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Sphinx Lakes to Lake Reflection

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Postby giantbrookie » Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:03 pm

maverick wrote: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!

Actually its August '59 (so I guess it was more like foolish 19-2/3 yr old).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html



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Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:45 am

Why is it that you guys recommend going over Longley pass east to west when there is a cornice? Is it because of the off trail route around Sphinx lakes? Here is my planned itinerary

Wednesday Night: Arrive at Roads End and sleep

Thursday: Start hiking by 10:00am and reach any of the Sphinx lakes by around 5:00pm. Set camp

Friday: Climb Mt Brewer and South Guard. Go over Longley Pass and down Lake Reflection

Saturday: Down to Bubbs Creek

Sunday: Head Home.

Is such itinerary too packed? Too little room for error in navigation?
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Apr 17, 2007 10:29 am

Aviprk wrote:Why is it that you guys recommend going over Longley pass east to west when there is a cornice? Is it because of the off trail route around Sphinx lakes? Here is my planned itinerary
Wednesday Night: Arrive at Roads End and sleep
Thursday: Start hiking by 10:00am and reach any of the Sphinx lakes by around 5:00pm. Set camp
Friday: Climb Mt Brewer and South Guard. Go over Longley Pass and down Lake Reflection
Saturday: Down to Bubbs Creek
Sunday: Head Home.
Is such itinerary too packed? Too little room for error in navigation?


The reasons several of us recommend going up Bubbs then up East Creek to Reflection and over Longley first are: (1) The Bubbs Creek crossing at Jct. Meadow is sometimes very dangerous early season, even following a low snowfall year. If it were to be uncrossable and you don't find this out until you've done 3/4 of your loop and are on your last day out, you'll be in a world of hurt (have to reverse your way to get out). If you do East Creek first, you will reach this key crossing on day 1, and if it is uncrossable, you find out early on your trip and can develop an alternative itinerary, rather than being "trapped".
(2) You can't see that cornice on Longley going from west to east, but you be able to see it well coming up from Reflection and (a) decide not to cross the pass or (b) find the best way around it (low class 3). If you are coming the west-to-east, it will be very difficult to pick out a good route around the cornice, if it does in fact block the class 2 chute.

As to your planned itinerary it is indeed fast paced leaving little time to sit back and actually enjoy the country you traverse, unless you cover the hiking parts at higher than average hiking speed (the itinerary calls for spending most of the day hiking instead of being at a given destination and relaxing). Your itinerary demands an well-above-average (compared to the average backpacker) amount of hiking for each day, but it is by no means impossible--Several of those on this board and I have done trips like that.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 17, 2007 10:41 am

Thanks a bunch Giantbrookie

The only "resting" day for trip will be in the morning we get to lake reflection. It's not very long down to bubbs creek and I was planning to explore some of the area around lake reflection (including milly's foot and lucy's foot pass) and then head down to bubbs creek later on.

I will definitely consider the east - west over Longley route all the more so as the date approaches. Hopefully the rangers and TR's will be able to let me know how the bubbs creek crossing will be by early june. I'm hoping this low snow year will make Mid June conditions similar to a mid july. Much more managable!
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:58 pm

Aviprk wrote:Here is my planned itinerary
Wednesday Night: Arrive at Roads End and sleep
Thursday: Start hiking by 10:00am and reach any of the Sphinx lakes by around 5:00pm. Set camp
Friday: Climb Mt Brewer and South Guard. Go over Longley Pass and down Lake Reflection
Saturday: Down to Bubbs Creek
Sunday: Head Home.
Is such itinerary too packed? Too little room for error in navigation?


The giantbrookie advice is good. I would say that unless you are in the shape of say, a marathon runner in peak condition, this plan may be that big bite too big to chew. Getting just from Roads end to the Sphinx Creek camp is hard enough all by itself: by the time you get to the Bubbs bridge you have already gone a good distance and gained a good amount of altitude, and the worst is yet to come. You have to climb a bazillion stairs to get to the Sphinx Creek camp. How will you feel? :puke: And you want to go on and do the cross country to beautiful lower Sphinx camp? Perhaps if you got a really early start, walked very slow, rested often and planned to get there after 6PM, you would have a shot (this style has worked for me). Gettin over Sphinx Pass is a lot of hard work too, and to add a peak bag...well, good luck. :cool: Going from Lake Reflection down to Roads end in a day can be done and is not too bad: I did that. You will be tired but not totaled.

