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Beck Lakes

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Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:00 am

Just reserved a permit for Beck Lakes Aug 5-8 for two of us. I've never been in that drainage or the King Creek drainage further south so despite packing into the Ritter Range a long list of times, this will be my first adventure into this southern zone.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.62402,-119.14415&z=14&t=T

We had a 9-day trip planned across the Silver Divide but I've shelved that plan for this summer to save PTO days in case I need to visit a relative who has been ill. Thus mulled over a list of short trip ideas and came up with this basin. My bro is an avid fisherman and I'm expecting some decent rainbow action in the 8 lakes in that zone. Lakes less visited than the more famous ones north.

I'll set up a Wednesday night box permit pickup. After the long drive from the SF Bay Area, we'll sign and grab the permit, drive over pass down to the Postpile, and immediately start a night hike 1.6 miles 540 feet up to the trail junction below Johnson Lake that is outside the wilderness boundary that we might reach by midnight. Both of us habitually rise early dawn so ought be well up the trail by sunrise. Seeing how the horse trail is not that efficient, at the crest of a knoll at 2880+ we'll vector off crosscountry to cut over a saddle at 2940+ making a short cut to forested Superior Lake (saving about 300 feet of up/down) we will enjoy most of the day and camp at Thursday night. Notice several ponds se of the lake to check. May ramble over to Noname and Holcomb too.

Then Friday at 4:30am will climb up to Nancy Pass, wandering a bit east on the ridge and set up the view camera for sunrise and early morning pics. Back down in the canyon we'll move up to the west end of lower Beck Lake where I expect to camp a couple nights. I see an intersting unblocked pond up high west of Holcomb that I hope to climb up to in the morning for pics down on the two lakes that also might provide Ritter ridge line and dawn/dusk views.

I had ordered a really lightweight Big Sky International tent a couple months ago but I cancelled it due to product delays. Instead yesterday I ordered a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 which is a freestanding tent even lighter at 2.3 pounds. Also ordered four of those 1.5 ounce polycryo ground sheets from gossamergear many have talked up. that I ought have in my hands next week and will bring out on this trip. If any of you have been in that zone, please comment.



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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:31 pm

Hi Dave

Here are some shots of the area which should help Dave.
Nancy Pass from the South: http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10 ... 5290-3.jpg
Nancy Pass form the North: http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v14/p82482955-3.jpg
Superior Lake from Nancy: http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v9/p73052931-3.jpg
View towards Beck: http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v14 ... 2572-3.jpg
View toward Ashley and Iron Mt.: http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v14 ... 1005-3.jpg
Lots of skeetrz in the meadow around Superior Lake.
Let me add that the Minaret Creeks southern branch on the northern side of Nancy
back toward the small lake, and beyond looked like some good photo opps.
Lake above Holcomb is cool, Ashley was my favorite in the area, especially from the
ledges east of the lake, and the cool little water fall/cascade on the Iron Mt side.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:48 pm

I thought you could drive down to Devils Postpile and up between 9PM and 7AM but not park. It would be nice to know if parking is legal and where I would park because I am going there in August and thought I had to do the shuttle bus. I would need to park my car for several weeks. Is that legal?
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:23 pm

Thanks mucho Mav, think I've checked out most of those nice pics. Am expecting the viewpoint from between Nancy and Red Top to be excellent as it is very nice from the south fork basin below you mentioned.

Wandering Daisy wrote:I thought you could drive down to Devils Postpile and up between 9PM and 7AM but not park. It would be nice to know if parking is legal and where I would park because I am going there in August and thought I had to do the shuttle bus. I would need to park my car for several weeks. Is that legal?


If that's the current situation now then things have changed during the last few years? In the past one has always been able to drive over during the night and park. Don't expect that to change as there has always been abundant trailhead parking at the two main spots of AM and DP to do so. Most of the car problems on that road have been due to impatient at shuttle bus speed campers (those camping at DP are allowed to drive the road) going back and forth up to Mammoth on daily snack food and beer runs. The other day I went to the shuttle bus site and was somewhat disappointed with some of the information there. They have always seemed to try and conceal the fact one can drive down at night. Some years ago they began making backpackers pay when they drove out during the day which was a change from the early years when it was free. So there isn't really a monetary motive for them anymore.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:49 pm

I believe if you drive down before 7 am, or before some one is in the booth, and
leave after no one is in the booth, than you do not have to pay.
I also believe you can park at the Agnew Trailhead, I saw cars parked there, but
you should still call just to confirm, things change all the time, especially with
todays cash strapped economy.
Your welcome Dave, and yes a large pano from there would be great.

