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Granny does Ropers High Route II

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Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:38 am

Granny does Roper’s High Route 2010
Days 6-13 (north-to-south)
Rafferty Creek to Devils Postpile

Day 6: August 8 (9.5 miles, 7.25 hours, +2000 feet). Today’s travel was all on major trails with another afternoon thunderstorm. The weather gods are being kind to me – confining the storms to trail days! At 5:00 I awoke to extremely condensing conditions. Anything put outside got soaked. I packed a soaked tent and left at 7:00. Later in the day at a rest break I dried out everything. I passed a few hikers who were doing the High Sierra Camp circuit. A group was camped at Vogalsang Lake. The pass was spectacular as usual and I reached the Bernice Lake trail junction, debating whether to take the side trip to the lake or not. Since clouds were building, I decided to continue down the trial. I filled water bottles at the falls at Florence Creek and continued down Lewis Creek – a beautiful clear creek with wonderful pools. I would have loved to camp here, but it was still early and I needed to make miles so that I could spend time tomorrow in the upper lakes of Hutchins Creek (one of my side trips). I climbed the steep trail to the bench above the Merced River, walking into black, as thunder clapped in the distance. I know one of the streams crossing this trail had water, but could not remember which! Luckily it was the first and I found a nice campsite just as the skies opened and rain poured down at 2:30. It rained most the afternoon and cooled. For the first time I put on my wool sweater. I wish I brought a book as I sat in the tent all afternoon during hail and rain. I was reduced to picking fuzz off the Velcro on my gaiters for entertainment.

Day 7: August 9 (5.1 miles (plus day-hike), 4.5 hours, +1180 feet). This day I veered off the official High Route to camp at the upper lakes of Hutchins Creek – an area I passed through a few years back and really wanted to revisit. It would cost me a day but was well worth it. This morning the air was dry- now dew. This is a good sign. I traversed upward to Hutchins Creek a bit too high – not a grave error, but I did get caught in may little ups and downs through the very complex joint pattern in the rock. I certainly hit this route better last time when I descended it. I finally dropped into what I call “The Slot”, a major joint that offers easy travel between the lowest lake and the higher lakes. I arrived at noon and wasted half an hour checking out campsites when my initial spot was the best- in fact not too short of paradise! This basin is beautiful, lush and full of wildflowers and unique little terrain features that offer great photographing. A nice breeze kept down mosquitoes and I could not ask for better weather. I took off to explore the upper lakes, giving myself a 2:30 turn-around time. I reached the next-to-highest lake among the white granite peaks. Although all the peaks and lakes are unnamed, these are as spectacular as any “big name” lakes and peaks. The basin is so perfect – so “sierra”. There was no sign of fish, but all lakes had abundant frogs. I nearly stepped on a bird and deer tracks were all over. All the walking around having fun left me exhausted as I hopped into the sleeping bag at 7:30. I pondered what route I would take the next day- the route over Adams Pass or drop to the trail. (photos below all of Hutchins Creek lakes)

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Day 8: August 10 (6.2 miles, 7.5 hours, +2425 feet). By morning I was in a conservative mood and chose to descend to the trail down Hutchins Creek. I wanted to get to Blue Lakes in time to enjoy them. The drop down “The Slot” to the lower lake was perfect. I then waded through the creek and descended rock slabs on the east side before crossing to the west side dropping into the Lyell Fork. I had been here before, but I still got fooled! Instead of staying high on the slabs I dropped too low and was channeled down the edge of a tight rock slot ending up having to cross on a log to the south side of the Lyell Fork. Then all hell broke loose. NASTY! I bashed through willows, steep dense forests and ugly talus until finally reaching the trail about 100 feet above the river. OK, one mistake for the day. On the trial, it was up and up forever! Finally the trail reached the upper bench and I followed a nicely marked use-trail to the unnamed lake north of Forester Creek where I ascended the inlet drainage and traversed to the lake below Forester Pass (I have heard others call this Blue Lake Pass). There was much snow on the pass and conditions were perfect so I utilized the snow, reaching the top at 1:30. Previously I descended this pass more directly, climbing down a more technical route. This time I wanted to follow the “guide-book” directions of traversing higher before descending. The official route was not that great; I actually like my short-cut route better. I found a great campsite at 2:30 and settled in. The chilly breeze forced me to put on all my clothing. The view of the back side of the Minarets is spectacular. Last time I camped here there was another couple; this time I had it all to myself. Having had a hard day, I just sat in the sunshine and soaked in the view. I spotted a few minnows in Blue Lake. It was a particularly hard day on my knees with two long descents.

