Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar
maiathebee
Topix Regular
Posts: 207
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:59 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Oakland, CA
Contact:

Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by maiathebee » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:18 pm

Hey y'all!

I'm planning a trip to SeKi starting Tuesday, June 27 and I'd love your advice. I've done a lot of searching of the boards already, trying to piece together past trip reports, my own experience in this area, and this year conditions reports to make a good plan. But what I haven't done yet is the exact route refinement, especially on a couple parts of the trip, so I'd love your help with that!

The plan is:

Day 0: Get permit, camp at Lodgepole, day hike up Tokopah Falls to look for bears / acclimate
Day 1: Wolverton (Alta) --> Buck Creek
Day 2: Buck Creek --> Tamarack Lake
Day 3: Tamarack Lake --> shelf below Lonely Lake (day hike to Lonely Lake / Horn Col)
Day 4: Shelf below Lonely Lake --> Lake 11,200 via Pterodactyl Pass
Day 5: Lake 11,200 --> Pear Lake via Table Meadows
Day 6: Pear Lake --> Wolverton via Watchtower

Here's my CalTopo rough plan: https://caltopo.com/m/06Q2

I'll be going solo, and mostly just trying to enjoy some time above treeline looking at the Great Western Divide, so I've kept a few of the days quite short. Here are my main questions:

1. I would very much rather spend night 1 at Alta Meadows, but doing that makes backtracking to the HST connector then all the way to Tamarack prohibitively long. Is it possible to follow one of the creeks (or some other route) from Alta Meadows straight down to connect with the HST? Google satellite photos make it seem unlikely, but maybe y'all know some secrets.

2. Approx what elevation would be best to stop at along Lonely Lake's outlet to optimize views of Valhalla and the next day's journey to Pterodactyl Pass?

3. Can I pretty much contour over from Pterodactyl Pass over to Lake 11,200, gaining a bit along the way, or are there obstacles (talus, cliffs) that I need to avoid by staying higher or lower?

4. I've chosen a route that is almost all southern exposure so hopefully snow will be a non-issue... right?

5. Is my route from Lake 11,200 to Pear roughly correct?

6. Will I be traipsing through bogs in Table Meadows? Should I choose a different route to Pear (perhaps higher along the ridge to connect with the route from Moose to Pear?)

7. Should I camp somewhere else besides Pear to avoid idiots with pool floats and beers at the lake? Or is it worth it to stay there in spite of marmot and human annoyances? I can imagine I'll want a swim, and I haven't been to Pear Lake in 15 years.

8. Should I carry more traction besides poles? Microspikes? Do you think gaiters will be worth carrying too? I don't expect to see much snow I can't avoid, but...

Thank you!!

ps I think y'all know me by now but I'm a Level 3+ comfortable navigating off-trail solo. I love big mountain vistas, especially at sunset/sunrise, and I love swimming in freezing cold lakes. I've done a couple warm-up trips already this year (Deso and Yosemite).


oh hey! you're reading my signature.
that's nice. want to check out my blog?
here it is: plutoniclove.com






User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Addict
Posts: 3841
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:24 pm

I think you are plenty conservative on the lengths of the days. In fact, you may be able to fit in day-hikes. If conditions are possible, two are great: Tamarack Lake to Lion Lake and down to Big Bird Lake from the small lake high on the ridge.

I did a similar trip early season. Tamarack Lake was really full of mosquitoes. I went around the south shore and climbed up to the bench to the northeast and found a nice windy spot right on the edge of the cliff near the creek. The big flat to the east is a huge swamp. Lion Lake was frozen when I hiked up there. It is a steep and tricky route. I would not want to haul a backpack up there.

You show the higher trail from Bearpaw to Tamarack Lake; I have been told the trail is in very poor shape (you may want to ask rangers if it has been fixed recently). I just stayed on the main trail to Hamilton Lake and then went north on the trail up Lone Pine Creek. The trail as overgrown a bit and you have to do a creek crossing. We crossed this creek June 28 2014 and it was not bad. If too swift, you can go upstream on the south bank and cross just above the confluence of the two creeks. It is placid but deeper up there.

