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Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

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Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Sep 24, 2009 11:24 pm

Pre-hike Sierra travels: Spent a week at the family cabin at Hermit Valley, 7,000 ft level on Ebbetts Pass. High points were revisiting the rare geological feature of the arch on Peepsight Peak, doing the easy walk-up of Tryon Pk. (just off the PCT) and coming across this amazing find along the N. Fork Mokelumne River. Then it was south on 395 with the mandatory stop at Jolly Kone in Bridgeport, and time to run up Mono Pass off Rock Creek with the usual postcard views of Bear Creek Spire, which we climbed in 1997 (?)).

Taboose-Dumbbells in and back: Planned on 7 days for this trip. (We have previously been over Taboose a few times and also one previous trip over Cartridge Pass into Lake Basin so that part of the trip was familiar. We have also previously come into Dumbbell Basin from Cataract Pass.) Slept at the Taboose trailhead for a 5:00 AM start. About 6.5 hours later, topped out at Taboose Pass, had early lunch, and then headed down the north descent trail to the S. Fork Kings (SFK). This branch-trail is not used much (mostly horse packers) and dumps one about 100-200 yards upstream from the main JMT crossing. (It was already starting to get quite hot- a problem that would hammer us for the following few days.) We found a log to cross on, and followed the old JMT on down the SFK. Note that on this stretch one stays on the north side but has to navigate three rockslides (well shown here in next to yellow letters of SFKR this view from Arrow Peak taken 2004). The first, most easterly one has a trail along the bottom. After crossing this one we called it a day, having walked for about 10 hours at this point. The skeeters were a 3+ for a short time in the evening and this is where I found the old abandoned skis in brush at the eastern edge of the second rockslide.

Day 2 started hot and we had hoped to make it all the way into Dumbbell Basin. We crossed the second rockslide with a mix of boulder hopping and then the use-trail by the river until one encounters the third rockslide. At this point my preferred route is to head uphill until over 2/3 or so of the way up the rockslide, and cross it there. There is some up-and-down with short patches of feisty brush, but soon one encounters the old Cartridge Pass trail. We flew up the trail and encountered “Take-A-Hike” and his partner at the top. It was a complete accident that we discovered that we were both HST folks. Anyway, we headed down into Lake Basin in good spirits, but the heat was starting to get to us.

Once at the bottom we stopped to rest and then, BAM, for some reason we both simply hit the wall. We hadn’t been hiking all that long on day 2, and felt great on Cartridge Pass. But for some reason, when we got up to do the rather long winding, upward traverse of Lake Basin to the entry to Dumbbell Pass, we felt hammered (and we are in pretty good shape frankly…). Neither one of us has really experienced anything quite that sudden. And it got worse.

The views down into Lake Basin were spectacular as we climbed above it on a circling traverse, but once we got to the lake (about 11,100 ft.) well above the basin but just below the final climb to the pass, we both realized we were done for the day. Just too damn hot. The lake however is spectacularly situated, with a balcony view down into Lake Basin. So we called it a day, had a cocktail and I went for a swim- yes folks it was that hot that swimming in this cold lake was very doable.
Day 3 got up to the pass in short order, and then was faced with the rather vexing decision on which way to go. We knew that going to the right (east) down what seems like the obvious route is NOT the right way. Going straight-up onto the rough talus straight ahead also seemed also a bad decision (but see below). But to go to the far left leads one through three rather awkward talus and snow “pockets.” Ugh. We took that route and clambered about cursing the loose rock, our packs and the still hard snow underfoot. After exiting the three pockets, one comes onto the long down-sloping snow finger, which was still hard. We picked our way along the margin with the talus. Once at the bottom of this one encounters an area with horizontal benches heading northerly. Traverse along these until they terminate with views directly down intoone of the upper Dumbbell Lakes (and also a great view of the Palisades). Here, go left (west) down some steep, but okay, chutes that eventually take you to the rocky lake shore. Traverse around the west side until you can exit and continue dropping into the lower lakes. This is NOT a route for people who are not in very solid shape- it requires balance, and being comfortable on sustained, steep and unstable talus carrying a pack.

Day 4 we went up Observation Peak, blew on the kazoo in the register can, enjoyed the view and wondered how anyone in their right minds could ever hope to traverse to Mt. Shakespeare by this ridge “route” of very loose stacked blocks. Secor calls that class 2, I call it foolhardy. Any of you ever gone this way directly from Observation Peak? That evening thunderstorms were throwing lightening about 12 miles to the south, and the sky was darkening.

