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mystery of Burro Lake

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mystery of Burro Lake

Postby SSSdave » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:44 pm

Playing with Google Earth, I visited what has been a long mystery location on the topo map for me. Always wondered what that difficult to access metamorphic geology basin east of Excelsior Mountain where Burro Lake resides looked like and now in 3D like what I saw. I've been up in the Green Creek and Upper Virginia Creek areas several times over the past decades and have an attraction to the its colorful rock. I normally keep such places as this to myself like fishermen that have found an offtrail lake with big goldens. However given its challenges, it might serve some amusement here on this board.

Thus also brought up the more detailed Google satellite map of the same area to study it some more and with my topo figure out what might be the best strategy to reach it with a full backpack. I would imagine some climbers without much map sense have clawed there way up the outlet stream but that appears foolishly painful. Next I searched for "burro lake" AND lundy on the web and received little in useful hits. A peakbagger took a photo down on the lake from the Black Mountain area and some 20 something had to be rescued by a SAR team after thinking he could day hike from Lundy to Virginia canyons haha. And a botanist found some rare plant up in that zone.

So I'd bet no one on this board has been there nor know anyone that has even though it is a rather trivial distance as the chipmunk scampers from the roadend going up to Lundy Falls. Sort of like being down about the Merced River in Yosemite Valley looking up at Half Dome and saying the Diving Board bench is not far away. I'd expect some fishermen climbers have gone up there and reported they indeed only saw stunted big-headed brookies haha so that ended that. And peak baggers climbing to the top of Excelsior Mountain or Black Mountain have other obvious ways to reach those summits. So now that I've done a bit of 2009 web homework, I see a nice 3-day backpack there about early to mid August.

The trouble with Google Earth and satellite maps (for me) is there are quite a bit more such interesting places to visit than I imagined just a few years ago. At least back then many such places by topo alone were too much the mystery to know for sure.

David



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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby rlown » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:19 pm

a pretty lake, google wise; i haven't been there. if i thought there were big fish, i might try it. what route were you thinking about? might help some of us on how we look at this stuff and think, "hey, i wanna go there but how do i plan it?"

I admit, i'd probably go up the drainage and then go right, up the skree rather than the other side where the drainage is. But, i've been fooled by that choice before.

the other alternative would be from the north from the trail and skirt around to find a way down. sounds like a bad plan, though.
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby gcj » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:48 am

HI,
'Map sense'... ah, yes. There were many times I wished that I had some.. :). (It probably would have helped prevent many of those long 'death marches' I did...)

One weekend, back in the days when "Google" was simply a very large number, I wanted to peak-bag something easy, prominent, and unpopular. (...and easily accessible from San Jose) Excelsior seemed perfect and I'd never been to that part of the Sierra before. Time to explore!

There are certainly easier ways to get to Excelsior, but, to me, starting from the end of Lundy Canyon road seemed more sporting. The climb up the outlet stream did prove to be difficult, but not as bad as I'd expected. I was more worried about the bush-whacking, but it turned out to be easy to navigate around the worse sections of brush.

The reward was well worth the effort! This is a very beautiful and isolated bit of High Sierra paradise. And I had it all to myself :D . I camped near Burro Lake and the next morning I climbed up the east face of Excelsior. From the summit, I hiked south, along the Sierra crest and, eventually, worked my way to Shamrock Lake. From there, I hiked down the Lundy Canyon trail back to my van.
1.jpg
Looking up from where I left the trail... a small waterfall high up is just below the lip of the basin.
2.jpg
Lundy Lake and canyon from the top of the outlet stream.
3.jpg
A small lake just down-stream from Burro.
4.jpg
The divide to the north... beyond is upper Green Creek.
5.jpg
Looking south at Dore Cliff.
6.jpg
7.jpg
Burro Lake
8.jpg
9.jpg
10.jpg
Early morning view of my destination: Excelsior Mountain.
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby rlown » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:53 am

Beautiful Pics and great info! Before someone else asks the obvious question, i will. Did you fish?
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby gcj » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:07 am

Thanks!
No, didn't fish on this trip. I guess someone else from the board will have to go up there and check that out... :)
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby SSSdave » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:22 pm

Last edited by SSSdave on Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby Beavis » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:00 pm

Hike-If I am not mistaken, the easier route to Burro Lake might be from the north (maybe around Frog/Virginia, unconfirmed). My Dad, his friend, and the friend's dog went up there about 50 yrs ago from the Lundy route. Very steep climb. Dad fell off the trail and survived by falling into a tree. They did not turn back until the dog (the smart one) refused to go any further.

Fishing- reportedly a little brookie lake (unconfirmed).
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby rlown » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:28 pm

one could consider coming in via blue lakes and then dropping south over that nasty looking skree pile.. looks like 800-900 ft drop. the summit lake aproach looks easier; still have to drop off the skree. The only reason those looked more interesing was that there were more lakes to fish.

