Advice On Kuna Crest to Donahue and Marie Lakes

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Lumbergh21
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Advice On Kuna Crest to Donahue and Marie Lakes

Post by Lumbergh21 » Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:24 pm

As part of a one-week trip this summer I am currently planning to go over Kuna Crest above Helen Lake and then contour, sort of, around to the north side of Donahue Pass then off-trail once again after I cross over Donahue Pass to the tarn on the south side of the pass and up the ridge there to what I guess would be the middle Marie Lake. I've seen the description of the pass above Helen Lake and also watched a video on YouTube called "Super Sierra High Route" by Dan Stenziano (recommend this video) that shows that pass as well, so I feel like I have a good idea of what the Kuna Crest Pass is like. Any advice on the remainder of that route? If the ridge between Donahue Pass and the Marie Lakes looks too heinous for me, I'll bail and use the trail. Using the trail is probably faster anyway. I just thought I would enjoy going off trail and taking a little different route to Marie Lakes, and it looks doable both on the topo map and Google Earth.








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wildhiker
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Re: Advice On Kuna Crest to Donahue and Marie Lakes

Post by wildhiker » Mon Jan 25, 2021 3:05 pm

The route from Kuna Crest Pass over to the Muir Trail just north of Donohue Pass is a walk in the park over meadows and dirt with rocks and granite slabs, with fabulous views the entire time of the encircling Kuna Crest and particularly of Mt Lyell and the rest of the Cathedral Range. I've done it four times and never tire of it. From Helen Lake, don't try to ascend directly up the cirque headwall - too steep. Instead, go up the minor side ridge to the north and then contour over to the pass. The talus is steep but stable. From the pass, head west down the shallow valley to about the 11,000 foot level, then start contouring at that level around the entire headwaters of Kuna Creek, hitting the Muir Trial at a big meadow just north of Donohue Pass at about 10,900 feet elevation. There are some small campsites among bunches of whitebark pines along the creeks in this Kuna Creek basin and at the big lake at 10,800+ feet.

I don't know about the cross-country route over the ridge between Donohue Pass and Marie Lakes.

-Phil

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Re: Advice On Kuna Crest to Donahue and Marie Lakes

Post by Lumbergh21 » Tue Jan 26, 2021 10:05 am

Thanks wildhiker. I had read that the southwest side was very easy off trail hiking, but none of those people were headed toward Donahue Pass and Marie Lakes beyond. If the hiking from the tarn south of Donahue to Marie Lakes looks too challenging for me, I have no problem turning around and using the trail. I've built some extra time into that day, starting at one of the lakes just south of the Kuna Crest and finishing at Marie Lakes. Even if I need to backtrack, it shouldn't be much more than an 11 to 12 mile day.

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