There are two ways to get to the benches below Lonely Lake. On is to continue up the Elizabeth Pass trail and leave the trail at about 9950 and traverse. The other is to leave the trail at 9200 and follow the stream to about 10200. I liked that latter better. I did the traverse once because I was coming down from Elizabeth Pass.

We did the same route through Tablelands. Actually camped below Lonely Lake and made it out to Wolverton in one long day.


From Table Meadows to Pear Lake is a bit tricky. I made a few route errors and we had to back track a few times.

Pear and Emerald Lake are both pretty but heavily used. If you have to put up with crowds at least do it at the prettiest. I believe Emerald Lake is the last legal place to camp. If you go beyond that you are committed to go all the way out (unless you stealth camp). Watchtower trail is great.

I wrote up a trip report for my late June trip in 2014. We went to Hamilton Lake, and on to Little and Big Five Lakes, back to Hamilton and then went north to the bench below Lonely Lake and out via Tablelands. I also did a trip in 2006, into the lakes on Glacier Ridge and came out via Elizabeth Pass and then over to Tamarack with a day-hike toLion Lake. It was just after 4th of July, but it was a bigger snow year.

I never took traction devices on either trip, or an ice axe. Just had regular shoes with good aggressive treads and trekking poles. If you get into snow you are more likely to have post-hole problems rather than traction problems. Your biggest problem may be mosquitoes.

User avatar
maiathebee
Topix Regular
Posts: 207
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:59 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Oakland, CA
Contact:

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by maiathebee » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:25 pm

Thanks Daisy! I'll look for your 2014 report.

I'll definitely ask the rangers about the status of the higher trail that connects to Lone Pine Creek. Maybe somebody here has been on it recently too?

I expect to deal with mosquitos at the lower elevations. Hope I'm early enough to avoid them at my higher camps.

And yeah, the off-trail days are really short to give me time to explore. I thought about going up over Elizabeth and then over Horn Col on Day 3, or even over and down Deadman and up to Big Bird, but without really knowing for sure what the snow situation is on the north side there, I figured shorter full-pack days from the south/west sides with day trips up to the ridgeline would scratch that itch. I also may end up skipping camping at Pear depending on what that day turns out like. But since I'll have to drive back to the bay afterwards, I may not want too long of a last day, hence the Pear camping.
oh hey! you're reading my signature.
that's nice. want to check out my blog?
here it is: plutoniclove.com

User avatar
wildhiker
Topix Expert
Posts: 417
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:44 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Palo Alto, CA

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by wildhiker » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:25 pm

I did Tablelands trips in 2000 and 2011 and can provide some info for your questions:

1) From Alta Meadows, it looks REALLY steep down the slope towards the HST. I wouldn't do it. However, the camps on the flatish wooded ridge to the south just as you get to Alta Meadows have a really outstanding view of the Great Western Divide, as well as out over the Kaweah River canyon. You could do a different trip that spends more time up in the Tablelands, but skips Tamarack Lake. We did that in 2000. 1st night Alta Meadows, 2nd night Moose Lake (although we got there early in the afternoon, so could have gone further), 3rd night over Pterodactyl Pass to camp at Lonely Lake (side hike up to Horn Col), 4th night back over Pteradactyl Pass and up to Lake 11200 above Big Bird Lake (another impressive viewpoint), then down the Tablelands following the stream more or less as you show to 5th night at Pear Lake, and then out to Wolverton on the 6th day. You can also make it back in two days from Lake 11200 by heading west across the Tablelands dropping no lower than the big lake at 10,600 feet, and then contouring up and around to Tablelands Pass and then down to camp somewhere above Crescent Lake, with views of the Monarch Divide and distant Palisades. From the Crescent Lake area, you can make it out in one day to Lodgepole heading past Beville Lake to the Silliman Pass trail, then up over the pass and down. Could be some snow still on the north slope of Silliman Pass at end of June. You can walk a trail from Lodgepole back up to Wolverton, but we caught the shuttle, which dropped us on the road at the Sherman Tree turnoff.

