TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Blackcap

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Wandering Daisy
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TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Blackcap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:11 pm

Ionian and Blackcap Basins, August 4-14, 2006

This trip just touched the edge of Ionian Basin then over to Alpine and Blue Canyons and Blackcap Basin. Conditions reflect the 120% snow for 2006 in the Southern Sierra. I am planning to go into Ionian Basin in 2020, so I brought up this old report hoping to get a discussion going on Ionian Basin.
Ionian_route.jpg


I drove to Shaver Lake, camping at a nearby pullout, unsure of starting from Courtright or Florence Lake. Next morning chose the latter, got a permit at Huntington Lake, mailed my route home, and drove 2 hours on the challenging road to Florence Lake, with a side trip to Mono Hot Springs for a hot shower. I camped near the trailhead, and walked down to the store just as SAR was recovering the body of a woman who had drown in the San Joaquin River at the Piute Canyon junction. My plan to return down Indian Pass and cross the San Joaquin was immediately scratched! I spent the afternoon talking with the lady at the store and endlessly packing and repacking. Still leery of mosquitoes I chose my tent and added a book and camera. With 11 days food I defaulted to my old external frame Kelty.
TripReport_01_Goddard Canyon.jpg
Day 1: To Goddard Canyon. 11.8 miles/ 6.6 hours

The boat ride was quick. The 7.3 mile hike to the Piute Creek Bridge was unimpressive and only took 3.8 hours. I nervously edged to the stream to fill my water bottle at the same location that poor lady fell in. I had to continue because I was not legal on the John Muir trail without a bear canister. The few campsites up the canyon were sparse and occupied. I set up at a marginal site getting caught in a rainstorm. It drizzled most the night.

Day 2: Easy Day on Goddard Canyon. 6.7 miles/ 7 hours

I awoke to frosty conditions deep in the forest shadows. It was surprisingly cold as I packed up my wet tent and headed out. Walking through the wet vegetation I soon was soaked. Ice on a slippery log complicated a stream crossing and the trail literally was a creek in several locations. At the first rocky ledge I unpacked and spent an hour drying everything watching the creek roar down its mini-canyon. The trail became less distinct and I never saw the Hell for Sure trail junction. At the head of the canyon steep section had to be surmounted before reaching Martha Lake. I easily waded across the creek here where it was broken into several small branches.

Martha Lake was stunning and windy, a good place to camp to stay out of bugs. I had the entire lake to myself as I washed up in a pool below the outlet where several small fish scattered when I stepped in. The outlet stream was full of fish. Puffy clouds were building but never became threatening. I studied the snow on Reinstein Pass to find a route since I only had trekking poles – no ice axe or crampons.
TripReport_02_Martha Lake.jpg
Day 3: Martha Lake to Ionian Basin. 5.8 miles/ 7 hours/ 2200 feet gain

The morning was totally clear. I traversed left around the lake and avoid probable icy conditions. I had thought of going over Ambition Pass and traveling through Blackcap Basin first, but could not see a route through the cliffs that I would do with a full pack. But I managed to find a path that stayed on rock and was at the top of Reinstein Pass in 2.5 hours where I looked across the head of Goddard Creek that I would have to cross to reach Ionian Basin. I descended slabs and ledges to the first bench where I turned to traverse east, entering a remote and wild place. I was aiming for the lakes that were the source of the numerous waterfalls. What I did not see was a major canyon between me and my destination! It took some major detours to finally get there. Three hours had passed.
TripReport_03_S of Reinstein Pass-1.jpg
TripReport_04_Lake10232.jpg
The view south was breathtaking. In a few days I would be headed down to the inviting dark blue Lake 10232 below, but for now I had to tediously work my way through a maze. Upon reaching Lake 11818 I waded across the numbing icy outlet only to find that I was stopped cold by steep snowfields that extended into the lake. I was forced south to climb over a hill on class2 rock before I could drop into the drainage below Mt. Scylla, camping at a 12,000-foot unnamed lake. After checking out a peninsula jutting out into the lake, I came back to a small sheltered spot on the north shore where I set up on a hummock of grass. That night I was blessed by a magical full-moon.
TripReport_05_belowScylla.jpg
Day 4: Explore Ionian Basin

