The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

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oldhikerQ
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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by oldhikerQ » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:56 am

For me, it has been Carol Col (aka Roget Lake Pass). Steep enough dropping in that I had to face into the slope for the first few dozen vertical feet of drop. Then carefully work my way down and to the right to easier terrain.
Last summer, a trip over Nancy Pass effectively ended my cross country travels. It was my third trip there, and I was less than 100 vertical feet from the bottom of the talus field. I stepped onto a boulder bigger than a mini van, which pivoted to the side as soon as it was weighted. I could not catch my balance in time, and experienced what one of my group described as a full roll with a half twist. Ended up on my back with my feet pointed downhill. Suffered some neck trauma that kept me off of the trails this summer.
If the medical system cooperates, I will soon have a referral to begin physical therapy so I can get back on the trail.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by wildhiker » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:15 am

The nastiest cross-country pass I have done is Alpine Col, on the northwest side. It wasn't particularly scary, just really tedious working your way down through steep room-sized talus boulders. Required so much concentration. Simply not fun. My wife and I swore we would never do that again or anything like it. So Alpine Pass is now my "lead standard" (opposite of gold) for cross-country passes.
-Phil

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Oct 06, 2017 11:06 am

For me Alpine Col was not bad at all. I much rather be in "slow and tedious" terrain than "loose and unstable" terrain. This highlights the fact that someone's "worst" may be another's "just fine". Having done a life-time of mountaineering, I prefer talus to a lot of other terrain (such as bushwhacking or steep slippery grass), as long as it is stable. For some reason I can jump between large talus blocks, but just put that talus in a stream and I fall in if I try to jump.

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by SSSdave » Fri Oct 06, 2017 11:13 am

wildhiker wrote:The nastiest cross-country pass I have done is Alpine Col, on the northwest side. It wasn't particularly scary, just really tedious working your way down through steep room-sized talus boulders. Required so much concentration. Simply not fun. My wife and I swore we would never do that again or anything like it. So Alpine Pass is now my "lead standard" (opposite of gold) for cross-country passes.
-Phil


Yeah I did Alpine Col from the north in 1989 and likewise did not enjoy the experience. I had read comments about the huge talus so studied the topo map, taking a non-standard route following less steep elevation lines. But that was a big mistake because those areas well above the east side shore of Goethe Lake also had the most monsterous talus. In this era one can see that larger talus with Google Earth. Lots of ways going through those giant blocks that could easily end up in black holes deep between boulders one can never climb out of. No doubt that talus has some skeletons no one has known about. If one takes the standard route down by and around the west shore and then straight up to the saddle it is supposedly not too bad. The east shore has an ugly section at the north end much like going around the big Royce Lake.

David

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by SSSdave » Fri Oct 06, 2017 11:21 am

oldhikerQ wrote:For me, it has been Carol Col (aka Roget Lake Pass). Steep enough dropping in that I had to face into the slope for the first few dozen vertical feet of drop. Then carefully work my way down and to the right to easier terrain...
Yeah you entered from the steeper spot as many do as it is tricky because there are several short slots from the top where one cannot see the crux of that route just below.

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by sparky » Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:59 pm

For me it is an unnamed pass i have used several times to connect the highest lake below the north face of university peak to the kearsarge lakes basin. It forms a convenient cross country loop that makes a fairly easy overnighter, that is only reason I continue to use it. The scenery is pretty good too. You could probably get to center basin in a day from here if you took this pass, then contoured to university shoulder as an alternative to university pass. I have eyeballed this route several times, but the descent from university shoulder down has some cliff bands one would want to account for on the descent.

Another one that was sketchy just in a couple spots was the pass that connects big 5 lakes basin to spring lake. I encountered very large (garage sized) boulders that moved when I jumped on them. There was 3 or 4 very large boulders that did this on the otherwise trivial descent. Pretty crazy to think of a boulder so balanced that 175 lbs will make it move. Uppermost Little 5 lake into upper big 5 lakes basin over this pass to spring lake makes for a spectacular day of hiking. On this day I also went over glacier pass to monarch lakes.

Le Conte Gully without ropes was pretty sketch too (ropeless) but I am not sure if I was on route or not.

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by kursavwilage » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:37 pm

I have to agree with SEKIHIKER on Piss Your Pants Pass. Back in 1986 I was relatively new to cross country packing and planned out my trip using the Roper's guide for info on passes. I thought I was on the right pass but was one pass to the north of the actual Pants Pass. The east side of the pass was a terrifyingly steep chute and was choked with snow so I thought that I could scoot down the snow on my rear until I slid uncontrollably for about thirty feet only to be stopped by slamming into a rock. The slide spooked me pretty bad so I traversed north out of the chute and down climbed an unending series of ledges to the easier slopes below. For around 20 years I thought that the pass was Pants Pass until I looked up Pants Pass in Secor's "The High Sierra" and saw the photo that says "this is not Pants Pass".

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Re: The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by Sebastian_A_K » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:44 am

Southfork pass. Maybe because we did that after a day of rain. I experienced it as a very steep narrow mud funnel, and that was going up the steeper east side. Hard to imagine coming down that thing. We examined both chutes from below, as suggested by Secor, and the left one had his near vertical icy section but the right side wasn't that much better.

University on the other hand I don't find very bad. I've done that once with and once without snow, and both times saw is over the pass at the end of a day that started at around noon in onion valley. It's certainly nicer with snow, and a helmet makes you feel a bit better on the west side. I kinda like this pass because it offers such fast access to the backcountry.

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Sebastian_A_K
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Post by Sebastian_A_K » Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:25 pm

add Agassiz col to that.
Putting one of these high off trail passes at the end of the trip makes the pack lighter, and that does help a lot, but it also creates problems when you find that the pass is too difficult for you. Apart from Jigsaw, there are no easier alternatives around for each of these passes, so you'll risk running out of food on the long detour that will be involved. Clearly better than an accident on a pass that's too steep, but still no fun.
Jigsaw btw seems very tricky going E to W. I remember barely finding the route near the top on the W side. It must be even worse going down.

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