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Blue Lake

Day 9: August 11 (6.3 miles, 7.75 hours, +2670 feet). Blue Lakes gets wonderfully early sunshine; it was a pleasure to pack up in sunlight. The section from Blue Lakes to Twin Island Lakes took me 8 hours the first time I did it a few years back. I made every route-finding error possible! Reversing the route I was able to do it in 6 hours. This time, I did it in 4 hours. Practice make perfect. The “pass” now has a big cairn. This time I traversed high above the unnamed lake west of the lower Twin Island Lake. The High Route officially crosses the outlet of the lower Twin Island Lake. I prefer to circle the west shoreline and cross the inlet that is full of small fish. Although one tricky cliff must be crossed, from the inlet crossing there actually is a use-trail with a good view of the upper drainage and it also goes all the way to some abandoned mines on a bench west of the Ritter Lakes. I bumped into this trail a few years past when doing an early season trip up North Fork of the San Joaquin. The waterfall from this bench is impressive; in fact the rest of the route to Ritter Lakes is just full of waterfalls. I found rusted cable and lots of other mining debris on the bench. I could have camped here at an established site under big trees. Instead I pushed on, scheduled to camp at Ritter Lakes. I spaced out and failed to turn right in time, finally catching this mistake that added about 400 feet of elevation gain. I reached the lowest tiny still snow-bound Ritter Lake below a waterfall at 2:45. I wandered around the snow-bound lakes for campsites. Persistence paid off – I found a nice dry grassy flat spot at 3:45. The cold wind was howling as I set up the tent. I then walked around, mostly on snow, trying to figure out how I was going to get out of here! Steep snow blocked all routes out. I finally found a route traversing some rocky benches to the outlet area of Lake Catherine. I washed clothes but it was way too cold to take a bath! It was a logistical mistake to camp here, because I still had to walk across a snowfield at the outlet of Lake Catherine and it would need a few hours of sunlight to soften. Oh well, too late now. I hopped into my sleeping bag at 7:00, in the shadows, wind howling. In spite of the long and difficult day, I really enjoyed the travel, soaking up the scenery as I walked along. Early evening and I was already cold! Winds calmed later in the night. Everything froze.

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Lower Twin Island Lake

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Ritter Lakes

Day 10: August 12 (4 miles, 5.25 hours, +1000 feet). My campsite never got out of the shadows! What a cold morning. I did not get going until 9:30. Luck was with me; I reached the snowfield at Catherine Lake outlet and it was soft enough to walk over. I had to cross “crevasses” that were a 2 feet wide and about 20 feet deep. The entire block was about to fall into the river! Then it was boulder hopping along the shoreline full of little nasty gnats. Having missed the use-trail at North Glacier Pass, this time I spent the time and found it. As I descended tons of day-hikers or climbers were coming up the other side, making the same mistake I previously made. After three days totally alone, I now ran into the crowds. I passed Thousand Island Lake, went over the pass north of Garnet Lake and then up White Bark Pass, the top 50 feet requiring rock scrambling. Then it was an easy descent to Nydiver Lakes where I camped. I found a nice spot by 3:00, took a bath, washed clothes, and organized my stuff in this impressive setting under Mt. Ritter and Mt. Banner. The wind suddenly died at 5:30 and swarms of little gnats flourished. Fish jumped. By 6:30 the sun slipped behind Mt. Banner and the bugs left. This was a short, somewhat lazy day – so different from the previous day. Instead of a frigid wind tunnel, today I enjoyed shirt-sleeve sunshine. But I sure set the tent on a bumpy site! Today my travel had a feeling of just wanting to “get there”. In some ways, the High Route goes too close to the mountains here – the PCT and JMT trails actually get a better view –you see the mountains looming above the large lakes. Stars were amazing tonight. I was startled in the middle of the night by what seemed like quacking. I spotted the duck in the morning, verifying that I had not lost my mind!

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Gem Lake

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Lower Nydiver Lake

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Minarets from Upper Nydiver Lake

Day 11: August 13 (5.4 miles, 6 hours plus 1 hour wait, +1200 feet). This was an odd day. I left Nydiver Lake at 7:40 and dropped to Ediza Lake because I had never been to this lower lake. To my surprise it was full of people and had a maze of intertwining use trails. I ended up chatting with several groups before heading up to Iceberg Lake where I waited even longer for sun to hit the north-facing snow slope to become soft enough to walk on. I took photographs and waited. Unfortunately the flowers were past their peak and looked a bit weary. Then I saw two fellows coming down – good luck for me – I would use their footprints. I reached the Cecil Lake outlet at 12:45 and had lunch. There was more snow to get around Cecil Lake. Dropping to Minaret Lake I passed two groups of people, one group was doing the High Route south-to-north and delayed me half an hour getting information. Although I had planned to camp at Minaret Lake, by 3:00 I left and headed for Deadhorse Lake. When I arrived at Deadhorse Lake I was glad for my decision. What a unique cirque! It is sort of a mini-Minarets. The wind was stiff so mosquitoes were absent. I washed and bathed and then walked around the lake after dinner. The tent pegs would not stay in the spongy ground so I used huge rocks to stabilize the tent. I purposely picked a windy site so had use all the guy-lines. Flowers in this little cirque were at their peak. There is evidence of day-use but camping is limited. Evening lighting was very unique as the sun hid behind a pinnacle and beams shot out on either side.

