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Sphinx Lakes to Lake Reflection

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Sphinx Lakes to Lake Reflection

Postby Aviprk » Sat Apr 14, 2007 6:29 pm

Hi there. I plan a trip that basically makes this supposedly popular loop from Roads End down Avalanche pass trail to Sphinx lakes over longley pass and down lake reflection and east lake. Has anyone done something similar? I plan on going the second week of June. How will the conditions be higher up? Also, Would it be better to "start" at east lake or "end" at east lake?



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sphinx to reflection

Postby oldranger » Sat Apr 14, 2007 9:57 pm

I assume you are using "Down avalanche pass trail to sphinx lakes" in the loosest sense since it is all up hill. Even in this dry year you are likely to have to deal with some snow in the upper reaches of Sphinx, Brewer, and Cunningham. Plus the cornice on Longley. See http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rlilly/High_ ... _Pass.html for late season in dry year. Check out the thread for Rae Lakes loop for some ideas about issue of crossing bubbs creek.

I've gone from Moraine meadows, to sphinx to Brewer then down to cloud Canyon in early june in a dry year. Lots of snow just covering the talus fields. Always a concern about breaking through a small snow bridge between a couple of rocks. I traveled really early in the am when I crossed what I knew was the talus field. Actually it was easier walking than over the talus.

Have a good trip on whatever you decide.

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Postby Steve Bearman » Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:30 pm

Having just come from a few days of backcountry skiing, I can testify that we are in a very dry year. Check out the bottom graph on this page for objective verification: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/icons/PLOT_SWC.2007.gif. I think this is an excellent year for early season trips.

I would vote for starting by heading up from Junction Meadow toward East Lake and Lake Reflection. (The couple times I have crossed Bubbs Creek at Junction Meadow, someone has always rigged up some kind of crossing aid, since this is a popular crossing and camping spot.) Heading up this way is a more gradual ascent, and the view down toward Cunningham Creek from Longley Pass is awesome. Whatever you do, avoid the nightmare moraine southeast of Longley Pass.
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Postby giantbrookie » Sun Apr 15, 2007 5:02 pm

Ditto Old Ranger's caution on Bubbs Creek--that is something to consider whichever direction you go. Provided that crossing is OK, I would opt for East Creek first. It is better to see what you're getting over with respect to the crux spot (Longley Pass) then head over it and not realize what you're up against until peering over the edge.
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Postby copeg » Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:07 pm

This is a trip I've been dying to do for a few years...done much of it in pieces but never connected it together in a single trip. To reiterate and add to what the others have said...I'd say the two major hurdles on this loop are Bubbs Creek, and Longley Pass (I say Longley Pass may be a hurdle because the times I've seen it it had a cornice hanging over the east side that could make passage difficult). Heading up to Lake Reflection first allows you to check the level of Bubbs Creek first, and if OK approach Longley Pass from the east, from below the cornice.
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Postby Aviprk » Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:10 pm

Trailblazer. Check out these extensive collection from a trip almost identical to the one I plan on doing. http://jeffharg.smugmug.com/gallery/1816893/7

Is that the cornice from Longley Pass. It doesn't look that hard to come down (maybe going up though!) so I was thinking of just going from Avalanche pass up Sphinx lakes and then go east across Longley pass. It seems more viable too.

Also, won't i know the level of bubbs creek when I make the first bridge crossing anyway?
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Postby copeg » Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:54 pm

Aviprk wrote:Trailblazer. Check out these extensive collection from a trip almost identical to the one I plan on doing. http://jeffharg.smugmug.com/gallery/1816893/7

Is that the cornice from Longley Pass. It doesn't look that hard to come down (maybe going up though!) so I was thinking of just going from Avalanche pass up Sphinx lakes and then go east across Longley pass. It seems more viable too.

Also, won't i know the level of bubbs creek when I make the first bridge crossing anyway?


