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The Worst or Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

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

Postby Hobbes » Thu Sep 14, 2017 1:30 pm

Well, anyone who knows me or has read my comments/reports, I'm pretty much the antithesis of the sensitive, feeling Muir emotive types. But, for some reason, I was having real magic moments on this trip.

As many know - since I keep saying it - I hate trees, but love steep, stark granitic formations. So, while not as big, deep & scary as Shepherd, Pine canyon is no slouch. Secondly, while not in the same league as the 4 bad boys, Pine has a high enough difficulty factor to dissuade the masses. Third, and this is crucial, while the other 4 also get you to lake regions, they aren't as extensive.

For instance, Shepherd will get you - 20 miles later - to perhaps the best GT fishery in the Sierra. But, it's a b!tch of a hard trail and long x-c, and once there, it's the only game in town. So, for the youngsters, it's still very doable, but I need to start thinking about what I can and can't do going forward.

That's why, as I was going through my mental ledger & comparing the pros/cons of all the places I've been, I was purposely walking slowly (enough so that my partner would periodically stop to check if I still behind and ok), taking photos and enjoying a scenic, "easy" pass for once:

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

Postby Harlen » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:02 pm

.... the 4 bad boys,..." Hobbes


I assume you are referring to the 4 longest and steepest of the regular eastside passes Karl? Must be Shepherd, Sawmill, Taboose Creek, and the fourth? I am wondering what "the fourth Horseman of your apocalypse" might be ? ..... I guess Southfork Pass (one of my very favorites BTW) is pretty darn steep, but not so long by half as the others? What is it Karl?

Did you guys by any chance wander up the branch of Pine Creek that leads to that amazing wall of Bear Creek Spire? It's like a giant granite altar! I snow-shoed up to it one January about 30 years ago. Adios, Ian
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Postby Gazelle » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:08 pm

Baxter?
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Postby Hobbes » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:28 am

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

Postby SSSdave » Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:48 am

Hobbes wrote:...As many know - since I keep saying it - I hate trees, but love steep, stark granitic formations. So, while not as big, deep & scary as Shepherd, Pine canyon is no slouch. Secondly, while not in the same league as the 4 bad boys, Pine has a high enough difficulty factor to dissuade the masses. Third, and this is crucial, while the other 4 also get you to lake regions, they aren't as extensive...


Were it not for the Pine creek Tungsten Mine and a century plus of human corruption of the original natural lower canyon landscape, now soiless rock piles and mining slurry catch ponds between sagebrush, the canyon could arguably be considered the most impressive east of the Sierra Crest at a national park level. Consider how extremely gnarly metamorphic geologies of Mount Tom, Wheeler Crest, and Broken Finger tower above? Take a real look at the Pine Lake through Honeymoon middle zone from locations one can actually see the impressive surrounding peaks, not just down along the forest blocking trail. And consider the craggy magnificence of the upper Granite Park areas? Together with the upper Rock Creek Little Lakes Valley and its tall Abbot group peaks just north it is as good as it gets alongside the Palisade region.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.36187,-118.69083&z=15&t=T
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Postby Hobbes » Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:28 am

I agree, it was all very pretty. Definitely within nat'l park standards of beauty. And, I didn't really even mind the mine. Besides, there's evidence of heavy human presence throughout the Sierra. The most obvious are the reservoirs - they're nice to look @ when full, but ugly when half-empty. Still, that doesn't keep people from hiking around Hetch Hetchy, Edison, etc.

Since this thread was originally about 'scary' passes, I thought it might be a good place to post up my spreadsheet ranking the hardest passes by gain/mile. A secondary consideration is length. So, for example, while I've got the climb out Glen from Rae listed high, it's less than 2 miles, while Sawmill goes on forever.

Third, as this is very subtle and difficult (if not impossible) to measure, is the local environment. To use Glen again, it's up the north face, so it's shaded in the summer. (Of course, it makes for a gnarly ascent in snow, but that is yet another measure.)

Now, compare that to either Taboose & Shepherd, which are not only built out of foot/knee/leg punishing crushed talus, but are high up their respective northern canyon edges. Not only are they hot & exposed from direct sun, but the hot canyon air cooked down below adds to the incineration effect.

With the exception of Baxter, I've been over every pass listed on this sheet, I'd have to say Shepherd & Taboose are the two hardest overall. I don't think I can even place one over the other. For instance, while Shepherd is longer/higher, the last mile is flat along Symmes creek (ie the 4 crossings = plenty of water), whereas Taboose adds an extra mile of a French foreign legion desert death march for good measure.

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

Postby Harlen » Sun Sep 17, 2017 4:22 pm

Great Karl, nice to see your spread-sheet, with the exact (?) mileages, unlike my "eye-ball" guesstimates.