PS I sent you a PM
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:10 pm

Reading the curent Inyo National Forest Red's Meadow Shuttle page one not knowing otherwise might think backpackers were not allowed to drive over Minaret Summit even after shuttle bus hours. As I noted above, for years they have been hiding information that explains after hours access, leaving such privileges to those that can manage word of mouth or find info on other websites. The following NPS site clarifies that stating backpackers can still park at trailheads by driving down after hours:

http://www.nps.gov/depo/planyourvisit/r ... mation.htm
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:13 pm

Getting close now. Permit reservation came in the mail last week. Now Friday July 30 end of the month and its pay day too haha. Tomorrow will be editing in some new items for my gear checklist, printing it out, and finding out how everything fits into the pack. Unlike the image on the backpacking Photo Gear page on my web site, in order to reduce weight, I am not going to be piggy backing my view camera daypack on the back of my big REI pack. Instead everything is going to go inside the latter. That includes new lighter tent, sleeping bag, ground sheet, and tripod head. (Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, Marmot Pinnacle, polycro groundsheet, Giotto MH 1001) Also have the Fenick HP10 now, retiring the old Yukon HL to car duty. Brother will be carrying one of my two Garcia's while I'll have an Ursack. Will be taking some fishing gear though. Just bought several Kastmasters and dry flies. Taking most all the gear on the Photo Gear page including 6 film holders, plus Canon G10, a 32 inch diffusion disk, but will not bring my 270EX flash.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:17 pm

Looking forward to your TR Dave, have a safe trip.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:10 pm

My brother Joe and I backpacked into the Ritter Range Aug 4 thru 8. A 4 night 4 day trip from Devils Postpile to Beck Lakes. From where I live in the south SF Bay Area after a day at work, twas a long 300 mile drive made a bit longer as I chose to go over Sonora Pass instead of Tioga since my annual NP pass had ended. At 10pm picked up the permit at the Mammoth VC night box and continued on to the trailhead arriving about 10:30pm. Was annoyed to find backpacker cars have now been banned from the empty during the night trailhead parking lot and instead have to park one-third mile back up the road. Would be interested in finding out whose idea that was? There are way way more parking spaces at the trailhead than usual backpacker cars so it cannot be because backpacker cars are taking needed spaces of the far more numerous daytime visitors. Actually most of them ought to be riding the shuttle busses. At a minimum they ought to allow a small section for say a half dozen small vehicles down at the trailhead. That would probably satisfy 90% of backpackers driving their cars in during night hours. Backpackers have to pay in any case just like everyone else now that is $7 a person if they drive out while the Minaret Summit kiosk is open. After making final adjustments to our packs, that wasted another 15 minutes walking back down to my pack after parking so we didn't leave till 11:05pm PDT or an hour later than I guessed.

Temperature was in the mid 50F's, near moonles night, and the hike with flashlights uneventful. Both carrying a bit more than 60 pounds, we hiked from the 7.5k elevation the two miles to near the Ansel Adams Wilderness boundary at about 8.2k in about 85 minutes that included a few short breaks. Of course alot of my weight is a heavy view camera and big tripod. And my brother just has alot of heavy gear ie big tent, he needs to replace. Then in big red firs and lodgepole, wandered a ways off the trail enough to make the likelyhood of a bear noticing us less likely. Not surprisingly not one mosquito appeared the whole way reflecting their tendency to become scarce later at night. Although I carried up a full Nalgene of water, never took a sip till the next morning. In 15 minutes I had my new Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 up and before 1am was dreaming.

Thursday morning 8/5 we were up at sunrise 6am after solidly sleeping much of the 5 hours, packed up and were moving up the trail at 6:20am. A cloudless sunny morning with mild breezes. I'm an early riser, usually eat little or nothing for breakfast. and as we began the trudge in morning cool up a dozen big switchbacks, dumped out half my Nalgene water contents as I also tend to drink way way less fluid than experts say people exerting themselves ought to. As someone habitually tuned to the nuances of topos, I quickly noticed the USGS map trail was rather inaccurate and began to make notes in order to redraw it later. Trails in this zone are all uniqely soft pumice courtesy of Mammoth Mountain. With all the ground up horse turds mixed in, these trails are rather dusty for those traveling behind others. After climbing the 1k plus up steep forest via switchbacks, the gradient eased off, squeeters appeared, and we soon passed the quite dry streambed draining mysterious Lost Dog Lake. Another half mile along we reached the healthy stream,draining eastern Red Top Mountain. The zone has rich pumice volcanic soils, rather lush with wildflowers, so had planned the trip for peak wildflowers in the 8k to 10k elevation range. A bit further along we vectored off the trail and took a shortcut over the obvious 9650 saddle to traverse down to the trail below Superior Lake. Nice view of Iron Mountain and its grayish brown metavolcanic geology along that route about 9:30am taken with my Canon G10:

Image

Slowing and stopping considerably, at about 11am we reached the lake at 9357 feet 6 miles from the trailhead, rather weary from the last rocky quarter mile of trail. Noticed one group at the lake we later met on the trail and a tall solo backpacker apparently on his way out. So there according to my plan to revive strength for a final push, we lounged snacking then semi napping until about 12:15pm.

