Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

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levi
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Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by levi » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:57 pm

Given crowds in many corners of the Sierra this summer, permit constraints, and wanting to limit our drive for a quick East Side overnight, I booked permits for myself and my wife, backpacking out of Virginia Lakes to Burro Lake. I'm hoping we'll have it all to ourselves. Is Burro Lake deep enough for swimming? (It looks like more than a tarn, but small enough to not be ice cold). If not, are any of the other offtrail lakes in that area worth our consideration, for backpackers willing to deal with class 2/3? I'm mostly looking at Moat, the lake on the approach to Dunderberg, and Return, substantially further from the trailhead on the approach to Virginia/Stanton. Excelsior looks like a reasonable, easy peak bag on our way out, too.








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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by druid » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:16 pm

Return is nice. I don't remember anything over class 1. We didn't swim, but it looked deep enough.
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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by giantbrookie » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:43 pm

Burro Lakes are plenty deep enough for swimming and moreover, there are several of them of different shapes and depth, so the water temps probably vary from fairly cold in the large deep lake to warmer in some of the smaller, shallower ponds. In other words you can have a range of water temps to choose from. I have not been to Moat. Return is an absolute jewel of a place and my very favorite lake in this area. That having been said, Return and Moat are easier to reach than Burro Lakes, so you are more likely to have Burro Lakes to yourself than Moat and Return. For easy peaks, Excelsior is best paired with Burro, while Dunderberg is best paired with Moat. One of my very favorite peaks, the beautiful Virginia Peak can be climbed from Return Lake but it has some of the typical hazards associated with class 3 on metamorphic rocks (ie some dangerously loose ones); one of our Topix members was badly injured on this peak.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by druid » Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:38 pm

The climb of Virginia is reportedly a bit easier if you first circle around to Twin Peaks Pass. We didn't climb it ourselves, though, as a few profane shouts of another party punctuating the sound of rockfall was enough to dissuade us as we were sitting at the pass.

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by giantbrookie » Sat Aug 15, 2020 5:45 pm

druid wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:38 pm
The climb of Virginia is reportedly a bit easier if you first circle around to Twin Peaks Pass. We didn't climb it ourselves, though, as a few profane shouts of another party punctuating the sound of rockfall was enough to dissuade us as we were sitting at the pass.
This is true but the lower approaches (see below) are complex with lots of small cliffs one has to either avoid or climb. I recall it was in fact in that area where our Topix member was badly injured.

The very easiest route up Virginia is via a long nearly horizontal traverse from Horse Creek Pass that stays above the lower cliffs and reaches the saddle north of Virginia Peak (is this Twin Peaks Pass?). That traverse, if hit right, is straightforward class 2. The final climb up the N ridge is class 2 if one is committed to totally avoiding class 3 or it may have one short (ie <10') easy 3rd class move. I climbed and descended this route in 1972 the day after doing Matterhorn (from a camp along Horse Creek).

In 2001 I descended from the summit of Virginia via the N Ridge to the saddle N of the peak then descended to the beautiful lakelet NNE of the peak. It is below here that the "tricky" approach stuff (the "lower approaches" noted above) comes in to get through the lower band of cliffs below this lakelet. I remember doing a few detours and switching a few chutes before "rounding the corner" to the south and descending to Return Lake. That descent was pretty much entirely class 2 except for one very mild class 3 step near the summit.