I awoke to frost and had to break ice to get water from the shallow lake. Icy conditions scuttled the plan to climb Mt.Scylla. Instead I hiked a 4.6-mile loop to Lake 11582 which I had hurried by too quickly on a previous trip. I was not disappointed. First I scrambled to a high point to peek down into Enchanted Gorge. Beautiful Sky Pilot was clinging to meager soil wedged in the dark barren rock.
TripReport_06_dayhike.jpg
Descending, I got temporarily hung up on cliffs but finally found the way down to Lake 11837 where I skirted the south shore, carefully kicking steps so I would not slip into an icy bath. I dropped down another bench on a large snowfield that thankfully had developed sun cups that offered some security of footing. I circled Lake 11582 counter –clockwise observing some nice campsites on the windy south shore, crossed the outlet to the north shore where there were nicer sheltered campsites; good information for future trips.
TripReport_07_Lk11582.jpg
TripReport_08_Charibdis.jpg
TripReport_09_Chasm Lk.jpg
As I headed back to camp the snow was soft enough to kick steps to the top of a hill north of my camp; a sorry substitute for Mt. Scylla. Back at camp I took a refreshing but frigid bath and ate a leisurely dinner, followed by a stroll to the west to check out several lakes. When the sun left, I hopped into my sleeping bag and read until dusk. It froze hard again.
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Last edited by Wandering Daisy on Sun Dec 08, 2019 8:12 am, edited 1 time in total.








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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:19 pm

photo from day 4
TripReport_10_MtGoddard from hill.jpg
Day 5: Leaving the Ionian Basin. 7 miles/ 6.2 hours

TripReport_11_upperWaterfall.jpg
Another day of perfectly blue skies dawned. I packed up in the chilly morning and followed the string of lakes from my camp hoping it would provide an easier route, but ended up at a cliff so had to climb over that damned hill anyway to the outlet of Lake 11818. After crossing the outlet I stayed right and close to the waterfalls on slabs and ledges encountering a few easy class-3 sections. Soon I was on the lush bench below the falls photographing the amazing micro-ecosystem among the barren dark rock.
TripReport_14_lower Falls.jpg
TripReport_13_TigerLilly.jpg
TripReport_12_2nd meadow.jpg
From the flowery bench I had climb back up a small rib and stay high until I was across the slot canyon that gave me grief on my way in. Once crossed, I could descend to the west shore of Lake 10322, where I got hung up in brush and benches. I finally reached the outlet to take a long rest after the 2,500 feet of descent.
TripReport_15A_Lake_10232.jpg
The valley below was nearly flat and easy going. Now I was faced with which way to go to Tunemah Lake- drop into Enchanted Gorge and find a route up (no snow but brush and cliffs) or to go over Finger Pass which was snow covered. I choose the latter and headed 1,000 feet up the drainage to camp at the large uppermost lake. Mosquitoes were horrid. I hung my food and hunkered in my tent, read and worried about the pass. Nevertheless, this was a wonderful day through absolutely enchanting country.
TripReport_16_LkBelowFinger.jpg
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:29 pm

Day 6: Day of Mountain Passes. 7.2 miles/7 hours/ 3200 feet gain

I awoke to an amazing reflection and quickly snapped photos before the wind picked up. Then it was over Blue Canyon Pass. Although north-facing, by the time I got there the early morning sun had softened the snow sufficiently to cross with trekking poles. Not easy, but feasible.
TripReport_17_view BlueCanyon.jpg
Descent into upper Blue Canyon was easy and I traversed to Lake 10401 only getting hung up in cliffs once. I was not certain of the location of Dykeman Pass so I headed to the most obvious notch in the ridge, east and slightly south. Easy up, but the difficult descent with class-3 moves convinced me this was NOT Dykeman pass. Once down, tricky slab climbing was required to get around the unnamed lake at the base of this unnamed “pass”.
TripReport_18_unnamed Lk_AlpineC.jpg
I had walked off my maps! I headed up Alpine Basin where the terrain trended opposite of my desired travel direction, finally relieved when back on my map coverage. This is remote country to wing it without a map! The last 600 feet through large talus blocks over Tunemah Pass to the lake was slow but not difficult. Camping at the outlet would offer the best view however it was a wind tunnel, so I crossed and found a man-leveled spot on the shale hillside. After a hard I had fun sitting in the late afternoon sun building little tables and nooks with the flat slate.
TripReport_19_AlpineCanyon.jpg