Image

Leaving Superior left about 500 feet and a mile and a half to reach our tentative camping zone at the west end of lower Beck Lake at 9803 feet. A strong wind moving downslope from the west had moved in. Along a cascade on the stream, we met a fine group of oldsters from the camp noted that had come in on mules and who graciously shared some snacks while chatting with us. The trail up does not follow the one shown on the topo but rather stays south of the creek until reaching lower Beck. Then crosses through a jumble of talus and an obvious use route skirts cliffs until reaching a pleasant grassy area on the northeast shore. Had read about the unpleasant talus required to reach the backside of the lake and indeed it lived up to its notariety. So for several hundred feet of the north shore, mostly small to medium sized metamorphic talus mixed with scree slides down from steep heights directly in deep deep depths of the lake. One cannot simply traverse the slopes as it is too loose and steep in many sections. Of course carrying a heavy pack through talus is far more difficult and dangerous than packless so we carefully took our time monkeying on all fours and stopped alot as we were already quite weary. Without ice axe and crampons, a route on the steep south shore is also not an option until snows melt late season. I doubt any deer or bear are capable of reaching those areas because it takes a monkey to maneuver through talus and that also eliminates most people. In fact we saw no footprints so were the first to reach that area this summer.

Eventually we reached the promised land about 2pm in a grove of mountain hemlock within lush wet talus seeps. Unfortunately there were no tenting spots even close to flat and level anywhere below any of the several groups of trees. Were flat spots well above the lake but they were without shade. So opted for tenting on unlevel shaded terrain. Not much a bother to me but was something my bro rather disliked given his tendency to slide about at night. In the next few hours we made camp, made dinner, jumped in the stream out of the upper lake to get clean, then retired to revive in our tents.

Mosquitoes were of course abundant. Dressed in usual battle gear covering everything but my hands and face, I had up to that point avoided getting bitten until after jumping in the very cold stream that washed off any remaining DEET. We chose to jump in there mid afternoon because it was an open windy area that few squeeters would be about. And indeed that was the case but when I returned to my tent in the wind protected hemlock area, I had reasons to be outside the tent briefly and a couple bit me then. Once inside my tent I went to sleep at least a couple hours. About 7pm with fishing rod rigged and a 1/8 ounce gold/blue Kastmaster dangling on my 4 pound test, wandered down to the lake edge and immediately caught this near foot long rather strongly black spotted mature male rainbow:

In an hour caught and released 14 rainbows, most in the 10 to 11 inch range though saw two 14 inchers.

Image
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The following three days we had three good trout and rice mid day lunches with the one below Friday noon. And I managed to expose 22 sheets of Provia with my view camera. Will need to write that part of the adventure in coming days.

Image
Last edited by SSSdave on Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby cvr » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:14 pm

Thanks for the report. I really enjoyed it. I have visited all of the King's Creek lakes, except for Superior and the Becks; Ashley being my favorite. I think the area is underated relative to the justly very popluar areas just North. I have wanted to check out Beck Lakes and it sounds like it is worth doing. Maybe an early season 3-day next year.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby maverick » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:20 am

Looking forward to the second half Dave.
Cvr I agree with you on Ashley, it is an overlooked lake which is quite beautiful, and
does not get close to as much attention as 1000 Is, Minaret, or Ediza, which may be
a good thing.
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Re: Beck Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:12 pm

Crude flatbed scans of a few modest 4x5 Provia 100F transparencies:

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150mm Nikor 8am August 6, 2010 Upper Beck Lake, red mountain heather, arctic willow and turf.

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150mm Nikor 9am August 6 Upper Beck Lake, corn lily, aster, paintbrush, senecio, yarrow, mountain hemlock.

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90mmm Caltar 5pm August 6 Lower Beck Lake, Piersson's paintbrush, white heather, red mountain heather, cinquefoil. In the background is the 600 foot length of dangerous steep metavolcanic talus and scree along the shoreline guaranteed to filter out all but billygoats.

Image

150mm Nikor 8:30am August 7 Noname Lake and Iron Mountain.

Image
Small crop of slide of Minaret Lake from 2 miles south atop ridge above Superior Lake.
Last edited by SSSdave on Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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