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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 10:25 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 11:36 am

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 12:56 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 1:39 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 2:19 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 4:11 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 6:29 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 3:00 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 6:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pine Creek TH to French Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:08 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 12:42 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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