2) I don't remember the camping situation below Lonely Lake, but there are decent campsites on the ridge just above and west of Lonely Lake - no views of Valhalla, however. I camped here in 2000 and again in 2017 (coming in and back out over Horn Col), and both times, large bucks wandered through my camp area, coming within 30 feet of me with no fear.

3) The basin just west from Pterodactyl Pass has jumbled topography with a lot of small cliffs. I would go higher up towards the main ridge at about 11,200 and then walk that ridge north to Lake 11200. That's also true if you head to Pterodactyl Pass from Moose Lake - arc up on the ridge to at least 11,000 feet before heading around that basin west of Pterodactyl Pass.

5) We took a route similar to yours from Lake 11200 to Pear Lake with no problems, except I think we mostly stayed on the north side of the stream.

6) No bogs in Table Meadows area in August. We stayed higher on the slope to the north and avoided walking in the actual meadows. Can't say what it will be like in late June.

7) Can't help you with this one, but Pear Lake was quiet the time we stayed there in 2000.

-Phil

User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Addict
Posts: 2510
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by AlmostThere » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:30 am

Walking through the meadows to the lake at the north edge of Table Meadows gives you a more gradual descent to the meadows. We went across the river down in the granite and were able to walk along granite slab instead of sloshing through the meadows in bug hell, until we ascended to the lake along the west side of its outlet, found the weather station on the ridge, walked around the north shore of the lake and across the meadow to the ridge. On another trip we were coming from Moose and attempted to come down too soon, about where your blue line is or perhaps a little south of it, and ended up handing packs down the many short cliffs in the rocks, instead of being able to walk down nice slopes we were in huge boulders.

We approached Pterdactyl from the west and walked around the granite fairly high up, without issues. There were some springs up there that resulted in flower gardens - a nice walk.

User avatar
zacjust32
Topix Regular
Posts: 303
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:50 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Reedley, Ca
Contact:

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by zacjust32 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:59 pm

I did the upper trail to Bearpaw last year. I found it in fine condition and had no problems with it at all.
Hiker, adventurer, fabricator, tinkerer, theologian, and occasional student. http://www.zacjust.blogspot.com

User avatar
oleander
Topix Regular
Posts: 373
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:15 am
Experience: N/A

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by oleander » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:07 pm

Hi maiathebee,

You've done your homework! Great route all around.

I did pretty much your exact loop in 2015 (and two additional, shorter Tablelands trips). The upper trail from Bearpaw towards Elizabeth Pass trail, I found spectacular and not in bad shape at all (although less-used and less-smoothe than the HST). THOSE are some of the best views of Valhalla around. You can find out about conditions on that trail at the Lodgepole backcountry desk, or you might find the ranger now stationed at Bearpaw and ask him/her.

Tamarack Lake has terrific camping on its west/southwest side. We had it to ourselves, even on a popular August week. Swim!

We camped at Lonely Lake and didn't regret it. That lake was really...Atmospheric? It had personality. The camping was fair-to-good (I'd call it "good" if you're just one person with one tent and you can pick your site). It's shallow, so not as freezing as many other lakes - we had great swims. We traversed there up a ridge from where the Elizabeth Pass trail northbound takes a sharp turn to the east. I haven't tried traveling the alternate route up the creek. But I can't recall looking at the creek or the benches below Lonely Lake and saying, Hey, THAT looks like a perfect place to camp! I love the views of Valhalla but I'd likely choose our camp at Lonely Lake again. One person in our party got up early to hike to Horn Col and watch the sun come up. He said that was one of the best highlights of our whole trip.

