Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
Post Reply
User avatar
hisdudeness47
Topix Novice
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:02 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by hisdudeness47 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:25 am

Hey there, I'm scrapping my plan to hit Gould or Dragon Pass (looks a little too sketchy to get into that right off the bat) to Rae Lakes, but here's my new plan, still in progress (https://caltopo.com/m/7664). Our new plan still does include lots of passes. Kearsarge Pass, Glen Pass, Rae Col, 60 Lakes Col, Basin Notch, East Gardiner Pass, Gardiner Pass, and then Kearsarge AGAIN. It's gonna be a doozy, but still only 10k over 6 days/5 nights, surprisingly. The current plan is:

Day 1 (Wednesday): Drive to trailhead and hike to Flower/Matlock Lake for camp to acclimate a bit. We're coming from 5k and hike at elevation a lot, so I'm hoping the acclimation process isn't too bad for us. Distance: 2.5-3 miles.

Day 2 (Thursday): Pretty big day. Hike from Flower/Matlock to camp at 60 Lakes Basin via Rae Col, bypassing Rae Lakes. This hike will go over 3 humps, Kearsarge Pass, Glen Pass, and Rae Col. I'm tired thinking about it. Distance: ~9-10 miles.

Day 3 (Friday):
Layover day, but we won't be laying! Gonna bust out the day packs and dayhike down 60 Lakes Basin, through Basin Notch and back up through Rae Lakes and back on the regular 60 Lakes Basin trail to camp. Or reverse. Distance: to be determined!

Day 4 (Saturday):
Climb from 60 Lakes Basin over 60 Lakes Col to Gardiner Basin to find another camp. Explore! Might grab Mt. Cotter on the way. Distance: 3-5 miles between camps.

Day 5 (Sunday): Another pretty big day. From Gardiner Basin, go west over Gardiner Pass East, south over Gardiner Pass and then on to either Charlotte Lake or Kearsarge Lakes, or somewhere around there, depending on time and/or energy. Distance: ~6.5 to Charlotte Lake and 10 to Kearsarge Lakes.

Day 6 (Monday): Hike out. Distance: ~9 from Charlotte Lake. ~5.5 from Kearsarge Lakes.

Total distance: ~30.3 miles (obviously will be more with all the route finding and exploring)

Let me know what you think of this plan. It's gonna be tough with all the XC, but the mileage really isn't that huge. Our original plan was the North to South Lake loop which would have been ~60 miles in 6 days/5 nights. I'd argue this might be easier, although with a lot more XC and passes, so maybe not! Any more intel on these passes/XC travel would be awesome.

I'd also love for some intel from you guys on how to find solitude on this hike, especially for campsites. I know it's an incredibly popular trailhead and there will be sections with crowds. However, I did favor XC travel in this plan, scrapped Rae Lakes as a camp area in favor of two nights in 60 Lakes Basin, and I think I timed it so we'll be pretty well away from people on the weekend (except for the day hiking exploration of Rae Lakes on Friday and finding a campsite at Charlotte/Kearsarge Lakes on Sunday. I would love some tips for secluded campsites for each of my nights. If you don't want to give up that intel, that's totally understandable. I'm sure we can hunt and find something good!

Any other tips/advice would be much appreciated as well. Thanks!
Last edited by hisdudeness47 on Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.








User avatar
kursavwilage
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 9:52 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Atascadero, Ca

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by kursavwilage » Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:37 am

Might be out of the path but lake 9534, the northern most lake in Gardiner Basin West has a great secluded campsite on it's northern shore. I would think that the chances of seeing people while camping there would be slim. Also the lake was full of Golden trout when I was there about 6 years ago...

