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TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

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TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby dgravlin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:20 am

Along with a long time backpacking buddy, I took advantage of the incredible fall weather last week (Oct 24-26) to explore more of the Lake Sabrina Basin. We got a mid-day start on Tuesday and headed up the trail to Blue Lake. Our original plan was to head to Moonlight Lake via the normal trails but as we approached the Donkey Lake/Dingleberry Lake trail junction we decided to look for an XC route from Baboon Lakes to Moonlight - essentially, the "pass" between peak 12,138' and 12,486'. The approach to the pass from the east was pleasant XC travel, and the views from the top were fantastic. Getting down into the Moonlight/Echo Lake drainage proved more challenging. Without much daylight left in the day, we needed to make good (and lucky) decisions on route finding to avoid getting cliffed out. But as often happens in the Sierra, a route gradually presented itself to us - a mixture of slabs, ramps, class 3 downclimbs, and enjoyable skree skiing.

We made it to the optimal campsite on the peninsula of Sailor Lake just as the crescent moon appeared over Picture Peak. I slept outside the tent, enjoying the bug-free conditions, and amazingly woke up without any frost on my bag.

Day two's objective was to check out Haeckel Col. I lead a group of early teens on a backpacking trip every summer, and I wanted to recon Haeckel Col as a possible route into Evolution Basin for the group next summer.

Documentation on the col recommended Midnight Lake as a starting point. We were at Sailor Lake, on the other side of the ridge between the two lakes. Didn't seem necessary to hike over to Midnight just to start the route so we gained the ridge from Sailor Lake. Having read beta emphasizing the importance of staying to the left of the final ridge protrusion, we erred too far on the side of caution by staying left from the beginning of the ridge. That put us into the much more difficult cliffs and gullies along the side of the ridge facing Hungry Packer Lake, and we wasted much time putting the ridge behind us.

But, once we did, the route to Haeckel Col became obvious - although the travel over talus was less than enjoyable at times. The distinctive shape of the rock denoting the col made it easy to find, and we were "on top" by mid-day. We then retraced our steps back to the ridge that had given us trouble in the morning. Motivated to find the correct route, we explored the area around the rocky protrusion at the end of the ridge, eventually finding what we believe was the path of least resistance. With some time to spare, we decided to take the ridge down the Midnight Lake, and then return to Sailor Lake via trails.

Thursday morning dawned bright and cold, until the sun hit us. This day, we decided to climb to the top of Mt. Wallace so we headed up the ridge between Moonlight and Hungry Packer, and then onto the slopes above Echo Lake. We took full advantage of the various snowfields to speed our approach to the saddle between Wallace and Haeckel. There were times when I wish I had brought my micro-spikes but, for the most part, the snow travel was pleasant.

When we got to the north side of Wallace, we exited the snow field and began the climb. The biggest challenge was to link together a route that allowed us to stay on larger rock/talus and to stay away from the smaller rock/skree. I think we probably were east of the recommended north face route, which probably made the approach steeper, looser, and less enjoyable. By the time we got to the summit block, we were definitely on the east side, and, from there, the final ten feet' exceeded our skill level. I thought I could get up it but I was not sure I could down climb it. I thought about descending slightly to get to the other side of the summit block in order to find an easier way on top of it but decided instead to just enjoy my lunch from a comfortable perch, with great views. The visibility was the best I've ever seen in the Sierra - no smoke, haze, etc... Had to be clear for 100s of miles. No wind, no clouds, just simply incredible conditions.

The down climb was uneventful and we soon found ourselves back at Sailor Lake. We broke camp by 3pm and then headed down the usual trails back to Sabrina for the long drive home, interrupted only by a plate of fish tacos at Whoa Nellie.

I'll try to add some photos to this TR when I have some time to upload them.



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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby cgundersen » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:35 am

Sounds like exemplary conditions; with the Lion fire no longer sullying things up there, you chose a perfect window for the trip! The unanswered question: would you take teens on the Haeckel route?? Cameron
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby dgravlin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:52 am

Still debating that one. The col itself is not the issue. That final class 3 section has little exposure. The issue is the entire approach, col, and then descent to an area that can handle 3-4 tents. With full packs, starting from Midnight Lake, it will be a very challenging day to get them up, over, and down safely. It's a large group, so keeping them out of each other's fall lines is nearly impossible.
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby SSSdave » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:08 am

Good choice for an October weather window.

dgravlin >>>"Without much daylight left in the day, we needed to make good (and lucky) decisions on route finding to avoid getting cliffed out. But as often happens in the Sierra, a route gradually presented itself to us - a mixture of slabs, ramps, class 3 downclimbs, and enjoyable skree skiing."

