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dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

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dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby NiKu » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:02 pm

Hi all,
I am planning on doing the following trip starting Aug 20: South lake/Dusy basin/palisade basin/amphitheater lake/ dumbbell lakes/lake basin/bench lake/Taboose pass. I have read some threads on HST and this whole area sounds amazing. My question regards two of the passes on this trip, Cataract pass and dumbbell pass. From my reading it sounds like these are the more difficult passes on my route (but still all class 2). I know this is a heavy snow year, I have seen it first hand on some recent hikes I have done, so should I expect these passes to be fairly tricky this year? Think everything will be melted by then? People have mentioned a cornice on cataract pass, any info on this? We are all experienced hikers but not everyone has an ice axe.

Also, could it be difficult to cross palisade creak on our way to cataract creek?

Thanks for any info you all might have!



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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:25 pm

Are you all experienced "off-trail hikers"? Are you familiar wtih what "Class 2 Pass" means in the Sierra? The south side of Cirque Pass down to Palisade Lake is no walk in the park. The north side of Dumbell Pass has lots of loose talus and tricky route finding, but if you make it up the pass from Amplitheater Lake, Dumbell Pass will seem pretty easy (the pass from Amplitheater is the one pass I have not done but it sounds quite difficult). South side of Dumbell Pass is really easy. I think all in your group need to have an ice axe and lots of experience on steep snow. You did not say how you are getting from Dusy Basin to Palisade Basin - Knapsack or Thunderbolt pass? This is a signficantly challenging route and I am a mountaineer, not just a hiker. I suggest that you have a "Plan B" and do not hesitate to back off if things are more difficult than you expect. Hard to say what snow conditions will be, or if there will even be snow, by late Aug.
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby hikerduane » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:34 pm

I did about the first half of your trip a few years ago, dropping down I guess to Amphitheater Lake and looped around back to the Dusy Basin and a few more days at lakes between Bishop Pass and South Lake.

Stay high after topping out on Bishop Pass. You can go down a little, then contour around a little, loosing a little more elevation. You want to stay up so you can go over Thunderbolt without having to gain elevation again. You can also stay fairly high and make it too without the climb back up. I joined a mountaineering bunch after I topped out on Bishop Pass led by an old experienced climber out of Bishop and I stuck with him to Thunderbolt. They had spent the night to the north of Bishop Pass, whereas I had come in that morning. We watched a few of the younger guys stay much higher than us and they did fine. Where we were at, you could see a route they stayed on. We had to regain elevation. The other passes to Palisade Lakes were not too bad, just have to get info on whether to go left or right after topping out, a little time consuming to work around rocks, dragging your pack, doing the butt slide over them and all. I poked holes in my pack where the canister was.

I stayed to the left when still half a mile from Palisade Lakes, made it, but after being down and reading some the past few years, it is easier if you stay to the right when you get down lower, avoid drifting to the left. My maps don't show the passes, so I'm not sure where they all are, I did go over Cirque Pass and the other one in that area, can't remember it's name at the moment.

I did manage to drop down to Amphitheater Lake, south of Mather Pass, would not go that way again. That was risky what I did getting there. Found a cool spot or two along the Kings River that I am sure no one visits as they are on the JMT Highway.


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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:13 pm

Of the two passes, Cataract is more difficult owing to the cornice or cornices that block it well into many seasons. Dumbbell Pass (is this the pass btw Dumbbell Lakes in Lakes Basin--If it's not, then disregard the comments that follow) commonly has snow in it but the snow is low angle and probably eases travel (by covering talus blocks) rather than impedes it. The Cataract Pass cornices, on the other hand, if they are present, require improvisation, including possible detours into class 3 climbing with a full pack (depending on what the path of least resistance is to avoid the cornices).

There are several threads somewhere this forum that show photos of, and discuss, the routes to Amphitheater and the Dumbbells. My wife and I really enjoyed going over Knapsack and bombing down the Barrett Creek slot canyon (and using this route on return) en route to Cataract Creek, Amphitheater and the Dumbbells in 1993. This route has proved to be pretty unpleasant to others in the years that followed (choice comments about this in other threads), so perhaps that is not such a good way (now). One way or another, after taking more backpacking trips than we can remember and visiting hundreds (really) of lakes, Judy and I still regard our trip to the Dumbbells as our finest ever, but as others have said, this is a difficult destination by any route. Our trip in late July 1993 (a heavy snowfall year) appeared stopped dead in its tracks at least twice: once when we thought Palisade Creek was uncrossable (it would have been were it not for a conveniently placed giant log) and the other when it appeared that a junior cornice blocked our alternative to steer clear of the "senior cornice" (meaning of this will become very clear when you look at this pass) blocking Cataract Pass. The wedging and brute force ramming through between the junior cornice and rock to surmount the pass is probably the most athletic move my wife and I have ever done with full packs.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby maverick » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:51 am

