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Early season Kings Canyon

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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Mike M. » Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:30 pm

Sloop, what you are hearing here is correct: no bridge across Bubbs Creek to get to East Lake and Lake Reflection, and no bridge across Wallace Creek where it intersects the JMT.

If you are set on trying a version of the Circle of Solitude, try heading up Avalanche Pass to Big Wet Meadow, then up and over Colby Pass. In early season, Big Wet Meadow will have a lot of water and mosquitoes, but the stream crossings should be doable if you are safe and look for broad water. Once over the other side of Colby Pass, I would consider heading cross country over Milestone Pass rather than down into the Kern. This is a high route that is surprisingly easy and will involve no high water. (But you'll probably have to put up with gnarly suncups!) Once over the pass, you can make your way to the JMT and Forester Pass via several routes through Milestone Basin. Forester is steep from the south side, but by the time you plan to be there many other hikers will have plodded through, making the trail easy to spot even if some of it is still snow covered (which may be the case). The north side of Forester will have snow on it near the top, but the route is not steep. There are no unbridged big water stream crossings the rest of the way back to Cedar Grove.

Mike



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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Sloop » Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:12 pm

Mike,

That is a pretty good suggestion regarding the Milestone Pass, I kind of like how it fits into our scheduling, as well.

Our heart was not particularly set on the Circle of Solitude. Mostly, we wanted to swing by the Kern Canyon, which looks like it would be very difficult this early in the season. I was also considering the Rae Lakes Loop. If you had to choose a route at this time of year, originating from Road's End, which way would you go?

We'll just have to hope for cold temps to keep those mosquitos at bay! I wish we could have pushed this trip back until august/september, it certainly would have relieved a few concerns. Our vacation time doesn't carry over, though, oh well.

Thanks!

Carl
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Mike M. » Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:14 pm

Sloop, if I were you, I would opt for the Rae Lakes loop, which avoids any dangerous stream crossings. Early/mid June is a great time to visit Rae Lakes -- there will be very few people and the area really is spectacular (too bad it's so heavily used in the summer). Depending on conditions, there are a number of day hike options from Rae Lakes -- Sixty lakes Basin, Baxter Lake, etc. I did the loop in late May/early June 1977, and it was terrific. We had the place to ourselves. You'll probably see more snow this year than in 1977, but as long as you are willing to contend with snow cups, you'll be fine. In 1977, we brought snowshoes with us but never used them -- they don't work well when traveling over deep snow cups. Glen Pass is quite doable and safe in these snow conditions -- you just have to plod along. You will most likely find plenty of snow-free patches of ground to camp on at Rae Lakes, but the lakes themselves will probably still be frozen. As I recall, Woods Creek was high and raging in 1977, but there is a substantial bridge at the crossing.

Mike
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Sloop » Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:16 am

Thanks for the advice!

I think we're going to just hike to the vidette meadow, assuming we're going to do the rae lakes loop and see how we feel about the conditions. Worst case scenario we just day hike south a bit on the PCT and return back to our camp and continue on around. As if doing the Rae Lakes loop is some sort of consolation prize; we should be so lucky!
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Mike M. » Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:31 pm

Sloop, that sounds like a good plan -- just be flexible and you will have a great time.

FYI, I was searching the internet for some historical data that would show snowfall for SEKI over the years. I didn't come across anything for SEKI, but found information for Donner Summit through 2001. 1977 was one of the lightest snowfall years in recorded history, with 183 inches of snowfall (as opposed to snowpack) at Donner. 1985, with 412 inches of snowfall, is close to the median. While Donner enjoys a wetter climate than SEKI, you can probably use this data to infer that 1977 was a very dry year for SEKI and that 1985 was more typical.

This year, Donner is slightly above average for snowfall.

My guess is that this year in mid June you will find a lot of snow on the ground above 10,000 feet and high water in most streams. It will be beautiful. Be safe!

Mike
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby walkdawg » Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:13 pm

Daily regional snowpack plots can be found here:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/PLOT_SWC

You can find the current snowpack by watershed here:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow/current/snow/pillowplots/

This is a nice link for checking the flows on Sierra rivers:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/rivcond.html

Enjoy.
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby Cross Country » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:30 pm

I agree with Mike. Ray Lakes Loop is a good choice also because there are so many great x-country places to go from this loop. A big advantage is that your can start up to these places and if the snow conditions aren't to your liking you can just turn around and go back to the loop with very little time lost. The next day there will be another option for you. This loop is just full of places to go. I personally went to Kid, Arrow, Window Peak, Woods, Twin, Baxter, Dragon, Sixty Lakes Basin, Gardner Basin, Reflection, Charlotte, Vidette Lakes, North Guard, Sphinx, and some lakes just West of Woods Creek Crossing. At one time or another I went to each of these places from the Rae Lakes Loop. I would not suggest this for a year like 1977. However I would for this year because there is much less snow than that year.
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby balzaccom » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:30 pm

In fact, I would NOT use 1977 as a good measure of this trip. 1977 was not only a drought year, it was the second of the two worst drought years in the last few decades in California. Rainfall in those years was about 60% of normal, two years in a row. The accumulated snowfall in May of 1977 would have been a tiny part of what we are seeing this year...
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby gdurkee » Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:18 pm

Milestone -- yes, kind of a cool idea I didn't think of. Still, I'd tend towards the Rae Loop. In mid-June, a pretty gnarly adventure (actually, I'm pretty sure anything above 9,000 feet in June this year will be a gnarly adventure...). The creek coming out of 60 Lake Basin can still be a challenge, so caution no matter what... . Strangely, going up Glen Pass from the north is less intimidating than descending.

As another side note. I've seen a few references to 1977 hikes this year from some of us aging boomer-hikers. That was, I think, the 2nd or 3rd lowest snow year on record. Not a great comparison year. Still, I remember crossing Wallace Creek in late June that year, and had to hike upstream to find a collapsing snow bridge.

Have a great trip!

g.
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby tim » Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:30 am

On a somewhat related issue - can anyone offer some guidance of what to expect for Memorial Day weekend in Cedar Grove? I assume it will be OK for day hikes up towards the snow level (6000-7000ft by that time? or lower this year?). I saw the campgrounds are first come first serve - are they usually sold out that weekend (if so by Friday afternoon/evening or just Saturday night)? Will it be even busier if there is still snow up at Grant Grove/Lodgepole (or will that all be clear by then)?

It seems like a good alternative to Yosemite (we were there last Memorial Day and it was gridlock) but I don't want to go all that way from the Bay Area if there's a chance we won't have anywhere to stay. Thanks for any help.
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby ERIC » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:58 pm

walkdawg wrote:Daily regional snowpack plots can be found here:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/PLOT_SWC

You can find the current snowpack by watershed here:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow/current/snow/pillowplots/

This is a nice link for checking the flows on Sierra rivers:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/rivcond.html

Enjoy.


Bulletin 120 is the CCSS monthly report for data listed above, as well as a forecast update.
Another good (fun, at least) source of info (cool snowpack maps) can be found here and here.
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Re: Early season Kings Canyon

Postby caddis » Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:34 pm

Eric, the stuff above would make a good sticky at the top of the backpacking forum
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