Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

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Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by oleander » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:40 pm

Here's what I'm contemplating for mid-August this year. I'd really appreciate feedback especially on the more obscure passes and traverses I'm contemplating on the Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, and Gemini area.

17-19 days.

PREFERENCES & EXPERIENCE: I'm all about the best of the High Sierra scenery, especially the high lakes, and particularly the places I haven't yet seen and/or off-the-radar places. That's it. No fishing, no peak-bagging. Once I'm 3 days in, I slow down a bit and have all the solitude I need. 15+ years of off-trail experience; good navigation skills; light-ish pack; I'd call my scrambling skills neither beginner nor advanced. All Class 2 is great except heavily dislike really loose stuff. Pyra Queen Col was OK. Easy Class 3 is fun but I don't like too much exposure (Ebersbacher Ledges with a full pack were too exposed for my taste). Probably won't be carrying ice axe & crampons. Daily, tend to do 10-16 miles on trail or up to 6-ish miles off-trail. I carried out a very similar 18-day trip in KCNP last year without a hitch.

MUST-SEE'S: Hortense Lake, Grinnell Lake, Mills Creek Lakes, Bear Lakes, Vee Lake

LEG ONE, eastbound: Edison Lake to LLV or Pine Creek TH
8-9 days

Edison - Graveyard Lakes - Graveyard Pass (is that interesting? if not I'll just go over Goodale Pass) - Peter Pande area for a couple of days (what to see there?) - east on trail to hit JMT at Papoose Lake - N on JMT - Hortense Lake (I think the traditional route is to drop to ~9400 in Tully Hole, then climb the ridge to Hortense...But also wondering if I could avoid the drop to Tully, sidehilling to Hortense from the JMT at say 10,000). Isaak Walton - Rohn Pass - Bighorn Lake - Rosy Finch Lake (any advice going from Bighorn Lake to Rosy Finch? Can I round Rosy Finch on its south side?) - Bighorn Pass - Grinnell Lake - Laurel Lake - SHR south up Second Recess to Mills Creek Lakes.

[Taking Rohn instead of Shout of Relief Pass only b/c I've been over Shout of Relief already, and based on photos, I am really drawn to Bighorn Lake which I've never seen.]

Exit: From Mills Creek Lakes, would prefer to exit via Little Lakes Valley. However, it looks like that would require going over the unnamed pass between Abbott & Mills Peaks, then over Treasure Col, a long, high crossing overall with very little info on the Internet. If this looks too dicey, then I'll go over Gabbott Pass and Italy Pass and exit at Pine Creek TH. [Already been to Granite Park twice but never been to Little Lakes Valley, which is why I'd prefer Treasure Col if it's doable.]

Overnight in Bishop

LEG TWO, westbound: North Lake to Bear Creek Cutoff
9-10 days

North Lake - Piute Pass - maybe a day or two on the west side of that pass (Muriel Lake, Humphreys Lakes, Desolation Lakes, Upper Honeymoon Lake, etc. - I've been in this area before so not highest priority) - Puppet Pass - Merriam Lake - Feather Pass - Bearpaw/Ursa/Big Bear/Little Bear Lakes area - maybe Black Bear Lake - Vee Lake - Seven Gables Lakes - maybe Three Island Lake or something else near Selden Pass but not situated right on the JMT; what's interesting to see around here? - drop to JMT - exit via Bear Creek Trail and Bear Creek Cutoff.

Alternate: From the Piute Trail, climb into East Pinnacles or West Pinnacles Basin. From East Pinnacles Basin I'd do Stough or Gemini Pass into Seven Gables Lakes. Or from West Pinnacles Basin, I'd go over the shoulder of Gemini and over Seven Gables Pass; or possibly over Wampum Pass. Looks like the climb up from Piute Creek into The Pinnacles area is just fine, but there is not a whole lot of firsthand info online about any of the passes just mentioned. Once at Seven Gables Lakes, I'd continue to Vee Lake. Then, either I'd loop north (Big Bear/Ursa - Black Bear - White Bear Lakes - White Bear or Dancing Bear Pass) and down the Hilgard Branch; or I'd base myself at Vee or Ursa, do dayhikes as far as Black Bear, then exit down to the JMT via the East Fork trail draining Vee Lake.

