Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

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semicolon
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Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by semicolon » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:32 pm

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice on an upcoming Rae Lakes trip (8/26), which will be my first trip in the eastern Sierra. I'm really happy to have found this site! Searching the forums has already been really useful.

Me: I'm a level 4 backpacker, comfortable with class 3 terrain and river crossings, though this will be a solo trip and I'll top out at class 2 to keep my partner happy. I've hiked at elevation (up to 12K) and haven't had any problems. The only other Sierra trip I've done was up in Ansel Adams, and I was shepherding a group of middle schoolers, so we didn't cover much ground. Main interests: lakes, big mountains, not interested in fishing.

I have an 8-day permit entering at Onion Valley; I generally hike 10-12 miles/day (have done up to 25 mi/day but Do Not Like) and don't usually take zero days on short trips like this, but I am happy to do shorter days (5-8 mi) and was planning on one zero/day hike day for this trip.

Since the Rae Lakes loop from Onion Valley is only about 50 miles, I'd like to add on... something. I had planned on adding Sixty Lakes Basin for an overnight and possibly a day hike over the col and into Gardiner basin, but just spoke with a friend who said that the last time he was up there, it was all bushwacking and pretty unpleasant. But, I just saw KathyW's trip report from July and she didn't mention anything, so maybe it's fine?

Or maybe I should add an out-and-back spur? The Avalanche Pass trail? Further north on the JMT? Further south on the JMT? I'd prefer solitude rather than people, but realize that that might not be possible right now.

Thanks in advance! I promise to write a trip report. :)








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TurboHike
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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by TurboHike » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:59 pm

Welcome to the forum.

I would say "yes", take the time to see 60 Lakes Basin. It's worth it. For other ideas, you could hike up to Baxter Lakes (below Baxter Pass), or you could head up to Woods Lake below Sawmill Pass. There's a good chance you'll have solitude in both locations. There is also Center Basin, about 3 miles south on the JMT from Vidette Meadow, also very scenic. All of these are better than Avalanche Pass in my opinion.

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by looks easy from here » Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:29 pm

Maybe Rae Lakes loop counterclockwise, up Avalanche Pass trail a few miles then crosscountry to Sphinx Lakes, over Longley Pass south of South Guard to Lake Reflection (opportunity to summit Mt Brewer from a variety of directions and class 2 options on the way past it, if you're inclined to that), then down East Creek and back up to Onion Valley.

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by levi » Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:38 pm

Heartily second the above recommendations. Not to make you utterly alter your plans, but I did RLL in 2016, and of the "four sides" of the loop (Bubbs, Rae Lakes, Woods Creek, South Fork Kings), the Rae Lakes section blows the rest of them away. If I had hiked through Kearsarge Pass and Rae Lakes, following that up by hiking the canyon floors along Woods Creek and SF Kings River all the way down to 5000ft would be a relative bummer.

I did a trip in 2018 out of Onion Valley, 8 days, with nearly identical skill level/hiking fitness stats, albeit with my wife, not solo viewtopic.php?f=1&t=18654, that might give you a taste of the offerings south of Rae Lakes. 2/8 days were off trail, and most days were in the 10-12 mile range. We saw only one person between East Lake and the intersection with the JMT near Wallace Creek. The two cruxes were Longley Pass, and then bushwhacking down Cunningham Creek. Based on what I saw in 2018 (low snow year) in early July, I bet the Longley cornice is puny by now, but it might be worth getting some beta on the forum or from a ranger before tackling it solo.

My trip had been inspired by maiathebee's 2017 trip: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15511. She stayed on trail on the west side of her loop, and used Harrison Pass on the east side to circumvent Forester Pass. Personally, I enjoyed Forester Pass, despite sharing it with the JMT. Sphinx Lakes are high on my list for a future trip, as is Center Basin. Bighorn Plateau is epic.

In short though, Rae Lakes themselves are always worth a visit, but given your abilities you might consider more liberally routing away from the rest of the loop :)

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by whttiger25 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:12 pm

I second all the recommendations to see 60 lakes and definitely Gardiner basin if you have the time! It isn't a tough xc from that side, don't remember any serious bushwhacking. That was all on the route there up from Road's End, which won't be an issue for you, but that was far more challenging. I remember the descent into 60 lakes basin from that side being a cakewalk, with the exception of a kindof tricky need to climb over a pretty significant lake to get around hte first big lake.

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by whttiger25 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:23 pm

Here is a shot from the best campsite in the basin. We had it alone. The trip up into Gardiner basin is really fantastic Sierra XC.
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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by blaybelay » Thu Aug 13, 2020 11:15 am

Just came back from the loop this week. Had an amazing time. The bear population is VERY active right now. We had one walk up to us within 15 feet while we were eating lunch on trail. He was not concerned with us even slightly. He eventually lumbered off in search of easier food I suspect. If you do go make sure you follow all food storage and cooking rules.

With that said, if we had time I'd have loved to add 60 lakes to the trip. There isn't a whole lot of time spent camping at lakes on the trip. With 4 days the first day is the slog, the second day is the payoff (Glenn Pass) and lake camping and the third day is a downhill walk to a relatively uninteresting campground (Paradise). Adding another day exploring lakes would have been very nice.

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semicolon
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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by semicolon » Sat Aug 15, 2020 11:11 am

Thanks, everyone! This was just immensely, immensely helpful.

My current plan is: Rae Lakes loop clockwise from Onion Valley, side trip to Woods Lake, side trip to 60 Lakes Basin with a day jaunt into Gardiner, side trip to Center Basin then back to Onion Valley. I can't wait!

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by Pietro257 » Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:48 pm

Nothing I can add to what others have said, but yes, Sixty Lake Basin is well worth visiting. The solitude alone is worth it. Rae Lakes, being on the John Muir Trail, is very crowded. When I was in Sixty Lake Basin in 2018 I only saw one other party there. By contrast there must have been 35 parties at Rae Lakes.

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Re: Include Sixty Lake Basin on Rae Lakes loop?

Post by Douglas » Sun Sep 06, 2020 5:10 pm

Great info, thank you! I'm planning to do something similar with flexible time (Permit Sept 16 - Roads End) provided the fires hold off. Good to hear the xc to Gardiner isn't too bad as an option. Also considering a peak in the area. Any suggestions on a beginner level scramble? The Painted Lady maybe?

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