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Baddest Trail?

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Baddest Trail?

Postby markskor » Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:28 pm

On another forum, someone was planning a Yosemite trip to Hetch Hetchy, The Harden Lake – Pate Valley – Glen Aulin trail. The question asked - What direction was the best to do this trip this late spring – early June.

Having done this trip once starting from Tuolumne, I recall my own thinking beforehand... i thought that that going west should be the preferred way - easy – (just from looking on the map) - but after doing it, I recall that the segment up from Pate to Harden is as tough an uphill slog as there is, especially in the mud – 4200’ to 8000’… (+3800 elev. gained - total) in a few wet, green, muddy, slippery, moss-covered, (did I mention wet and slippery?) crappy miles. I now offer that I would rather start at White Wolf and enjoy looking up at the waterfalls instead of going that trail direction again…See:

http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=11&n= ... ayer=DRG25

Anyway, It got me to wondering though, since it is a bit slow here, – Anybody else want to comment their other “favorite” uphill, death march, trail segment, slogs in the Sierra?... …the sand pile above Sky–Blue, …Matterhorn Peak?... Kearsarge Pass?...Guitar Lake?

What is the worst wilderness trail – the nastiest, most horrible 3 miles of hideous torture found in our Sierra?
(Always looking for fresh ideas.)
Mark
Last edited by markskor on Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SSSdave » Tue Mar 28, 2006 2:53 pm

Mark long long ago before I was so stupid to challenge the worst Sierra slogs, I learned my lesson and have always avoided such notorious trails. Crosscountry routes are another subject so won't mention the far more difficult routes a backpacker can find thereabout. The worst trails in terms of enormous vertical effort without pleasant surroundings would have to be some of the Eastern Sierra routes like Shepherd, Sawmill, and Taboose Passes. None of which I plan to ever learn about first hand. If instead the question is the worst trails that are real topo marked trails regardless of distance or vertical, then one recent notorious trail I did stands out. At Onion Valley the old unmaintained trail going to Golden Trout Lake is quite unpleasant. Here is a topozone link to the ugly part of that trail:

http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=11&n= ... ayer=DRG25

The trail is unremarkable until it reaches a bit below the 3000 meter elevation area then for about 300 feet climbs a disintigrating scree slope beside a cascading waterfall that has been severely mutilated by everyone following it. A reason why there were no horse hoof prints on this route. A number of ducked routes rise like a braided river with seeps and brush in the mix. I recall tackling this at midday a few summers ago after climbing down from Bench Lake where I'd backpacked to for a couple days. By time I reached the top where the trail bends west, I was quite sweaty and miserable. Found a nearby spot in the adjacent creek, jumped in, took an hour nap, ate lunch, then continued on. Above that point the trail increasingly became faint in spots as in wound among forested amid talus jumbles and seeps. Somewhere about 3300 meters, the trailed disappeared where a wide stretch of trail had long been buried under large talus. Ah, so now I knew why the trail was often so sketchy! Some obviously chose to climb down the short but steep decent to the creek where it descended through a narrow talus filled section full of unpleasant willow thickets. Yikes they can have that I thought as I eyed a choice of talus route ducks. As someone that occasionally climbs through talus offtrail backpacking, the effort to make my way through that section was not particularly difficult though for those not used to hefting a heavy pack through such big boulders, it would be a considerable danger. I recall reaching a shaded overhang and then taking another long break during which another group passed by. From there the trail became inconsequential until reaching a large meadow zone at 3310 meters where there were a number of wet seeps and meadow willow thickets to choose ducked routes through. Recall one that was a dead end at this mid-summer time of year when the creek was yet full. Soon the trail surmounts an area of forest above the meadow where the trail once again diverges among several ducks and some well used campsites lie.

I didn't follow the trail to Golden Trout Lake above that point because that lake appeared rather boring on the topo. Besides I'd already learned from someone that it quite comically was full of stunted eastern brook trout. How ironic for the name haha. Instead I spent a couple days in the lakes east of Dragon Peak which is a fine specimen indeed. If one bothers to put in the "trail" effort to get there.

