Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

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Alpinista55
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Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by Alpinista55 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:07 pm

Our party of 6 just completed an 8-day backpack into the Sabrina Basin. We arrived in Bishop on August 6th and stayed one night in Four Jeffery campground. To acclimatize after driving from sea level we spent the 7th and 8th day-hiking to 11,000', first to Tyee Lakes above the South Fork of Bishop Creek, and then to Paiute Lake on the North Fork. We spent the nights of the 7th and 8th at Parcher's Resort (9450') in two of their really nice cabins. This gave us a great base camp in which to stuff the bear cans, organize gear and chill before blasting off on the morning of the 9th. Parcher's also offers a great breakfast for carbo-loading!

Our original plan was to cross Haeckel Col into the Evolution Basin, the ascend Darwin Canyon to Darwin Col to return to Sabrina Basin. The heavy snow of the past winter closed that option, as we opted to not bring crampons or ice axes. Half of our party had no experience with these tools, and we decided to alter our plans if the cols were snowy.

On the 9th of August, Day 1, we started up the Sabrina Basin Trail from Sabrina Lake. The trail was in great shape, and the creek crossings were easy, as we hiked past Blue and Dingleberry Lakes on our way to Midnight Lake at 10,988'. The 2500' of elevation gain over 6.2 miles was a burner, but we had all done our best to go light. Packs were weighed at the trailhead and ranged between 34 and 42 pounds for the 8 days.

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Trail between Blue Lake and Emerald Lakes

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Crossing above Dingleberry Lake

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Final junction

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Midnight Lake

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Jamie and Emily at Midnight Lake

We arrived at Midnight Lake at 4:00 PM and set camp on granite slabs above the lake. Warned about heavy bug pressure by several parties on their way out, we thought that the more exposed camp site would be open the the breeze and minimize the skeeters. We all had head nets and permethrin treated clothing, so the bugs were not really much of an issue. After dinner Bruce made a recon climb of the ridge on the south side of the lake. This would be our route to Haeckel Col. He was able to get near the ridge crest, avoiding steep firm snow slopes with some 3rd class scrambling. We decided that this would be a bit too much for some of our group burdened with 30+ pound packs, and so decided that we would climb the ridge with day packs to the base of Haeckels Northeast face.

The next morning, Day 2, we donned day packs and ascended the drainage below the Northeast face of Mt. Darwin to Blue Heaven Lake (11,821'). We wanted to look at Darwin Col in hopes of using it to cross the divide into Darwin Canyon. The hike up to Blue Heaven was really fun, with some intricate route-finding to surmount the final headwall below the lake. From the lake we could peek into the chute that leads up to Darwin Col, and could see that it was totally snow-filled. That closed off our last possible route from Sabrina Basin to Evolution Basin. Blue Heaven Lake was covered with floating ice that made a swim unappealing. Instead we climbed the ridge above the lake to a summit at 12,044' for a view into the Hell Diver lakes drainage. Descending the mornings route, we were back in camp at Midnight Lake by 4:00.

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Blue Heaven route

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Climb talus up and right from head of Midnight Lake

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Tim at Blue Heaven

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Blue Heaven Lake

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Bruce below the summit of Mt. Darwin

Day 3, we again loaded our lunches into our day packs and headed up the ridge that separates Midnight and Hungry Packer Lakes towards Haeckel Col. The ascent of the ridge face above the lake involved som spicy 3rd class moves on rock to avoid the very firm steep snow. Below the crest of the ridge we were able to slip into the moat between rock and ice and climb it to the crest. Once on top of the ridge it was an enjoyable scramble up beautiful granite slabs on the dragon's spine. Occasional exposure dropping into Midnight Lake to the right and Hungry Packer to the left made it all the more exciting.

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The route to Haeckel Col

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Hungry Packer Lake from the ridge crest

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Bruce and Jill and 800' of exposure above Midnight Lake

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The team below Haeckel Peak

Forewarned by great route beta found on highsierratopix.com, we stayed high on the left side of the pointy peak that sits at the top of the ridge. Here the exposure was at it's highest, but the moves were easy 2nd class and we traversed around the peak. This leads to a wide hanging valley filled with tarns and small lakes, culminating in Lake 12,345 just below Haeckel Col. From here the view of the col confirmed that we would have needed traction tools to ascend the steep snowfield to the actual col. In normal years this is a steep talus field. After a long break in the shade of a giant boulder, napping and playing cards over lunch, we descended the route, and were once again back in camp at Midnight Lake by 4:00.

