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Brewer Loop Aug 15-19

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Brewer Loop Aug 15-19

Postby trav867 » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:15 am

Pics are here:

After getting trip suggestions from this board, my girlfriend Jess and I left from Santa Monica on Friday morning. In a dozen trips to the Sierra, I had never once entered from the east side, and so decided on Onion Valley. The plan for the trip was to go up to Lake Reflection and over Longley Pass before heading over to the Sphinx Lakes Basin and down to Bubbs Creek.

The drive up 395 was great, and we were at the trail head by noon. By 3, we were standing on Kersarge Pass with a very chatty man from Sherman Oaks who within 5 minutes had given us his opinion on everything from our route to his dislike for the Santa Monica city council. We descended past Kearsarge Lakes, joined the PCT/JMT, then stopped at Vidette Meadows for dinner. As we were eating, it began to rain lightly, and as it was already 6:00, we decided to spend the night in the meadows.

The next morning, the sky was clear and we began down to Junction Meadow. We met a group of about 10 runners spread over a half mile- it turned out they were also camped at Vidette and were out for a morning jog. Bubbs Creek was easily crossable, and we met a father and daughter returning from East Lake. We ascended past East Lake to Lake Reflection where we had a fun time crossing the outlet of the lake a maze of logs.
There was a couple camped at the lake, though we didn't meet them, and we left the trail to wind our way to the lakes' inlet.

Following the creek and climbing granite boulders, we headed for the unnamed lake just east of Longley Pass.
Unfortunately I was enjoying the views so much that I didn't pay much attention to where we were headed, and, following the wrong creek spur, we found ourselves about 500 feet above our target, at the largest of the unnamed lakes north of Longley Pass. Our beautiful campsite was at 11,800 ft, a long day from 8,175 ft Junction Meadow. The full moon was so bright that the lake and surrounding slopes were clearly visible. I woke up at 11pm to Jess scrambling to get out of the tent with a bad case of altitude sickness. I should have known better than to camp so high on only our second night.

In the morning, Jess was feeling a bit better and we headed over to the base of Longley Pass.
Image The trip up was pretty straight forward until about 100 feet from the top where solid footing was hard to come by, and we scrambled up. We celebrated at the windy, Martian top with some cookies, then Jess pulled out her sleeping bag and napped on a rock while I headed up to sign the register and take in the spectacular views from South Guard.

Arriving at South Guard Lake, we spotted a group of 4 guys across the lake on the ridge above. It seemed they were debating how to get down and around the lake, and after we made it around the east side, they climbed down and followed our route as we ascended to the little lakes between Mt. Brewer and South Guard.

The area above Big Brewer Lake (Brewer Basin?) was one of the highlights of the trip, and the landscape was very cinematic as we casually crossed to the lake below Sphinx Col.
The basin was filled with marmots, and we saw 4 of the trips' 12 deer. There are really no campsites at that lake at 11,700 ft, but we made do with a small patch of grass near the outlet of the lake that was too small and too close to the water.
The night was very cold, and I woke with the tent (Sirius 2) covered in frost and condensation. I have never seen condensation form on mesh like that, and I wonder if it didn't rain a bit also.

We got a slow start the next morning. The tent was soaked and our bags were wet, so we had to wait until the sun reached our sheltered spot to let them dry out. As we were packing up, I double checked that our permits and keys were safe and sound in an inner pocket of my pack. To my horror, there were no keys in the pack. I searched all of my gear twice with no luck, and started trying to figure out what to do. There were tears when I broke the news to Jess. As she fumed over my losing the keys, she threw down her sunglasses, and a lens popped out. Not wanting her to go without sunglasses for the rest of the trip, I searched the ground for the lens. Suddenly I caught a flash of light and there was the key! Never before have I had such a reversal of emotions. From a sad panic to absolute euphoria. I guess it must have dropped out when I went to double check.

Jess was over her altitude sickness, and with a new spring in our step we headed down into Sphinx Basin, and enjoyed a gorgeous day in the empty canyon. Image
At timberline, we picked up a faint trail that seemed to find us as we navigated down through the forest. We met a solo hiker on the way up who seemed to be having a rough time bushwacking, but had no interest in the sketchy trail we were following. We rejoined the trail and reached Bubbs Creek at 5pm. We made a beeline for Junction Meadow and stumbled wearily into camp at 8- it's not every day you descend 6000 ft! I really enjoyed seeing the change from 12,100' on Sphinx Col to 6,280' and the granite switchbacks in lower Sphinx canyon are an engineering marvel.

I set an alarm for 5:30 AM and we broke camp in record time. We made great time up Bubbs to Vidette Meadows then up the PCT and past Kearsarge Lakes. After 4 hard days of hiking, the ascent up the pass was the closest thing to the last miles of a marathon I've ever done. We made it to the top at 11 - 3600' gained before lunch- and had a bittersweet walk down to our car.

All in all a great trip in a beautiful area! We had a few days of very high miles and elevation gain/loss, and Jess did a great job of completing the trip, even with her altitude sickness. Thanks again to everyone who helped plan this awesome adventure!

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Re: Brewer Loop Aug 15-19

Postby cgundersen » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:16 pm

Hey Trav,
Great report! My wife gets bad altitude headaches, too, and whenever possible we try to spend the night prior to a trip at higher elevation (Owens Valley, Mammoth, etc) than the LA basin. This definitely helps her to adjust to the thin air. I realize that time constraints often preclude this (and lots of folk would rather get going hiking), but when it's an issue of getting as uncomfortable as my wife gets, a little adjustment time can help. Anyway, I hope it was a good enough experience that your girlfriend will want to return! And, as someone who started their Sierra "career" exclusively on the west side, I can imagine your like a kid in a candy store with the whole eastern escarpment facing you!
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Re: Brewer Loop Aug 15-19

Postby copeg » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:30 pm

Sounds like a great time, except for the mild alt sickness and key incident - glad to hear both turned out fine. Great pics too! Thats a loop I've been wanting to do in its entirety for a while...
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Re: Brewer Loop Aug 15-19

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 25, 2008 11:41 am

Thanks for the TR and photo's Trav.
Looks like you and your girlfriend had a wonderful trip to some beautiful areas.
Did you look up at Milly's Foot Pass while at Reflection Lake to see what we were
warning you about? Steep ain't it?
No bear?
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