Some references:
http://www.sierra-trails.com/sphinx/stcoverv1n3.htm
http://www.sierra-trails.com/sphinx/stcoverv1n5.htm
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Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:44 pm

Can you point in the map (topozone) where the Sphinx creek camp would be? Is it around the first or second river-meets-trail junction? You say that alone could take the whole day. How many miles is it? Is it all on trail or some off trail as well?
I've done several off trail (mostly really well known and short routes) and have done 15-20 mile days a couple of times so I'm not too worried about mileages but rather the off trail part. Thanks in advance.
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:05 pm

Aviprk wrote:Can you point in the map (topozone) where the Sphinx creek camp would be? Is it around the first or second river-meets-trail junction? You say that alone could take the whole day. How many miles is it? Is it all on trail or some off trail as well?
I've done several off trail (mostly really well known and short routes) and have done 15-20 mile days a couple of times so I'm not too worried about mileages but rather the off trail part. Thanks in advance.


>>Can you point in the map (topozone) where the Sphinx creek camp would be? Is it around the first or second river-meets-trail junction? <<
After you cross the bridge over Bubbs, it is the next spot the trail reaches Sphinx Creek at ~8500 feet.

>>>I've done several off trail ...and have done 15-20 mile days a couple of times so I'm not too worried about mileages but rather the off trail part. <<<

Me too, but it is not the miles, its the first day altitude gain, in particular towards the end going to Sphinx Creek camp. When you get to the camp at ~8500 feet, you have gained 3500 feet over about 6.8 miles. The cross-country to the lowest Sphinx lake is not hard and mostly class 1 travel. The first time I went up there, I too had planned to go beyond Sphinx Creek Camp, but that trail.... I would do it differently today.
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Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:07 pm

I will keep those words in minds when I'm up there. In the Sierra-Trails it is mentioned that the so called trail is more like "fiction" and that the so called trail actually starts on the west (Left side) of sphinx creek. Which one is it?
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:38 pm

Aviprk wrote:I will keep those words in minds when I'm up there. In the Sierra-Trails it is mentioned that the so called trail is more like "fiction" and that the so called trail actually starts on the west (Left side) of sphinx creek. Which one is it?


The "trail" that starts at the high Sphinx Creek camp at Avalanche Meadow is on the West side of the creek and soon starts to fade away starting at the end of the meadow, goes up the first headwall and goes away completely at the next (if not before). Still, it is all easy (steep) travel.
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Postby langenbacher » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:05 pm

Last September, Shawn and I went from Road's end, up Sphinx Creek all the way to lake 10514 in about 9 hours. This was a beautiful place to camp. Unfortunately we didn't get very far the next day, and never made the peak. See http://langenbacher.org/Brewer. The cross country on upper Sphinx Creek could be a pain. We found a pretty good route up the south side of the creek on the way up, but on the way down we got on the north side near the bottom and got lost in the brush.

The campsite where the creek left the trail looked pretty nice, at 8600' .

Harry
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:11 am

My wife and I made it to the lower Sphinx Lake in something like 8 hours six or seven years ago and it was a pretty good grind. We still don't know where the optimal cross country route is up to the Lower Sphinx Lake, given that we initially (for a few hundred yards) followed a use trail on the north side and soon did combat with some moderately bad brush mixed with big boulders. However, it was mild enough that we figured we'd just gut it out on the way down without exploring the other side that sounds (from Doyle's description) to be the better way. I don't know if you fish, but if you do, the Sphinx Lakes (particularly the upper ones) are worth checking out; this is one of the main reasons my wife and I chose to push it into the lakes on day 1 rather than camp on the creek. Big Brewer is similar in fishing quantity and size to the upper Sphinxes. The rainbows in these lakes aren't huge, but they are fairly numerous, and their top end isn't bad (about 15"). On the other side, Reflection has small fish (but the mix includes some goldens and hybrids), East Lake is teeming with medium sized browns averaging 8-11" (arguably the easiest place to catch a brown in a lake in the High Sierra) with an occasional big rainbow thrown in (caught 18" rainbow there in 1994).