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Descending the spine of the dragon

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3rd class moves down the face of the ridge

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Midnight Lake below. Follow the moat!

Day 4 dawned clear and bright, and we decided to move our camp over to Hungry Packer Lake and explore the area to the south that contains Sailor, Moonlight and Echo Lakes. The move was only a mile or so, and the terrain opened out to a beautiful basin strewn with meadowland, granite slabs, streams and waterfalls. We arrived at Hungry Packer Lake before noon, and found the campsites at the outfall occupied. There is a beautiful istmus of granite halfway up the lake, and we hiked high up the side of the basin, then dropped down to a very private campsite on top of this feature. Once again, the exposed camp allowed the breeze to limit the mosquitos. Another bonus, the shore of the istmus was our own private lounging area with perfect granite slabs and expansive meadowland right down to the waters edge.

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Midnight Lake outfall crossing

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Sailor Lake meadowlands

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Hungry Packer Lake

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Picture Peak reflections

After setting up camp we hiked over to Moonlight Lake for a swim in its turquoise waters. This lake's color is far different than others in the area. After a swim and some sun bathing we walked downhill to the beautiful falls of Moonlight Lake's outfall, one of the nicest waterfalls I've visited in the backcountry. We then rambled through the meadowland back to camp.

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Our camp on the isthmus. Can you spot my tent?

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Always camp on durable surfaces!

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The view from our private shoreline

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A Father/Daughter moment!

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Moonlight Lake, with its turquoise colored water

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Moonlight Lake falls above Sailor Lake

Day 5. Having climbed the ridge that encloses Hungry Packer to the north, we decided to climb the southern ridge, which climbs above the lake to the steep face of Picture Peak, which towers over Hungry Packer and dominates the view. This is another awesome ridge walk on stunning granite slabs. Near the junction with Picture Peak the ridge steepens and offers some spicy 3rd class moves before it becomes possible to do an easy contour over to Echo Lake (11,602'), our goal for the day. From Echo Lake we descended the drainage with easy walking through meadowland and large talus back to Moonlight Lake, then contoured back around the ridge to camp at Hungry Packer.

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Echo Lake route

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Easy 2nd class scrambling

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Just a little bit of snow on the ridge crest

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Echo Lake

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Easy contour into the lake from the ridge

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Relaxing lakeside

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Clear, cold water!

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Always time for a good book

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The descent below Echo Lake

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Moonlight Lake in the distance

Day 6 was an easy day. We wanted to explore another off-trail basin, and Bottleneck Lake, perched high above Dingleberry Lake two miles down the trail was the perfect candidate. After 5 days of constant motion and many vertical feet of climb and descent, we were ready for a restful day. We broke camp and made the short carry back downhill to Dingleberry (10,489'). Once again we found an exposed campsite on granite domes above the lake, but the mosquitos were much more bothersome than at the higher lakes. We spent the rest of the day relaxing around camp, napping, reading and wading in the creek.

On day 7 we once again packed our light day packs for the ascent up to Bottleneck Lake at 11,122'. I had climbed up the opposite side of the valley above Dingleberry and had spied out a potential approach route up the steep wall to a col on the ridge. Beyond that col, Bottleneck Lake sits in alpine splendor. Up the rugged valley above Bottleneck lie the Schober Holes. Down the same drainage are the Fishgut Lakes. We climbed a steep timbered gully directly across the inlet to Dingleberry and discovered a small hidden lake below a steep talus slope. A careful climb of the talus, then a rightward traverse led us into a winding, heather filled gully that led directly to the col and to Bottleneck Lake beyond.

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Bottleneck Lake route

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Climb the talus slope and traverse right into a gully that leads to the col

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Great views back into Sabrina Basin

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Bottleneck Lake. The Schober Holes are over the saddle beyond the lake.

We had a nice long lunch break at Bottleneck, relaxing in the heather, feet dangling in the icy water. Then we climbed the granite dome (11,407') to the northwest of the col for great views of the Fishgut Lakes and across the Sabrina Basin to Topsy Turvey Lake. Once back down to Bottleneck, the descent back to camp was done in 45 minutes.