Hi NiKu

Please read the "Rules for requesting trip advice" section above.
This is a rugged area that should not be attempted by a novice, and until you do not
give more information about yourself I do not feel comfortable giving any info, as others
who have all ready posted should also consider!
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby NiKu » Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:00 pm

Thanks for all your replies. HST is an incredible resource for hiking the sierras. The info posted confirms what I believed, that this is too crazy a trip for one person in my party. While most people going on this trip would be more than fine with the conditions you all explained, one member may not. I will have to save this trip for next year and limit the trip to the very experienced hikers. I think we will do a Humphreys Basin/ French Canyon adventure instead. I have always wanted to return to that area.

Thanks for allowing me to pick your brains!
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby Cross Country » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:42 pm

I believe your choice to save this trip for another year is prudent. I went over this pass 2 times, the 2nd time in 1993 when giantbrookie went. I went a month after he did. The pass still had a snow cornice and my 2 sons and I followed Secor's alternate route and it seemed almost dangerous to me. The first time I went I was alone and there was no cornice and it still was, to me, a bit scary.
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby mokelumnekid » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:20 am

I have done this in parts- went over Bishop Pass-Knapsack Pass to Amp. Lake in 2006 (and bitched at giantbrookie about descending the burn in lower Barrett Ck.). We crossed Cataract Pass on a day hike from Amp. Lake. It had a steep and vexing cornice that I would not have enjoyed with a full pack. So be thinking about the alternate route which looked sketchy in other ways. But also since the Palisade Ck. fire, the (abandoned) trail to Amp. Lake is almost impossible to find once you cross the JMT at Palisade creek. Be prepared to bushwhack through burn until about halfway up the canyon to Amp. Lake when the old trail reappears. Pics from that leg of the trip here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mokelumnek ... 267738316/

Last year we went into Dumbbell Basin from Lake Basin, and so went over Dumbbell Pass. It might be a bit tricky finding the right route up from Dumbbell Lakes as it is very steep class 2 at the start with few ducks. (It is really easy to find going S-N as long as one stays left right at the very top). See pics of that trip here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mokelumnek ... 305050081/
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby Cross Country » Mon Jul 19, 2010 1:57 pm

Our trip in Aug 1993 to dum-amp was my all time favorite. My two sons Mike and Jim were the oldest they ever were when I went with both of them. The weather was a little cool for camping but nearly perfect for hiking. The fishing at the dumbbell lake shaped like a fish was superb. We went to Lake Basin, a place I had never been. The mosquitoes were minimal. We day hiked down the river from the Palisades creek junction where I had never been. Once by myself I went to amp. and to the lakes under observation peak alone. Mike, Jim and I once went to Bench and Striped Mt. over Taboose. My wife and I had been to Ladder Lake.
We arrived at amp. 2-3 hours before 2 other men. I saw the cornice on the pass and told my boys that we were going to have to backtrack and go over the golden staircase route (to me vastly inferior to the Cataract - dumbbell passes route). We were very disappointed. Fortunately the two men had the Secor book which I had never seen (it was new). It described an alt. route and so we were able to complete our trip as planned. The best fishing at amp. was not from the large lake. The fishing in dum. (mentioned above) was great. I wish we had taken a layover day and fished Lake Basin. It was not the first trip for which I made that kind of comment.
We hiked out over Taboose Pass.

Mike and Jim at the bottem of Dusy Basin.
M n J at amp.
Every trip needs fish.
Observation Pk.
Marion Lake
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:56 pm

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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby mokelumnekid » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:43 pm

Maverick- great shots but folks need to be sure to understand that the beautiful smooth "saddle" that appears in the center/left Dumbbell Pass (lower part) pic is not the way up (or down) because there is no easy way to traverse the lake to get there. The route to the pass is just around the edge (west) of the downward right-slanting ridge that pokes out into the lake instead, that then heads up to where those snow patches are. This is a low snow view....
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Re: dumbell lakes and amphitheatre lake

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:01 pm

Thanks Mokelumnekid.
My intent here is not to show the route, but just the lay of the land, and bring back
memories to those who have been lucky enough to visit this beautiful section of
Kings Canyon.
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