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Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

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Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby amk212 » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:11 pm

Hi, and thank you in advance.
Some friends and I have some time this summer, and endeavored to hit the Sequoia/ Kings Canyon area, as we have been to Tahoe and Yosemite. We are looking for a 4 day trip that offers the best "bang for the buck" in terms of scenery, good challenge (though not crazy), and perhaps some variety. We are a pretty fit group with experience backpacking.

Some options we came up with:

Franklin and Sawtooth
Rae Lakes Loop
Mt Whitney via Cottonwood Lakes
Thought about Humphrey and Evolution basin, but doesn't seem doable in our time frame.

What do y'all think?


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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:03 pm

HI Amk212

Welcome to HST.
Please read post about "Rules For Requesting Trip Advice" at the top of the page
so we can recommend trips accordingly. Thanks
Last edited by ERIC on Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Inserted link to trip request instructions page
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby iCharlie » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:51 am

I would go with the Rae Lakes loop. Many possibilities in the Minarets, but as a single well define trip, it is hard to beat Rae Lakes. It will be a bit of a rush in four days, but doable. Cottonwood to Whitney would be tough, as would the Evolution Valley trip. I am not sure of the Franklin and Sawtooth route.

Reaching the Rae Lakes by the second night would make for hard days. Getting there for the third night is easy. I would aim for the Woods Creek crossing second night. Bubbs Creek is all downhill and you can easily do 15 miles in a day.

Good luck.
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:54 pm

I am not sure what you mean by Franklin-Sawtooth route. I have done two routes from Mineral King - these may be similar to what you are thinking about.

Trip 1
Day 1- Mineral King to Columbine Lake or upper Lost Canyon
Day 2- down Lost Canyon and up Soda Creek, camped at Little Claire Lake
Day 3- over Franklin Pass and back to Mineral King
If I had 4 days I would do a side trip to Big Five Lakes

Trip 2
Day 1- half day to camp north of Farewell Gap
Day 2- to Silver Lake
Day 3- to Shotgun Pass, then head of Rattlesnake Creek (or on to Franklin Lake)
Day 4- over Franklin Pass and back to Mineral King

On the first trip, you could also go via Little Five Lakes over Black Rock Pass and down to the Timber Gap trail and back to Mineral King. I have NOT done this so variation. Others may want to comment on it.

The "trail" from Monarch Lake to Sawthooth Pass is essentially gone - lots of scree and rock but really scenic. If you stay left you can stay out of the worst. I tried to short-cut straight up and it was not very good. Lost Canyon is very nice, with great campsites in the upper part. There is a bear box at the trail junction with the trail that goes to Big Five Lakes. I did this trip very late in the season (October). The upper Franklin Lake is more secluded - you have to go off trail a bit to get there.

The second trip, I did 4th July of a high snow year and Franklin Pass involved some very steep snow. Silver Lake was really pretty. The trail south of Farewell Gap has limited camping (really rocky ground) until you get down a ways. The trail to Silver Lake was difficult to find - as was the north side of Shotgun Pass. but this may have been a result of early in the season. I do not know how much this tril is used. There is a SNOWTEL station west of the trail at timberline on the north side of Farewell Gap. In this area, there are some nice scenic campsites. (Not actually at the station but nearby). If you have ever looked at the SNOWTEL data, Farewell Gap is one of the most snowy places in the Sierra.

The Mineral King Road takes a few hours to get up. But there are really nice campgrounds near the trailhead and a great resturant. The first trip is the more scenic of the two. Farewell Gap -Shotgun Pass are interesting and few people go there. Franklin Lake is quite popular and you will see day-hikers there. Rae Lakes Loop is probably more spectacular but it is very heavily used and getting a permit may not be as easy. I am not sure how high "solitude" is on your list.
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby SPeacock » Sat Mar 06, 2010 2:35 pm

All of your day starts should be as close to sun up as possible so that you are at camp (or off the high parts) well before afternoon thunder bumpers.

Cottonwood Lakes to Onion Valley (or N to S)

Day 1, Muir Lake from Horseshoe Meadows out of Lone Pine. Alternative could be be between Lake 4 and 5 if you are doing Old Army Pass (recommend late July -Sept), or Long Lake if New Army Pass the next day

Day 2, Bottom of Rock Creek where PCT crosses the creek by ranger station. You can collect Mt Langley as a 14r if interested. And the Mitre and Soldier Lakes just below timberline is a worthwhile stop as is Sky Pond farther up. (or destination if you would like to exit back to car via Cottonwood Pass.

