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Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:46 am
by PointeAuBaril
Hi all,

We have a permit to hike the Rae Lakes Loop counterclockwise with a Bubbs Creek entry date of 6/30. Because of the snowfall this year, we are already anticipating not being able to complete the loop because of the bridge being out at South Fork. We will be staying three nights and hiking four days. I would consider us to be Level 2-3 backpackers. I have done a lot of off-trail hiking (though my wife has considerable less experience off-trail). We are content with making the best out of this trip instead of canceling it (we have booked flights anyway), so it seems as though we have a couple of options:

1) Make Rae Lakes our turnaround point. This means hiking Glen Pass twice, and also implies that there isn't much snowfall on the north side. Is it wishful thinking that on July 1st of this year this will be doable without crampons/ice axes? I'm not opposed to a more technical hike, but neither my wife or I have experience hiking on snow at high altitudes. I have a feeling I will be more comfortable than her, and while I like to see her challenge herself, I don't want her feeling too anxious, especially since we would have to do the pass twice. We've been training for this hike on the steep trails behind our home in TN, and are both fitness addicts in our 30's, so I don't think physical conditioning will be an issue. It's more of the technical aspect that concerns me.

2) Climb the south side of Glen Pass and turnaround at the top, then hike south on the JMT, turning around at some point (yet to be determined) and missing Rae Lakes. I assume we shouldn't encounter prohibitive snow on the south side of the pass, correct me if I'm wrong.

I plan on checking with the Rangers as the date gets closer. Though we both want to make it over the pass, missing Rae Lakes isn't the end of the world. We have another trip at the end of July in the Desolation Wilderness where we will see plenty of beautiful lakes.

As a side note, can anyone recommend any hotels near Road's End trailhead? Cedar Village is booked already, and ideally we don't want to tent camp the night before. We are considering Bakersfield.

Thanks in advance!

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:10 am
by bobby49
1. We don't know what the water depth at South Fork will be, but it might be crossable. It depends on how your skills are if the water is waist deep, and it depends on how much rope you brought.
2. There is no law that says you can't have ice axes and crampons for Glen Pass. If not crampons, then microspikes.
3. Tenting near Roads End the night before you start allows you to be better acclimatized. Bakersfield is about the worst place to spend a night that I can think of.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:33 am
by PointeAuBaril
Thanks, Bobby. Ha, yes, I’ve heard Bakersfield isn’t great. I work for a developer and someone once pitched a project there. We passed.

My wife is only 5’1 so crossing waist deep water is probably a deal killer for her, unless it’s waist deep for her and not moving at all. But fundamentally, risking having to turn around that far into the loop doesn’t seem like a wise decision. Unless we pass a lot of people headed the opposite way who came in via Woods Creek, and they confirm the conditions, we wouldn’t even risk trying to complete the loop.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:54 pm
by Wandering Daisy
You may get some information from backpackers who are coming down from Paradise Valley. May be worth it to camp night before Moraine CG and then hang out at the trailhead and ask people if they have been up to the crossing at Paradise Valley. Better yet, if you had time, day-hike up to the crossing and check it out. I have gone up to Castle Dome early season, in the days before the bridge, and there also is a narrow but raging creek just below Castle Domes meadow. These creeks can fluctuate 1-2 feet- lowest levels between about 7-9 AM and highest late afternoon to sunset. Timing is important. In fact, we went up early AM and had a very difficult time coming back. We were just day-hiking so did not have to deal with heavy packs. Back then, we found a downstream log to cross.

Having crampons, ice axe or micro-spikes on Glenn Pass will not necessarily make you safe. Ice axe arrest is a learned skill that takes practice. There are techniques involved in using crampons too, as well as just being on snow. There may be a good set of tracks by PCT hikers. I suspect that if you hit the pass in the afternoon, you will have more problems sinking in to your hips. In addition to safety, are you willing to have 2-3 hours each way of pretty miserable travel? I just put up with that as part of early season hiking, but this is not everyone's cup of tea.

I really think you can make a very nice trip of it even if you cannot get over Glenn Pass. Between Kearsarge Lakes, Charlotte Lake, JMT south, including Center Basin there is a lot to see. Going back down the same trail gives you different viewpoints so is not really a repeat of your uphill trip. Going down, you will have the energy to enjoy it more. If you want to see the view from Glenn Pass just do it as a day-hike.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:34 pm
by PointeAuBaril
Thank you for the info, Daisy. Tent camping near the trailhead is sounding like a much better idea. Looks like Moraine is first come first serve and the office opens at noon. We will be flying into LA on the evening of the 28th and plan to stay a night somewhere not far from LA, wake up and head toward the trailhead on the morning of the 29th (our entry date is June 30th). I guess I'll call and find out how early the line typically forms considering we have a several hour drive ahead of us on that morning, depending where our hotel is.

If we wanted to hike up the south side of Glen Pass and turn around, anyone care to guess what kind of snow the south side would hold around the beginning of July considering the snowfall this year? I suppose the logical question would be is hiking up Glen Pass worth the view alone.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:17 pm
by tie
You can get a crude snow forecast from this link: NOAA NOHRSC

However, it looks like it only goes three days out. You can often find good snow conditions intel on Instagram/Facebook.

I agree, crampons and ice axe don't make sense. Glen Pass is *definitely* worth hiking up to for the view.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:41 pm
by robow8
I would keep an eye on the PCTers YouTube channels for video of Glen Pass. And I don’t remember who’s brother on here is doing the PCT. Might be able to get an update from him.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:10 pm
by mkbgdns
agree w Daisy re. Kearsarge, Charlotte lakes, Center Basin. like the idea of reconnaissance of crossing, if you have the time and energy. Bubbs Creek drainage has more delights than you will have time to sample.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 6:41 am
by fishmonger
There will be snow... This was posted 2 days ago, so likely conditions from about a week back

Kearsarge Pass area begins at 8:04 in this video

And this is Rae Lakes and beyond

Posted 2 days ago, video begins below Fin Dome at Rae Lakes. The unusual amount of snowfall in May kept conditions in spring mode up there, which means you will have large snow drifts and deep crossings persist deep into July.

Glen is steep near the top, with the north side (where the challenges will likely be) known to have a good sized drift near the top, although that one isn't too steep It can be done with good footwear as long as it isn't icy. I'd bring crampons this year in early July. Hiking poles for balance. Ice axe is usually just ballast unless you know how to handle one.

Re: Rae Lakes July 1st - Advice Needed

Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:23 am
by oddtiger
1. South fork might be passable through the falling trees downstream of the bridge. You can check with backpackers/rangers the week before departure.
2. Window Peak lake could be a good end point if you'd like to push further and find some solitude.
3. Sphinx/Big Brewer could be a good alternative (with snow).