Day 5 pack up and start back under cool gray skies. Crossed Dumbbell Pass easily and figured out that in fact the BEST way going-in would have been to go up onto the talus ramp in the middle and so avoiding much of the snow finger and talus pockets. It was considerably faster, and less nerve-wracking going out this way. Live and learn I guess. We got over Cartridge Pass just as the weather started to look serious and a few raindrops started to fall. We camped at the south end of the beautiful largeish lake south of Cartridge Pass, as some hard squalls dumped rain on-and-off for a couple of hours. It continued to rain most of the night.

Day 6 woke to low clouds and had planned to camp just west of Taboose Pass. We made very quick work of things however- flying down the remaining south side of Cartridge Pass, across the rockslides and back up to Taboose. It was still stormyand wild looking but hardly lunch time. So instead of camping we just said heck with it and figured we could power out to the trailhead well before dark. So we kept going, got some rain en-route arriving pretty tuckered at the trailhead. One rather startling thing was that all the cars at the trailhead were sparkling clean. It must have rained REALLY hard in Owens Valley because it looked like they had been through a car wash.

Some things I finally put to rest on this trip: I will never be able to make it into Lake Basin in a day from Taboose, not with a pack on anyway. But I believe that I could do it the other direction in a day- hike from Lake Basin to Taboose trailhead in a day. Of course the reasons are obvious….

On the trip home we stopped at my favorite restaurant: JT’s Basque in Gardnerville. Happy trails everyone!
Last edited by mokelumnekid on Sat Nov 14, 2009 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby maverick » Fri Sep 25, 2009 12:42 pm

Nice trip, and a car wash what else could you want.
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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:33 pm

A little less heat at the high elevations. We absolutely baked- it was oppressive.
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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby Mike M. » Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:08 pm

Beautiful trip and a challenging route. I've never done Taboose, always avoided it because of the elevation gain. Yet it has always beckoned . . . a favorite campsite of mine is on the south side of the King's River, a quarter mile east of the JMT; I think I have run into one of the Taboose trails here.

Have you done the bushwhack portion of Cartridge Pass down to the Simpson Meadow trail? It's a classic, grueling bushwhack. It's hard to believe it was the route of the JMT until Mather Pass was blasted into place.

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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:35 pm

Hey Mike, Haven't gone down Cartridge Creek below Lake Basin- no need as we always re-connect to east side trailheads.
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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:39 pm

Great report and one that really gets me daydreaming (and brings on a serious bout of cabin fever). It provides good incentive for me to stay in shape so that years down the line I'll still be capable of getting into this area. I do have to check out that restaurant in Garnerville, too. Perhaps next year if I go on the 2010 FOP trip (Central Walker Lane) my route out or back will take me through there.
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: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby lostcoyote » Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:57 pm

thanks for the trip report. i went into dumbell basin a few years ago. it's truly a remote and wild place. i still have my eye on that lake northwest of observation peak. went pretty much the same way you did down the north side of dumbell pass. then i went north over cataract creek pass. the rock jumble on the west side of amphitheater took me awhile - lol
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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:23 pm

Hey John- no need to worry about you being in shape in a few years...you are one of the lucky people who was born 'in shape.' What surprised us this year was how debilitating the heat was, I was hunting for shade all day. And there isn't much in Dumbbell Lakes basin!

Lost-coyote- I think maverick has been to that lake.
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Re: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:34 am

Regarding that big lake NW of Observation. I visited the place in July 1993 with my wife when we spent some time at the Dumbbells (our favorite trip ever). We shot the gap through from the south (accessed from downstream of the lowest Dumbbell Lake) which was strictly routine class 2 with a bit of steep snow at the top of the north side (1993 was a pretty heavy winter). I messed up glissading the rather hard icy snow in the morning on descent and ended up with a bruised rear end and some road rash, much to my wife's amusement. The lake is indeed beautiful, although it has no fish in it.
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: Taboose-to-Dumbbells and misc. Sierra

Postby maverick » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:34 pm

Hi Lostcoyote

Here are 2 photo's from Observation Lakes Basin.
#1 http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/v4/p289542543-4.jpg
#2 http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/v7/p948333577-5.jpg
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