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Favorite/Least Favorite Passes?

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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:13 pm

I remember a thread like this, perhaps on the old board. It is certainly a fun one to muse about.

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
Lamarck Col. Yes, it's popular, but the view cresting out has always said to me "welcome to the Kings Canyon backcountry". It's a real gateway to the land of dreams.
Sawmill Pass. A nasty low altitude and hot beginning, but this one finishes so well with the stellar Sawmill Lake short of the top and Woods Lake once over the top. It isn't as famous as fellow 6000+ers (ie over 6k gain) such as Taboose or Shepherd, but it has a lot to offer, once you get to the first water (a pretty long way up).
(Unnamed). Pass between Cloverleaf Lake etc and Convict Creek drainage to the Ram Lakes basin. Part of a very cool xcountry route, especially if combined with the Genevieve outlet. You also gotta like a pass that is not in Secor or Roper. It's fun to do one that nothing is written about.
(Unnamed). Glacier Divide, 1.5 mi E of Pavillion Dome. This pass is also not listed in Secor. The north side blind descent is intricate and dramatic. Nobody seems to wander around the Glacier Divide this far west.
Virginia Pass. The pass west of Green Lake out of the Green Creek drainage. This is an easy one but a very pretty one with relaxed class 1 cross country.
(unnamed on topo--appears to be called "Granite Bear Pass" based on posts below) The surprisingly underpublicized pass from Granite Park to Bear Basin. It is easy class 2, but spectacular with a big rock tower above it on the east side.
Peppermint Pass(?) I think that's the name of the col that takes you from Little Lakes Valley to the basin that holds Spire and Split Lakes. It's nothing special in degree of difficulty, but the view is utterly savage. The route is beneath the north face of Bear Creek Spire.
Cataract Col. Of course I had to list this one as it is the gateway to my favorite mountain fortress: the Dumbbell Lakes. This pass can be formidable if cornice festooned as it was when my wife and I crossed it. The view of Amphitheather Lake when ascending from that side is amazing (plus the view back to the Palisades). When you punch through the top and see the Dumbbells it really is like breaking into paradise. For sentimental reasons this may be my very favorite pass.

Unfavorites:
Lucy's Foot Pass. The treacherous super steep talus on the north side earns its reputation
Kaweah Pass. Scariest loose talus I've ever encountered. Perhaps Lucy's Foot would have scared me as much if I was taking a full pack over it (dayhiked Lucy's en route to climb Ericsson).
Haeckel Col. Spectacular route north of Mt. Haeckel with amazing views, but the class 3 moves on the top are exceptionally awkward with a full pack. The top of the pass is a knife edge (a cruel surprise when you expect talus of the west side after surmounting class 3 on the upper east side). I was also in horrid physical shape when I did this one, so that may color my views a bit--in a different frame of mind this could easily be on the favorites list. On paper the most direct route between Bishop Creek and Evolution, but you can get to Sapphire Lake faster via Lamarck Col. (I didn't realize that in 1977 when I went this way, though).
Shepherd Pass. What? Put this classic in the unfavorite bin? Yup. I like challenging hikes, but I'm not a masochist for masochists sake. The 600' foot drop after the first crest out is very demoralizing. I remember looking at all the places they SHOULD have routed the trail and whining about it when I was climbing. I still managed to make the pass on day 1 on a very weak knee (a few months after my first knee surgery in 1978), though.
Last edited by giantbrookie on Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby cgundersen » Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:49 pm

Hi everyone,
Daydreaming instead of working.......anyway, I'll second John's vote for Cataract col as a splendid beastie (up or down) with fantastic scenery. The pitch makes it look like you could almost hit water (Amphitheater)with a good running leap (from the top). I've not encountered a cornice there, but I think some of the coolest cornices I've seen were on the peaks facing that route out of Cloverleaf that you also mentioned. As for the unnamed shortcut into Bear Lakes basin, I've heard a couple folks refer to it as Granite-Bear pass (for obvious reasons); the gentle sand/gravel on the west side of that route is a huge improvement over the rock hopping approach to the Bear lakes via Italy pass. Yeh, and everyone I've met groans at the depressing downhill segment of Shepherds, but that view of Milestone when you finally reach the top (almost?) compensates.
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Postby mountaineer » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:05 pm

What is that cross-country pass west of Sawtooth, the one that drops you right down to the shore of Spring Lake? I think it is named Glacier Pass or something like that...THAT is a pass in early season! The wall of ice and snow onthe north side that need to be negotiated is awesome. One time, I was kind of lazy so I tied up my pack tight and let it go then slid down after it. I didn't stop for at least 2-300 yards.

In that same area...Black Rock Pass is cool. the views of Spring, Cyclamen, and Columbine lakes as you climb higher are unforgettable. When you get to the top the view across to the Kaweahs is pretty cool too.
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Postby maverick » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:23 pm

Yeap, its Glacier Pass. The scenery east is pretty from Black Rock
Pass as are the views toward the 3 tiers of lakes, here you go
Mountaineer.Image


Did someone mention Catarct Col and the cornice on top?
Image
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Postby mountaineer » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:30 pm

That's what I'm talking about!
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Postby maverick » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:47 pm

GB I think Ive gone over that pass to Ram Lakes your referring to way
back, I really liked Glen and Glennette Lakes though Franklin was
pretty nice with that glacier above it.
The pass you're referring to on the Glacier Divide I believe is Snow-
Tongue (class 2) and the pass from Granite into Bear Basin is Granite
Bear Pass(class 2), though you have the 2 Royce Passes a little further
south (class 2 and class 1).
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Sep 18, 2007 4:51 pm

maverick wrote: The pass you're referring to on the Glacier Divide I believe is Snow-
Tongue (class 2)

