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TR: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 11:11 pm
by Mike M.
Long overdue, here's a trail report from last year's two-week Sierra backpacking trip.

Brother Van and I try to get together for an extended hike every other summer. We grew up in Sacramento, but Van now lives in Charlotte, NC. I live in Portland, OR, but backpack in the Sierra every year. Van is six years younger than me and in better shape. He is a glutton for punishment.

For our 2018 hike, we decided months before to focus on the old 15" Mt. Goddard quad and venture into the Ionian Basin, which we both really enjoy. But then Van got Tehipite fever and blew up my carefully crafted route, which had us entering the wilderness from North Lake and entering Ionian Basin by way of Black Giant Pass.

Van decided he couldn't resist the lure of Tehipite Valley, one of his favorite places in the Sierra. He's been there several times over the years (first in 1976 as a teenager) and loves the remote, wild location. In 1987, he and a friend camped in the valley for 10 days; then again, in 1988, he and a group of friends from high school hiked in from the west side and camped in the valley for a week, fishing and exploring. On his recommendation, I hiked down there in the summer of 1978, coming in from the east side via the Simpson Meadow trail. But I didn't care for the heat, bugs and rattlesnakes, not to mention the poison oak.

I didn't want to go to Tehipite Valley. I struggled to come up with an itinerary that would accommodate Van and his Tehipite fever. His idea was to get down to Tehipite Valley via the Simpson Meadow Trail, climb out of the valley via the Tehipite switchbacks, hook up with the Crown Valley trail, then loop through Blue Canyon, take a side trip to Tunemah Lake, then drop down to Goddard Creek via Blue Canyon Pass, just east of Finger Peak. Blue Canyon and Tunemah Lake are places I've always wanted to visit but I couldn't figure out what I was going to do while he was getting down to and then out of Tehipite Valley and I didn't see how we had enough days to then execute an exit out through the Ionian Basin and back to the JMT. Just getting down to Tehipite Valley from North Lake would take me a minimum of 5 days, but I hike slower than Van does. And, my thinking went, if I were Van and busted butt to get all the way down to Tehipite, I would want to stay a few days there. But we didn't have enough time.

So, we decided to wing it. We would start out hiking together, then go our separate ways before re-uniting at Lake 10,232, at the head of Goddard Creek, just below the Ionian Basin. We already had a reservation for Lamarck Col and were hoping we might get lucky and get a permit to enter at Bishop Pass, which would buy Van an extra day in Tehipite Valley. But no such luck -- reservations for Bishop Pass were gone by the time we arrived at the ranger station in Bishop to pick up our permit on Sunday afternoon, August 5th. So Lamarck Col it would be. We picked up delicious steak burritos at the Mexican restaurant in town (next to the Bishop Grill) to eat for dinner that night, and then motored up to the North Lake campground and found a comfortable campsite right near the trail head.

Smoke from wildfires was an issue during my drive down from Oregon and we were concerned it would affect our hike. Reno (where I picked Van up) was clear but around Yosemite and Mammoth smoke was thick. Fortunately Bishop wasn't bad and although some smoke had drifted in, the haze wasn't awful. Our luck held and mostly smoke-free skies prevailed for the entire hike.

That evening, we talked about route options, organized our backpacks, and caught up with one another over beers.

Our first day on the trail (Monday the 6th) was an easy one. We hiked up to Upper Lamarck Lake, getting used to the heavy packs and the altitude. We camped on the far side of the outlet stream, in a treed area above the creek. The Lamarck switchbacks were clearly visible from our campsite.

On Tuesday, we hiked over Lamarck Col and camped at the second of the string of lakes in Darwin Canyon. We both had a good day and were not bothered by the altitude or the weight of our packs. Van was in camp at least an our before I arrived.
This would be our last night together for almost a week. Van, after carefully considering his maps, determined he could get to our rendezvous at Lake 10,232 by late in the afternoon on the 13th, after indulging his Tehipite fever.

The next morning we woke to a bright blue sky.

After a leisurely breakfast, Van galloped down to the JMT and headed south, over Muir Pass into LeConte Canyon. He ended up staying the night below Helen Lake, on a lovely bench (with creek) near where you would turn to head up to Echo Col. We have made a tradition of camping at this spot -- we call it the "Moonsite" because, in the right conditions, it provides awesome framing for photos of the moon. Van's adventure can be found here:

I chose a more leisurely high route (mostly cross country) to Lake 10,232, via McGee Pass, Davis Lakes Pass, and Reinstein Pass.

