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Best 5-night backpacking trip?

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Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby adornowest » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:12 pm

Two friends and I are planning a five to six day backpack the week of August 15. We figure we can do a five or possibly six night backpacking trip. We are flying into the Bay Area (so west side hikes are preferable), and are trying to figure out what are the best backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada. We are looking for spectacular scenery (mountains, meadows, lakes – it is all good) and at least a decent dose of solitude. So we’ve ruled out things like Raes Lakes, which look amazing, but seem to be way too crowded. Ideally we’d find a loop, but out-and-back works well too. (Point-to-point is more iffy as we don’t have transportation to and from unless a shuttle service runs.)

In terms of our experience, we have a variety of experience on multi-day backpacking trips. Using the forum classification scheme, I’d say we backpacking level 2.5. We’ve not done much off-trail stuff before, but we are interested in trying some if it isn’t too difficult and if the scenic rewards are worth it.

We’ve been looking at various guidebooks, but we are hoping for some of your expert feedback on where the best trails are. Mike White’s books, which I see mentioned in a lot of the forums here, have so far been the most helpful. Some things that have caught our eye include the Little Five and Big Five Lakes Loop, Florence Lake to Martha Lake and then to JMT via the Ionian Basin, Rowell Meadow to Giant Forest with sidetrip to Nine Lakes Basin (if we can arrange transport), and exploring Dusy Basin. The Martha Lake half loop was looking pretty good, but I see people in another topic are saying Evolution Valley isn’t all that great.

A bit more strenuous trips than those hikes listed here are fine too – I’d say an average of 10 miles a day or less and about 2500-2750 feet gain. (Like another hiker, we’d love to do the Circle of Solitude, but don’t have enough time.)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!



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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:53 pm

Hi Adornowest

Welcome to HST.
First, I would not recommend the Ionian Basin for a first time crack at cross
country travel, it is rocky and tedious travel, and you need good navigational and
route finding skills to explore this area.
I just checked (earth google) and the lakes in the basin are still frozen with quite
a bit of snow on the ground.
Big Five and Little Five Lakes Loop out of Mineral Kings is gorgeous with mountains
lakes, meadows, and if you like fishing you will enjoy it all that much more.
The Rowell Meadows to Giant Forest would take you through some pretty country
though you will not see Dusy Basin on either of these trips since it on the western side
of the Sierra Crest out of South Lake (Bishop Pass).
I would recommend doing the trip out of Mineral King in which you would
go counter-clock-wise up towards Franklin Lakes, Little Claire (visit Amphitheater
Lake), Big Five, Little Five, Black Rock Pass, Spring Lake, Pinto Lake, and Timber
Gap back to you car.
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby adornowest » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:46 am

Thank you very much for the reply, maverick. This trip really looks good. We obviously need to get better maps if we are going to do it, but from Spring Lake do you recommend backtracking to Black Rock or following the valley toward Pinto Lake?

Thanks again!
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:54 am

Back to the trail from Spring, down to Pinto , and Timber Gap back to car.
Here is the view looking down at Spring Lake from near the top of Black Rock
Pass. http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v4/ ... 0662-5.jpg
You could go down to Spring, then climb up to Cyclamen Lake, and then up
to Columbine Lake by staying above Cyclamen's eastern side.
You then would go over Sawtooth Pass and then down towards the car or stay
at Monarch Lake if you are tired.
View east from Sawtooth Pass (Columbine Lake which should have be called Guitar Lake):
http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s6/v6/p836220152-5.jpg
Get the Tom Harrison Trail Map of the Mt. Whitney High Country.
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby adornowest » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:22 pm

Thanks again, maverick. Those photos look spectacular. We are strongly considering doing your suggested route.