And the fourth heinous pass is "Baxter." How can I forget it when I once walked it west to east- all the way to the town of Independence! Never came at it from the east though. Thanks, Ian.
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Postby Moonwalker » Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:01 pm

Giantbrookie’s story reminds me of my first experience on Wallace Col, which was the scariest pass I’ve been on. It connects Evolution Basin above Sapphire Lake to the drainage to Sabrina Lake on the east side. I went over with my newly wedded wife, in the early/mid 90’s. I was new to “off-trail” hiking, and though I planned the trip I lacked an appreciation for the dangers of the high Sierra. We went off trail from Helen Lake over Fiske Col and into the basin above Sapphire Lake, made our way across a giant boulder field, and camped at one of the desolate lakes just west of Wallace Col. We were about to exit after about 8 days, and were looking forward to getting cleaned up and meeting friends in Yosemite the following night.

We got up early the next morning. The west side called for some strategy, because parts of it were too steep and loose to rest on, so we had to zig-zag our way up, targeting stable-looking spots to rest at. We felt like a small band of commandos scrambling on all fours toward an enemy front line. One of them suddenly bursts out from his cover and dashes across, hoping the element of surprise protects him from enemy fire. Then there is a tense period, waiting to see if anything is going to happen, and after a few minutes of quiet, the next one takes off to join the first.

We felt that our arrival at the top was quite an achievement, but I was dismayed to see that the other side was noticeably steeper and looser, and there was a horizon line half way down, with who knows what on the other side. The color drained from Emily’s face, and she took a few uncertain steps and sat down on the ridge, not even bothering to find a rock to sit on. It reminded me of a deer who has been chased through the forest by wolves, dodging this way and that, only to reach a clearing and suddenly find she is hemmed in, completely surrounded. She looks one way and then the other, and each time sees only the smirking grimace of yet another hungry member of the pack. Exhausted, her eyes roll back and she collapses to her knees in the middle of the circle, resigned to her fate.

Meanwhile I went to check out the possible routes. I thought I saw a use trail, but it was actually an avalanche slope. I was almost sucked down, but managed to back off in time. Temporarily unmanned by this encounter, I made my way back to report my findings, when just below the lip on the east side, a freezer-sized rock came off in my hand and careened down the slope in front of me, causing an avalanche and a thick dust cloud. For a few seconds I couldn’t see at all! Emily told me she thought I was gone at that point. This was a grim moment for sure, but I was fine and we found strength in each other, and decided to just take it one step at a time. I can’t explain why we didn’t go back the way we had come, except that it would have taken days to get out, and it seemed more or less risky either way. The route down was harrowing, though maybe not as bad as giantbrookie’s description of Kaweah sounded. It was extremely steep and loose, mini avalanches happening at the drop of a hat, and though we had to rely on boulders to keep our selves from cartwheeling down the slope, we couldn’t tell which rocks were firm, and which would just come right out when touched. They seemed to all want to come out! We handled them like they were explosive. It was like tip toeing through a mine field. One step at a time we made our way down, and were just lucky to get down in one piece. Emily had much less back country experience than I did, and her descent was nothing short of heroic. When we got out we were giddy with shock, or maybe from the hours of focus, and we hiked unthinkingly until about 11pm, at which point we lost the trail, and camped right where we were for the rest of the night, so grateful to be alive. A few days later I thought, that can’t have been the right route. But I think it was!
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Re: The Worst and Scariest Back Country Pass you've done

Postby Mike M. » Mon Sep 18, 2017 11:59 am

Moonwalker, that looks like a slip-and-slide experience for sure. I tried Wallace Col from the east side in 1994 but turned back near the summit, concerned I wouldn't have the stamina to get down to Sapphire Lake before dark. I don't remember that scary slope in your photo above but rather a moderately steep boulder field to what I think was the summit ridge -- and then an unknown descent. For all I know I might have been off route.

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

Postby whttiger25 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:08 pm

I'm somewhat of a newbie to cross country so these may seem tame to you guys, last Thursday I did both White Bear and Gabbot passes on a piute - mammoth pass HSR trip. Both had some challenges.

The prior afternoon we received 1-2 inches of hail that consolidated into a snowy/icy slush. Heading down White Bear the following morning we had tons of melting/running water and slushy snow everywhere. Compound that with the fact we didn't quite go far enough to the right (north), we encountered some class 3 blocks where we had to downclimb wihtout a pack and lower them to each other. we also had to bushwack through shrubs on very steep slopes. A bit more sketchy than Roper made it seem.

Then Gabbot pass we chanced with expansive cumulous clouds building and covering most of hte sky. After 3 days of severe storms in a row we were a bit gun shy but thursday's forecast was supposed to be better (as of monday morning when we had left) so we took a chance and headed up the pass. Clouds stabilized and dissipated luckily but on the north side of the pass we found an incredible amount of snow for mid Sept. We worked our way around all of it but it turned into an epic day. My friend twisted his knee forcing us to exit mono pass as opposed to completed this section of the HSR (exiting Mammoth Pass).
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