My itinerary was as follows:

8/6 -- Day 1 -- Upper Lamarck Lake
8/7 -- Day 2 -- Darwin Basin via Lamarck Col
8/8 -- Day 3 -- Lower Darwin Basin
8/9 -- Day 4 -- McGee Lakes Basin
8/10 -- Day 5 -- Wanda Lake via "McGee Pass"
8/11 -- Day 6 -- Davis Lakes Basin
8/12 -- Day 7 -- Above Martha Lake
8/13 -- Day 8 -- Lake 10,232 via Reinstein Pass; rendezvous with Van
8/14 -- Day 9 -- Layover, Lake 10,232
8/15 -- Day 10 -- Layover, Lake 10,232
8/16 -- Day 11 -- Martha Lake via Reinstein Pass
8/17 -- Day 12 -- JMT/Piute Pass Junction
8/18 -- Day 13 -- Above Hutchinson Meadow
8/19 -- Day 14 -- Out via Piute Pass

While Van was making miles, I hopped down to lower Darwin Basin and camped just below where Darwin Canyon's creek joins the creek coming from the basin below Muriel Peak and Mt. Goethe. There is a good use trail here and my campsite was just off the trail, with shade from lodgepole pines and nice views in all directions.
. . . to be continued

Re: Trail Report: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 11:43 pm
by Mike M.
TR continued . . .
Lots of rock hopping getting through the string of lakes in Darwin Canyon, but it's a lot easier at the start of a new day rather than at the tail end of a long day.
to be continued . . . .

Re: Trail Report: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 3:24 pm
by davidsheridan
Enjoying the TR so far... Finish her off if you got some time... Thanks for posting

Re: Trail Report: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 6:00 pm
by Mike M.
TR continued . . . Day 4

Woke up to a sparkling clear sky.


I broke camp at 8:45 and was at the JMT junction by 9:30. From there, I followed the switchbacks down to the upper end of Colby Meadow, then cut out cross country where Darwin Creek intersects the trail. I crossed Evolution Creek at the upper end of the meadow, then traversed up through the forested landscape to McGee Canyon. Soon, the landscape opens up, offering fine vistas.


There are remnants of a use trail here, but I just followed the landscape and worked my way up canyon, crossing the stream several times. I was hoping to camp at a nice spot I know of that juts out into the middle McGee lake, but noticed two government workers there, working gill nets for a fish eradication program. I camped instead on the western edge of the middle lake. Walking along the lake that evening, it smelled like dead fish. I cowboy camped again that night.


I was gifted the next morning with pristine lake and mountain views.


to be continued . . .

Re: Trail Report: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 10:06 pm
by Mike M.
Day 5 continued . . .


I left camp at about 8:30 and crossed to the west side of McGee Lakes basin, heading SE into the basin that is home to what I call McGee Pass South. This leads to a ridge that overlooks Lake 11,293, just below Wanda Lake. From there, I would traverse down to Wanda Lake, where I camped for the night. It's a rugged hike, but easy class 2.

mcgee pass map.JPG

to be continued . . .

Re: Trail Report: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 11:06 pm
by Mike M.
TR Day 5 continued . . .


It began to sprinkle as I started the descent to Wanda Lake, but I was spared a major drenching. I could see people on the trail down below and could make out the profile of the Muir Hut in the distance. I found a secluded spot to camp above Wanda Lake, about 600 yards south of the outlet stream, on (and well above) the west side of the lake. I didn't need it, but set up my tent for the first time this trip. While I could see people in the distance, I didn't encounter anyone, even when I went for water at the outlet stream.

Day 6 coming up soon . . .

Re: TR: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:51 am
by Mike M.
TR continued: Day Six

On Saturday I hiked over Davis Lake Pass and made my way to the far end of the basin.


I found a sheltered place to camp as a thunderstorm moved in, then put my poncho on and walked around as the wind blew, bringing light sprinkles but no downpour.


to be continued . . .

Re: TR: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:56 am
by Mike M.
TR continued: Day Six, part 2


to be continued . . .

Re: TR: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 6:09 pm
by Mike M.
TR continued -- Day 7

On Sunday the 12th, I hiked out of Davis Lake Basin via a high route that would take me to Martha Lake, positioning me to rendezvous with Van the next day at Lake 10,232.

map davis lakes to martha route in red.jpg

I discovered this route when I was in the area with Van, in 2012, moving in the opposite direction on a sore knee. The geography is complex here and it's easy to get cliffed out moving around the west end of Davis Lake. By ascending the recess directly south of my campsite, I avoided the cliffs. This was a fun hike and a lot easier without a sore knee.


to be continued . . .

Re: TR: Tehipite Fever 8/6/18 - 8/19/18

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 6:21 pm
by robertseeburger
This is a great post!!.. love the route around peak 12438. I have stared at it before and found it had too much snow..and went around the peaklet on the other (west) side. But this shows it is doable if a little later in the season. Cant wait for the rest of the post.