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Fishgut Lakes from the ridge above Bottleneck

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Panorama from Bottleneck to the Fishguts

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Bottleneck shoreline meadow

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Jamie and Emily at Bottleneck

We hiked out to the trailhead on day 8, arriving 3 hours after departing our last camp at Dingleberry Lake. All in all, this was voted one of our favorite backpacks ever, even though we failed at achieving our primary objective of crossing the Evolution divide. If you are comfortable with a bit of class 2 and easy class 3 rambling, the ridge climbs above Midnight and Hungry Packer are sublime. We felt very uncrowded at these upper lakes, and never saw a soul on any of our day hikes above the lakes. Now that I know the lay of the land, I will certainly return in a lower snow year and cross Haeckel and Darwin Cols to complete the loop we missed this year.

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Switchback on the way back to Sabrina Lake








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maverick
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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by maverick » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:33 pm

Thank you for sharing your thorough exploration of Sabrina Basin (great pic's), and deciding not to go over into Evo because some of your groups members did not have the experience, was definitely the right call. :thumbsup:

What is the going cost of a carb-loading breakfast at PC now a days?
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by Alpinista55 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:42 pm

Hey Mav, The Parcher's breakfast is $7.00, an all-you-can-eat buffet which includes the triple threat of Biscuits and Gravy, Fresh-baked Cinnamon Rolls, and Belgian Waffles! Plus the healthy stuff; yogurt, fruit, etc. Four of us split a 4-person cabin, at $125 per person for two nights. The cabins are wonderful and the owners and staff are great!

Alpinista

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maverick
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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by maverick » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:50 pm

Thanks for the numbers, have not been there in maybe 20+ years, may stop by next month. :)
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by CAchief » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:51 pm

Great pictures and report! I especially enjoyed the pics of the ice in Echo lake and the rugged trail between blue and emerald lakes.

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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by Jimr » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:22 pm

Thank you for an excellent report. I've been to that area a few times. There's so much to see. I think it was very fortunate you ended up with 8 spacious days to really explore that basin. When I was there over July 4th, there was just too much snow still in the high areas. Need to go back to explore more.
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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by kpeter » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:51 pm

Wonderful to see your pictures from my favorite old haunt. I think I've been on all those dayhikes over the years, but never an 8 day trip to Sabrina! It must have felt very much like home by the time you left. I remember coming down via the Helldiver Lakes after my exploration of Blue Heaven, which is a little different from what you did, but other than that....great minds seem to think alike! Thank you for sharing!

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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by Matthewkphx » Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:03 pm

Excellent trip report! Thanks so much for sharing it. I'm headed up into Sabrina in a week for a few nights. My goal for this summer has been to get off-trail in the Sierra with my son. This trip report has provided tons of inspiration. Thank you for that!

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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by SSSdave » Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:03 pm

Thanks for sharing your trip with us with such an finely crafted report with excellent images.

I've base camped in that basin several times over decades. My preferred camp spot is behind out of the way Pee Wee Lake. Your report is a great example of semi-base camping that I tend to prefer. Reach a timberline destination basin then leisurely move camp spots short distances over a period of days while spending days exploring and really getting to know such special places. Your report shows how there is much more to explore with a bit of imagination, topographic map work, and acceptance of doing some modest climbing up from where one is actually camped at. In fact there are even more places worth venturing to you never got to like the giant talus around Topsy Turvy.

Most groups to that basin after making all the effort to reach it, plunk down at say Moonlight Lake spending most of their day hours poking about and maybe fishing a bit at one or two nearby lakes like Hungry Packer and Sailor that hardly require any uphill hiking to reach and after a couple days become bored as though they had experienced what it is was about to be there. Did they explore Echo, Topsy Turvy, Pee Wee, Midnight, Fishgut, Bottleneck, Schober Holes, Blue Heaven or a number of no name lakes much less ridge lines with views? The same mindset that dominates many backpackers who spend most of their trips hiking trails and routes with little time at destinations. It was good to read "All in all, this was voted one of our favorite backpacks ever..."

David

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Re: Trip Report - 8 Days in Sabrina Basin

Post by Shhsgirl » Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:47 pm

Thanks for a great trip report. So good, in fact, that I've downloaded it and may duplicate it in some days my partner and I have to burn between upcoming trips, although we won't equal the amount of scrambling you did. My handle on this website should be "Copycat No Shame."

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