Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

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kpeter
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Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by kpeter » Sun Jul 26, 2020 11:44 pm

On August 7 I have a reservation to head over McGee Pass. I have been to Big McGee Lake but no further and would appreciate any advice you may have on how to spend my week. I can do (and have done) some cross-x to get to lakes not too far off trails. In looking at Lee and Cecil to the north, and Tully and Red & White to the south, and the complex of lakes in the west on trail (Lone Indian, Papoose, Chief, Warrior, Squaw) what should I prioritize? I figure that I will spend a day getting to McGee Lake and a day getting from McGee Lake out and home, leaving 5 days for exploring over McGee pass. But they are all just names on maps to me at the moment, and I know some of you have been there. What is your advice, considering I am chiefly interested in photography, and do not fish.








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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by cgundersen » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:49 am

Hi kpeter,
The canyon leading up to McGee Pass is pretty cool by itself, and Red Slate mountain keeps the striking geology theme going as you head over the pass. Some of the best sky pilots I've seen have lurked up by the pass, too. Tully lake itself has a few nice campsites, but from my one visit to Cecil and Lee, I'd pass on that side-trip. Hortense is worth the effort, and even though Mace Lake is nothing to look at, there is a great ridge projecting out from Mace that overlooks Hortense and back up the canyon toward Red Slate. It's a wonderful perch, and by August, Mace will be lukewarm. The lakes on the plateau above Tully are off the beaten path, and worth a visit, too. And, if you want to stretch things out a bit, looping around to Warrior and its kin will get you different panoramas, too. As you elevate above Warrior, distant views of Ritter-Banner & the Minarets pop up. I'll look forward to your TR! Cameron
Last edited by cgundersen on Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by LMBSGV » Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:23 am

The lakes on the plateau above Tully are off the beaten path, and worth a visit, too.
I second this. This is one of my favorite areas in the Sierra. Wandering around the various tarns and small lakes can occupy a day. I suggest camping at the north end of Cotton Lake.

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by Ska-T » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:30 am

With 5 days to explore and if you like high country lakes and passes, you could include a "semi-loop" by going over Pace Col (Grinnell Pass) and coming back over Bighorn Pass and Rohn Pass (or Shout of Relief Pass). Or do it in the opposite direction.

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maverick
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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by maverick » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:35 am

You have got to check out Grinnell & Laurel Lakes KP! :nod:
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by SSSdave » Mon Jul 27, 2020 12:32 pm

In 2016 we came in from Mono Creek though went over McGee in 1985.:

https://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_ ... 16-11.html

https://www.davidsenesac.com/2016_Trip_ ... 16-12.html

The Mt Morrison quad contains some of the fascinating geology on the planet. Download this USGS pdf.

https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0385/report.pdf

The from this page the tiff of the map:

https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/Prodesc/proddesc_447.htm

Worthwhile short side hike on day 1 is to drop one's pack on the trail at the 3120+ meadow, then go due north 0.2 mile up 60+ meters to 3200 meters to the overlook of Paleozoic geology about the Scheelore Mine to the north.

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by windknot » Mon Jul 27, 2020 1:17 pm

I just came back from over McGee Pass on Saturday. I intended to camp at Red and White, but not finding any suitable campsites and with a thunderstorm approaching I retreated and stumbled across a tiny, unmapped tarn at about 10640+ on the ridge separating Fish Creek from the Tully Lake drainage. I scrambled to set up camp there, and after the hail subsided I was treated to great views to the west. As a fisherman and not a photographer, it wasn't quite as good as being able to fish. But it was close. I recommend this general low ridge area as a great spot to camp/take photos in the evening if you're in the Fish Creek area.

View from twenty feet north of my campsite:
Image

View from about 60 feet southwest of my campsite, overlooking Tully Lake and the small unnamed lake to the southwest:
Image

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by robertseeburger » Mon Jul 27, 2020 2:32 pm

I would recommend climbing Red Slate Mountain from Mcgee Pass.
It is class 1. It has to me one of the most expansive views of the Sierra . ( Note I didnt say best..just expansive).

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by Harlen » Mon Jul 27, 2020 2:58 pm

Hi kpeter,

We really liked the scenery from our camp in the upper meadows just west of McGee Pass-- crap, I can't find the map! I'll try to include some of the images my friends took on that trip:

IMG_1040(2).JPG
The afternoon view up at Red Slate can be very nice


IMG_1049.JPG
High meadows tucked up in the granite country to the south, perhaps around Cotton Lake?


100_2418.jpg
Here's a nice view down from around McGee Pass. The green meadows right of center are near where we enjoyed a camp. Just above that big central meadow you can see the granite terrace around the Cotton and Hortense Lake area. Listen to the glowing description that Roper give it:

"
This verdant parkland... remains remarkably untrammelled, and hikers who stroll west under the shoulder of peak 11,411 toward Cotton Lake might easily envision themselves traversing meadows untrodden by human feet.
Roper goes on to describe all of myriad bird species who frequent this paradise, and he calls Lake Izaak Walton: "
a narrow body of water reposing in a handsome setting.
Maverick says:
You have got to check out Grinnell & Laurel Lakes KP! :nod:
Maverick is pointing you toward the really dramatic stuff. It's a bit of a scrap to get up to "Shout of Relief" and then over to "Bighorn Pass," but the view into Grinnell Lakes Basin, and up at stunning Red and White Mountain would make it worth your while. Good luck, Ian,
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice for exploring over McGee Pass

Post by cgundersen » Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:18 pm

Hi kpeter,
I had forgotten to mention that Red & White lake in my experience defied camping, because it's surrounded by incorrigible rockpiles; so I was glad to see that windknot offered the same admonition. And, not surprisingly, the last time I was up there, we too backed off from Red & White to what very likely was the same tarn windknot recommended. If you are going to follow Mav's advice, it's a pretty easy hop from there to Shout-of-relief pass, but that still leaves you with some significant rambling to get over to Grinnell. Still, if you do go to Grinnell, you won't regret it: it's in my top 5 Sierra lakes with some sensational campsites. But, unless you come up from Mono creek, the rest of the approaches are fairly challenging, so keep that in mind. Finally, my only ding on Izaak Walton is that it sits low, so your view corridors are constrained. But, if you like dense greenery, it's got plenty.
Cameron

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