Still, very pretty country.. thanks for the initial post..
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:29 pm

I have been to Burro Lake, and am familiar with both the "frontal assault" (outlet creek) route and the "back door" route from the Virginia Lakes. I visited the lake with my brother and my dad in 1992 en route to climb Excelsior. It was my dad's last off trail backpack (age 64 at the time). His painful hip (probably injured originally on a fall taken while climbing Mt Goddard with me in 1977) had gotten so bad that he was on the verge of giving up on the ascent to Burro Lake. This is a standard class 2 talus slog--not easy, but not exceptionally onerous, in my estimation. I remember crossing over the outlet cascade at one point in order to pick the optimal line (a rather wet crossing). The next day my dad said he couldn't possibly descend the way we came up so he and my brother saddled up their packs (I had already lightened his pack considerably) and went to the saddle on the divide to Virginia Lakes. There they dropped their packs and the three of us followed the ridge to Excelsior, then returned to the saddle. Then I sent my dad and my bro down to the Virginia Lakes trail--a very much easier route than the ascent route. I sprinted down to the lake, broke camp, descended the outlet, then drove the car around to Virginia Lakes and hiked up to Blue Lake to fish and wait for them (met them after I had fished a bit short of an hour).

Bottom line about routes: The backdoor route from Virginia Lakes is much easier than the frontal assault up the outlet (easy class 2).

Other particulars: I found Burro to be one of the prettier lakes I've visited with a marvelous perched setting with colorful metamorphic surroundings. Burro Lakes and the ponds connected to it are teeming with stunted brookies that ran to about 9". Even my brother, who doesn't fish or hike as often as me (ie not as jaded), was bored after he had caught and released about a dozen fish.
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: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby rlown » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:36 pm

Thanks for the post GB. so 9" stunted brookies.. good pan fodder i guess.. What about Virginia and the lakes to the North on the way in?
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:46 pm

rlown wrote:Thanks for the post GB. so 9" stunted brookies.. good pan fodder i guess.. What about Virginia and the lakes to the North on the way in?


Can't say I've fished too much in the Virginia chain. My bro hit Frog Lakes and caught a bunch of smallish brookies there on the way out to the Virginia Lakes trailhead after Excelsior. My wife and I camped at Summit in June 1994 on our way back out from an interesting big brookie lake in the interior of the Park. Although we found the setting on the crest of the range nice (quite a novelty to camp on the crest while at a lake) we caught only smallish brookies. In Blue I've only caught fish to about 9", but the fish are not skinny and I'll bet the fish get bigger 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: mystery of Burro Lake

Postby SSSdave » Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:24 am

Excuse me if anyone had trouble accessing the links in my above post. Seems I didn't take care of changing all .JPG files to small capital .jpg extensions that some UNIX servers would barf on. They all ought to display now on all browsers.

Image

I'm guessing giantbrookie's backdoor saddle route is the above that I named Burro Col as the only other reasonable spot would be the big talus slide above the lake that has an ugly steep section on both the topo and Google 3D image:

Image

The col requires a modest 700 feet to top, has a short 40 to 80 foot section that topo measures over 80% grade ( about 40 degrees) and appears to be loose metamorphic scree. Unlike granite scree, metamorphic scree tends to often be more apt to slide and dangerous, especially the steeper. Thus without input from others, I would not have bothered to try that route and instead done the much more vertical from Lundy. Normally the strategy is to ginergerly climb such scree away from the center of its slide paths where it is against bedrock. Of course from year to year if such slides have been active, conditions may get worse or better.

There are two main impediments to reaching Burro Lake from Lundy Falls where just above its creek confluences with Mill Creek. As shown in the image in my previous post, there is considerable green (likely mainly willow-alder brush) on that route along the creek itself. My map link above shows the direct creek route to be over 75% grade steep for about 200 feet at "Grab Bush Ravine" while a subtle terrace at 9040 feet on the rib just east is only that steep for about 40 feet. Thus I would choose this latter approach than the direct creek.

The second impediment is more serious. Above this lower section 1200 feet above the canyon bottom at 9400 feet is what I've dubbed Burro Hole. The map shows talus and scree burrying the creek there. Following the creek (purple line) shows 600 willowy brushy moderately steep feet then 200 feet of quite steep 70% to 80% grade, and finally at what I call the Burro Creek Headwall, 200 feet of genuine 80% to 100% grade slope that is likely mostly bedrock. However by going right in the creek, one might be able to grab onto the brush for safety. Such slopes are regularly climbed by savvy climbers, but carrying a backpack makes steeps much more scary as they tend to pull one backward away from rock and weight shifts are tricky to contain. Above the headwall, the gradient changes to gradual for several hundred yards through a narrows. However as giantbrookie noted it is unpleasant talus as the slope west above is very steep. Finally one arrives at what I show due to its map shape as Hotdog Lake (gcj above pic of "small lake downstream). There is another smaller roundish lake a bit further I show as Meatball Lake.

Instead of following the ugly steep creek, the more reasonable route I worked on (pink line) is via what I show in the pic in my above post as Burro Gully. That route near the bottom has one quite steep 70% grade section for about 40 to 80 feet of vertical at most within a steep 600 foot section before relaxing. Despite a lower gradients beyond the bottom, the gully is choked with talus and scree due to steeps on either side of it. Would expect it to be much like climbing through similar rock areas about Convict Creek canyon.

Image

Note I have a spreadsheet chart one can download on the following link that assists measurement of slope steepness on USGS topographic map:

http://www.davidsenesac.com/Information/david_information.html
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