The pass I went over on Glacier Divide in '97 was far to the west of Snow Tongue. The pass is about 1.5 mi due east of Pavillion Dome. On the north side one ends up descending the drainage that is west of the one that Ramona Lake in. The reason for doing this western pass was that I wanted to explore that big lake L11200+ (fishless) south of the divide as well as the unnamed lakes (chain of several plus 10886) I hit right after going over to the north (also fishless).
Last edited by giantbrookie on Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Cloudy » Tue Sep 18, 2007 5:04 pm

Black Rock Pass! Yes, that's a beautiful one. I crossed that one a couple of years ago during iffy weather. The clouds would come flying up the valley and pour over the pass as fog. Take a couple of steps back down the other way and they were flying just above your head. You could stick your hands into the clouds! Ah, life's little treats. The view of Columbine, Cyclamen & Spring lakes was stunning. I've never come up the horribly long switchbacks though, it's always been from the Little Five Lakes side.
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Postby BSquared » Wed Sep 19, 2007 5:39 am

I'll have to go with Calpidder about Glen Pass, partly because it was the first big Sierra pass I can recall going over (probably back in the early 1970s). We were camped at Vidette Meadow, having come up Bubbs Creek from KC and did a day hike up to the top of the pass. What particularly struck me was hiking up and up and up, and then finally cresting a rise to see a beautiful little tarn -- and an apparently vertical rock wall behind it! Looking very closely at the rock wall, we could just barely make out a speck of a red jacket here, a blue windbreaker there: whaddaya know, there really is a trail up that thing! Then at the top, there was a girl who quoted John Muir at us: "Man must labor for beauty as well as for bread," she said.

I don't have an unfavorite (well: Lamarck Col, just because I spent an extremely frustrating afternoon looking for the damn thing from the west, but that was my fault). I'd be happy to go up and over any Sierra pass about now. Been out of the mountains way too long!
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Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Sep 19, 2007 8:02 am

giantbrookie wrote:The pass I went over on Glacier Divide in '97 was far to the west of Snow Tongue. The pass is about 1.5 mi due east of Pavillion Dome. On the north side one ends up descending the drainage that is west of the one that Ramona Lake in. The reason for doing this western pass was that I wanted to explore that big lake L11200+ (fishless) south of the divide as well as the unnamed lakes (chain of several plus 10886) I hit right after going over to the north (also fishless).

I've looked at that pass before--those lakes on the west side look very intriguing. I don't care about fish, but are they worth a visit from an aesthetic standpoint?

I've also wondered about making a loop of it by descending the drainage to Piute Creek. Looks doable, but who knows?
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Sep 19, 2007 7:51 pm

TehipiteTom wrote:
giantbrookie wrote:The pass I went over on Glacier Divide in '97 was far to the west of Snow Tongue. The pass is about 1.5 mi due east of Pavillion Dome. On the north side one ends up descending the drainage that is west of the one that Ramona Lake in. The reason for doing this western pass was that I wanted to explore that big lake L11200+ (fishless) south of the divide as well as the unnamed lakes (chain of several plus 10886) I hit right after going over to the north (also fishless).

I've looked at that pass before--those lakes on the west side look very intriguing. I don't care about fish, but are they worth a visit from an aesthetic standpoint? I've also wondered about making a loop of it by descending the drainage to Piute Creek. Looks doable, but who knows?

Those lakes are very scenic and nobody visits them. The descent to Piute is class 2 and is not too bad. Going down you have to improvise here and there because there are several vanishing points and I recall having to do some short back tracks when the bench system we were on didn't work (this happened mainly in the upper section descending to the outlet of 10886). We did in fact do this as a loop that we called "Astride the Glacier Divide". Day 1 was from North Lake to Darwin Cyn, Day 2 was a long traverse to L11200+. This was actually rather easy as sidehill traverses go. Day 3 went over the top, down to Piute Cr. then upstream for about a mile over some really bad downed log steeplechase stuff to find a big log jam that got us across the creek to the trail. Then we traveled upstream before leaving the trail once again and ascending to Knob Lake. Day 4 was a 'layover' featuring a climb of Pilot Knob and exploration of French Canyon Lakes. Day 5 we packed out of Knob Lake to the trailhead over Piute Pass. This was a good one for five days even though I was plagued with a nasty intestinal bug on days 3-5.
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
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Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Sep 20, 2007 9:43 am

Those lakes are very scenic and nobody visits them. The descent to Piute is class 2 and is not too bad. Going down you have to improvise here and there because there are several vanishing points and I recall having to do some short back tracks when the bench system we were on didn't work (this happened mainly in the upper section descending to the outlet of 10886). We did in fact do this as a loop that we called "Astride the Glacier Divide". Day 1 was from North Lake to Darwin Cyn, Day 2 was a long traverse to L11200+. This was actually rather easy as sidehill traverses go. Day 3 went over the top, down to Piute Cr. then upstream for about a mile over some really bad downed log steeplechase stuff to find a big log jam that got us across the creek to the trail. Then we traveled upstream before leaving the trail once again and ascending to Knob Lake. Day 4 was a 'layover' featuring a climb of Pilot Knob and exploration of French Canyon Lakes. Day 5 we packed out of Knob Lake to the trailhead over Piute Pass. This was a good one for five days even though I was plagued with a nasty intestinal bug on days 3-5.

That's really excellent info, GB--thanks!

Crossing Piute Creek would be another potential obstacle. Sounds like you managed it, but I couldn't count on that log jam being there. One option I've wondered about would be angling downstream to the bridge (I'd be coming in from the west anyway)--did that look feasible to you?
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