TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

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johnz
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Thu Jan 23, 2020 1:50 pm

8/11/2019 Sunday

Marion Lake in the morning.
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We were running behind schedule, and had to forgo exploring Lake Basin. Instead we headed straight for Dumbbell Pass. The stroll through the bottom of Lake Basin in the quiet morning was a great way to start the day.
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The sun was bright and unobstructed by surrounding peaks. As we neared the tarn below the pass, a pretty carpet of lush grass and wildflowers rolled down from above beckoning us forward.
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Snow covered Dumbbell pass and in the late morning air, it had a perfect quality with just enough crunch to provide good traction.
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We descended the pass bearing left, crossing through mixed terrain of rock and snow.
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Eventually we reached a point where a short, but steep section of snow separated the patch of rock we were on from the rock that led all the way down to the western shore of Lake 11108 (horizon of the picture below).
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The snow could not have been more than 15 feet across. But it was quite hard – I could not drive my light axe which did not have a proper spike more than a few inches into the snow – and I had trouble kicking steps. Also the snow slid directly into the bouldery lake shore below. I tried digging steps but that was difficult as well. Eventually, we resorted to climbing down the steep jumble of rock we were already standing on.

Observation Peak.
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A couple of trout lazily floated by as we snacked by the lake shore.
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Cyclorama Wall.
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Last edited by johnz on Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:05 pm

8/11/2019 Sunday cont.

The lake was so clear that when we went to fetch water we had trouble gauging when the air met the water’s surface.
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Another picture of the isthmus of snow we had trouble crossing as we rounded the western shore of Lake 11108.
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A slip would have been unpleasant.

We left Lake 11108 and headed west. Peak 11988 stands guard.
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As we hiked, we encountered some very smooth boulders.
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Eventually we reached the lake at around elevation 10580 just west of Lake 11108.
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Joe’s knees were sore and he decided to camp here while Jerzy and I went to check out the couloir behind Peak 11988 which leads directly to the top of the remote basin ensconced in the Windy Cliffs high above Cartridge Creek. Inside that basin is a little lake that might be unvisited?
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The pyramidal Peak 11988 drawing closer.
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Ascending the bouldery slopes to the mouth of the couloir.
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This area was steep as Joe’s picture of us can attest to.
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:44 pm

8/11/2019 Sunday cont.

Eventually we reached the mouth.
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And here it is from our perspective.
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The snow was steep. Probably sustained 45-55 degrees. This would not have been such a big problem if it wasn’t so firm. Like the snow that came down from Dumbbell pass, this one was difficult to drive my spike into. With a pair of technical axes like Petzl Sum’tec and boots and crampons, I think this couloir would’ve been an extremely fun climb. But my trail runner/aluminum ice axe combo was woefully inadequate. Sadly we had to turn around.

As we descended from the couloir I snapped some pictures of unofficial Bear Pass which looked quite fearsome.
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Another look at the couloir and Peak 11988.
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Meanwhile Joe enjoyed a nice swim in Lake 10580.
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Since we were pretty down about the couloir Jerzy and I thought it would be funny to sneak up on Joe (who we told to expect us back by tomorrow) and trick him into thinking a bear was nearby. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize Joe was tracking our progress all along and saw us descend back down from the couloir. He waved at us as we ineffectually tried to approach behind some brush.

On the plus side, there was a nice big granite bench right at the lake’s edge facing the sun. Perfect for sunbathing.
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:48 am

8/12/2019 Monday

We broke camp around 7:30. I was quite excited because we were about to descend the creek draining Dumbbell Basin all the way down to where it meets Cartridge Creek. While I had read that this can be done, I never encountered a trip report or photos documenting such a descent.

The initial descent was a very pleasant stroll through pockets of meadow and easy granite slabs. The grass had a beautiful deep green color in the morning shade. At certain moments the ground beneath the grass was so soft, with a strange buoyant quality, that it felt like we were walking on memory foam.
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Soon the rocks became more numerous and the grass more sparse. We also encountered some fresh looking bear scat.
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The main stream goes over a cliff not too far below Lake 10580 so we stayed to the left.
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The grass eventually gives way to brush and we started to do some intermittent bushwhacking and boulder hopping.
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Still, the descent so far was mostly straightforward.
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Eventually we climbed a little ridge and descended into the main drainage creek.
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This area had quite a bit of loose talus and we realized afterwards that it would’ve been better if we continued on the other side of the ridge away from the creek.
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:07 am

8/12/2019 Monday cont.