From Lonely Lake it was an easy, pretty much Class 1 traverse around the head of the canyon holding Lonely Lake, then up to Pterodactyl Pass. Gorgeous views of Valhalla the whole way. Once over Pterodactyl, I agree with earlier commentary that it is easier to err on the side of staying high/right rather than low/left. On that route we did not hit any cliff bands. You wind up above and a bit to the right of Lake 11,200 before dropping down to it. On both my trips to 11,200 it was a warm day and the swimming/sunbathing on granite was very nice.

I took a person who had never backpacked in her life on this route. She had no problems. The off-trail work is all Class 1 with only very occasional Class 2.

I remember that the creek that drains Tablelands was very pretty in mid-July. I have not encountered bogs while going thru Table Meadows, but then I haven't gone in June before. Perhaps err along the right (N) side of that descent as Almost There suggests. Along the creek's lower reaches, definitely be on the right (N) side for a flat easy descent. Much easier going than the convoluted S side of the lower creek. What gets confusing is knowing where to cross back over to its South side and from there ascend to the saddle over to Pear Lake. I'm pretty sure the best crossing and the best spot from which to ascend to the saddle over Pear Lake is at 9650. That's more or less where you have it on your map. Be absolutely sure to set your altimeter before you leave 11,200 that morning. The location of that crossing will not be at all obvious and the altimeter is what has really helped me. An alternative to spending the night at Pear or Emerald Lake would be to set up camp somewhere near that crossing or anywhere in the lower reaches of your creek route (N side before you cross; S side has some marshes/mosquitoes). You'll have it to yourself and without the campsite competition, severe marmot harassment, and weirdly public toilet at Pear. Anything stopping you from just doing a 10 a.m. swim on your way through Pear on your last day? ;)

Your route as indicated from 11,200 to Pear will be waaaaay faster and easier than trying to detour towards Moose Lake and then descend to Pear from there. (11,200 to Moose is rugged, slow, not straightforward; the descent from Moose to Pear is OK though not particularly fast.) If you have a whole extra day, though, it'd be worth going from 11,200 to Moose Lake and staying there a night before descending to Pear Lake. Views from Moose of the Great Western Divide are divine.

Yes to gaiters, to make x-country travel easier and keep rocks out of shoes. Traction: Not sure; bring in car and ask the backcountry desk at Lodgepole. The rangers there seem to know current terrain and conditions very well.

- Elizabeth

User avatar
maiathebee
Topix Regular
Posts: 207
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:59 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Oakland, CA
Contact:

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by maiathebee » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:31 pm

Thanks everyone! I'll make a note of your route suggestions and then play it by ear with where I end up camping once I'm out there. I've camped at Moose before and agree it's amazing, but maybe just not worth going down there this trip.
oh hey! you're reading my signature.
that's nice. want to check out my blog?
here it is: plutoniclove.com

User avatar
creekfeet
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2014 11:54 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by creekfeet » Tue Jun 19, 2018 6:21 pm

Looks like you have a fantastic route planned out. The only advice I can really give you is to avoid Pear Lake like the plague. Instead, camp up the Marble Fork drainage just a little ways beyond the Ranger Station. It's absolutely beautiful country, the odds of seeing anyone are low, and at this point in the season there will be a few truly amazing swimming holes.

User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
Posts: 10215
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Tablelands route advice / critique my choices!

Post by maverick » Tue Jun 19, 2018 6:34 pm

The only advice I can really give you is to avoid Pear Lake like the plague. Instead, camp up the Marble Fork drainage just a little ways beyond the Ranger Station. It's absolutely beautiful country, the odds of seeing anyone are low, and at this point in the season there will be a few truly amazing swimming holes.
Yes, beautiful, but also can be a skeeter hell hole this time of the year, be prepared.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

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, an HST member: http://reconn.org

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], SuKi and 7 guests