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Little Five or Big Five?

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Little Five or Big Five?

Postby calipidder » Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:11 pm

In August I'm planning on a typical loop out of Mineral King - out over Timber Gap, over Black Rock Pass, through/past the Big/Little 5 Lakes, up Lost Canyon and out over Sawtooth Pass.

We have four days, maybe including the drive from the bay area (might drive out the night before). Strong hikers, do off-trail travel, this would be classified as an easy trip for those going.

My husband has never been in to Mineral King before and he's sick of hearing me tell him about it and wants to see for himself. His vacation time is very limited otherwise I'd plan a longer adventure - I already have other adventures planned for the extra vacation time I get \:D/ . We tend to knock off miles pretty quickly but don't mind getting to camp too early if there is a peak to bag or a lake/stream to fish. This particular loop is one I've never hiked so it's great - we both see new terrain. Not looking for long miles or anything complicated on this one, doing that on other trips - just a nice quick backpack trip.

The itinerary is pretty straightforward but i'm wondering about night 2. Night 1 will be somewhere along Cliff Creek. Night 3 will be by Columbine Lake. Night 2 - somewhere within the Big Five or Little Five Lakes area. I'm looking for camp suggestions, keeping in mind that we like to fish but like the big views too. :) Any help?



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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby copeg » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:13 pm

Did that hike last year...fantastic loop, the area around Big Five and Little FIve being the areas I definitely wanted to spend more time at. Don't think you can go wrong with either (I know...not much help huh). Little Five has a ranger station (if that affects your decision any) - I camped there when the ranger was out on patrol so I had the area to myself. Didn't get a bite when I fished the lakes (which surprised me, but hopefully someone with more experience fishing in the area will chime in - Columbine was easy fishing). I'd recommend pacing yourself so you can take your time hiking up Lost Valley...it was one beautiful area.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby quentinc » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:21 pm

My recollection is the nicest view was towards the Big 5 Lake that was furthest in. One person in my group was also going to try to fish there (don't remember if he had any luck). There's easy x-country over the ridge separating the Big 5 basin from the little 5 lake basin below Blackrock Pass.

For what it's worth, I was not fond of the trail on the west side of Blackrock -- switchback hell and completely covered with small rocks -- and also the part of this route that goes down thousands of feet once you pass Pinto Lake. If I ever did that route again, I'd go over Glacier Pass and x-country towards Blackrock. The lakes below Glacier looked really beautiful. Of course, this year snow might still be an issue there in August.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:23 pm

Hi calpidder,

I've been over Sawtooth twice and Timber Gap as well as 4 other trips at the south end of the valley.

Alot of backpackers do that loop and tend to play up the fact it is a loop. However one pays quite a price for going way down into that hole of Cliff Creek. On a 7 to 9 day trip the loop route makes sense because one can leisurely spend 3 nights west of Blackrock 2 nights beyond Big 5 and then layover 3 or 4 days at Big 5/Little 5. With just a few days it be strenuous for most of we mortal types. Your a strong hiker so maybe all this doesn't matter. But do the vertical up down math on the topo. Note there are some late season cheater routes via Spring Lake across ledges from Columbine fit for savvy climbers but there are U fall U splat ledges and the best routes supposedly are not obvious.

Really sweet zone is the upper Big 5 Lakes Basin. So lets say lake 10192 is the target. If one just does an out and back via Sawtooth Pass the vertical up/dw by trail alone is about 8k. If one does the loop and visits 10192 using trail only the up/dw is about 9.5k. Actually there are three places one can cross country via Sawtooth and save about 700 feet. One is by contour up to the ridge from 9960 in Lost Canyon, a second is by taking a use trail not on the topo from 9830 up to 10192, and a third is at the Groundhog Mdw junction with the Chihuahua Mine spur. Note the topo is way incorrect in that area and one actually wastes 200 feet by sticking on the (horse) trail. So one is really saving about 2k by just coming in one way. And the scenery and route is arguably most interesting on that half.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby Cross Country » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:50 pm

