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Granny does Roper's High Route IV

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Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:29 pm

Granny does Roper’s High Route 2010
Days 25- 34 (south-to-north)
Roads End Kings Canyon to North Lake

Change of pace; solo again. Acclimated, in great shape and back to a “light and fast” pack, Granny runs up mountains!

Day 25 August 27 (zero day). This is my first no hiking day. Again, it felt off-kilter to be out in civilization. It also amazed me how long it took me to get reorganized! I had forgotten to put the camera battery in Gramps car, so he had to go off the town to find a charger. That little mistake cost us $40 but now we have a universal charger kit that will charge about anything, not that we need it. After a trip to the grocery store to buy cheese and oil we finally got out of town by 11:00 check out time. East of Fresno we again got caught in construction and detours. Arriving at Grant’s Grove headquarters at 2:00 I went in to get a permit. I already had a permit from the Bridgeport Hoover NF but it was going the wrong direction. The ranger was absolutely the best and most helpful. He called the Roads End station and got permission to write me a revised permit, no charge, since I would not meet the afternoon permit deadline if we drove down to get the permit there. I needed to leave at dawn to get up the hot Cooper Creek trail. Waiting in line the next morning for a permit was not an option. Thank you, thank you! We drove down and found a campsite at the nearly empty Moraine campground and then had a nice dinner at the Cedar Grove café before going to bed early.

Day 26 August 28 (8.3 miles, 8.5 hours, +6330 feet). We got up in the dark and drove to the trailhead. I gulped down a cold Starbuck’s latte, stuffed two trail bars in my pocket, kissed Gramps good-by and set out at 5:30. The Copper Creek trial is steep but well graded and I just chugged along taking a short break every hour. There are plenty of water sources along the way so I did not carry much on my back, yet the pack felt heavy as it always does when you re-supply. A youth group passed me on their way down and a day-hiker passed me on his way up. There was no view because of the smoke of a fire in Kings Canyon. It was unusually cool. I left the trail at 11:30 and found an actual horse trail to Grouse Lake. I intended to camp here but the inlet creek I had camped by previously was bone dry and it was still early, so I continued 1.3 miles over the unnamed pass dropping into the next drainage north. At 2:00 I found a nice little campsite near one of the unnamed puddles at 11,000 feet elevation. I fat marmot ran off as I set up the tent. It was cloudy and a cold wind blew. I cooked an early dinner at 4:00 because it was getting cold. In the tent at 5:00, I lay there warm but bored. By mid-evening there was a thick layer of frost inside the tent.

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Camp below Goat Crest Pass


Day 27 August 29 (8.3 miles, 6.5 hours, +1660 feet). I misread my watch and stepped out of the tent at 5:00 (thought it was 6:00!) finding my water bottles frozen solid! I stumbled to the little puddle and scooped up some water and cooked breakfast, freezing while wearing every piece of clothing I had. At times like these I try not to panic- no matter how cold, this time of year it nearly always warms up. At the moment, I had to nearly run in place to stay warm. I was in deep shadows and after packing up the frozen tent I left at 6:45 nearly running uphill to Goat Crest Pass where I finally hit sunshine. Fog was rising from the upper Glacier Lake. Ice-solid snow filled what I preferred to be my descent route, so I zig-zagged down rocky ledges, reaching the outlet of the lower Glacier Lake at 8:20 where I pulled everything out of my pack and set it out in the sun to dry as I watched the fish rise in the lake. I left at 9:10 and found a good route down the cliffs below, staying high on the west edge of Glacier Valley. I had previously taken the wrong route on the east side getting caught in down timber and swamps. I crossed the stream at the head of the second lower meadow and intersected the States Lake Trail at 10:00. I followed the trail north, and to my surprise, the use-trail to Horseshoe Lakes now has an official trail sign! I reached Horseshoe Lakes at noon, again too early to stop. The trails ended. I now headed due north through timber walking up to the steep drop-off. Here I again found an off-and-on use-trail towards Gray Pass. At 1:30 I reached the small pond at 10,700 feet on the bench above Lake 10,236 and set up camp. The site was under a few big trees and more protected than my camp the night prior. There was a bank of clouds to the south and an ominous black bank of clouds to the north looking up LeConte Canyon as I sat in a little slice of sunshine. I later found out that it snowed up there! The weather gods were giving me a break after my rough morning! The little pond is full of tadpoles. A very cold north wind blew, creating fog that rose from the warmer shallow pond. I had nearly all my clothing on even when the sun shone. If the weather were not so threatening I would have liked to hike 500 feet down to the big lake below. By 3:30 the northern storm was creeping towards me. It may have been the damp cold, but unexpectedly I was full of aches and pains – stiff neck, stiff thumb, and lower back pain although my gimpy ankles were improving. By 6:30 the shadows hit and I headed for my sleeping bag. Fog rolled in shortly and dew covered everything. I took out my maps and stared at them even though I just about had every contour line memorized by now. Much later it cleared and the stars were amazing.

