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Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

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Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby trav867 » Sun Sep 28, 2008 9:12 pm

The plan was to do a figure 8 trip out of Cottonwood Pass, through Mitre Basin and over Crabtree Pass, then back along Rock Creek and over New Army Pass. I left Santa Monica at 6AM and had was in Lone Pine with my permit in hand just after 10. I reached the Cottonwood Pass trailhead after a pleasantly short drive and was off hiking at 11:20. The first few miles were completely flat as the sandy trail hugged the perimeter of Horseshoe Meadow. Through the sparse trees I saw a herd of cows grazing in the meadow, totally uninterested in me.

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The walk up to Cottonwood Pass was not difficult and the trail held at around 11,000' for the next few miles. Timberline is surprisingly high in this SE corner of Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, around 11,500'. The first good water source was Rock Creek, nearly 10 miles in, and I made an early dinner at the trail junction to New Army Pass.

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I headed past Soldier Lakes and left the trail to ascend to Mitre Basin.
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Near sunset I met a group of three talkative guys who were returning from Sky Blue Lake. They said they had attempted Crabtree Pass but were stopped short by a series of cliffs not mentioned in their guide book that were, in their words, "Class 3+, you fall, you die." They strongly suggested I not try, being alone and all. I said I had heard it was class 2 and they assured me it was not, but they wished me well and I continued up to Sky Blue Lake. There were two other groups at the lake- I chatted with two guys who were maybe 40 and 65 and who had gotten the same scare/lecture from the group I met earlier. I set up my new-to-me, used gear sale REI Chrysalis for the first real time and had a fine nights sleep under a nearly moonless sky.

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The next morning was clear and brisk, and I was on top of the pass by 10. I must have missed the cliffs the guys were talking about because I only even put a hand down once. I got a good look at the chute to the summit of Mt. McAdie and decided to give it a shot.
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The chute is steep and about 15 feet wide consisting of mostly chunks of rock with some sand. The climb wasn't overly difficult, but definitely requires hands, and the chute is steep enough that a fall would cause some real problems. I got about 400 vertical feet from the summit when, with numb hands and the wind blowing about a billion miles an hour, I started a small rockslide that made me realize that it was going to be a much harder trip down the chute. I took a break and, being by myself, decided to head back down rather than continue to the summit. I was disappointed but I'm pretty sure I did the right thing. I'd say with careful navigation the chute would be a 2+, but the steepness makes it dangerous- a class 3 in my book.
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The descent down through Crabtree Canyon was very beautiful and I had the entire place to myself. I reached Crabtree Meadow and enjoyed the views of Whitney before picking up the PCT towards Rock Creek. The 5 miles of PCT over Guyot Pass to Rock Creek were sandy and boring, but I was totally alone and enjoyed the solitude.

Picking up the Rock Creek trail, I camped in a meadow about a mile east of the ranger station. I saw only one person all day, on the Rock Creek trail near near dusk. The night was totally still and a very cold 25 degrees. Even with the door of the tent open and no fly sheet I got condensation, and slept in fits and spurts.
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I got an early start the next morning and was on top of New Army Pass by 9:15. The hike up to the pass feels longer than it is, probably because the actual pass is hidden from sight until you're on top of it. Walking down past Cottonwood Lakes I saw the first of the total of 45 people I met heading up the valley. I arrived back at Cottonwood Pass trailhead around 12:30 happy to have completed a beautiful loop.

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Here's the final stats from the trip:

Total elevation gain: 10,500'
High point: 13,300' on chute to Mt. McAdie
Total distance: 34.6 on trail, roughly 9 off trail.
Passes: 4

Deer: 16
Ducks: 10
Fighter Jets (seen): 8
Chipmunks: 28
Grouse: 3
Marmots : 0
People: 58 (all but about 10 were within a few miles of the trailhead)

here are more pics: http://www.slide.com/r/P-qYB_ZR4T8txciM-L03sHP8QlzdE4vP
Last edited by trav867 on Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby cgundersen » Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:59 am

Hi Trav,
Sounds like a great trip, and yes, I think your gut instimct about the climb was the right one (someone once said to me that butterflies can fly, we can't). From the photos it looks like you were unaffected by the Tehipite smoke. Oh, and the Crabtree pass doomsayers probably just took a wrong turn; I've seen folks stuck on the west side of Sky Blue (from below, it looks like the quicker route to get around the lake) who reach a treacherous ridge (that I certainly would not try to cross) and then don't seem to know what to do...........
CG
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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby maverick » Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:41 pm

Thanks Trav for the TR.
Crabtree Pass is an easy class 2 those guys must have really been off route.
The southeast route up the chute to McAdie's south peak is a class 2.
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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby trav867 » Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:43 pm

class 2 eh? then i'm embarrassed that I turned around but I was legitimately scared, the wind and cold probably had something to do with it...
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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby Shawn » Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:28 pm

Great photos; enjoyed the TR - thanks.
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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:58 pm

Nice report on a very nice area. I haven't been in that area since '96 when New Army-Upper Soldier-Sky Blue-Crabtree Pass-Crabtree Lakes formed the first part of a Cottonwood to Shepherd shuttle trip with my wife. Did you do any fishing in those lakes?
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: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:04 pm

Miter Basin is one of my favorite spots -- it's traditionally my first trip of the season. Your report makes me want to go over Crabtree Pass some time, as well as set off some rockslides in the McCadie chute :) It looks more exciting than Langley, which I've done more times than I can count.
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Re: Cottonwood- Crabtree Loop Trip Report 9/24- 9/26

Postby trav867 » Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:59 pm

Unfortunately I didn't bring my fishing gear, in fact this summer I've been so into light weight/high miles that I haven't brought it out once, shame on me. I'm hoping I can take a 3 day weekend some time in the next month and have a leisurely trip- 5 miles a day with lots of fishing and reading!
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