This trip depends on whether or not you're comfortable with some x - country. I took my 9 year old son on this loop knowing there was no way I was willing to waste all that effort going down to Cliff Creek (I had been there several times hiking to Granite and Hangst or Eagle Scout Lakes). As far as I'm concerned the best rout by far is staring over Sawtooth pass and exiting over Blackrock Pass and Glacier Pass (x - country) down to Monarch Lake. The x - country is easy once you find it. It's harder to find if done in the other direction (from Monarch Lake). Big 5s has the better scenery, Little 5s the better fishing.
Pictures from the bottom up are Mike: fishing; on Blackrock Pass; and just under Glacier Pass (much easier than it looks and to the left). Mike thought it was a piece of cake. In fact at the summit (Glacier Pass) we stopped to eat lunch and played Gin (card game). We hiked out from Little 5s to Mineral King in one day (and Mike was just 9).
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby calipidder » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:43 am

Thanks guys - like usual, you've given me some things to think about as I finalize the itinerary. I'm really excited to get into that area, having never seen it before (except, of course, from a distance when passing through the other nearby areas).
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:34 pm

http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v4/ ... 0662-5.jpg Black Rock Pass West
http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v4/p33857681-5.jpg Black Rock Pass East
http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s6/v6/p836220152-5.jpg Sawtooth Pass East

I will not recommend any x-country routes since you mentioned you wanted this to be
leisurely trip.
Both lake basins have a lot to offer, and I am sure your husband will enjoy this
wonderful area.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby merlynnmann » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:21 pm

I know it is not easy but consider out of mineral king to glacier pass down to spring lake 1st night then over hands and knees pass to big five lakes 2nd nite. Over to little five and a long day over black rock pass to spring lake and glacier pass and down to your car. I would suggest another nite at spring lake on the way out.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:58 pm

merlynnmann wrote:I know it is not easy but consider out of mineral king to glacier pass down to spring lake 1st night then over hands and knees pass to big five lakes 2nd nite. Over to little five and a long day over black rock pass to spring lake and glacier pass and down to your car. I would suggest another nite at spring lake on the way out.


Glaacier Pass holds snow late in any year and this year ought to be well into August. Hands and Knee Pass aka Cyclamen Pass I touched on above has a class 3 headwall:

http://www.petesthousandpeaks.com/Capti ... sPass.html
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby Phil R » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:09 pm

I think Big Five Lakes is prettier. Didn't fish in either place.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby calipidder » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:59 pm

Hey all - just wanted to resurrect this thread to report back that we had a great trip. Since one of the people who ended up joining us a bit later on this trip is a strong hiker but still relatively new to backpacking, we stuck with the on-trail trip (well, that, and the fact that I couldn't get any recent info on snow at Glacier). We had a great time, and it was a perfect warmup for a 9-day cross-country trip out of Pine Creek I'm leaving for in a few days.

One thing that was a bit unexpected was the incredible fishing - my husband got a 3lb rainbow in Little Five Lakes (fed all of us for lunch after the hike over Black Rock - mmmm), then later that day we had some great golden fishing at Big Five. Last night we were at Columbine and the brookies were biting anything we threw at them. Pretty sure there were some golden hybrids in the bunch too, but no pure goldens were caught. I brought home a ton of extra food on this trip since I kept getting fish for dinner. :)

Oh. The skeeters are still really bad out there. Booo.

Pictures and full trip report to be posted soon, hopefully before I head back out on Friday.
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Re: Little Five or Big Five?

Postby Rockyroad » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:38 pm

Hi All,
This seems like an opportune time to introduce myself. I came across this forum recently and find it to be full of great trip reports, awesome photos, and lots of good information. I'm hoping to share some of my own limited experiences.

I'm actually planning on doing the Mineral King, Timber Gap, Black Rock Pass, Little/Big Five Lakes, Lost Canyon, Sawtooth Pass loop starting this Friday. Since I've never been in the area but have read many accounts of the marmot problem at the trailhead, I was wondering what precautions are recommended for marmot-proofing my car?
1. I've seen photos of tarp but can't marmots just chew through the tarp?
2. I've also seen photos of chicken wire around cars. I was planning on putting wire mesh around my car but the wire openings are 2"x3". (Stupid question coming) What are the chances of a small marmot getting through? Should I get chicken wire instead?
I know it's crazy to have this great trip coming up and all I can think about is the trailhead. Anyways, thanks in advance for any input.

And Calipidder, way to put the pressure on for fishing. Now I'll really feel like a noob if I don't catch anything! :)
Last edited by Rockyroad on Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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