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Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

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Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby seisner » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:31 pm

So I've been lurking here for a while now, enjoying your trip reports and photography (thanks for that - very impressive stuff!), and now need to jump in for some advice. I have a 5-day / 4-night trip planned for July 8-12 going in over Kearsarge Pass. I've not been there before so I'm hoping to get some advice. I have a lot of experience in the Sierras but mostly out of Bishop, Mammoth or Tuolomne Meadows. The group I am going with has less backcountry experience but is strong and fit and more than comfortable in the wilderness. I'm thinking of doing 8-12 miles on the first day depending on how the day goes (we'll spend the night before at Onion Valley campground but the acclimitization factor will likely still slow us down), and then finding a spot to camp along Bubbs Creek near Lower Vidette Meadow or Junction Meadow. Then on Day 2 continuing on to East Lake or Reflection Lake and make that a home base to do some day hiking and peak bagging. Definitely prefer not to to do 5 days with packs on - looking for more of an out-and-back with a couple of layover days type of trip. My top priorities are the following (not in order): (1) good scenery and opportunities for photography, (2) low crowd factor, (3) good day-hike exploration opportunities, (4) just an overall fun time! Good fishing would be a plus and the ability to have a fire at least a couple of nights is key. General preference is to stay on trail while we have the packs on, although some off-trail would be fine and off-trail on our day-trip explorations would be welcome.

Any thoughts on the ideal spot(s) in this area? Is East Lake a good spot to make home-base for a few days? Worth the extra haul to Reflection Lake? Any alternatives for an awesome 5-day trip from here? Any particular peaks worth hitting (Class 2 or if we're feeling good Class 3)? Any secret spots you're willing to share? :)

Thanks in advance.



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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:52 pm

I would consider going north instead, over Glen Pass and into the Rae Lakes Basin. It is wonderfully scenic and that early in the season you won't find too many fellow hikers. From there you can hike through Sixty Lakes Basin, into Gardiner Basin, and then loop back to Kearsarge via Gardiner Pass and Charlotte Lake. Or you can just do day hikes from Rae Lakes. Bear boxes are located at at least one of the Rae Lakes campsites, so food storage is not an issue.

I would not want to hike all the way down to Junction Meadow from Kearsarge just to get up to East Lake and Lake Reflection -- I would save that for a west side approach. Also, the Bubbs Creek crossing can be difficult.

Another alternative would be to head up Center Basin to Junction Pass (the old John Muir Trail route), then over Shepherd Pass, down to Tyndall Creek, and then loop back to Kearsarge via Forester Pass.

With so little weight on your back, you should easily be able to tackle any of these routes in five days.

Mike
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby trav867 » Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:11 pm

I was in that area last summer for 5 days, here's the trip report: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3276&p=19409&hilit=brewer#p19409
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:23 am

Hi Siesner

Welcome to HST.
The Rae Lakes Loop which was recommended is beautiful, but unfortunately does
not qualify since no fires are allowed above 10000 ft.
Your East Lake trip is also very pretty and as also mentioned getting across Bubb's will
take some effort, but in July you should be able to get across just take your time
looking for a descent crossing.
You can do a day hike to Reflection Lake which is very pretty when not windy.
There is a class 2 route up Mt.Brewer from East Lake, which is a must do for climbers
and the views from the peak are 1st class!
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby seisner » Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:51 pm

Thanks for the advice. So now I am completely on the fence about which direction to turn once getting over the pass. If I go up towards Rae Lakes, am I correct that there are limits on the number of nights you can camp at various spots in that area? Any suggestions for a good spot that we could camp at for 2 or even 3 nights without having to move so we can do day trips from there? I would love to do a loop trip where we keep moving but others in my group seem intent on just getting to a spot, making camp and doing day trips from there. If we do make a home base up there, what are the recommended day trips - particular peaks to hit, great out-of-the-way spots to explore, etc.?

On the other side, if we end up heading up to East Lake, it sounds like a trip up to Reflection lake and Mt. Brewer is a must. Anything else? Is the recommendation to go North to Rae Lakes principally due to the elevation loss if we go as far down as Junction Meadows and therefore subsequent climb back up on the way out, or is it more that Rae Lakes is just a better spot - everything I have read about the hike to East Lake and camping there is positive, so it seems like either is a great option if we are up for the long climb out.

