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Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

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Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby TahoeJeff » Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:25 am

How hard of a slog would this be? I'd try to get a dawn patrol start and whip out the steep water bar section first before it warms up. And I'll have a reasonably light pack as well. It looks to be 6.5 miles from the TH to the pass with about 3700 feet of elev. gain, then about 2 miles over to the lakes, dropping a little to the creek and back up. Does that sound about right?



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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby rayfound » Wed Mar 10, 2010 12:36 pm

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3146

Did it 2 years ago. Its a tough hike in... the trail is ever upward with no relief until the lakes. That being said, I did it with a 40+ lb pack and have since shaved down to sub25. I think I am ready to give it a whirl again (shaving 20 lbs off my body weight would surely help too!).

DON'T MISS the Royce Falls!!!!!! Hike up to the grass patch/easy-rest chair rock.

Its worth it. Its a great area.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby rlown » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:56 pm

I'm getting the feeling that lots on this forum are planning this particular trip this year. I'm not planning mine until early mid Sept. I was thinking of only getting to Honeymoon the first night at best. Coming from sea level to that altitude might be problematic for us. Thought we'd try the Royce chain before traversing over to the Puppet area.

The trip report helped immensely.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby TahoeJeff » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:39 pm

Great report Ray! I remember back when you first posted it and have been meaning to review it. What time did you guys start hiking after you got the browns? Do you think if you would have started hiking at dawn you would have made it to the French Canyon lakes in a day? Like you I have the pack down to the 25 lb. range, and like you I'm working on taking a few pounds off my body. Living at 6300' and going on training hikes in the 8000'-9000' range definitely helps me with acclimating to the higher altitudes.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby rayfound » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:19 pm

Making it all the way to the lakes would be tough, but doable. Once over the pass, its a pretty easy hike over to Elba or one of the neighbors there.

We started WAAAAAY late. Weren't on the trail until after 10am. the worst time of day to be hiking. Parts of the trail have little shade and plenty of vertical.

Its a tough slog if you're out of shape (I was). Like a never ending stairmaster... it never lets you have any forward momentum, just a dead-lift of your body weight and pack with every step (or at least that's how it feels)

It would be FAR less difficult with a lighter pack.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:11 pm

I did this about 5 years ago in early July with a heavy pack (10-day trip with climbing gear). That time of year there was plenty of water along the trail so we never had to carry water. That may not be the case in September. I thought it was a relatively nice trail. An early start and slow and steady travel makes it fine. It is much easier than either Taboose Pass or Shepherd Pass. We camped at Golden Lake the first night. By the way, Granite Park is really spectacular. Lots of people make it to Royce Lakes in a day. From Golden Lake it is a straight off-trail shot southwest to second from upper Royce Lake. A short section of the east shore of this lake has nasty talus, but otherwise it is easy travel back to Pine Creek Pass. Another route to continue to French Canyon is to take the pass between Merriam and Royce Peaks. The upper 100 feet on the north side usually is steep snow. In September this may be icy and if melted may be ugly steep talus or cliffs. We did it in July with plenty of moderately firm snow (we had ice axes). The west side to Merriam Lake is easy. From Merriam Lake you can drop to French Canyon on a use-trail.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby Ozark Flip » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:29 pm

rlown wrote:
I'm getting the feeling that lots on this forum are planning this particular trip this year.


Yup, I'll be with this TahoeJeff ragtag group. I was thinking about meeting up with them after coming in from North Lake TH..not sure yet.

rlown wrote:
I'm not planning mine until early mid Sept.


Yup, looks like Wed 9/8 is the new moon, Wed 9/15 is the quarter moon, and Thu 9/23 is the full moon.

Thanks for the trip report rayfound and the nugget about Royce Falls, I have heard about the falls being a "don't miss" part of the trip.

npallister - Having been over Shepherd's Pass a few times myself I certainly agree with you. And I think I'll take this opportunity to jerk Jeff's chain a little. :D Having hiked with him on numerous occasions, I cannot understand why he couldn't make it all the way to the Royces the first day, especially with an early start. He hikes faster than anyone I know. To compare Jeff and I, let me take a page from Markskor's book to describe the differences:
Jeff and I are an odd couple of hiking partners. He is a hiking sports car, fast and light, like a Jaguar....traversing boulder fields both quick and quiet, akin to a cat. Then there is me, laboring, lumbering, like an older model beer truck, in dire need of engine work...backfires a lot. :cool:
Okay, maybe no Markskor in me, but the point being "You'll be fine Jeff!" :rock:

A question to all you HSTers about the North Lake TH route - how is the x-country route from below Piute Pass over into the Elba area? Llama friendly? (Meaning no class 2 stuff) It looks rather good from the topo but you never know. Thanks!

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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby rayfound » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:00 pm

flip wrote:A question to all you HSTers about the North Lake TH route - how is the x-country route from below Piute Pass over into the Elba area? Llama friendly? (Meaning no class 2 stuff) It looks rather good from the topo but you never know. Thanks!


Well, when I did it in 2003, we descended down to Star lake in what was ostensibly a large boulder field... I don't know what class 1/2/3/etc.... is, I just know it was doable, but it was basically boulder hopping the whole way down. (didn't take terribly long though)

I have heard that coming over "Puppet Pass" is a better route, but can't provide any 1st hand feedback (I think snownymph maybe did it a couple years ago???)

