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Mono / Parker/ Donahue Pass Trip

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Mono / Parker/ Donahue Pass Trip

Postby snusmumriken » Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:49 pm

Hi,
First let me introduce myself, since this is my first post.
I've been backpacking a lot for the last two or three years, mostly in Yosemite. Got bitten by the bug when I went on a three day trip with a friend, hiking from Tuolomne to Yosemite Valley. Been going every chance I get since then. Did the JMT last summer and loved it. My trail journal is here: http://www.trailjournals.com/Kristin/

There is a trip I've been wanting to take that looks great on the map, but I've never met anyone who's actually hiked it, so I'm looking for feedback here among all you experienced Sierra hikers. It's a loop of sorts, that covers three mountain passes, some lakes and lots of high country. Has anybody done this one?

This is a rough outline of the trip, planned for sometime in August.
Day 1. Drive up and spend the night in Tuolomne to acclimate a bit.
Day 2. Start in the morning from the Parker/ Mono Pass trailhead on 120 just beyond Tuolomne Meadows. I would head up to Mono Pass, enjoy the view of Mono Lake from the top of the pass, then head back down the way I came half a mile or so, then up and over Parker Pass, spend the night next to a creek (there appears to be several creek crossings a bit beyond Parker Pass.)
Day 3. Continue on the trail past Algier Lakes. This looks like really high country 10,000 to 12,000 feet, I'll be forward to that. Today I'll camp at one of the lakes in this area, maybe Waugh, Weber or Sullivan (recommendations?)
Day 4. Loop around and visit some more lakes, probably both Garnet and Thousand Island, and finally end up at Marie Lakes.
Day 5. Hike over Donahue pass and spend the final night in Lyle Canyon.
Day 6. Get back to Tuolomne, stop at the grill for a big lunch and then drive home.

Any thoughts?



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Postby ndwoods » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:34 pm

One of my all time favorites. Don't talk about it when you get back!:)
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:54 pm

Hi Kristin,

I don't have any advice about your route as it is rather straightforward. Have been on much of those trails though not the loop you are considering. I read your full JMT trip log. Excellent writing! You seem to like hiking long distances and your trip reflects that. I often advise others to hike less trail mileage and spend more time at the best locations. Learn to enjoy layover days and really get to know places.

One thing I noted in your JMT journal is you seem to be hounded by mosquitoes? Many even experienced backpackers seem to think that is the status quo and just suffer. I often hike in peak mosquito season because that is when photography with wildflowers and snow dappling the peaks is best. Mosquitoes often annoy me flying about my head, but I get few bites. So I am wondering if I can offer some advice? Backpackers often are not wearing the best in the way of clothing or have an aversion to DEET. The baseball cap, cotton t-shirt and shorts thing haha.

...David
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Postby snusmumriken » Fri Jan 27, 2006 11:34 am

Thanks ndwoods and David for replying.

Yes, the route does look straightforward on the map. But sometimes map and realities diverge.. I'm doing this solo, so I like to be prepared and know what to expect.

Obviously the second part of the trip when I get onto the JMT is well marked and well travelled. I loved the area around Thousand Island Lake and Donahue pass when I did the JMT, which is part of the reason I'm going back. But the first part, over Parker Pass, is entirely new to me, and I get the impression the trail doesn't get much traffic. Even though not many people walk it, is the trail pretty easy to find? As quite a stretch appears to be above 12000 feet, is the trail generally still snow covered in August? Any need for crampons or ice axe?
How about the lakes Waugh, Weber, Sullivan, are any of them "not to be missed?" Are there other spots I should seek out?

David, thanks for reading my JMT journal. Yes, the mosquitos were out in full force, and sometimes they drove me crazy. And sometimes I was tired, cold, scared, lonely, hungry, thirsty, grumpy or bored. But then the skies would clear, I'd reach the top of the pass, stop for lunch and life was good again. That's the great thing about backpacking for me, it clears my head and I live so much more in the moment. I love it.
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Postby copeg » Fri Jan 27, 2006 1:52 pm

First off, welcome to the forums. I enjoyed your JMT trip report and photos. I have not done much of the loop, but have hiked up towards Parker Pass, hiked the Rush Creek part and also the JMT stretch. The only thing that pops into my head that I'd suggest is a detour to the Kuna Crest. Much of it is off trail but easy to negotiate (when I climbed it I traversed from Mammoth Peak over to Helen Lake with ease - you could probably traverse the whole crest and end up at Donahue Pass, or in reverse, without too much difficulty). Last I heard they had camping restrictions on the Crest and the Parker Pass trail which you'd want to look into before planning anything, but the view from the top is amazing - nice detour.
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Postby SSSdave » Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:15 pm

