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Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:29 pm
by nwgarner
Back in July my wife and I had a baby, I stopped backpacking in June to make sure I was around to help and I haven't backpacked since. My wife is taking our son to visit her parents for a few weeks so I'm planning on getting out there while she's out of town. I have six days off work to do it and I already have a trip planned but I'm now concerned about the weather.

My regular hiking buddy and I have a trip planned in early October from Agnew Meadows out to Thousand Island lake, down to Ediza and Shadow Lakes and then further down south. It's a four day, three night, backpacking trip with another day after we leave the trail over near Hot Creek for fly fishing. We're planning on sleeping around Mammoth Lakes somewhere the first night just to acclimatize a bit. The trip is planned, permits in hand, time taken off work, however we've been discussing weather at 10,000' in October and would like to have an alternative trip lined up with at least 2 nights backpacking as we still want to camp near Hot Creek on that last night. The trip currently looks like this:
1 day travel
4 days backpacking (short trip out the last day)
1 day fishing and travel home

What do you recommend for a 3-4 backpacking trip in the sierras that keeps us at a slightly lower elevation so we're not battling possible snow and temps in the low 20's? We've been backpacking together for a couple years now and are equipped for 3 season travel but don't want to freeze our butts off.

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
- Fishing
We're planning on bringing the flyfishing gear in with us so streams and lakes are a big plus.

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
One layover day to begin with, 2-3 nights out.

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?
Did you prefer a loop or out and back trip?
Loop is preferable so we're not sleeping in the same place twice and we get to see more.

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in?
We'll be just east of Mammoth Lakes after the trip, so something nearby might be nice but we're not opposed to driving over to Hot Creek after the backpacking trip.

Will you be hiking with a dog?

Thank you for your suggestions,

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:36 pm
by tim
If you're in Mammoth I'd highly recommend going to Iva Bell Hot Springs. The whole route there is below 7500ft (in fact the start at Reds Meadow is the highest point on the trip). Its really beautiful out there (and you can even stay warm in the springs!), but a fairly long way to get there in a day. We (my 9 yr old twins and I) took two days to come back (more uphill) but they were pretty short days (6 miles each). We actually did the whole loop from Duck Pass to Reds Meadow, but if you want to stay low then you can go out and back from Reds Meadow. If you have 4 days then you could go to the Hot Springs the first day (12 miles), go up Fish Creek and camp there (~6 miles) the next night (there is a nice campsite on the south side of Fish Creek at the bottom of the Minnow Creek cutoff trail), then come back via the Minnow Creek trail and Lost Keys Lakes (perhaps to Island Crossing so the last day is a bit shorter). That would make day 3 about 9 miles and day 4 the same.

This is our trip report: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5344&p=33221" onclick=";return false;

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:17 am
by windknot
My usual haunts in October are spots in the Desolation Wilderness. Almost everything is below 9,000 feet, the summer crowds are gone by then, and since everything's so close together you can devise as leisurely or as strenuous of a trip as you want within any given area. With a 3-4 day trip, you could do a very nice loop from most of those trailheads.

Oh, it's also a quite nice area for fishing, too. Just read back through older threads in the Fishing Hole forum. :)


Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:40 am
by Ozark Flip
Keep your trip as-is, just go prepared for the worst. And, as windknot mentioned, cruise the fishing forum for alternate ideas, focus on spring threads where folks are inquiring about lower elevation, early season trips. Good luck both on your backpacking trip and Hot Creek. Hot Creek in October is fantastic! Some ex-coworkers and I used to spend a few days on Hot Creek every year in October just flyfishing and hanging out. Great memories.

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:32 pm
by nwgarner
Thank you all very much for the suggestions. We're going to get together this weekend to review our plan, this helps out a lot.

Can you recommend a camping spot by Hot Creek for us those last couple days?

Thank you,

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:43 pm
by Wandering Daisy
I am not sure going lower is much help. If a big storm hits the Sierra, the only difference would be rain versus snow. Personally, I am not fond of either! The main thing I do is to plan the route so that I can quickly and safely bail-out of needed. In other words, no difficult high passes that have to be crossed just to get out. Also be careful where you park your car. I did a late season trip once and parked my car at Sonora Pass and it snowed. I just hunkered down for 2 days. Found out later that they actually closed the road for 2 days! If I had walked out I would have been stuck at my car. As it turned out, the day I walked out, they re-opened the road.

Also, nowadays, with the good weather reports, you are not likely to be caught if you are only going out 3-4 days. I use the NWS website to check condtions.

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:43 pm
by sierramel
I second Iva Bell.
I've lived in and just down the road from Mammoth for nearly 30 years. You can always go fishing in Shark Tooth and Fish Creek just down and across the ridge from the springs as long as the water level is decent. The altitude is about 7 grand at Iva Belle, and in early to mid-October the apens are turning color in the canyon and near the springs and can be pretty spectacular.
Iva Bell has some nice hot pools scattered around the meadows there, and if the weather turns you know you won't freeze. I went there in late May one year for a few days with a couple of friends (had to hike over some snow on Mammoth Pass to get down to the trail out of Reds' Meadow). We were sitting around drinking (just us three girls) and having a pretty good time when it started to snow. And it snowed pretty heavily the rest of the day and into the night. We just set up our tents, put up a tarp over the fire pit and got into the water. We stayed nice and warm and by the next day the snow had melted off and it was ever so nice.

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:43 pm
by lostcoyote
100 island lake, ediza, shadow, minaret, cecile....

all of those lakes are a 1 day exit if you really need to bail.

i'd keep the trip as is. take a good 3 season tent with a good rainfly and take a WARM sleping bag.
do a 10 day weather forecast in advance from several sites such as intellicast, msn, weather channel.

Re: Trip advice in the Sierras

Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:09 am
by sierramel
If you haven't left yet, check out one of the weather threads here about "storms in the sierra this week".
We're getting rain at 7,000 feet, and the higher elevations above 7,500 may get some snow over the next night or two.