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Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

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Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby Xosob » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:53 am

I have a permit for a 8-d trip out of the Bubbs Creek trailhead starting on July 8. My experience level is Level 4 (comfortable w/ trails + cross-country) & comfortable w/ Class 2 terrain (very limited experience with Class 3 terrain). I'm OK w/ travel over snow as long as it does not require ice axe/crampons. I've hiked extensively in NH & UT and some in the Sierra (Tuolumne to Valley via Clouds Rest & Half Dome, North Lake to Snow Lake loop through Evolution Basin, Whitney trail to top). My interests are scenery (lakes, mountains).

My plan had been to go up Bubbs, over Glen Pass into Rae Lakes & 60 Lakes, over Pinchot Pass to Bench Lake, up into Upper Basin if possible, and then descend & return via Woods Creek. I'd love to get to the top of Split Mtn but expect it wouldn't be reasonable in July from the JMT. My experience has been that I can hike comfortably 15 miles/d on trail and ~5 miles/d cross-country.

I'm driving out from the East Coast the end of June, with planned trips in UT before my 7/8 entry to the Sierra followed by a trip to the Lost Coast and then Mt St Helens (to visit my brother in Portland) before returning to CA for a 3-week trip out of North Lake in August and then back to Massachusetts before the end of Aug.

Given the higher-than-average snowpack and cool spring, I have been paying special attention to this forum, the SEKI & Yosemite websites, long-range weather forecasts, and other sites.

My questions:
1) Should I expect to be able to get to over Glen & Pinchot Passes w/o winter gear (i.e., ice axe & crampons)?
2) If the answer to Question 1 is no, what options could I consider for a west-side trip during July 8-15? One possibility would be to divide my planned trip in 1/2, spending 4 days out & back up Woods Creek to Rae Lakes/60 Lakes and then a separate 4-d trip (e.g., up to Granite Basin/State Lakes, although the climb would be nasty & it is unclear the snow pack would be less there, or Dinkey Lakes or another trailhead in the Sierra NF).
3) How much less snow could I expect if I deferred my trip (assuming I could get a permit) until a start date of 7/12? 7/19? The latter deferral would mean no Mt St Helens, but it is unclear what conditions I would encounter there this year also given the late spring.

Thanks for any advice.



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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:11 am

The Woods Creek loop permits are not easy to get - very popular trail. I would not give up a reserved permit for an iffy chance of a first-come permit later. A lot can happen in June- the snow will melt quickly when it gets hot. Creeks will be high and bugs out. I have never been over Glenn Pass so cannot comment on it. I did do Split Mountain. I climbed it simply because I am doing the 14'ers - I did not think it was a particulary great climb - lots of tedious talus. Upper Basin is pretty bleak. I would skip this side trip and instead take a side trip in 60 Lakes - to Gardnier Basin. There is a reasonable Class 2 pass from southern 60 Lakes to the upper Gardnier Lake. Pinchot Pass and Bench Lakes are worth the hike. Woods Creek is really pretty - I would not hurry through it. Try to plan a night to camp with a view of Castle Domes.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby copeg » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:13 pm

Glenn Pass is steep on both sides, and covered in snow (north face more so this time of year) a bit tough to negotiate. But lots can happen between now and your trip, so its hard to recommend one way or another. My guess (only a guess) would be by then there will be snow but it will relatively easy to negotiate around and if not, many others will have paved a way through the snow (also later in the day can sometimes be much better traveling than early in the day when the snow is solid ice).
Gardiner Basin is a very worthwhile side trip...easy to get into from 60 Lakes Basin.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:01 pm