Day 3 Crabtree/Guitar Lakes if you are doing west side of Whitney as day hike.

Day 4 Whitney (leave Very early). If you plan to exit to car, you will need to check on permit requirements on the east side of the hill...especially if you plan to spend an overnight on the way out (recommended)

Day 5 Tyndall Creek if continuing to Onion Valley or on west side near top of Shepherd pass (then out the next day for a hitch if needed back to car if left at Onion Valley). You might consider a rest day to explore this beautiful high part of the Sierra. South America Lake and Harrison Pass is a nice view as is going up to Shepherd pass and even Mt Tydall if you are collecting 14rs.

Day 6 Middle Vidette Meadows

Day 7 out to car at Onion Valley by just after lunch or spend the afternoon lounging around beautiful Kearsarge Lakes then out later.

A variation on above is a grand loop trip beginning at Onion Valley. Best idea is to leave car at Simes Creek exit from Shepherds then walk three miles to road to get a hitch back to Onion Valley where you leave. This is a bit more on the strenuous side because of the altitude gains and the long down hill from Shepherd Pass. This trip screams Sierra Scenery but you earn it. I prefer it clockwise for scenery but Shepherd Pass is a long way up from the desert floor. My favorite day hike in the Sierra is up toward Shepherd Pass to Anvil Camp. You have to leave well before sunup tho.

Day one over Kearsarge Pass to Vidette Meadows or if you run out of steam, Kearsarge Lakes.

Day two over Forest Pass (big umpf) to Tyndall Creek (or make this the third day from Center Basin if you stayed at Kearsarge)

Day three over Shepherd Pass to Anvil Camp with explorations around top of pass including perhaps Mt Tyndall en route. The west side of Shepherd is a wonderful early morning or lunch break.

Day 4 LONG down hill to car.

Another 4 day hike would be:

Crescent Meadows (Sequoia) to Bearpaw as a base camp. Then day hike Hamilton and Kaweah Gap (long day) and Elizabeth Pass/Tamarack Lake. Then out on 4th. Spectacular scenery. Nice thing about BearPaw is that it has a bar associated with a B&B there. A really cold beverage of choice at night can really make this trip a winner.
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby JWreno » Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:36 pm

We did Whitney the last couple of years going Horseshoe Meadows over
Cottonwood Pass. First night at Rock Creek. 2nd night at Crabtree Meadows.
We made it to Crabtree by about 2:30PM. If you were exiting via Whitney Portal
you could spend the next day hiking up above Guitar Lake. The last day
would be to the top of Whitney and down to Whitney Portal.

I think a fun 4 day trip would be South Lake/North Lake loop via Lamarc Col.
You would see the Muir Hut, Evolution Lake, Darwin Bench and Darwin Canyon.

Day 1 South Lake to Big Pete Meadow
Day 2 Big Pete to Wanda Lake
Day 3 Wanda Lake to Darwin Bench
Day 4 Darwin Bench to North Lake via Lamarc Col

I did a JMT trip on 2008 and I exited the first 10 day stretch to North Lake
via Lamarc Col since my wife had to go back to work. I came in back at South
Lake and continued to Yosemite.

You can see the much of this area by looking at part of my JMT2008 trip log and pictures.
Here is a link for the area I described. The 3 pages cover Roads End to Evolution Lake.
Evolution Lake to North Lake and South Lake to Muir Pass. ... 008p7.html
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby stevet » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:44 pm

My suggestion is Jeff's trip in reverse. That way you can camp at the North Lake walk in campground the night before your first hiking day.

Cottonwood/Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney Portal is another nice 3-4 day trek.

Pushing things a bit harder is Onion Valley to Whitney.

All of these are doable 4 hiking day trek for small groups with all in good physical condition.
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Re: Advice on Sierra Backpacking trip

Postby JWreno » Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:23 pm

The only problem I would see regarding North Lake to Darwin Bench the first day is
the 3600 foot rise and facing the approach to the Lamarc Col and the decent down
the talus until you get to somewhere flat enough to camp. I would rather face the
talus when my legs are fresh. The South Lake over Bishop Pass is about 2200 feet,
plus about another 500 foot rise to Big Pete Meadow once you get to the PCT.
You also would be better acclimated before you reach the 12900 elevation of
Lamarc Col.
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