Day 7: Lazy Day of Exploring. 5.1 miles/ 2300 feet gain

It was a relief to be day hiking without the big pack. After crossing the lake outlet it was a zig-zag down benches and ledges in the slate rock to a bench of isolated unnamed lakes. At the edge of the bench I scrambled another 1,000 feet down beautiful granite slabs and up tiny slot canyons full of alpine wildflowers. Looking down to Goddard Creek, I think a route would be possible but take some time to figure out. I was glad I came in the way I did. Back up on the bench I followed the southern string of lakes and to my surprise found fresh bear droppings! I stopped to bathe in Lake 10468 enjoying the warm sun rays and lamenting that this would have been a better campsite.
TripReport_20_Tunamah_bench.jpg
TripReport_21_Alt.jpg
TripReport_21_TunamahBench.jpg
It was only 3:00 so I hiked north up a unique contact zone of granite and Sierra roof pendant and peeked over the edge to see several remote lakes perched on the adjacent bench north, above the Enchanted Gorge, perhaps another possible route into Tunemah Lake. I traversed the ridge west about quarter mile and found a pass that probably would go at class 2 to descend to the lakes. The sun was getting low so I quickly descended easy sand and slabs to the lake back to camp. Others had obviously been here but it looked like only a few backpackers a year if that many.
TripReport_22_Lks_NofTunamah.jpg
TripReport_23_Tunamah Lk.jpg
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:41 pm

Day 8: Long Hard Day to Blackcap Basin. 10.6 miles/ 9.2 hours/ 2800 feet gain

I awoke and peeked out my tent amazed at the perfect reflection in front of me. Remaining inside, I snapped two photos. The full moon was still visible. My previous night’s worries about bears were relieved when I retrieved my food hung in scrub trees that only provided protection from marmots. This is not a place to end up without food!
TripReport_24_Tunemah AM.jpg
I hated to leave but headed out, this time bent on finding Dykeman Pass. From Alpine Basin, Dykeman Pass is more obvious. Although not 100% sure, after descending from Tunemah Lake, I turned up the first steep drainage heading west and zig-zagged up sloping ledge systems, relieved to reach the pass. I soon intersected the route I came up from Lake 10401. The next objective was to find the path of least elevation gain or difficulty through Blue Canyon and the upper reaches of Crown Creek. This involved some rock, some brush and some swampy areas full of mosquitoes.
TripReport_25_Blue Canyon_pond.jpg
I reached my first contingency camp on the southeast side of a saddle. I was tempted to stop but it was early in the afternoon. A few class 2 moves up ledges and I was over the pass and dropped into Hummingbird Lake through gorgeous meadows. Again I was tempted to stop at this beautiful spot. Perhaps I should have!
TripReport_26_Hummingbird Lk.jpg
Instead I traversed steep slabs heading northwest dropping into Crown Basin, thick with mosquitoes, going from paradise to hell. Ugh! Now I was tired, but had no intention of stopping. Not finding the trail, I trudged cross country to Portal Lake where I met three biology students collecting bugs. These were the first people I had seen in a week. I headed north, crossed outlet of Pearl Lake and climbed the steep hill to Regiment Lake, too tired to go any further. This was a long day! After a quick bath, I set up my tent on a glacial polished rock that was smooth as skin. I was rewarded with a fine sunset and alpenglow.
TripReport_27_Pearl Lk.jpg
TripReport_28_Regiment Lk.JPG
Day 9: Change of Plans. 6 miles/ 6 hours/ 1200 feet gain

I hoped to get to Schoolmarm Lake. I meandered through upper Blackcap Basin trying to see every lake in the basin! Travel was easy through the barren alpine country full of miniature gardens. From Ambition lake I dropped down through little slot canyons with ponds and meadows traversing east about a mile. Here my camera batteries had given up after a shot of the ponds below Ambition Lake.
TripReport_29_Ambition Lake.jpg
TripReport_30_upper Blackcap.jpg
I walked low angle slabs of smooth granite, cut by tiny parallel slot canyons, some filled with rushing melt water. After skirting Rainbow Lake on the west side I followed the drainage that was coming from a distinct slot canyon below Confusion Pass. Although the guide book says to stay in the slot, I found the slabs on the east side easier. I crossed the creek and stayed right of the chute on ever steeper slabs where, finally, I was on a bench above the south shore Confusion Lake. I chose to traverse right around the lake up over a small peak rather than get into the difficult talus on the west shore. At the outlet, there is a nice flat campsite. Here I stopped, agonizing as I looked at Gunsight pass. It looked very dangerous without an ice axe. After much contemplation, I admitted defeat.

I left my pack and explored an obvious ledge system and found that it would provide an escape route to Goddard Canyon, in addition to finding a beautiful grassy bench with a melt water stream that had a fine campsite with an outstanding view. I went back for my pack and set. Although disappointed about missing Red Mountain Basin, I was thoroughly enjoying my view, sitting in the sun finishing the last pages of my book. Mosquitoes had not yet found my little perch.