Thank you for any feedback!

- Oleander








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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by wildhiker » Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:59 pm

Hortense Lake approach: I don't know about contouring from the JMT up high, but you don't have to go all the way to Tully Hole and climb up. In 1998 we did an easy route from NW corner of Hortense Lake down the ridge heading west, popping out on the JMT just at the footbridge over Fish Creek. This ridge doesn't save any elevation gain compared to Tully Hole, but it is a bit shorter.
Also, Don't miss Cotton Lake just east of Izaak Walton Lake. We camped there on that same 1998 trip on a broad ridge on the north side of the lake with this view:
98-20f09-CottonLake.jpg
-Phil
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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by SSSdave » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:31 am

Big snow this year may affect parts of route.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/MinnowCr_20 ... wcr_0.html

Believe you are referring to Silver Fox Pass with "Graveyard pass".

http://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_C ... 16-11.html

Tully Hole is at 9580 not 9400.

O >>>"...Hortense Lake (I think the traditional route is to drop to ~9400 in Tully Hole, then climb the ridge to Hortense...But also wondering if I could avoid the drop to Tully, sidehilling to Hortense from the JMT at say 10,000)."

Rather obviously a nope if you check that route on Google Earth as one cannot traverse at the 10,000 level because of a cliff that requires dropping down 300 feet. Thus less trouble dropping down on the PCT to 9480 then cross country due east up the obvious forested timberline slopes.

No you don't want to exit Mills Creek Lakes over that immense wall. Giantbrookie can advise you on going over the high 13k+ ridge nnw of BCS between Lake Italy and LLV to Mosquito Flat. However much less vertical and less difficult terrain to simply go up Mono Creek exiting over over Mono Pass without climbing up into Second Recess. And then on your second leg go from the East Fork of Bear Creek basin to Lake Italy over Gabbot Pass to the Mills Creek Lakes and then exit via Edison.

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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:56 am

Here is a map that shows how I went from Tully Lake to Grinnell Lake. The route traversing high above Bighorn Lake is a series of ledges and small cliffs- quite complex. You eventually get through it but I have never done it the same; you sort of have to pick you way. You can drop down to the outlet of Bighorn Lake as a side trip. Once I then went on down to Mott Lake. If going to Rosy Finch, you have to go back up; getting around the nw shore of Rosy Finch is very difficult. I have never tried the other side of Bighorn Lake; looks like you would cliff out. The descent down from Grinnell Lake has steep slabs. Not sure if the line I have drawn is the best route down. You should be able to look for a good route on Google Earth.
Tullly to Grinnell.JPG
I did not find East Pinnacle Creek as scenic as West Pinnacle Creek. I think your plan via Feather Pass is more scenic. Unless you plan to go up to Three Island Lake, Melody Lakes, or Marie Lake, going down Bear Creek is less interesting than going over Brown Bear Pass and dropping to Italy Lake to exit via Hildegard.

There is great camping on the east shore (opposite of the PCT) of Marie Lake. Rose Lake is also very nice, but no fish.

I think just staying on the PCT to Tully Hole is the better plan. I doubt you would save much time trying to cut around.

If you fish, do not miss Wilbur May. Good camping at outlet of Peter Pande. Ann Lake also very scenic. I also like Lake of the Lone Indian and Warrior.

Cotton Lake more scenic than Tully, but Tully has fish (that is why we stayed there).
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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by TehipiteTom » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:28 am

I can corroborate wildhiker's description of the route to Hortense. From the bridge just follow the south side of the creek (there was a pretty distinct use trail when I did this, in 2003) and up the ridge.

Peter Pande Lake is well worth the trip--beautiful lake in itself, with several other nice lakes to visit if you're in the area.