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.15905,-118.62844&z=15&t=T

Surprising anyone with a backpack would think they could go over that saddle? Sans climbing gear were lucky to find even a class 3 route down from the ridge line. The topographic map on the above link shows the west side as very steep that most would have taken one map look at then not even bothered to have tried since it is a 900 foot gamble more likely to result in going back down to Baboon.


dgravlin >>>"Didn't seem necessary to hike over to Midnight just to start the route so we gained the ridge from Sailor Lake. Having read beta emphasizing the importance of staying to the left of the final ridge protrusion, we erred too far on the side of caution by staying left from the beginning of the ridge. That put us into the much more difficult cliffs and gullies along the side"of the ridge facing Hungry Packer Lake, and we wasted much time putting the ridge behind us."


http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.16394,-118.64273&z=15&t=T

Again by looking at the topo map, it is very obvious that unless one is atop that rib that slopes either north or south are much too steep to be practical. Note I've climbed up on that rib too and there are a few knobs to work around one cannot easily see what is beyond. However the map makes it clear one needs to stay very close to the ridge top.
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:46 pm

I think various "backpackers" have various experience with actual climbing. Steep contour lines do not necessarily preclude a feasible route, although you may need to be quite comfortable with exposure and small holds, carrying a pack. Also, with today's lighter gear, and a 3-4 day trip, no reason the pack has to be so bulky and heavy. If accostomed to 3-4 class climbing, a light pack should not be a problem. Maps are great, but on the ground scouting is really the final answer.

I would however be reluctant to take a large group of teens over such terrain. Mainly, I simply would not that responsibility, unless they were my own kids.
Perhaps I would take one kid who could be close enough to me at all times for me to be able to ensure their safety. If they are under 18, you have an incredible liability of something goes wrong.
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby dgravlin » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:20 am

Topo maps are obviously an important tool in route finding, but they do not always accurately predict the conditions "on the ground." Many/most XC passes have contour lines that appear to predict cliffs. On the other hand, some of the sketchiest XC passes that I've gone over actually looked tame on the topo.

Bottom line is that this uncertainty is what makes XC travel so enjoyable in the Sierra, especially when weather is not a factor. It's the difference between going on a trip, and going on an adventure.
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby maverick » Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:13 pm

Have gone over the route you mention, a much easier route from Baboon Lakes, would have been to start up the ridge from the eastern most part of Lake 10976 heading, traversing up, slightly east, then over and down to the western end of Topsy Turvy Lake. :)

You must have gone to far east on your attempt on Wallace's "North Slope" route, which is a class 2, instead veered close to the "East Face" route (class 3-4).
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: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby dgravlin » Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:11 pm

Yeah, we considered that route as well. But the weather was so incredibly ideal for that time of year that we decided to make it more of an adventure. We both have done Roper's entire SHR, and the JMT, so we were looking to push the envelope a little.

We definitely got too far east on Wallace. The snowfield tilted up too much (we didn't have micro-spikes) at the end so we exited short of the saddle. I though we could work our way around to the west but there always seemed to be a too-steep skree field in our way. The better rock always seemed to be on the left so we ended up moving in that direction. Next time...

Has anyone crossed over the crest between Darwin Canyon and Schober Holes? I'm looking at a loop for next year: Sabrina -> Blue Lake -> Midnight -> Haeckel Col -> Evo Basin -> Darwin Bench -> Schober Holes -> Dingleberry Lk -> Blue Lake -> Sabrina.
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Re: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby maverick » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:25 am

Has anyone crossed over the crest between Darwin Canyon and Schober Holes?


Yes, there is a chute Northwest of the highest Schober Lake, that you can descend from the lowest point in the crest, following the ridge from Lamarck Col to just before Darwin Glacier is relatively easy.
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: TR: Sabrina Basin Oct 24-26th

Postby dgravlin » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:26 am

Thanks!
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