enjoying the cross-country, you get to do more traversing the Cathedral Range! From the Vogelsang area, head north on trail to Tuolumne Pass. Leave the trail at the pass and contour northwest and then gradually north up the slope to a pass over to Reymann Lake. This is all easy class 1 hiking. From Reymann Lake, head down the valley and skirt the north and west sides of the giant wet meadow above Nelson Lake. Camping at Nelson Lake is wonderful. There is amazing sunset color and alpenglow on the big cliff on the east side. At Nelson, you can pick up a weak use trail that heads down and then north over to Echo Creek, where it becomes a good trail back over the pass to Elizabeth Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. But skip that and head down along Echo Creek. You eventually get to a point where you can contour over to the north to the bigger Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek and follow up it to Echo Lake, another beautiful camp spot with a great view of Matthes Crest. A quick walk north from Echo Lake through the meadows (you may find a use trail) gets you to the JMT at Cathedral Pass. Again, you can head south to climb Clouds Rest or Half Dome and then exit to Yosemite Valley, Tenaya Lake (and catch the shuttle to Tuolumne Meadows) or back directly to Tuolumne Meadows.

Or, you can do more cross-country! After taking the JMT south to Long Meadow (and doing any side trips that you want), head cross-country north and west up Long Meadow on easy class 1 walking to a pass above Mildred Lake. It looks cliffy directly below you to the west. Instead, from the pass, head a little higher to the north and then work your way around on easier terrain down to Mildred Lake, where there is good camping. It is an easy walk up the south slope of Tenaya Peak from Mildred Lake for great views.

From Mildred Lake, you can go directly down to Tenaya Lake. Head down the granite slabs below the lake, contouring a bit north until you hit a major ramp that takes you most of the way down to a little saddle, where you turn left (west) down to the trail. Or, walk south from the outlet of Mildred Lake down a slope and then up an obvious draw to hit Middle Sunrise Lake, which puts you in position again to climb Clouds Rest and eventually Half Dome. Lots of options here.

-Phil

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wildhiker
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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by wildhiker » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:14 pm

Well, last time I did this circuit (2014), the park service was less picky. That was before they were totally overwhelmed by the JMT through-hikers trying to use every possible trailhead. I've seen the wording you quote on the Yosemite web site - it implies that they will only write permits to exit the park and continue over Koip Peak Pass, not to head over into the Kuna Creek basin. Here are my ideas for getting the right permit. Also, remember that the Tuolumne shuttle is NOT running this year so you will need two cars or do a long extra walk at the end to get between Tuolumne Meadows and the Mono Pass trailhead.

1) Tell the park rangers exactly what you want to do and that you are NOT trying to "cheat" the Donohue Pass exit quota and head down the JMT. Hopefully, your description of the route will sound so impressive that they will be anxious to give you the permit :-).

2) If the ranger on duty will not write a permit to camp at Upper Sardine Lake the first night and then re-enter the park to continue on to Kuna Creek the 2nd, then tell them you will go all the way to Kuna Creek on the first day. This way, you are not leaving and re-entering the park. In this case, plan to acclimate the night before at altitude so you can make it all the way in one day from the Mono Pass/Parker Pass trailhead over Kuna Crest Pass into the Kuna Creek basin. It's a long first day with a lot of cross-country over a 12,000 foot pass.

3) Do the traverse in the reverse direction, starting at Tenaya Lake cross-country to Mildred Lake, the JMT to Cathedral Lakes, Budd Creek use trail (you have to go over a xc pass at the head - no camping in Budd Creek drainage), or Nelson Lake use trail, depending on which one you can get a permit for and how long you want the traverse to be. Nelson Lake should be easy to get a permit. When my wife and I did this entire traverse in one go in 2000, we started at Tenaya Lake heading up to Mildred Lake. Lots easier to get permits back then.

-Phil
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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:05 am

Wildhiker, I think the regulations in this part of the park are even stricter and more confusing. On a Mono/Parker Pass permit, you are never allowed to camp in Yosemite. So you couldn't spend the first night in the park with that permit. With the Mono/Parker Pass permit, you would have to return to the trailhead or exit in the national forest. Then obtain a new permit allowing you to enter and camp in Yosemite via the national forest. Grey area: I advised a HST poster earlier this summer to follow giantbrookie's 2014 cross country counterclockwise route to Lost Lakes for the first night which is outside of the park. However, technically, this may not be allowed. You might literally have to stay on the trail until you leave the park. In other words, no cross country on this permit even if you are leaving the park and camping in the national forest the first night. In order to camp at Lost Lakes the first night, for example, you would have to leave early in the morning. It would be an epic. You also might not be allowed to cross country back to the trailhead the next day. Technically, you might literally have to return via Parker Pass.

You could, however, get a permit out of Rush Creek in Inyo National Forest. Then you could cross country into Yosemite via Lost Lakes and Koip Crest, and camp at one of the lakes in the Kuna Creek watershed.

Finally, and this would probably require a well defined permit. Say you wanted to camp at one of the lakes in the Kuna Creek watershed and you started in the park, say at Lyell Canyon Trailhead. No ranger is going to believe you when you are a stone's throw north of Donohue Pass and claim you are heading cross country to one of the lakes. Even if you plan on exiting the park at Koip Crest to camp at one of the Lost Lakes would probably get you a cynical look. The point at which you exit would have to be printed on your permit.

Finally, regulations don't allow camping at any of the lakes in the Parker Pass Creek watershed. I don't know when they were put into place. There are trip reports on the Internet with beautiful camp pictures from this watershed. I am assuming they were taken before the regulations went into effect.

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by wildhiker » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:45 pm

At least in 2014 and before, you could also use the Mono Pass/Parker Pass trailhead to camp at Upper Sardine Lake just over Mono Pass - a beautiful spot.

Also, no way would I advise starting at Mono Pass/Parker Pass trailhead and trying to go all the way to Lost Lakes via Kuna Crest Pass in one day, unless you are superman. Besides, in my opinion, the Kuna Creek basin is a far more scenic place to camp than Lost Lakes (I've camped at both). The morning light on Mt Lyell, its glacier, and the rest of the Cathedral Range is really beautiful, especially when reflected in one of the small lakes or tarns in the Kuna Creek basin.

The OP wants to follow a route I suggested earlier that never leaves the park, so I think he could convince the rangers that he is not trying to cheat the system for southbound JMT hiking.

-Phil

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