...David
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Postby Buck Forester » Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:28 pm

One grunt of a 'pass' I do frequently is a untrailed loose sand/talus slug that goes from the uppermost Royce Lake to Bear Paw Lake in Bear Lakes Basin. It's a two-steps up, 1.5 steps slide back down pass, quite steep, but I love it! But it's exhausting. I'm always with my two dogs when I do this and even they look at me like, "what in the flying heck are we doing this for?". But I love Royce Lakes and I love Bear Lakes so I keep going back again and again.

http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=11&n=4133108&e=342196&s=50&size=l&datum=nad83&layer=DRG25
topozone of the pass

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=716508&size=lg
Heidi taking a breather on the way up

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=725659&size=lg
Heidi and Sierra up on top, looking down on Bear Lakes Basin (Seven Gables in background)

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=716511
Heidi cooling off her paws in Bear Paw Lake

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=716534&size=lg
I was famished and ended up cooking 2 or 3 meals during a lunch break at Bear Paw Lake, which is a welcome oasis after crossing that barren pass. Heidi completely crashed out, ha ha!

The fishing in the Bear Lakes can be very sweet too, for goldens and goldbows.
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Postby Buck Forester » Tue Mar 28, 2006 5:07 pm

I will say this though, the Sierra Nevada is tame when it comes to bushwhacking and deadfall strewn trails compared to my backpacking in the northern Rockies, such as the Bitterroots. Often the trails are worse than bushwhacking due to no trail maintenance in remote areas.

Another brutal Sierra trail is the descent down into Tehipite Valley. That is one steep muthuh and overgrown with brush. Of course the nearly 20 miles of hiking to reach the descent doesn't make it any easier. But be prepared for some brush plowing and deadfall dodging and foot-slipping on the leaf/pine needle covered steep trail. You'll know you have knees by the time you reach bottom. It's another place I try and make it to each year, it's just amazing down there.
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Postby copeg » Tue Mar 28, 2006 5:32 pm

I can think of a few trails. I'll only mention one now...

Shepherd Pass. Hot, steep, long, waterless for much of its lower stretch. I love it! You start at the base of the Sierra in Owens valley. The first mile or so is deceiving because it is a pleasant walk alongside a creek. After the final crossing, you end up climbing over numerous switchbacks the next few endless miles in the heat of the desert. Then you get to the top of a saddle, where your greeted with awesome veiws of Williamson. But after the saddle you actually DESCEND down about 500 feet that, all the while, you know you have to make it up. Then you begin your climbing again on a south face in the heat of the sun. Its not until about 7 miles in at Anvil Camp that the trail ascends out of the desert into an alpine atmosphere, but you still have another several miles to even get to the top of the pass. But honestly, when you reach the top, its all worth it. So many choices for places to go. Amazing scenery, awesome fishing, many climbing opportunities, and very few people.
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Mar 28, 2006 6:33 pm

Having done Shepherd, Taboose, and Sawmill (the one 6000'+ elev gain one I haven't done yet is Baxter) among others, my vote goes to Shepherd. Taboose is rockier and rougher for longer distance, but the demoralizing loss of elevation gain following the initial 2500' push from the trailhead at Shepherd is what puts it over the top. Sawmill has more overall gain (close to 6800' as I recall), but Sawmill Lake is so nice (and superb fishing) that there is no point blowing the pass in one day (Sawmill is at about the 5400' mark in gain) whereas I just don't have a compelling reason to stop partway up Shepherd and Taboose. On the other hand Sawmill starts unbelievably low (4700'?), and it is a long way to the first water. My wife and I did that first stretch starting in the late morning in 90+ heat. We wiped out 6L+ of water before reaching the first stream. I do enjoy the scenery associated with all three of these passes, although I think the scenery going up Shepherd is best of the three. The view of Williamson's north face takes a little bit of the sting out of that nasty elevation loss.

The Copper Creek trail out of Cedar Grove and vicinity is very underrated as a death march day one entry, but much of it is wooded and shaded in contrast to the nasty east side passes. I suppose that one might get closer to being the "winner" for me if we based this on how difficult a hike it is to get to the first fishing lake (very important for me). The trail my wife detests most is the first stretch of the Pine Creek trail mostly because of the innumerable and very high water bars. This section gains 2500'+ and for someone of my wife's height (5'1") those water bars are high enough to require the use of hands--or at least they were as of our last trip over that stretch in 1992 (the early stages of breaking into Bear Basin in one day from the trailhead via a nice off trail pass out of Granite Park). In addition, that trail, like most major east side trails, has quite a bit of stock use, so when my wife would be coming up to a water bar she'd practically have horse poop in her face making her want to puke. Of course the scenery out of Pine Creek is sublime, and the trail is pretty well shaded and not nearly as hot and exposed as the Big 4 east side epic passes.