The basin of the south fork of Cartridge Creek in the distance. Some more serious bushwhacking.
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Eventually the creek veers right (west) and we continued southwest onto a wooded slope that thankfully was devoid of boulder fields and thick shrubs.
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Soon the wooded slope opened onto an expansive view of Cartridge Creek valley. We could hear the thunderous water rushing hundreds of feet below us and could now see the east face of Mount Woodworth and the south fork of Cartridge Creek.
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The slope eventually cliffs out with a tantalizing view of an arm of Triple Falls. A weakness in the rock allowed us to descend into the valley floor.
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Once we got toward the bottom, a short but horrendous stretch of bushwhacking separated us from Cartridge Creek and a full view of Triple Falls. Trees were growing sideways and seemingly upside down. Thick brush covered the ground beneath which was riddled with gaps and stones. Sometimes we could not see where we were placing our feet.
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At some point, I accidentally triggered the video function of my phone while it was in my shirt pocket, leading to a 26 second sound recording of me heaving my way through the vegetation. I decided to keep it as a visceral reminder of the bushwhack. Eventually we landed on top of a dry stream bed overgrown with vegetation and bulldozed our way toward salvation. The entire ordeal lasted maybe 20 minutes but it seemed like forever. Cartridge Creek at last!
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:28 am

8/12/2019 Monday cont.

To get a better view of the falls we had to cross to the other side of the creek. The water was rushing quite fast and we wanted to avoid possibly getting knocked down by the strong current. Joe found a log lying beside the water and threw it across the creek to create a bridge.
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Once on the other side, Triple Falls presented itself in all its glory.
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I took a 360 degree picture that is now on Google Maps.

A view back towards the creek draining Dumbbell Basin.
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At this point we had to make a decision: Go up the South Fork of Cartridge Creek and return via Roper’s high route or go down the old Muir Trail toward the Middle Fork of Kings Canyon. Going down seemed more adventurous and so down we went.

I knew that the old Muir Trail was somewhere higher up on the north side of the creek. However, none of us wanted to endure a second time the bushwhack we just finished.
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The south side of the creek, while bouldery, looked less overgrown so we elected to continue along the south side.
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This worked well for while but eventually the canyon narrows and bush becomes just as thick as it is on the north side. We found a place where the creek was wider and shallower than normal and crossed to the north. It was pretty bad for a while.
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Looking back across the creek toward the mouth of the valley containing Lake 10236.
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We stayed close to the creek for a while.
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Eventually we hit a patch of forest where the underbrush was less thick, allowing us to gain some elevation above the creek.
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:48 am

8/12/2019 Monday cont.

We began searching for the trail.
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I had read reports saying that the trail was very hard to follow down here. Thus, I didn’t hold out much hope that we would be able to find and keep the trail all the way down. We would try and follow a game trail as long as possible before it would inevitably disappear and we would look for another one. Eventually though one “game” trail seemed to just keep going and going. It occurred to us that it might be the trail. A couple of times the trail would disappear, running straight into a downed log or a patch of trees. But each time this happened Joe had a knack for finding the trail again very shortly afterwards. Gradually, it became clear we were on the fabled trail from long ago.
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As we descended the old trail, I imagined the shepherds and early explorers that once traveled up and down these very same stones a hundred years ago. A quiet feeling of connection came over me and I was happy.
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Two and a half hours after leaving Triple Falls, we arrived at the big camp at the bottom of Cartridge Creek.
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We sat here for a while snacking, fetching water, and resting our legs. Although the entire day had been downhill, we were all quite tired both physically and mentally. A little while later we started going down the Middle Fork of the Kings River towards Simpson Meadow. On the way we encountered a pretty healthy sized rattle snake.
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Simpson Meadow.
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We camped at a big established site just after where the trail crosses the bottom of Horseshoe Creek and built our first and only fire of the trip. I slept well.
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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by kursavwilage » Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:24 am

Thank you for the great report! I love the format and can't wait to see more... How did you do that cool 360?

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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:57 am

After finding so little information , you have answered my question about going down Cartridge Creek. Not for me! Thanks!

Definitely go back and spend more time in Lakes Basin and Dumbbell Basin. Another approach to these areas is to go in via Taboose Pass and Cartridge Pass to drop into Lakes Basin, or in from South Lake and then up to Amphitheater Lakes and over the pass into Dumbbell Lakes (snow may not allow this in a high-snow year).

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Re: TR: Cartridge Creek Basin – 8/8 to 8/14 2019

Post by johnz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:05 pm

kursavwilage wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:24 am
Thank you for the great report! I love the format and can't wait to see more... How did you do that cool 360?
Thanks kursavwilage! I used a Samsung Gear 360. The camera has two lenses that cover all directions. It has little tripod legs so I just find a big rock and put it on top. It is connected to my phone via bluetooth. So when I am ready to take a picture I just hide behind the rock and take the picture remotely using my phone.

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