Cliffs on north side of Confusion Pass, photo taken earlier

Day 10: Goddard Canyon, Again. 11.6 miles/ 7.8 hours/ 3000+ feet descent

Another crystal clear day dawned. I reluctantly left my perch and traversed north on the obvious bench above cliffs until I reached the grassy slopes that descended to Goddard Canyon, intersecting the same trail I had left 8 days earlier. This alternate descent from Confusion Pass avoids the cliffs and although I used my trekking poles on the steep slopes, it remained class 1. Walking down Goddard Canyon with a light pack, I was enjoying the views, regretting that my camera was dead.

My solitude ended when I reached the junction to Evolution Valley, where hordes of backpackers were on this section of the John Muir Trail. Some boy scouts wanted to know where they were as I showed them the map. A group of Sierra Club climbers were headed to Mt. Goddard. Some ultra-light fast packers had heads to the ground literally running up the trail. If only they knew what wondrous country lay just off their heavily tread path.

At the Piute Creek junction I stopped for lunch and met three other backpackers. We all being old farts sat in the shade and had hilarious conversation. As we finished our lunch the two fellows headed up Piute Canyon and the other lady, a University professor of education, joined me for our trek out. She had just finished some of her own off-trial exploring of McGee Creek. We headed to Belaney Meadows with hopes of finding the hot springs. The San Joaquin River was too high to cross so we settled for conversation at dinner at this popular and crowded campsite.

Thus ended a day started in solitude and ended in the company of a fellow sole-mate; the extreme change of conditions was a bit surreal.

Day 11: Missed the Boat. 8 miles/ 3.7 hours

I left early to catch the 11:00 AM boat. Unknown to me, my watch was off about 15 minutes, so I missed the boat! I figured I could walk out about as fast as wait for the second boat. I had to take off shoes to cross one creek and thankfully there was a bridge to cross the San Joaquin River. Walking around Florence Lake included 1,000 feet elevation gain. The views of Florence Lake and a savings of $10 were my rewards for the effort. The next boat arrived just as I hit the parking lot.

I packed up my car, retrieved food from the bear boxes and headed out hoping to jump into the first body of water I could find to wash up. It was surprisingly crowded and I had to settle for a discrete bath in my swim suit while nearby anglers watched. By now I wished I had gone back to Mono Hot Springs for another hot shower.

Trip Statistics

84.4 miles
10.5 days
22,173 elevation gain
58% off trail miles
8 miles/ 6.8 hours per day average


I may have posted this report. At this time I posted on another backpack forum and just linked to HST.

I particularly would like to know if anyone has gone from the Goddard Creek unnamed lakes below Finger Peak directly into Tunemah Lake. Or if anyone has been down to those lakes north of Tunemah Lake and east of Blue Canyon Pass.
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by grampy » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:11 pm

Loved your report - stunning photos and informative narrative. Thank you!
Also wanted to bump your request for input back to the top.

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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by tomba » Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:14 am

The original report: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... php?t=7230. The text is not identical.
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Gazelle » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:32 am

Daisy thank you for this I had looked at original before my 2 trips into Ionian this year. I really like Ionian basin fun route finding and stark beautiful lakes and. some fun peaks also! I want to do a loop around Reinstein/ Finger ridge line etc next year along with exploring the citidel, ladder lake, devils crag. area.
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by sekihiker » Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:24 pm

What a great adventure. You really get to feel solitude when you take a trip like yours. Great photos and write up for a neat and creative hike.

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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:12 pm

tomba, yes I did post it earlier. Sorry about the repeat. However I did re-process the photos because I did not have Photoshop when I took the photos.

gazelle, years ago from LeConte canyon, I ascended Ladder Creek, then traversed north to intersect the PCT at the lake at 10,400. (map below) Ladder Lake is worth the effort. The traverse has tons of talus, so it is a bit slow. With careful route-finding you can get up Ladder Creek with only a bit of bushwhacking. The best camping is at the west end.

The routes below labeled with ??? are what I am curious about. I looked directly down the saddle directly north of Tunnamah Lake looked like it would go nasty class 2. But the nasty part is short. The dashed yellow route looked possible on Google Earth.


Possible Tunamah Routes.JPG


Ladder Lake route.JPG
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Re: TR:2006 Ionian-Tunemah-Backcap

Post by Lumbergh21 » Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:23 pm

Great trip report. Thank you for posting it for us to enjoy even if we have no help to provide.

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