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Iceberg Lake

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Cecil Lake

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Deadhorse Lake

Day 12: August 14 (6.4 miles, 9 hours, +1720 feet). Many unplanned turn of events highlighted this day. I left Deadhorse Lake at 7:00, mosquitoes buzzing requiring the head net with the early morning light glaring in my eyes. None of this helped my route-finding as I probably took the worst route ever up Nancy Pass! I am not even sure I was on the proper pass. Somehow I got up with some rock scrambling and then descended a most unpleasant steep slope of brush and scree. At 10:00 I reached Superior Lake where there were horse packers and swarms of mosquitoes. The official High Route takes the trail from here out to Devils Postpile. I had an extra day before my husband would meet me so continued through the lakes to the south. In a hurry to get out of Superior Lake, I aimed too high unnecessarily ascending a ridge and had to drop several hundred feet to reach Noname Lake. It was hotter than hell! I stopped at a little waterfall in the shade to rest and pout. What a mess I made of route-finding so far. I then took the trail to Ashley Lake and a group on horses arrived just as I was taking photos. Well, I can camp at Anona Lake I thought. There I encountered a huge official outdoor group from some college. Well, on to Fern Lake. I arrived and found a nice ledge to take a bath from. Just as I was naked, a huge group on horses arrived at the outlet- it was a group of women only! Camping was limited. And the lake was not that pretty anyway. So down the trail I went. I was out of water and parched for the last two miles to the King River were I found a wonderful campsite at 4:00 and sat in the cool river and drank freely. It turned out that being “kicked out” of the other campsites at the lakes resulted in the best campsite I could have had! There were no mosquitoes and I could sit out in a T-shirt. The river cascades down rock slabs and the volume is good. I did not treat the water. The off-trail travel today was not that great – dry, rocky and hot. This area is probably nicer earlier in the year before it dries out and gets overrun by horse use.

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Leaving Deadhorse Lake heading for Nancy Pass

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Ashley Lake

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Gurtrude Lakes

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King River

Day 13: August 15 (1.9 miles, 1 hour, +410 feet). I quickly walked out reaching the ranger station just as they opened. I called my husband arranging to meet him at the Forest Service office in Mammoth Lakes. It took me 3 hours and 4 different shuttle buses to get there! I managed to “just miss” every one of my connections. After getting a new permit, we drove to Twin Lakes to retrieve my car and then back to Mammoth Lakes to a motel. I accidentally mixed up the food buckets so had to tediously pack the food from the original food list. After washing clothes in the bathtub, I did not get to bed until nearly midnight. I could not sleep in a real bed! Again, this touch of civilization really messed with me. But I was glad to see my husband and looking forward to our next 11 days together.



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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby maverick » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:12 pm

Thank you again for taking the time to post this TR, which takes me to places
that I have visited recently, and some many, many years ago.
Hutchins and the Florence areas are not all that visited, and as you mentioned are
quite scenic.
Nice to see you visited Ashley which is often passed by, which is a pity, because it
is very pretty.
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby adam » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:13 pm

thanks for the great report! I was especially glad to see that the hutchings lakes area is so nice, even though roper describes it as "barren and uninteresting".

this is a bit off topic, but do you know if one can traverse from these lakes to the lyell fork of the merced lakes by traversing at ~10,600 feet along the west slope of peak 12,113? I ask because the satellite photo makes it look like there's some kind of joint or bench here, but of course that's a far cry from knowing it's a decent route!

this is a map of what I'm trying to describe:
http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.71397,-11 ... Lyell%20CA

thanks again for the great photos and detailed route info!
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby maverick » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:07 pm

Hi Adam

The pass is about 4 inches east northeast from the point you have marked, it's west
northwest of the last (highest) lake large in the Lyell Fork chain.
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby copeg » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:44 pm

:righton:
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby BSquared » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:17 pm

I agree with copeg! ;) Really great TR with wonderful pictures. I'm ready to go! :thumbsup:

A question. On your way to Blue Lake from the "High Trail," (Day 8) you say,
Finally the trail reached the upper bench and I followed a nicely marked use-trail to the unnamed lake north of Forester Creek where I ascended the inlet drainage and traversed to the lake below Forester Pass (I have heard others call this Blue Lake Pass).


I'm looking at the Vogelsang Peak 7.5' quad (o37119g3), trying to figure out where this use trail takes off from the High Trail—we're thinking of heading up that way next summer, and I haven't heard anyone else who's been in the area mention a use trail. The "unnamed lake north of Forester Creek" (37°41.334' N, 119°19.110' W, if I'm looking at the correct lake) looks like it's best reached by leaving the trail nearly a mile after climbing up from Lyell Fork, quite a bit farther along than Roper's guide suggests. Does that sound right to you?
—B²
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby windknot » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:57 pm

Nice shots!
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Granny does Ropers High Route II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:04 pm

Bringing this forward.
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