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Baddest Trail?

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Postby mountaineer » Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:42 pm

Nobody has mentioned the steepest gradient trail from trailhead to pass in the entire Sierra Nevada, and the one that gets my vote for worst ascent, although very picturesque, Sawtooth Pass.



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Postby Shawn » Fri Apr 14, 2006 9:04 pm

Nobody has mentioned the steepest gradient trail from trailhead to pass in the entire Sierra Nevada, and the one that gets my vote for worst ascent, although very picturesque, Sawtooth Pass.


Really, I didn't know that. Go figure - no wonder I the sandy slog up the slope was such pain. :eek:

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Postby giantbrookie » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:38 pm

jimqpublic wrote:One miserable slog I remember was Sawmill- we started out over it on a weeklong backpack. It was August and for some logistical reason we didn't start hiking until close to noon- the temperature was already over 100F. I was 16 or 17 and weighed about 130 while my pack was a good 55. That was a long, long afternoon to just get to the lone tree where you transition to the east facing slop and enter the Sawmill creek drainage.
Now that I get to thinking- my own personal death march was when I hiked from Wright Creek on the JMT (between Whitney and Forester), up to the Shepherd pass trail, over the pass, past the planned camp at Anvil Camp, down to the trailhead. Since my ride wasn't planned until the next day I kept going down across the desert to Independence. It looked so close but that 8 last miles in the dry heat- after I ran out of water- was tough. I made it home at about 9:00. Mileage was somewhere between 20 and 25 miles whereas I was planning on more like 10.


Wow, that's a death march, all right. Wright Creek to Independence sounds downright Norman Clyde-like. Funny about Sawmill and the heat. My wife and I also started up that much too late once on account of a very late shuttle pick up and drop off (going Sawmill to Taboose).

My worst Sierra pass death marches can't remotely compare with that Shepherd-Independence epic, but here's a few of them:
We did a two day Split Mtn.-Prater trip where day 1 was over Taboose down the backside (didn't have cutover trail then) and up into the Upper Basin. My dad and I had these big, high, external frame packs that caught the wind, that was blowing hard down Taboose Creek, like sails and almost drove us backward. The next day we bagged Split and Prater, then hiked all the way back to the trailhead, hiking the last two hours in nearly total darkness, guided by a sliver moon shining down the canyon. Seventeen years later my wife and I were camped at Bench Lake on what we thought was the penultimate day of an 8 day trip. We started the day by exploring and fishing the lakes in the drainage SE of Bench L. We then picked up our packs and moved them below Striped Mtn. lakes, where we dropped them and dayhiked up to fish those lakes. We returned then moved our packs to where we had hoped to camp at an unnamed lake S. of Taboose Pass. Finding nothing resembling flat ground (lots of sharp metamorphic rocks) and only small skinny rainbows, we decided to hike partway down Taboose--it was early evening by this point. My wife decided we should hike all the way out to the Taboose trailhead and we ended up repeating the exploits of me and my dad by finishing in near total darkness at the car at about 10 pm. This was the same trip that began with us baking in the sun and running out of water going up Sawmill. Probably the most epic day I've had with a full pack was the last day of a Dumbbells Lake trip with my wife where we hiked to South Lake from Amphitheater Lake. We descended Cataract Creek, then ascended Barrett Creek to Knapsack Pass, descended to Dusy, then hiked over Bishop Pass to South Lake. I then removed my pack and jogged the 1.3 mi or something down to Parchers Camp to pick up the car. Neither of those two passes would rate anywhere near the top of the list for tough passes, however.

Mountaineer, I do have memories of my one trip to Sawtooth Pass and I remember well really hurting to pull myself up those sandy switchbacks. I was "celebrating" my 10th birthday by climbing Sawtooth Peak with my dad and a Sierra Club trip. I was so exhausted I promptly fell asleep when I reached the summit of the peak.
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 mountaineer » Sat Apr 15, 2006 7:49 pm

Mountaineer, I do have memories of my one trip to Sawtooth Pass and I remember well really hurting to pull myself up those sandy switchbacks. I was "celebrating" my 10th birthday by climbing Sawtooth Peak with my dad and a Sierra Club trip. I was so exhausted I promptly fell asleep when I reached the summit of the peak.


Celebration? More like :crybaby:
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Wallace Col

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:57 am

My vote for the most miserable slog from hell is Wallace Col, crossing east-to-west across the 13,000-foot Sierra divide.

One step up, five steps back. The entire scree slope slowly rolls downhill as you claw your way up.
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Postby ironmike » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:22 pm

Interesting to read the different impressions of the "bad 4" from the east (Taboose, Sawmill, Shepherd, Baxter). My least fav of the 4 was Baxter for all the rockiness near the summit (more like hiking on Mars). Absolutely love Shepherd for the scenery and change of ecosystems.

I'll throw another one into the topic mix: Junction Pass. No longer maintained. I've only descended Junction (which is largely the same as Shepherd on approach, then diverges at the Pothole), and have never gotten up the juice to try and ascend it. Going down was bad enough. The upper reaches are very steep (like Shepherd) and rocky (like Taboose or Baxter) with no real trail to follow. Sounds like fun, eh?
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