I'd like to add a sub category here of "most annoying" trail which I would award to a section of trail that was thankfully bypassed sometime after 1977. That would be the old spur leading from Blue Lake to Dingleberry Lake. There was this one place where the trail descended one side of a gully, then ascended the other side. At one point the two sections of trail were no more than 100 yards apart separated by fairly moderate terrain--but you didn't realize this if you hadn't been up the trail before. There was something like a mile plus added here in place of 100 yards and there were other sections of that trail that seemed almost as idiotic. My enduring memory of that 1977 trip was the old wood sign at Blue Lake. It had originally read "Dingleberry Lake 1". Somebody added a "0" after the "1" which really echoed the way I felt.
Last edited by giantbrookie on Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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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Postby EricJLee » Tue Mar 28, 2006 7:40 pm

I've been up Shepherd, Taboose, Sawmill, Baxter, Keasarge....but the winner in my mind is the Red Mt Lake Trail toward Split Mt. Those "trail" builders must have been on crack. It goes up, then down, then flat, then ridiculously steep. Oh then it follows a flowing creek bed for a bit. Not to mention that a low clearence 2WD vehicle adds another 3 miles through the Owens Valley just to reach the TH. Never again.
Eric
PS Sheperd Pass Trail is wonderful, just start really early or late(hike up in the dark) to avoid the heat down low. Beautiful scenery.
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Bad Ass Trail

Postby AldeFarte » Tue Mar 28, 2006 8:54 pm

Haven't been on any of the previous mentioned trails, but Deer Cove Creek to Kennedy pass is mighty dry, dusty and hot on a summer day. Lovely vistas ,tho. jls :p
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Postby krudler » Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:39 pm

Great pics as always, Buck!!

Haven't done any of the crazier eastside passes yet (may not ever, want to move to Montana later this year so maybe I can follow up Buck's adventures in the Bitterroot, or maybe the Bob), but I think that anything I've already done involving a full pack, uphill slope, and mid-day sun was certainly NO FUN. This is not really fair to say though, because it's always worth it, isn't it? :)

Buck, I'm going to try Tehipite in Sept/Oct, I swear!
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Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:27 am

I would say Taboose. There's not much there, and it was a never-ending climb up. First time . . . we hiked a food cache up, and said we would never do it again. Second time . . . we were tired after the 16 days, but had to retrieve the canisters and the extra clothes, etc we left inside. We said we'd never do it again, again. Third time . . . this time we only hiked down it, but the bottom was never-ending sand for miles and miles (it seemed). I was happy we didn't have to go up it again.

I haven't done Sawmill or Baxter, and probably never will. I would do Shepherd again, but with an earlier start.

Buck, that looks like Feather Pass? We went up the easy way, from Marion Lake cutoff (I think that's what it was). Even that was steep, but probably not as bad as the way you went. We looked down from Royce/Merriam Pass and it looked steep! But beautiful area and worth it!

Eric, I did the hike only as far as Red Lake, and I probably wouldn't do it again. Nothing attractive about it, unless you're going for Split Mtn.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Postby Buck Forester » Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:11 am

Snow Nymph®, when you say Marion Lake, I'm assuming you mean Merriam Lake? I'd hafta look at my Secor book to see what the 'name' of this pass is, but I don't think it's Feather Pass, but I could be wrong. From what I gather, Feather Pass connects Merriam Lake basin with Bear Lakes Basin (south of Feather Peak), and this pass I'm talking about is the next pass north of there and connects Bear Lakes Basin directly with the uppermost Royce Lake (north of Feather Peak). I've even seen mountain lion tracks over that sucker. I've taken lots of little passes in the area... there's a cool pass that connects one of the lower Royce Lakes to Merriam Lake too. Merriam Lake is awesome! It has a tropical sand beach even.
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Postby BSquared » Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:23 am

My vote is for Lamarck Col from the Evolution side, though I confess that I did this a looong time ago. For me, the big problem was finding the damn pass! We'd hiked up from Darwin Basin, were really beat because of the altitude, and it seemed like we investigated dozens (at least two ;) ) of potential "passes" before we finally found the actual col. I've never been so discouraged and tired in my life.
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