Hi Xosob

Welcome to HST.
As pointed out earlier Upper Basin is nice, but I would not hike up to it, and then
back down to Woods Creek.
Split Mountain is okay, Red Lake is cool at sunrise, but there are much better
alternatives.
Glen Pass can be difficult as Copeg has mentioned, if Icy, though by this time enough
PCTers have stomped out a pretty good path which can be followed using hiking poles
and if later in the morning after the snow has softened.
Gardiner basin is pretty, and worth checking out, if you really enjoy it you could
exit via King Col at the northern end of the basin down to the Woods creek area, but
snow may be an issue here too.
Make sure you check out the upper Rae Lake which a lot of people do not make the
effort to visit.
Bench Lake is a beautiful lake, and one of the prettiest in the Sierra that has a trail
to it!
Instead of going back via the Woods Creek Trail I would descend the South Fork Kings
via the Muro Blanco to Upper Paradise Valley.
This is a trip for the experienced backpacker and offers a look into some beautiful and
remote back country with a great close up of the South Fork at its peak, beautiful
meadows, and pretty feeder creeks that are quite impressive.
The other option would be going over Arrowhead Pass into Arrowhead Lakes Basin but
with the current snow levels I hesitate recommending this option.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby Xosob » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:31 pm

Thanks for everyone's comments to date.

I had not consider heading int Gardiner's Basin but definitely plan on doing so now, probably as a day trip over 60 Lakes Col from a base in 60 Lakes Basin.

My plan all along had to been to go over Glen Pass in the afternoon after the remaining snow had softened and follow the path by the PCT thru-hikers who had preceeded me. I thinking I'll be OK if I have enough time (not a problem that time of year) and go slowly and carefully.

My permit has an exit via Copper Creek, based on a very large loop requiring crossing Palisades Creek at the washed-out bridge. I had long abandoned that idea given the snow situation. I'm also probably going to punt on Upper Basin & Split Mtn. Seems to make more sense to explore around Arrow Peak. I have Secor's book and have been studying it for months.

While Muro Blanco sounds interesting, my concern is that it's probably more of a bushwack than I'd want while missing out on the upper end of Wood's Creek. I want to be able to exit after 8 days in good enough shape, physically and mentally, to do a day-trip to Clouds Rest the following day before continuing on to the Lost Coast.

Two new related questions:
1) Any recommendations for areas to camp between Rae Lakes & Bench Lake? Twin Lakes? Wood Lake? Some other lake? I wouldn't plan on being too close to water to avoid the expected swarms of mosquitos; I'm going to bring a empty container to use to grab water and then filter away from a lake or creek.
2) With the expected snow pack in mid-July, what would be a good day trip from a base at Bench Lake? Sounds like Arrow Pass might be iffy then with the snow. Or, should I consider Baxter Lakes or spending an extra day around Bullfrog and Charlotte Lakes before going over Glen Pass?
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:27 pm

First, in my humble opinion the Woods Creek Drainage though pretty is
not an area I would have near the top, or even the middle of my list to revisit, only
as area to pass thru on my way to another area, or a way back to Roads End.
It does turn into a magical place in the fall with the aspens near Castle Dome, and below.
Twin Lakes is nice, and will be less draining then either Baxter or Woods Lake, though
the last is quite pretty, but you want to conserve your strength, stick with Twin
Lakes.
The lakes south of Bench Lake are pretty nice, especially the ones up on the bench.
You are doing you hike to Clouds Rest starting from Tioga Road, which is much easier
than from the Valley, right?
Last edited by maverick on Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby Xosob » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:35 pm

Yes, Clouds Rest from Tioga Rd. To climb it from the Valley is unreasonable as a day hike, IMO.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:59 pm

" To climb it from the Valley is unreasonable as a day hike, IMO.
Yes, I agree, though I did it back in the 80's as an endurance hike, as others
I know of who have done it to push there own limits.
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Re: Glen Pass/Rae Lakes/Bench Lake in Mid-July

Postby Take-a-Hike » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:40 pm

If time permits, you can always exit Bench, up 'n over the old JMT to Lakes Basin via Cartridge Pass, exiting Ropers' route in reverse via Red, White and Gray passes, Horseshoe, State, and Grouse Lake and out Copper Creek. Doing that loop, clockwise, exiting via Woods Creek area last summer, I wasn't too jazzed about the area as compared to the entry from CC to Bench. Of course, we were so far behind schedule we did last 25 miles and 7K ft drop in 2 days. Off trail isnt' that bad due to old JMT and many use trails throughout the area til u pick up trail again around Horseshoes.
Some where in here u can read how we "Took-a-Hike" in a marriage encounter from Hell...
It was fun, now, 9 months later.
P
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