Koip Peak Pass and Agnew Pass get lots of customers. I've been to Upper Sardine Lake twice and despite the Mono Lake view did not think too highly of it. Pretty exposed and wind swept. Waugh like Gem is a reservoir with a dam. I've looked down at those lakes from topo point 3230. All three of those lakes are in a heavily glacially smoothed banded dark greenish grey geology like that near Thousand Island Lake's outlet. I wasn't interested in camping at the two lakes because they just have a view of so so Kuna Crest instead of far more spectacular Ritter Range. There are of course quite a number of small pocket lakes with intimate local views in the Ritter Range. For example where you passed through on your JMT trip, Emerald and Ruby. So Sullivan and Weber might offer that kind of experience. But for a great view since you are apparently going to visit 1000 Island, I'd advise Summit Lake. In fact I'd recommend hiking out of Agnew Meadows, leaving those other areas for another trip and just concentrating on the Ritter Range. An easy itinerary of mostly short hikes. Summit Lake, Thousand Island, Ediza, and Minaret are most spectacular and there are several more superb lakes less well known. Outstanding area for layover days and day hikes from camp.

...David
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Postby Buck Forester » Fri Jan 27, 2006 4:02 pm

I'll second what SSSdave said about the beauty of the Ritter Range and visiting Thousand Island Lake, and Lake Ediza, and Minaret Lake, and Cecil Lake, and the lakes in that area... simply enchanting with spectacular scenery, it's like hiking in a calendar.
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Postby ndwoods » Sat Jan 28, 2006 2:30 am

You shouldn't have too much trouble following the route. Don't expect much at Mono or Parker Passes as far as big passes, not much in the way of passes til Koip Peak, but it is a nice trail, nice area and you'll get your solitude in this stretch as others have said. I found Alger Lakes not too hospitable when I was there...a packer was there. I went on to a tarn just below Alger Lakes on the right...
Gem pass was lovely and Donohue was fun...albeit the skeeters were horrendous below the pass on the south side. We were fairly early season. We too like to do at least one early season hike for the water and flowers.
You'll enjoy this loop!
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Postby markskor » Sat Jan 28, 2006 11:03 am

Got to agree here about spending more time on the Donahue Pass side. Been through this route, Parker Pass and Mono Pass nice, high...but non-spectacular tundra - I experienced lots of wind - no fun & cold, but wildflowers can be spectacular. I have spent extensive time at 1000 Island, Garnet area, and I suggest getting/staying there and exploring. Could spend a week up high - never come down, especially all the way to Ediza & Agnew - maybe bag Banner instead. Some big fish in Upper Marie but again, can also be windy - blow you right off the high plateau. You might instead spend one night there and pop over and check Mount Lyell/ glacier area - very cool - after Marie - check topo for possible direct x-country route instead of down and up to Donahue again.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Postby snusmumriken » Sat Jan 28, 2006 1:29 pm

David, Mark, ndwoos, trailblazer, buck - thank you all for your comments. Its very helpful to hear from those that have walked this trail when I'm spreading out the maps across the kitchen table and planning and dreaming about summer.
I definitely hear you all saying that the views of the Ritter range is the most spectacular part of this hike. And yes I'll have to plan a trip around Thousand Island someday soon.
But for now I think I'll stick to my original loop over Mono, Parker, Koip Peak, Gem, Andrew, Thousand Island, and Donahue Passes.
Keep the ideas and comments coming.
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Postby vaughnm » Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:19 am

A friend and I did this trip (minus the Thousand Island Lake part) two years ago. We went from the Mono Pass Trailhead to Alger Lakes the first day. I will say that the pull from Parker Pass to Koip Pass was a struggle. The camping around Parker Pass looked marginal at best. I thought that the Alger lakes area was great. High, cold, but beautiful. But no packers when I was there which might have changed things. I camped at Gem Lake with the wife earlier in the season, and that was ok, but by the time my friend and I came through the water level in the creeks was down quite a bit. We camped at the Marie Lakes trail junction, on the JMT. Was nice country, but the first day was a bit much.
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Postby BSquared » Wed Feb 01, 2006 10:51 am

I just realized I did almost exactly your original trip about a hundred years ago: Tuolumne -> Donahue -> Agnew etc. Lakes -> Parker Pass -> Dana Meadows (then hitchhiked back to the car at Tuolumne). We camped at a really beautiful little lake on the way up Parker -- could it have been "Spillway Lake?" I don't have a map handy. Good trip. The low point was that there was construction going on at the fake lakes, so we had to listen to the rumble of heavy machinery for part of the trip. We also didn't go over Island Pass, just straight down to Agnew Lake. Nice trip!

-B2
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