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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by SSSdave » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:20 pm

The route WD shows from Grinnel to Rosy Finch is not crossing at Roper Sierra High Route notch but rather a bit south. Look at this on our Passes sub-forum:

viewtopic.php?f=31&t=16278

You can actually see part of the turfy zig zag ramp Sweetsierra mentions in cgundersen's second image. Looking at the topo, between Shout of Relief and Bighorn passes one may pass beside that small pond southeast of SOR and then climb over the adjacent hump. The steep south side of the hump is why most viewing it from BP dismiss that route then waste effort climbing directly down to RF. Beside the east shore just above lake level of Bighorn Lake is the usual route but does require modest Class 2 climbing up over a slabby cliff at the northeast end of the lake shown upper frame left in this image.

Image

We camped just above this shore and I caught 2 nice rainbows right there.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_C ... html#jul16

And this is the way to reach the RF outlet from the north plus a nice not so obvious spot to tent. From that south side of the outlet creek it is much easier to descend into the valley below versus the north side of the stream I've also done.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_C ... html#jul22

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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by giantbrookie » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:33 pm

For part of this area last summer I did a mostly off trail 5day loop out of Edison with my daughter that included Feather, Brave Hortense, Bighorn, Rosy Finch and Mott. The link is here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=18658

A few notes here and there in addition to some specifics in the post linked here. First, WD's notes on the traverse above Bighorn to Rohn Pass (or in reverse) is spot on as you'll see in the post. Second you do not have to drop to Tully to go from Rohn to Hortense or visa versa. Indeed staying high is more fun and it is beautiful (done in post above). Graveyard Pass to Peter Pande. Much more direct from Edison to Peter Pande area than Goodale but in heavy snowfall years and early season the cornices at the top can be formidable. I had some serious issues (overcome) crossing this pass in 1995-- my wife and I had ice and crampons, however. We needed them. I do like the Minnow Creek drainage even if the fishing is pedestrian. Of the lakes there, I think Peter Pande and Anne are the most scenic; Anne is my favorite. Even if fishing is not a priority, Wilbur May is a very pretty lake (and for me it is ever more priority because fishing is one of my priorities). Brave Lake is really out of the way and nice as noted in last summer's post and the ways in and out can be properly adventurous for off trail enthusiasts.

Getting to the Little Lakes Valley-Gemini area this gets to another of my favorite areas. In 2015 I did a 5 day trip that went from Little Lakes Valley to North Lake and went to Spire Lake via Peppermint Pass on day 1 then back over Peppermint, over the crest (via shoulder north of Cox Col) past L. Italy over White Bear Pass to White Bear L on day 2, then into E. Pinnacles Creek drainage via Gemini Pass on day 3, then dayhike to West Pinnacles creek drainage before moving camp to Ramona Lake on day 4. I would agree with others that East Pinnacles creek is not so interesting but West Pinnacles creek drainage is very nice. Quite the isolated paradise it is. The link to that trip report is here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13276
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by oleander » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:04 pm

Thanks all! This is a lot of very detailed and useful information.

giantbrookie - I read the report about your trip with your daughter when you first posted it; such a great report. Thanks you for the heads-up about Silver Fox Pass in a high-snow year. At this point, I feel it would be well-advised to take Goodale Pass instead, as my timing through there will be be early-mid August.

I've already been through the Silver Divide on the SHR: Izaak Walton - Cotton - above Tully - Shout of Relief Pass - Bighorn Pass - Laurel Lake. [In fact I've been to the Tully Lake area twice.] The point of this trip through the Silver Divide is to switch it up a bit and see some new things. Hence my interest in Hortense, Bighorn Lake, Grinnell Lake, or anything else special I may have missed on the SHR. How interesting is Red & White Lake, is that worth a look? (I'd be more likely to go to Red & White on a layover dayhike from Tully area, rather than try to go over Pace Col afterwards, as I'm intimidated by the latter in a high-snow year. Should I be?) Also, I appreciate wildhiker's photos of Cotton Lake even though I've already been through there...I went through in a low-snow year in August and the photo someone posted here of Cotton Lake with snow around it was beautiful! Worth considering staying here. Finally, thank you WD and SSSDave for all the incredible detail about the Rohn/Shout of Relief/Rosy Finch Lake/Grinnell routes.

Yes, I might be forced out Mono Pass if I sense that Gabbott/Italy Passes will be heavy in snow and/or would slow me down a lot. I don't love the Mono Creek Trail, but these are the kinds of adjustments that often happen in high-snow years. Alternatively, I might bring my crampons and ice axe after all, to keep my options a bit more open than otherwise.

