TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

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MRrogers
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TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by MRrogers » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:43 pm

Well this trip route was established to knock off 5 must see spots which included the High Sierra Trail, Precipice Lake, Kaweah Basin, lowest Picket Creek lake and Forester Pass. So the route was created to hit all 5 of these spots. The big decision needed was how to get into the Kaweah and Picket Creek Basins. Pyra Queen Col was chosen of over Pants Pass mainly because it offered the shortest mileage route to visit both the Kaweah and Picket basins.
Day 1
We left the Bay Area early in the morning in a one way rental car which we dropped off in Visalia. Our hired shuttle driver flaked on us when we got to Visalia. We got lucky and were able to get an Uber to take us to the Crescent Meadow trailhead in Sequoia National Park. I couldn’t believe that the Uber driver would take us that far and it was only $38!
We were on trail by about 130 pm. Things got interesting about 5 miles in on the High Sierra Trail when we ran into this guy.
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He started towards us on the trail before he decided to head back into the bushes.
We made it to camp at Nine Mile Creek before dark and were able to enjoy the company of deer and fellow hikers while having dinner and a camp fire.
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Day 2
Pretty easy day. We enjoyed the hike up to Hamilton Lake. Here are a few sights.
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Spent the afternoon fishing and visiting with fellow hikers. Most were either doing the entire HST or were going to the Little Five Lakes area. We ran into to another High Sierra Topix hiker who was just returning from Kaweah Basin and he offered some valuable information about our upcoming days.
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Day 3
Woke up very excited to hike up the HST to Precipice Lake and the day did not disappoint. Even though there was considerable elevation gain, the design of the trail made the hiking easy. The trail builders did such a great job that we couldn’t find the trail blowout from last year.

The trail near Hamilton Gorge was quite a marvel to see.
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We approached Precipice Lake with great anticipation and what a sight it was. Here are some pics with full sunlight. The blue color of the water was almost too blue. The entire area seemed to be some kind of “theater” and was almost indescribable.
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Then it clouded up and here are some pictures with cloud cover.
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Here is the view of the clouds above Precipice. Looks like a rainbow bird flying overhead!
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I tried to recreate the famous Ansel Adams picture. In his version the lake is half frozen.
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We left Precipice after lunch and headed towards the Nine Lakes Basin.
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Here is view looking down the Big Arroyo.
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It started clouding up this afternoon and that become the norm for the rest of the trip.
We made it to a wooded area above the largest lake in the bottom on the basin and rested up for the big day to come. Here are some pics from our campsite.
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Day 4
Got up early to allow for as much time as possible to get over Pyra Queen Col and down into the Kaweah Basin before dark.
The route was easy to follow on the way to the base of the Col. There was some bouldering along the way but it was pretty manageable.
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We started up the col at noon under cloudy skies. We followed a route that we loaded into the ViewRanger App. The climbing was very physically and mentally exhausting. We finally were able to reach a shelf that led to the final approach to the notch with good hand holds along our left side.

The beginning
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The middle
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The end
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View through the notch back towards the West.
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We were so relieved to be on the col but didn’t stay long because we had long way to go down. Views from the col towards the East.
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The initial path down was easy to manage but then we hit the boulders and the boulders did not stop until we finally made it down to the first lake by 7 pm.

The beginning
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The middle
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The end
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We had just enough time to put up tents when the thunder, lightning, wind and rain started and it lasted for at least an hour. We came out of tents at about 830 pm, made water and went to bed quite exhausted. I did wake up around midnight to take some night pictures.
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Day 5
Morning at the base of the Kaweah peaks.
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We still had some bouldering to do to get down into the part of the Kaweah Basin that was much easier on the feet. Here are some pictures from the basin.
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We left the basin to head for the lowest Pickett Creek Lake around noon. The saddle to get into the Pickett Creek Basin was easy to navigate and by 230 pm we had made it to the lake.
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The lake is really something to see. It does seem almost fake due to its composition and make up. It has been previously referred to the as the Shangri-La of the Sierra and whoever came up with that got it right! Here are a couple of pictures.
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We camped in an area between the inlet and outlet which are very close together. We were pleasantly surprised to find rainbow trout in the lake. We caught quite a few before and after the daily afternoon shower. Most were in the 6 to 8 inch range.
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Day 6
Woke up around 530 am due to long day of hiking ahead. We were able to get down from the lake to the Colby Pass Trail by about 9 am. The off trail climb down was pretty easy. We headed southeast to start and then headed back northwest down a series of shelves until we reached the Kern-Kaweah River and the Colby Pass Trail.
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The view back towards Picket Creek Basin.
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At first the Colby Pass Trail was somewhat maintained. Here is a picture of the trail reminiscent of the Golden Staircase on the JMT.
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At this point the trail descended down to the Kern River. The trail was pretty steep going down and very over grown.