I see that "Trekking California" lists a x-c route from Roads End up Sphinx Creek to South Guard Lake, then in toward Lake Reflection and back to the JMT. The book lists this route as "strenuous" in the sense of tiring, but he says that "the terrain is surprisingly accommodating. There is not a lot of loose talus and brush, and much of the walking is on glaciated granite slabs... the four passes require class 2 scrambling." Do you think this is accurate, or do you think this route is unwise? (I should clarify I spent four or five days doing x-c dayhiking in Denali, and have done some more minor variants elsewhere.) I'm thinking we could potentially do that loop and then Rae Lakes. (Incidentally, is Rae lakes really as packed as White makes it sound? He gives the loop a solitude score of 2/10!

Again, thanks so much for your help!
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby adornowest » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:35 pm

Ok, one last question (I promise). I see that the "Trekking Ca" book has a somewhat similar itinerary to the one you suggested. The basic path is: Mineral Spring, Sawtooth Pass, Lost Canyon, Big Five, Little Five, HST at Big Arroyo Crossing, Morrain Lake, Kern River to Rattlesnake Point, and then back to the trailhead via Rattlesnake Canyon, Franklin Pass, and Fraklin Lakes. Would you prefer the route you outlined to this one?

Thanks again! I (we) really appreciate your help.
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:39 pm

Longley is the only pass that you may have a cornice block that can be by-passed if it is
still an issue by the time you go, otherwise the x-country is easy going.
Getting across Bubb's is never any easy deal especially with the water levels higher
than usual this year, but with a little scouting down stream there are areas that can
be crossed by the middle of August.
If you camp near Rae Lake/JMT than it may be crowded, but just go up to Dragon Lake
for some solitude, or go to 60 Lakes Basin, but the skeetrez should be out in force so go
prepared.
I am not familiar with the book you listed, but I hope this is the route you were thinking
of, and not going up Harrison Pass, and then over Forester Pass, though a gorgeous route
Harrison is not an easy pass, and snow/ice may be an issue, and if not then loose rock
and steepness will be.
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:47 pm

I would not recommend ascending Sawtooth because of the long, steep, and sandy trail
descending this pass is much more preferable.
I can almost slalom down in the sand when descending Sawtooth Pass.
I like Soda Creek much more than Rattlesnake, especially with the lakes like
Amphitheater, and Claire.
So to answer your question, I prefer my route, more lakes, and constant scenery.
By the way, feel free to ask away, that is what I am here for.
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby adornowest » Thu Jul 29, 2010 12:48 pm

Thanks again, maverick. We've narrowed it down to your Mineral King route and the "Northern Yosemite Loop": Twin Lakes, Peeler Lake, Seavey Pass, Benson Lake, Rodgers Lake, Benson Pass, Matternhorn Canyon, Matterhorn Pass, Horse Creek Pass, Twin Lakes. Have you done that route? Which would you recommend it vs your Mineral King route? Do you think it is fair to say that this route has more trees while Mineral King is more pure mountain?

Thanks again!
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 29, 2010 1:08 pm

Yes I have done the NYL, as a matter of fact I just recommended it in the
"3-4 days in late august...need suggestions" thread right below this one.
If you considered that route do it clock wise not counter clockwise, Benson Pass
is not fun.
Comparing the two, I would definitely go with Mineral King, and this route does
have trees, except for the Black Rock Pass - Spring Lake- Columbine Lake section.
Here is a shot looking east from one of the lakes at 5 Little Lake, and yes there are trees.
http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s6/v5/p471858040-5.jpg
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby giovanni » Thu Jul 29, 2010 2:33 pm

does the mineral king route involve some x-country? always wanted to hike in mineral king but I'm a strictly on trail guy
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Re: Best 5-night backpacking trip?

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:00 pm

Hi Giovanni

No it does not if you disregard the Spring Lake to Columbine Lake described here
just follow the trail down from Black Rock Pass to Pinto Lake and through Timber
Gap and back to Mineral King parking area.
Here is a shot looking east from Black Rock Pass in which you see the 5 Little Lakes
and a lake from the 5 Five Lakes to the right, also the trail to the left and lower down
in the middle of the photo:
http://maverick.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v4/p33857681-5.jpg
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