The ridge that separates the "Puppet Plateau" from the desolation basin is very rocky... little in the way of soil, so its got sections of scree, boulder fields, ect... The next slope down from puppet to Elba is quite easy, nothing to be concerned with, unless you go when its covered in show.

Going down to the canyon/falls is easy from L lake, elba, moon, etc...


OK, so I looked up the classes:

http://www.mountain-survival.net/chapter1/mountain-terrain.html wrote:a. In North America the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) is used to rate the difficulty of routes in mountainous terrain. The YDS classes are:
# Class 1—Hiking trail.
# Class 2—Off-trail scramble.
# Class 3—Climbing, use of ropes for beginners (moderate scrambling).
# Class 4—Belayed climbing. (This is moderate to difficult scrambling, which may have some exposure.)
# Class 5—Free climbing. (This class requires climbers to be roped up, belay and emplace intermediate protection.)




I can definitely say I did not use a rope or need a rope. It was scrambling down the boulder field... didn't want to fall, but felt reasonably comfortable doing it.


Ozark Flip wrote:Thanks for the trip report rayfound and the nugget about Royce Falls, I have heard about the falls being a "don't miss" part of the trip.


The falls are large enough to feel important and dramatic, yet small enough to be intimate, to be able to basically be IN the falls, and where the falls land is just a superb lookout over the canyon.
Last edited by rayfound on Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:08 pm

I did not ask that very good question. The previous poster quoted me on something else and then asked the question.

I have been over Puppet Pass. It is moderately difficult. Not bad but some tricky route finding. The descent to Puppet Lake is on some steep talus with some loose blocks - I do not think I chose the best route. I would not say it is "llama" friendly, unless I totally missed the easiest way down. It is probabably moderate to easy Class-2.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby rlown » Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:42 pm

npallister wrote:I have been over Puppet Pass. It is moderately difficult. Not bad but some tricky route finding. The descent to Puppet Lake is on some steep talus with some loose blocks - I do not think I chose the best route. I would not say it is "llama" friendly, unless I totally missed the easiest way down. It is probabably moderate to easy Class-2.


Having never been there, where exactly is "Puppet Pass?" I was guessing above Blanc Lk..
Inquiring minds..
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby tightline » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:42 pm

I made the hike up to pine pass last year--and into Humphrey's, with my daughters (25 & 30) and wife. I've told other people this and most think I'm nuts...but if I get to a trailhead in the afternoon or evening, I do not spend the night there. I start hiking. As far as pine pass goes I just think it's the way to do it. With a headlamp you can't miss the trail. It's not dangerous. It's a road in there. You can knock off the 1st 2200 feet in the evening and I think you can chug along easier in the night air. If you are coming out that way you'll see the country on the way back. If not, as far as Pine goes I can stand missing the scenery on that first leg to be up 2200 (or whatever it is to just below lower Pine Lake) feet because when I get up in the morning (and now you can feel fine about sleeping in a little), I am glad I bit that off. There is too much fine country above that. There is a creek crossing (easy) on a log. At night, after you cross, walk up the trail 50 yards or so for the nice campgrounds on the right of the trail. Flop down, have a cocktail--have two or three, a bowl of soup, and a cigar--because you will be feeling the hike. And...trust me, you will be thankful that you did this when you make make your move to Royce, or Humphreys, or whatever. I can't stress this enough unless you are a very above average hiker. There is no way I would have got my crew in there on day one. They would have cussed me. This puts you into Humphrey's with time to kill and fish,WAY ahead of when you would have otherwise been there. I'm suprised more people don't do it on well established trails. I've been to Edyth 4 different times and every single time, driving from Reno, getting to the trailhead in the late afternoon, I'm up that trailhead 2000-2500 feet, and into Edyth the next day (I've taken a couple of different routes). In my opinion it saves basically an entire day. You can burn a lot of juice hiking those first few thousand feet in the heat. Fatigue can change an intenerary in a hurry...It's funny, everybody thinks I'm nuts (except my son--he is a 100% believer) for doing this because it's just a natural mindset to get the early morning start, really, when you're just hanging around at the trailhead anyway-or getting drunk which makes the next day even tougher.. When you take a break, the stars are spectacular--the night air is a wonderful thing. Plus, skeeters are not nearly as bad at night-the horse crap in the trail isn't as fresh either. I do not recommend hiking at night though if you have tricky creek crossings--and it must be a well established maintained trail... Good luck too you.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:48 pm

The pass I am referring to is directly east of the south point of Roget Lake. When I descended, I traversed the northeast shore of Roget Lake. I am assuming this is Puppet Pass. The pass is part of Ropers High Route, although he is a bit unclear from his description where is the exact loction of the pass. There appears to be another pass east of Pilot Knob to Alsace Lake- but I have not done it. From the same flat (small stream with a meadow) that you cross to get to Puppet Pass, there is also a pass to the northeast that drops to Star Lake. I recall observing from Star Lake that this pass was a bit slabby and cliffy. I have not done it. There also looks to be a possiblitiy north of Desolation lake dropping into Rust Lake. I have not been up there either.
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