I'm pretty settled now on going over Feather Pass rather than into the Pinnacles drainage. The latter can be a trip for another time

Questions about exit options from Bear Lakes/Vee area:

How is the hop over the ridge from Sandpiper Lake to Marie Lakes?

I admit I'm tempted to exit downhill via the East Fork from Vee Lake, rather than over a pass into the Hilgard Branch, because the 3 passes into the Hilgard Branch sound...Not appealing? (in a high-snow year). Based on recon on this site: White Bear Pass (the one that goes down to Brown Bear Lake) is long and tedious. Dancing Bear (the one that routes you a bit east toward Italy Pass/Jumble Lake) is considered a good alternative, but it's longer, and reports indicate there is a lot of snow in that area in high-snow years, moreso than White Bear Pass. I'm really interested in Ursula Pass, just to the west - the one that would drop me down into Beartrap Lake - but I can't find any reports anywhere on the Internet on this one.

- Oleander

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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:40 pm

Sandpiper to Marie Lake is quite easy. Just micro-route finding problems because it is a bit cliffy. I have always gone south from the east shore to intersect the JMT. I have never tried to wade across the mid-lake isthmus. From looking at Google Earth, it looks like it may be feasible in low water years.

From V Lake down the East Fork is not as easy as it looks on the map. Do-able but slow. I did the cut-across shown on the map below, but it was a bit gnarly. You have to find a place to cross the East Fork, and that will depend on flow levels. The two campsites shown on the map are really nice. (the color or type of line on the map means nothing- I just use different lines so I can tell them apart)

Dancing Bear Pass has lots of talus and may actually be easier with lots of snow, if the snow is consolidated, like in early morning. The pass from White Bear to Brown Bear faces west and should melt early, but it is very steep and also has a lot of talus, which would be miserable if snow was nearly melted and unstable. I think Hilagard Branch is really nice with some excellent campsites.

I am planning a route in this area for summer and still am working out the details. Maybe I will run into you!
Marie Lake Routes.JPG
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Re: Aug 2019 18-day trip, feedback wanted esp re: Obscure passes on Silver Divide, Little Lakes Valley, Gemini area

Post by SSSdave » Sun Feb 24, 2019 4:30 pm

Unless you start no earlier than mid August, you could be looking at some frozen lakes. And even if you can do the passes, frozen lakes, snow, rock, and wet landscapes without greenery and wildflowers lacks a best aesthetic. Thus could be a disappointing summer for this type of high elevation ambitious trip. A wiser plan photographically would put this off till after a normal winter when the scenery would be worth the effort. In big snow years vegetation on south facing versus north facing exposures becomes grossly out of sync. That noted, Hortense, Grinnel, Mills Creek, Vee will probably be best about the end of August though not as aesthetic as early August after an average winter. Instead one might target lower elevation sunnier exposure destinations on a few shorter trips.

August 3>13, 1995, 3 of us went up Bear Creek to the East Fork basin. When we reached the 9550 JMT/PCT Bear Creek crossing there were lots of groups stuck on each side of the ice cold chest deep fast flowing creek. One person had crossed the previous day and others got into trouble. With dozens watching we barely made it across without being swept downstream. Up in the EF, lakes were mostly frozen, snow all over, cold, so we aborted back down to the lower South Fork lakes.

Red and White Lake is an unaesthetic barren dark metamorphic rock talus hole though for fishermen has sizeable rainbows. Likely to be frozen late. Worse than Pace Col is getting around the east side of R&W Lake if lots of snow. Shout-of-Relief not as north facing and less steep versus Rohn so easier if snow.

Link below to what Grinnel Lake looked liked August 6, 2017 even though it gets a lot of afternoon sun. So yeah, a lot of snow there and more on the Silver Divide north facing passes, Gabbot, White Bear, so indeed ice axe and crampons. I was forced to go early because mid August would be up in Oregon for the eclipse.
Image

http://www.davidsenesac.com/2017_Trip_C ... 17-15.html

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