I was surprised to see the Kern River had these smooth round polished rocks where we crossed the river. I also thought the river would be wider at this point.
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Next we headed up the trail that followed Wallace Creek up to the JMT. This section was very demanding and uphill the entire way. We reached the JMT and had a long break to make water and rest before proceeding. We kept going and reached the Tyndall Creek junction before dark. Got some dinner and hit the hay very exhausted.
Here are some pictures on the JMT between the Wallace Creek junction and Tyndall Creek.
I really enjoyed this view of Whitney since it shows the last part of the Mountaineering Route.
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Bighorn Plateau.
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Day 7
Again woke up very early to ensure would have enough time to get over Forester Pass before any weather would develop.
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We found the hike up to the pass much easier than expected. The trail near the top was very amazing.
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We didn’t stay long on the top of the pass because the skies continued to look threatening so we started down the trail towards Vidette Meadow.
Yours truly(aka Dayhike) at the top of the pass.
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And Rick(aka Grizzly) at the top!
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Nice view from the pass.
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We stopped for lunch part way down along a stream. Here are some sights.
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We got to camp pretty early at Vidette Meadow. We set up camp, rested while the afternoon storm passed through and even made a fire just after dinner. Great way to finish off the trip.
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Day 8.
Again woke up at 5 am to ensure we would get down to the Kearsarge Pass Trailhead at the Onion Valley parking lot in time to meet our shuttle. We made it with an hour to spare which provided time for a much needed wet wipe shower.

We spotted a second bear on the trip at the JMT/Bullfrog lake trail intersection. This bear had just tried to take another hikers backpack before scaring him off.
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The hike up from Vidette Meadow to Keararge Pass was very tiring. We talked to some trail workers who we building new trails between the lakes and the pass to decrease the trail incline in some sections. Here are some sights along the way.
Life was very quiet and still at bullfrog lake. Seems the frogs and fish were still sleeping in.
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Last pics from Kearsarge Pass.
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Our shuttle took us to Bishop Enterpirse car rental where we picked up our car and then we headed straight to the Holy Smoke Texas Style BBQ for brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage, baked potato, mac n cheese, cornbread and beer. Life was good again!
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Here are the stats for the trip.
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Reflections.
We definitely got lucky with the weather. We only usually had to deal some light afternoon rain. We didn’t see any other hikers between the Nine Lake Basin and the Kern River but this was expected.
The Prya Queen Col is rated Class II. Turns out we are rated for Class I so we will not try to tackle anything like this again and opt for the long way around on trails.

We couldn’t believe that hundreds of wild fires were started by lightening while we out in the wilderness. The smoke was really bad on the drive up 395 from Mammoth to the Sonora Pass. Here is a picture in Bridgeport looking west into what should be the Matterhorn Mountain Range.
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Here is another picture near Turlock looking west into the setting sun.
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If anyone is for looking for other pictures or trail information please PM me and I will happy to share with you.

Until next time, may all of your trails be boulder less!








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sekihiker
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by sekihiker » Mon Aug 24, 2020 9:08 pm

Wow! What a trip. Great photos and enough text to keep me oriented. I really enjoyed your report. Thanks.

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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by windknot » Mon Aug 24, 2020 9:17 pm

Wow, great report and such beautiful and varied photos. You obviously had a great time and your appreciation for the magnficent scenery shows. Thanks for taking the time to write this up and share your journey!

We must have both been driving up 395 to 108/Sonora Pass and back to the Bay Area around the same time on Wednesday, since I came out of a trip on 8/19 near Bishop as well. That smoke from 395 north of Bishop all the way to the Central Valley was really bad.
The Prya Queen Col is rated Class II. Turns out we are rated for Class I so we will not try to tackle anything like this again and opt for the long way around on trails.
I appreciated this note and can empathize, as I often find myself wondering the same thing as I'm halfway up (or down) something that looked more doable on the map than up close and in person.

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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by druid » Mon Aug 24, 2020 9:51 pm

MRrogers wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:43 pm
Our shuttle took us to Bishop Enterpirse car rental where we picked up our car and then we headed straight to the Holy Smoke Texas Style BBQ for brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage, baked potato, mac n cheese, cornbread and beer. Life was good again!
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Nice TR and pics! Glad to see you were finally able to get some decent brew after being deprived for a week! :evil: :partyman:

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wildhiker
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by wildhiker » Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:28 pm

Thanks for the great read and photos. I especially liked your photos of morning light on the Kaweah peaks. You did an ambitious trip - no wonder you keep saying how tired you were!
-Phil

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The Other Tom
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by The Other Tom » Tue Aug 25, 2020 5:27 am

Wow! Great trip and pics. Thanks for posting

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c9h13no3
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by c9h13no3 » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:26 am

Thread delivers :) Great pictures.
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.

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wsp_scott
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by wsp_scott » Sun Aug 30, 2020 9:04 am

Awesome trip report and photos, looks like a great time. I was surprised to see beer after the first night, how many beers did you carry?
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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MRrogers
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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by MRrogers » Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:13 pm

Only carried 3 beers. And a bottle of Zinfandel in a soft pouch.
Have to have a few home comforts! Cheers!

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Re: TR Crescent Meadow to Onion Valley via HST and JMT 8/12 - 8/19/2020

Post by kpeter » Sat Sep 12, 2020 8:08 pm

Thank you for that report! I've done many portions of that trip and recognize some of your camera angles. You hit the light on Kearsarge Lakes on your way out just right--lovely photos. And good to know your appraisal of Pyra Queen Col. I'm still plotting to get to Pickett lake and Kaweah Basin but have not been able to settle on the route. I've always been borderline on class 2 stuff and averse to exposure, so I am coming around to an in-and-out coming up from the Colby Pass trail. Sounds like that is how you would do it too, in retrospect.

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