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Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

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Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

Postby Harlen » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:52 pm

We would like to request from all our HST members to please write up trip reports
Mav.

That said, I will venture a Trip Report from a very short "trip," to see if it counts.

A couple days ago, my sometime winter ski partner Frank and I managed to pull off our Tuolumne Meadows food drop, before 120 closed. Per usual, we always stay a few nights up high before returning to the coast. This year we took a quick jaunt through 20 Lakes Basin- headwaters of the Lee Vining and Lundy Canyon Creeks. This is the basin beyond Saddlebag Lake, and it is notable for ease of access (it's a no quota USFS area) and for the wonderful array of colorful geology and lakes. There are a lot of interesting areas to explore within 20 Lakes Basin, and it also connects to other areas via several back country passes. It also has some classic climbing opportunities, including the ice-climbing routes up the North Peak couloirs, and North Peak - Mt. Conness traverse.

While it is a heavily used area, we enjoy seeing a former mining area return to wildness, and I have joined in several efforts in that direction with volunteers. 10 years ago, a partner and I took a group of inner city teens, and former gang members, on their first backpacking trip, and coordinated their work turning the former mining road into a trail, and doing various other trail work projects. For those interested in mining history, the Bennetsville Mine is maintained as an historic site just south of 20 Lakes Basin, and there are other old mining pits and stone cabin remains just above Tioga Pass a bit further south.

20 Lakes Basin is reached via a three mile long, 2wd-friendly, asphalt and gravel road that begins off of HWY 120 a few miles north-east of Tioga Pass. In summer there is a store/café, and a water taxi service across Saddlebag Lake, which saves one mile of walking. Saddlebag Lake / Reservoir is situated at 10,000 feet, so those with a tendency toward altitude problems beware, yet only one adult among the many young children, teen groups, and adults we've taken in there had any significant trouble, and that was just a spot of nausea, headache and sleeplessness. As you will see from our photos, it is a dog-friendly area. Fires and mountain bikes are prohibited.

Frank and I arrived late in the afternoon, and so we hiked in with head-lamps around Saddlebag to a camp on the far side of Greenstone Lake. Two of our favorite day hikes are up under Conness to the Conness Lakes Basin, and onto Tioga Crest on the east side of 20 Lakes Basin. We chose the later hike due to Frank's old dog "Morag's" diminished boulder-hopping ability. Okay, here are few photos:

20 lakes basin1 058.JPG
We had a brilliant sunset in upper Toulumne Meadows.

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Sunrise light on North Peak above our camp site.

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Frank at camp on a beautiful clear, windless morning with temperature in the mid-20s.
North Peak right, Mt. Conness left.

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The other two members of our party- "Bear" and "Morag."

lake refl123.JPG


lake refl with conness123.JPG
Looking up at Conness Lakes Basin from the west end of Greenstone Lake. The snowy ridge is the beginning of the very nice east ridge climbing route of Conness.

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Beautiful Fall colors beneath North Peak. The ice couloirs are in the shadowed areas on the steep, north-east face of North Pk.

me and b 123.JPG
Me and my friend Bear.

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Bear is fascinated by hard ice water.

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Looking west toward Conness Lakes Basin, which we'll enjoy next time.

We spent the rest of the day up on Tioga Crest. I'll create a final section of this Trip Report soon.
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Nov 06, 2017 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

Postby maverick » Mon Nov 06, 2017 5:53 pm

Thanks Harlen, really enjoyed your pictures. 20 Lakes Basin is a really pretty place, easy access, with great views of Mt.Conness, my favorite area is Conness Lakes, also going over the ridge to Upper McCabe Lakes is fun and very pretty. :)
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: Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

Postby cgundersen » Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:29 am

Hi Ian,
Definitely perfect weather for the dogs, and with suitable clothing, not too bad for the humans! Thanks for the distraction and great photos!
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Re: Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

Postby Jason » Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:37 am

Sweet photos. I bet it's really peaceful this late in the year.
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Re: Trip Report from 20 Lakes Basin

Postby Harlen » Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:20 pm

Yes Jason, not a soul... except that on our way in with headlamps in the dark, Bear held up with his "there are animals ahead" stance, and the animals were two ice climbers returning late from their ascent of one of the North Peak couloirs. Two impressive looking old graybeards with dangling ice tools and wide smiles when I asked how it went. "Well we made it up anyway, Jesus Christ!"
We think they had something of "an epic." Yet they were still going strong and smiling in the dark.

I'd love to climb that route, and I tried it once with just a single all-purpose axe, and basic crampons, but it was a "pointless venture." You need sharper gear for it.
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