Appreciate the feedback.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby copeg » Sat Jun 27, 2009 7:57 am

Either way you go I don't think you'll be disappointed. Rae Lakes has a 2 night limit per lake. 60 Lakes basin just west of there is worth a visit, as is Gardiner Basin if you're ambitious (Mt. Cotter from Gardiner Basin is a nice climb). On the other side of the coin East Lake is gorgeous, as is Lake Reflection. The lakes above and to the west of Lake Reflection are day trip material as well, and Mt Brewer is a worthy climb. I wouldn't say either trip is better, but each has its advatages/disadvantages. East Lake is much less crowded (as opposed to Rae Lakes which is not only along the JMT but also on the popular Rae Lakes Loop). Rae Lakes has a few more potential side trips and dayhike options. Either way you choose I don't think you'll regret the decision.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby maverick » Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:39 am

If you go to Rae you will have to climb Kearsarge and Glen Pass twice in 5 days
as opposed to climbing only Kearsarge twice if going to East Lake, also you
wrote that camp fires were high on your list which you can have every night at
East Lake but you cannot have camp fires at Rae Lakes.
At East Lake you can go to Reflection, East Lake, or climb up to Longley Pass, and
instead of going back down to Bubb's Creek go over Deerhorn Saddle and spend
a night at Vidette Lakes or visit the lakes as a day trip.
So your first night is spent at Vidette, second at East Lake, if you get there early
enough you can day hike up to Reflection. Your third night is at East Lake and the
day is devoted to climbing Mt.Brewer.
That leaves you one more night which you could spend at Vidette Lakes via the
pass or continue on to Vidette Meadow for the night to position yourself to go
over Kearsarge the following day.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby cvr » Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:20 pm

I have done the exact trip Maverick explained and I can recommend it too. As others have stated, East L., while you may not be alone, will be MUCH less crowded than Rae Lakes. L. Reflection is really impressive and a short, easy dayhike from East L. From East L., Mt. Brewer is mostly Class 2, with a few short Class 3 sections. Here is a pretty detailed trip report I found helpful when I climbed it years ago.

http://www.climber.org/TripReports/2001/723.html

Vidette Lakes are a good side trip destination. Along the way, there is a neat old cabin (can't remember it's exact whereabouts) and a 100'+ cascade coming down the lower parts of East Vidette that you will see while decending to Junction Meadow. I remember the water in the upper lake right at the base of Deerhorn Mtn. was amazingly clear...but COLD!
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby MountainMinstrel » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:07 pm

I have not done the trip that Maverick suggested, but I would think that it would fit your criteria better than Rae Lakes. Rae is too high to have fires and is the most crowded place I have ever stayed.
Just an old musician who loves the Mountains.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby seisner » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:18 pm

Thanks for the info everyone. I think the East Lake trip has everything we are looking for, so that is going to be the plan, at least until it changes. Generally following Maverick's advice, here is the goal:

Day 1 - Hike in towards East Lake. Make it all the way if all goes well, or else camp somewhere along Bubbs Creek before going up East Lake Trail.
Day 2 - Day hiking exploring the area - up to Lake Reflecton and beyond.
Day 3 - Bag Mt. Brewer.
Day 4 - Hike to Vidette Lakes / Vidette Meadow.
Day 5 - Finish up back over Kearsarge.

Maverick - just one final question for you on the route you suggested over Deerhorn Saddle to Vidette Lakes. Is the route from East Lake to basically go South towards Lake Reflection and then cut West following along / near the creek that drains the lakes in the basin between Deerhorn Mountain and Harrison Pass, then go up and over Deerhorn Saddle and down the basin to Vidette Lakes? How is the route over Deerhorn Saddle from the South?

Love the bear story in the link posted by cvr.

Thanks again all.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby cgundersen » Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:42 am

Hi Seisner,
Mav may have more-recent info on Deerhorn; my only time over that ridge (~5 years ago) was before my wife switched to digital, and I'm too lazy (for now) to scan old photos. Ascending the ridge from the South should be a cinch. The surface is mostly hard sand/gravel with nothing tricky. There are rock outcroppings in the middle, so the easiest ascents are to either side (and the east side is probably the best). Once you reach the Deerhorn saddle, the initial descent is pretty wide open. However, when I was there in mid-September, the surface was tricky in places with sand/gravel on a very hard substratum and it can be easy to lose one's footing. Once you make it through that part, the next several hundred meters are through a jumbled talus field. If you're comfortable with boulder hopping, it'll go reasonably quickly,because the angle is not bad and nothing is loose. Still, it's a long pitch of big rock, and I know we were relieved when we finally got off it. Although there were clear signs of human activity further down the "Vidette canyon" (by the lower lakes), Deerhorn showed little sign of travel. And, personally, I really like those sequestered little lakes beneath Stanford & Ericsson. There are a couple of good spots for tents and great potential for alpenglow.
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Re: Kearsarge Pass - Trip Advice

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 02, 2009 12:10 pm

Cg's description seems right on.
The 2 times I went over was in the spring and there was quite a bit of snow
still on the ground.
Copeg has a few shots of the lake on his site, and I add another 2 of the pass.
http://www.naturefocused.com/archives/v ... dette.html
http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rlilly/High_ ... dle_S.html
http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rlilly/High_ ... dle_N.html

Post a TR and pic's please when you get back!
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