That is an awesome photo album :nod: seeing that now really convinces me I gotta do that this summer.
Others may think differently, but personally I'd much rather approach the cornice from underneath, so I'm not leaning over a thin overhang trying to find the easiest way down. Hard to say how large it'll be when you arrive so this may not even be an issue..in those pics it doesn't seem to be (that was in august though). As for Bubbs Creek, I personally wouldn't use the depth at the bridge crossing to gauge how deep it'll be above, many variables involved especially in June.
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Postby Aviprk » Sun Apr 15, 2007 10:17 pm

Hmm... if bubbs creek becomes impassable I may have to look for another trip.
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:15 am

Aviprk wrote:Hmm... if bubbs creek becomes impassable I may have to look for another trip.


Perhaps not this year unless you go real early. The Southern Sierra is in drought this year.

That picture link above is an interesting route. Looks like they headed to Longley from Cloud Canyon (http://www.sierra-trails.com/kaweah/Kaweah08.htm) near Colby Lake (http://www.sierra-trails.com/kaweah/Kaweah17.htm).
I too would say going around through East Lake might be better, because of Bubbs Creek and Longley conditions. It may even be easier than the stairs and cross country of Sphinx Creek (http://www.sierra-trails.com/sphinx/sphinx12.htm). Once at Sphinx Lakes, the way into Brewer Basin is not bad (http://www.sierra-trails.com/sphinx/stcoverv1n5.htm). And coming up from Avalanche Pass Trail (west side near Roaring R.) is a good way if you are good with a compass/gps (http://www.sierra-trails.com/sphinx/sphinx59.htm).
Lake Refection is not to be missed.
Of interest, on the L. Reflection side to Longley, there are sections of stairs from an old trail. Horse packers used to cross that pass.
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Postby maverick » Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:23 pm

I too would recommend the east to west route over Longley
unless your familiar with the short class 3 route used to bypass
the cornice in early season.
Bubbs Creek at Junction Meadow may be passable early in the day
but you may have to go down the creek to find an area you feel
comfortable with crossing.
Lake Reflection is beautiful as is the view towards Brewer from East
Lake.
Which ever route you take do not skip climbing Mt Brewer!!
The views are spectacular and only match by a few other
peaks in the Sierra!!
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Postby giantbrookie » Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:28 pm

maverick wrote:Which ever route you take do not skip climbing Mt Brewer!! The views are spectacular and only match by a few other
peaks in the Sierra!!


I agree that Mt. Brewer is one of the real prizes of the Sierra and it is easy (Class 2). I just want to make a little note of caution that sort of goes hand-in-hand with the early season Bubbs Creek crossings and cornices on Longley. The most popular ascent route up Brewer is the east ridge from East Lake. This is a pleasant and scenic class 2 route and no problem later in the year, but the top of east ridge, which is steep class 2 scree and talus later in the year is a spectacularly steep snow/ice headwall in early season. This would not be so bad if there were "run out" onto gentler slopes below in the event of a fall and failed self arrest, but the fall line off of this headwall leads you over a several hundred foot high cliff. I was the first person up Brewer in 1979, climbing it in late May in what was a low snowfall year. As a rather foolish 19-year-old, descending from the summit I attempted to glissade the headwall, fell, and then attempted to self arrest with my ice axe. As is typical in spring snow, the axe simply cut a furrow through the snow as I rocketed down toward the drop off. I did eventually self arrest, but not before scaring the daylights out of myself (had gone about 40% of the distance to the drop off by the time I stopped). The other not-so-good thing about an early ascent of Brewer via the east ridge route is that I encountered thigh deep soft snow pretty much continually from the point I left East Lake. Nearly 4000' of gain in thigh deep postholing (upper part was snow free above the E. Ridge) is a real calorie burner. I guess what I am recommending is that you attack Brewer up its southern slope from the west side during your trip, rather than doing the popular E. ridge route from East Lake. This also negates the rather interesting option of using the E. Ridge of Brewer as a way of crossing the Great Western Divide as an alternative to Longley Pass (the snow head wall of the E. Ridge tends to be breached earlier than the cornice on Longley Pass)--such an alternative even in a year like this may not open up until mid season.
Last edited by giantbrookie on Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby maverick » Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:05 pm

Oh a fellow 60's man. Which month GB? Im an Oct born baby boomer.
Yes I agree that this ascent should be undertaken by someone with
climbing experience or later in the season!
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