Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

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Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by Sierraholic2 » Tue Jan 26, 2021 8:12 pm

My wife and I have a permit reserved out of Mosquito Flat TH over Mono Pass in July for 3 night, 4 days. We have done 150 miles of the JMT (Tuolumne Mdws to Kearsarge Pass), a dozen other trips in Hoover and Desolation Wildernesses, and off trail Horse Creek Pass/Spiller Canyon, on trail to Matterhorn Cyn, to Twin Lakes Loop. Wife does not like any exposure or being crushed by boulders (200 lb. piece of talus almost crushed her leg 15 years ago), so easy Class 2 is our limit. In our prime, 10-15 years ago (now 46), we were good for 12-14 mile days with 2-4K elevation gain. Probably more comfortable with 8-10 miles per day with no more than about 2K elevation gain per day (definitely not over 3K), being 25 lbs heavier and older. Darn raising kids and getting old! Ha ha.

Would you recommend:

1. Day 1-Over Mono Pass to Fourth Recess Lake (after driving from El Dorado County for 4.5 hours).
Day 2- Fourth Recess Lake to Pioneer Basin.
Day 3-Day hikes around Pioneer Basin.
Day 4-Pioneer Basin to trailhead (Mosquito Flat TH).

2. Day 1-Over Mono Pass to Fourth Recess Lake.
Day 2-Fourth Recess Lake to Laurel or Grinnell Lakes.
Day 3-Laurel or Grinnell Lakes to Golden Lake.
Day 4-Golden Lake to Mosquito Flat TH.

3. Day 1-Over Mono Pass to Mono Creek/Laurel Lake Cut off
Day 2: Mono Creek/Laurel Lake Cut off over Bighorn and Shout of Relief Passes to Cotton/Isaac Walton Lakes
Day 3: Cotton Lake over McGee Creek Pass and Hopkins Pass to Hopkins Basin
Day 4: Hopkins Basin to Mosquito Flat TH

4. Day 1-Over Mono Pass to Fourth Recess Lake.
Day 2-Fourth Recess Lake to Laurel or Grinnell Lakes.
Day 3-Laurel or Grinnell Lakes over Bighorn and Shout of Relief Passes to Cotton/Isaac Walton Lakes (or Big McGee Lake)
Day 4-Cotton/IW Lakes (or Big McGee Lake) to McGee Creek TH (hire a car shuttle for $100 or so)

What do you think? Which do you think is the best trip? I have looked at hundreds of pictures, and read dozens of trail reports. Can't decide!








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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by SSSdave » Wed Jan 27, 2021 10:06 am

1
...to keep your marriage intact.

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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by balzaccom » Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:12 pm

Great answer, Dave! Also, there is plenty to see and do in Pioneer Basin--although it certainly won't take you a day to hike there from Fourth Recess. But there is plenty to explore. Also check out Golden Lake...not a hard side trip, there is a use trail, and it's lovely.
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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:29 pm

Come on guys, isn't that a bit sexist? Depends on your wife's hiking style. If she is a hard charger and/or a good match for your style and ability, then the TWO of you need to agree whether you want to be rigorous or not. In fact, maybe SHE can out-hike you!

You have your mileage/elevation gain goals stated. Do the math and figure out each trip. Note that reasonable off-trail miles for a day are more like 7-8 miles. Figure about 2.5 miles per hour on trail, 1 mph off trail and add 45 minutes to every 1000 feet elevation gain. That will give you an estimate of how many hours you will be backpacking each day. Hours hiking are actually more important than miles alone.

Everything except #1 is pretty rigorous. Maybe too much if this is the first trip of the season or if you are not acclimated.

As for #3 or #4, McGee canyon is very scenic and if the car shuttle price is not too much for you, I would do that. It is a lot easier.

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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by balzaccom » Thu Jan 28, 2021 8:51 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:29 pm
Come on guys, isn't that a bit sexist? Depends on your wife's hiking style. If she is a hard charger and/or a good match for your style and ability, then the TWO of you need to agree whether you want to be rigorous or not. In fact, maybe SHE can out-hike you!
Daisy--the OP stated that his wife was less comfortable with off trail, had sustained leg injuries in the past, and they were working to limit their miles.

I was just taking that into consideration. Of course she should be involved in the planning.
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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jan 28, 2021 9:01 pm

The "if you want to save the marriage" reply was presumptive and of little help, and yes, sounded a bit sexist in my opinion.

The post stated their current mileage comfort 8-10 miles, elevation 2K-3K, easy class 2 OK. The wife's "almost" injury was 15 years ago, assumed the only lasting "damage" is her comfort on talus. "Easy class 2" is pretty fuzzy since class 2 is a wide range of difficulty. The off-trail from Laurel Lake to Tully Lake is class 2 and not terribly long. I cannot say if it would be suitable for them. From there over McGee Pass and out is all trail. I suggested not to go over Hopkins Pass, so #4 is out. I am not going to offer "gut feeling" speculation. So if they sit down and do the numbers #1, #2 and #3 they then will be able to see what is feasible. Then the decision is just what is "desirable". Do they want a leisurely trip with backpacking and day-hiking, or a higher mileage trip, with all backpacking and a piece of "class 2" off-trail?

One good thing, is that regardless of the four plans, they will get to Pioneer Basin and probably then know better how they feel and if they want to do any of the longer options. Your permit only requires the number of nights out and first night's location. They are free to change things from then on, but need to do the numbers at home to be sure they are not biting off more than is feasible.

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Re: Pioneer Basin or Laurel/Grinnell Lakes or 4 Passes Mono Divide Loop??

Post by tahoe23 » Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:21 am

This was my itinerary in that area August 2020. We were 4 women in our early 50's who live and play in Lake Tahoe, so fairly acclimated. We appreciate shorter hiking days so that we can relax and enjoy. Most days we would go exploring without our packs in the afternoons. Also we were dealing with some big afternoon thunderstorms so we needed to be in camp early. There is a backpackers campground at the Mosquito Pass trailhead which makes it easy to get an early start.
Day1-Mosquito Flat TH-Mono Pass-use trail to Golden Lake. easy first day. I love Golden Lake.
Day 2-Golden Lake-upper Pioneer Basin.
Day 3- Crocker Col from Pioneer Basin to Hopkins Basin. I would skip Crocker Col. Nothing scary, but not fun.
Day 4 Hopkins Basin over "secret" saddle to Grinnell Lake. stunning and grand.Day hiked to Laurel Lake. breathtaking.
Day 5 Shout of Relief and Bighorn Passes (fun) to Plateau of ponds.Day hike exploring Cotton Lake, Izzak walton
Day 6 Over McGee Pass, camped at meadow area above Big McGee Lake (meadow better than over used Lake). Crazy windy stormy night
Day 7-out to McGee TH.

I did not use Hopkins Pass, but could see an itinerary that Starts and ends at McGee TH, over Hopkins Pass, picking up my itinerary on Day 4.
To start at Mosquito Flat, I would suggest Golden Lake and Laurel/Grinnell. 4th Recess is heavily used and keep in mind that the main Mono Pass/ Mono Creek trail is what I call a HSH (horse **** highway). But with only 3 nights, itinerary #1 probably makes the most sense, but I would swap Golden Lake for 4th Recess. Be sure to use the route directly from Summit Lake to Golden Lake and when hiking in Pioneer Basin, go to the upper lakes for sure.

I hope that helps!

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