My ascent route in 2001 is one of my very favorites because much of it followed the prominent knife-slash gash on the SE face. I didn't take this chimney/chute from the bottom but took slopes and chutes to its west down low before crossing into it via a dramatic little notch partway up. This gash was talus-scree bottomed and thus class 2 until the upper 50-100' or so when it steepened and became class 3. There was a place where it divided into two and there was a delicate step-across move that was a little iffy going from the right to the left chimney (viewed up) because of somewhat questionable holds. My brother got really sketched out by the move which is why I picked a different descent route. It is mostly class 2 talus and ledges above the top of the "slash". Virginia is amazing for how steep parts of it can be and still be class 2.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by druid » Sat Aug 15, 2020 6:17 pm

giantbrookie wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 5:45 pm
The very easiest route up Virginia is via a long nearly horizontal traverse from Horse Creek Pass that stays above the lower cliffs and reaches the saddle north of Virginia Peak (is this Twin Peaks Pass?).
Yes, that's it.
giantbrookie wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 5:45 pm
In 2001 I descended from the summit of Virginia via the N Ridge to the saddle N of the peak then descended to the beautiful lakelet NNE of the peak. It is below here that the "tricky" approach stuff (the "lower approaches" noted above) comes in to get through the lower band of cliffs below this lakelet. I remember doing a few detours and switching a few chutes before "rounding the corner" to the south and descending to Return Lake. That descent was pretty much entirely class 2 except for one very mild class 3 step near the summit.
On our way up to the pass we circled quite a bit further north of your route using an annoying somewhat loose gully that avoided all cliffs. On the way back down we followed the aforementioned climbing party who seemed to know what they were doing despite all the cursing. Our descent was a bit further to the south but still well to the north of all of the various lakes and lakelets in the area. In several places the descent route looked like it was going to cliff out when easy breaks would appear seemingly miraculously. I had read before leaving that a route like this existed but I wasn't exactly sure where it was located.

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by levi » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:01 pm

Thanks druid and giantbrookie! Will have to return to this area sometime and explore Virginia Peak, clearly :)

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by Stardew_Valley_88 » Wed Aug 19, 2020 9:46 am

giantbrookie wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:43 pm
Burro Lakes are plenty deep enough for swimming and moreover, there are several of them of different shapes and depth, so the water temps probably vary from fairly cold in the large deep lake to warmer in some of the smaller, shallower ponds. In other words you can have a range of water temps to choose from. I have not been to Moat. Return is an absolute jewel of a place and my very favorite lake in this area. That having been said, Return and Moat are easier to reach than Burro Lakes, so you are more likely to have Burro Lakes to yourself than Moat and Return. For easy peaks, Excelsior is best paired with Burro, while Dunderberg is best paired with Moat. One of my very favorite peaks, the beautiful Virginia Peak can be climbed from Return Lake but it has some of the typical hazards associated with class 3 on metamorphic rocks (ie some dangerously loose ones); one of our Topix members was badly injured on this peak.
Are we not talking about the same Burro Lake we discussed over here? http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... php?t=4630

I can't imagine getting in and out of that canyon with full packs on, though you'd be almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself.

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by levi » Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:06 pm

Yep, your recent report inspired my interest, Brian! So thank you. Our overnight packs will be relatively light, and the Virginia Lakes approach sounds moderate enough, if loose. At this point I'm a bit more concerned about wildfire smoke :(

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Re: Last-minute overnight out of Virginia Lakes

Post by Stardew_Valley_88 » Wed Aug 19, 2020 2:21 pm

levi wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:06 pm
Yep, your recent report inspired my interest, Brian! So thank you. Our overnight packs will be relatively light, and the Virginia Lakes approach sounds moderate enough, if loose. At this point I'm a bit more concerned about wildfire smoke :(
I'm glad you were inspired by the report. It's a beautiful and unique place. Brian is my dad and we are sharing an account on here.

The hike to Burro will be no trouble aside from the final descent from the ridge down into the valley. I would advise extreme caution carrying a pack down that slope. It took us at least an hour each way to cover that area with only daypacks, and that involved a lot of hands. My cousin fared better coming out. He powered up the hill in what seemed like about 20 minutes.

Also, I climbed Excelsior two weeks ago and recommend it! I found this post very helpful on determining the best route over the rust colored hills just beyond where you descend to Burro: https://www.calipidder.com/2013/07/exce ... ain-12446/

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