I think the E-W route (ie East Creek first) makes more sense in terms of a better day 1, as well as being the better approach to dealing with Bubbs Creek and Longley Pass. If indeed the trip cannot be stretched beyond 4 days (and it would be much less of a death march if it was) here is a 4 day alternative game plan using East Creek first. Day 1: to East Lake. Although longer in mileage than even the upper Sphinx Lakes, this is an easier hike owing to the much more moderate gradient and the fact that it is 100% trail rather than having a cross country segment hitting you at the end just when you get tired. In late season, this hike goes very fast (faster than the mileage would indicate-my dad once backpacked this in a phenomenal 4 hrs that included a 30 min lunch break--my dad was not an ordinary hiker, however), but in early season the hike to Jct. Meadow is slowed a bit by a large number of small creek crossings (these go dry later in the year). Day 2: Go to Lake Reflection then over Longley Pass. Drop pack and bag South Guard from Longley Pass. You have some options as to where to go after this; camping in Brewer Basin would be nice, given that South Guard Lake appeared fishless to us in 1999. While headed to Brewer Basin you will be closer to Brewer and its easiest route (south slope) than you will be at any other point in the trip. If you have lots of juice and time you might bag Brewer then, given that it will be closer at this junction (crossing the divide between Cunningham Creek (S. Guard Lake)) and Brewer Basin. Day 3. Move camp to Sphinx Lakes. Drop pack on way and climb Brewer if you haven't already done so. To do Brewer involves a bit of backtracking (with your daypack, of course), which is why the most efficient course is to have done it on day 2. One way or another, there should still be a fair amount of time to kick back at the Sphinxes at the end of day 3. Day 4. A bit more time to enjoy the Sphinxes before descending to camp. If your route leads you into brush while heading for the trail, at least you're probably going downhill when you hit it. Brush is easier going downhill, although some of the key brush we encountered was going sidehill which is a pain whichever way you're going.

One thing about this trip is that you will find is that one part is very popular with hikers whereas the other part is not. You'll see lots of hikers/campers in the Bubbs Creek corridor and at East Lake. You may not meet anyone in the Brewer Basin-Sphinx Lakes area. Both areas are beautiful, but the Sphinx, Brewer Basin areas certainly have more of a wild feel owing to the solitude which no doubt is because they are off trail.
Last edited by giantbrookie on Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby Shawn » Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:58 am

Sphinx Lakes is always a good topic of discussion.

While Harry and I did make good time to lake 10514, I am confident that Harry could have trimmed an hour or two off that time. Harry's athletic abilities are outstanding, mine are not. Consequently I bonked on the morning of day two. Harry being the ultimate team mate chose to forego his summit of Brewer as a matter of safety. Anyone that has been in the back country can appreciate how hard that must be to do given the circumstances. You can imagine how much respect I have for Harry as a result.

Anyway, having been up Sphinx Creek more than once, I would always advise taking the route west of the creek. I too have read many TR's which debate this side or that side, but from experience the west route is it for me (I hesitate to admit I'll likely do it again this year).

Here is my 'Season of Humility' TR for the trip Harry and I made.
http://www.theradioroom.org/Sphinx/Sphinx1.htm

Also, here is a topo showing the "approximate" route along Sphinx Creek:
http://www.theradioroom.org/BrewerRoute.JPG

I'll always feel bad for stalling Harry's summit of Brewer, but the good news is I've worked hard since then to get in better shape which has paid many dividends already.

Shawn

PS. Doyle- I re-read your Sphinx and Brewer TR's, enjoyed them almost more than the first time.
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