User avatar
hisdudeness47
Topix Novice
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:02 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by hisdudeness47 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:53 am

kursavwilage wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:37 am
Might be out of the path but lake 9534, the northern most lake in Gardiner Basin West has a great secluded campsite on it's northern shore. I would think that the chances of seeing people while camping there would be slim. Also the lake was full of Golden trout when I was there about 6 years ago...
Yeah, that would be a great spot if we were doing the long way around the Gardiner Basin. I think we're gonna try the shortcut though. Whether that's a good idea or not remains to be seen!

User avatar
kursavwilage
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 9:52 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Atascadero, Ca

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by kursavwilage » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:42 am

The shortcut is probably better than the horrendous bushwhack we encountered on the long way around. If you ever get into that area in the future I highly recommend that lake... Charlotte lake was crowded by JMTers including one 80 year old nude bather ...... wasn't my fondest memory of that trip.

User avatar
cgundersen
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1009
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:07 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by cgundersen » Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:28 pm

Hola hisdude,
Having been through that area repeatedly, I'll be very curious how the crux part of that loop works out. From my inspection of the off-trail bit just north of Mt. Gardiner, I've decided on 2 separate occasions to give it a "pass". The last time was just before a guy (a teacher) was going solo over that route and did not make it. So, be prepared for something that may be a bit sketchy. Sure, the bushwhack segment is not all that endearing, but tedium beats lots of other outcomes. Otherwise, the rest of your plan looks great, and if the prospect of added time pressure from bushwhacking is a concern, just skip the day hike. Gardiner basin is plenty glorious all by itself. As you ascend the limb toward Gardiner pass, the lakes get better the higher you go. Cameron

User avatar
hisdudeness47
Topix Novice
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:02 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by hisdudeness47 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 4:38 pm

cgundersen wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:28 pm
Hola hisdude,
Having been through that area repeatedly, I'll be very curious how the crux part of that loop works out. From my inspection of the off-trail bit just north of Mt. Gardiner, I've decided on 2 separate occasions to give it a "pass". The last time was just before a guy (a teacher) was going solo over that route and did not make it. So, be prepared for something that may be a bit sketchy. Sure, the bushwhack segment is not all that endearing, but tedium beats lots of other outcomes. Otherwise, the rest of your plan looks great, and if the prospect of added time pressure from bushwhacking is a concern, just skip the day hike. Gardiner basin is plenty glorious all by itself. As you ascend the limb toward Gardiner pass, the lakes get better the higher you go. Cameron
Are you referencing Gardiner Pass East? That's the one in particular I'm skeptical about. There's really not that much out there about it. All I can find is the location on the HST map which describes it as a class 2 pass and this forum post (http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... hp?t=13969). If anyone else has any more information about Gardiner Pass East, let me know!

User avatar
cgundersen
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1009
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:07 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley/60 Lakes Basin/Gardiner Basin Loop

Post by cgundersen » Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:52 pm

Hisdude,
Yes, exactly; Gardiner Pass East. I probably spent an hour inspecting routes (with some nice binoculars) up the East side whilst camped at the outlet of the big lake (3477) below 60 Lakes col, and nothing really looked tenable to me. And, after doing the bushwhack route and camping at the last big lake in the Gardiner chain (up canyon from the original Gardiner pass), I climbed to the western ridge of East Gardiner pass (that part was easy), but looking down from there still did not give me much confidence that I wanted to tackle it. Now, it could be that a more-concerted scouting would reveal a decent option (for instance, my first time on the Upper Basin Crossing ridge, I rejected a couple routes before finding a weird zig-zag path that really made things pretty easy; so, subsequent visits to UBC have been the proverbial cake walk). Anyway, all I'm saying is that if you go for it, be prepared to back off. And, if you unlock the key, please post a report; it'd be great to see what works. A final note is that if you have any skills identifying mushrooms, the Gardiner basin usually has gobs of boletus edulis (porcini) around now, and that's an added bonus. Cameron

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: 10kandup, Bing [Bot], Enigmagic, Google Adsense [Bot], levi, mkbgdns, MountainMinstrel and 11 guests