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Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

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Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:13 pm

Hi there. Thanks to all of your contribution here, I decided to take a trip into the thousand island lake area and another into the Desolation basin west of Piute Pass. As for the latter, I will have to leave the LA area on Thursday night and hopefully get to the TH by Friday morning of before. In other words, the trip would basically be from Friday-Sunday.

The itinerary I would like to do is as follow:

Go over Piute Pass then over to the lakes north of the trail and towards Desolation Lake
Go over Steelhead or Carol Col (http://sierrabackpacker.com/DesolationLake.htm) and come back up via French Canyon and Hutchinson Meadow back to Piute Pass, thus making a loop.

Would that be enough time for the loop? How hard is Steelhead or Carol Col? I would like like to bag Pilot Knob on the way over the passes. Also, it seems there is a lot of elevation gain from French Canyon back to Piute Pass. What does everyone think? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks



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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:44 pm

Hi Aviprk

You are aware that the lakes will be frozen and the trails will be under several
feet of snow!
You'll be winter camping and going cross-country since you do not have any trails.
Snow shoes or skis for travel, melting snow for water and cool temps at night.
I just check the Inyo site and the road to North Lake is closed and open to Parcher's
Resort on the South Lake road.
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby Aviprk » Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:20 pm

Oops, Maverick I forgot to mention that the trip will take place in late June. What would be your input then?
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 22, 2008 2:11 pm

Yeah that makes a difference! At above 11000 ft you'll still have some snow but
should be doable.
Neither pass is difficult, Steelhead is a little more involved, and Carol has a large
talus slope on the northwestern side which leads down to Puppet Lake.
I would recommend going over Steelhead approaching it from Desolation Lake
(eastern side), check out the lakes in the basin and then head west and stay at one
of the lakes near Pilot Knob and climb the saddle to ascend PK.
Then descend back to the saddle and head down towards Square Lake and Mesa Lake
where you can hook up with the Piute Trail again this way you do not have to go
down to 9480 ft(Hutchinson) and then back up to 11423 ft(Piute).
Check the board for conditions on snow before you go, and do not try to do to much
since you will be at 11000 ft and above most of the hike you do not want to get ams.
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby copeg » Tue Apr 22, 2008 3:28 pm

To add to what Mav said, I'd say this loop is doable in the time you have, but like Mav said take it easy because this route is quite high. Its always hard to judge snow levels but my guess would be the north faced gullies of those passes could still have snow in them when you go - they may also have cornices. Again this is pure speculation but if you approach from the south and see snow before you can fully see down, scout the pass from either side before walking out - no need to risk walking out on a cornice and having it snap off with you on it (a low probability, but better to be safe than sorry). If there is snow and you aren't prepared/don't feel comfortable descending, you can always hang out in the basin with plenty to do - a good dayhike is to climb/hike to the summit of Four Gables (amazing views along the way up and from the summit).
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:02 pm

Why go all the way down to Hutchinson Meadow/French Canyon/Piute confluence before returning to Piute Pass? It seems to me that such a route adds extra elevation loss (then gain) without adding anything especially interesting to your hike. It is probably better to cross into French Canyon via one col (say an eastern one) and return via another (say the westernmost one near Pilot Knob; I always forget the names of these things as they were only recently named) making for a tigher loop and allowing you to spend more time in the nicer, higher, more interesting country (and more interesting fishing, too). If you want to see more country, a more interesting route may be to do a North Lake-Pine Creek shuttle. Go in as planned, then from French Canyon exit via Pine Creek Pass.

Pilot Knob is a nice peak. It is class 2, but may approach low 3rd class (to some) if one sticks totally on the crest of the ridge (which to me is more convenient and more fun). The little bit of mild exposure on the knife edge can be avoided (if one really wants to avoid it) by dropping down to some talus covered benches on the south side.
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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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby quentinc » Fri Apr 25, 2008 6:18 pm

I would agree with Giantbrookie. Hutchinson Meadow is truly worth a visit in mid-late July, when the wildflowers are out -- it can be pretty spectacular (although so can the mosquitoes). But you won't see any flowers in June. The whole Puppet/Moon/Steelhead Lake area is quite wonderful and worth some time just to visit each of the lakes. And Pilot Knob is well worth it -- a straightforward Class 2 climb if you wish.
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby rayfound » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:36 pm

I think if you could squeeze in an additional day, you'll be happier. The idea for the Piute-Pine Creek shuttle is a good one - and you'll cover more territory without reversing course. PM me your email address (actually, anyone who wants it) and I will send you an Ultra High-res (3777x2831) TOPO map of the area. Don't ask me to explain how I made it, but I created the map (on computer), then printed on about 12 pages, taped together, and laminated. Its awesome, and it covers all of French Canyon and Humphreys Basin.
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby SSSdave » Wed Apr 30, 2008 6:25 pm

Sure if you are into ultralight packing and enjoy covering lots of miles. A more leisurely pace without any layovers would take at least 4 or 5 days. And mid July through early August is likely to be more pleasant with less squeeters and more green and flowers. With two nights, most backpackers would choose to simply reach Desolation Basin and camp a couple nights there, then hike out. Just ripping through the trails and main routes misses some of the best stuff like Royce Lakes or the unnamed lakes below Humphreys. ...David
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby rayfound » Wed Apr 30, 2008 7:39 pm

SSSdave wrote:Sure if you are into ultralight packing and enjoy covering lots of miles. A more leisurely pace without any layovers would take at least 4 or 5 days. And mid July through early August is likely to be more pleasant with less squeeters and more green and flowers. With two nights, most backpackers would choose to simply reach Desolation Basin and camp a couple nights there, then hike out. Just ripping through the trails and main routes misses some of the best stuff like Royce Lakes or the unnamed lakes below Humphreys. ...David



Exactly. Add one more day, you'll be glad you did.
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby Aviprk » Thu May 01, 2008 2:19 pm

So the better alternative (shuttle or second car is not an option at this time) is to just stick around the Humphrey's basin and head out? Or should I go over those passes (they don't look very steep or hard) and come back over them after visiting Pine Creek basin?
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Re: Is 3 day 2 nights enough for Desolation Basin hike?

Postby rayfound » Thu May 01, 2008 2:39 pm

The hike west of Desolation Lake over the ridge to Star Lake area is not terribly difficult (if you don't mind boulder hopping down). You could head in from Piute Pass towards desolation, over the ridge, down to French Canyon towards Hutchinson meadow, then back to the pass via Piute Canyon.

You would need more than 2 nights though to make that enjoyable I think.
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