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Goat Crest Pass

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Upper Glacier Lake

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Lower Glacier Lake

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View from camp near Gray Pass

Day 28 August 30 (5.0 miles, 7.25 hours, +2540 feet). Before dawn it was clear and cold and everything froze. The sun hit about 7:00 and I left at 7:45 under sunny skies. Gray Pass is a forested saddle with great campsites if there only were water. I traversed downward from the pass to the inlet of the lower lake in the South Fork of Cartridge Creek at 10,300 feet elevation. The lower South Fork is not too impressive but the upper lake is beautiful. Wanting to photograph all the lakes, I simply followed the drainage southeast up to the big lake at 10,900 feet. This is not the most direct route, but the prettiest. Then I turned northeast ascending easy slabs and grass another 800 feet to White Pass arriving at 10:45. In 45 minutes I traversed directly to Red Pass. It was a bit tedious and it probably would have been just as good or easier to drop to the grass and small lake (not on the map) below before ascending to Red Pass. From Red Pass, a trail drops hugging the northwest side of the broad U-shaped gully that leads to Marion Lake. About half way down talus forces you to the southeast side. This is a unique valley lushly green below with red rock above and a beautiful little creek babbling downward. I scouted all the descent gullies and started down the obviously correct gully that now has a distinct use-trail. Near the bottom, trying to scoot by trees on the steep slope, a limb caught my pack and I tumbled upside-down, nearly falling into the lake. I did not get hurt but it shook me up. At 1:00 I stopped at Marion Lake outlet to regain my composure. Next I found the now mostly overgrown trail to Lakes Basin. I soon left this trail to photograph Lake 10,632 where I met a fellow who was very surprised to see me. He had been out 5 days without seeing anyone and I had been out 3 days with no contacts. We chatted a while then I wandered around Lake Basin looking for the perfect campsite. At 3:00 I found a less-than-perfect site at the first upper lake and had a relaxed sunny afternoon. Fish jumped in the lake. It was another cold night- hard to believe it was still August.

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Upper Lake on the South Fork Cartridge Creek

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Red Pass from above Marion Lake

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Marion Lake

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Upper Lakes Basin

Day 29 August 31 (6.0 miles, 7.0 hours +2 hours drying out and visiting, +2400 feet). I was apprehensive all night about Frozen Lake Pass. If I could not get over this pass I would have to do a major detour setting me back a day. I had previously done this pass with an ice-axe and this time I only had trekking poles. I awoke to a totally frosted tent and no sunlight. I quickly cooked breakfast and packed up everything frozen stopping less than an hour once I reached sunshine. Again, I hauled out all the gear and dried stuff. I found an excellent route up a major “slot” joint that intersected the upper lake below the pass, by-passing the two lower lakes. This route was all easy grassy ramps. I thought I saw a person on the pass, but then the apparition was gone! I started calling the pass “ghost pass” as I climbed up the steep talus. I reached the pass at 10:15 and looking down at Frozen Lake there was a real person! I carefully descended very steep talus and then headed for the snow to the right. Soon I was running down the snow. Alas, at the lake, you are not done with the pass; there is another 200 feet of ugly moraine to descend. I finally caught up with the person at the round lake below the moraine. He was also doing the High Route, just starting. We leap-frogged all day, and at the top of Mather Pass, stopped with other people and visited in the warm sunshine for nearly an hour. I stuck to my schedule and camp at the unnamed lake above Palisade Lakes and below Mather Pass as he continued down the trail. The lake where I camped is about half a mile off the PCT and offers peace and quiet among the crowds as well as a great view. Three hikers were gathering water when I arrived at 3:30 and they hung around long enough that I did not get my bath! By 4:00 I found a nice comfortable campsite on grass northwest of the lake. I really enjoyed the day. The sun went behind the cliffs by 6:00 but warmth radiated on the big rock I used for my kitchen. A persistent ground squirrel tried to get my food. It was slightly warmer so I stayed out until 7:30. Aches and pains again called for a 2-Advil night! Although I did not think I was hurt in my fall at Marion Lake, shin bruises now plagued me. I went to sleep to Coyotes howling in the distance.

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View of Lakes Basins on way to Frozen Lake Pass

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East side Frozen Lake Pass

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Split Mountain

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View from camp at lake on north side of Mather Pass

Day 30 September 1 (6.2 miles, 7.5 hours, +2000 feet). I slept well in spite of my lumpy bed. After taking photos in the morning light, I left at 8:00 soon intersecting the PCT and dropped to the outlet of the lower Palisade Lake. I left the trail and became plagued by bad route choices the remainder of the day! Some days it hardly pays to get up. A few years back I had come down this pass in a rainstorm and found an alternate route that did not require any slab walking. I found the lower part of my previous route but missed the key slot to the upper bench. Instead I had to struggle up steep scree and dirt. Once on the upper bench it was an easy walk to the pond mid-way. Descending on the north side, I ended up on a cliff and it was more expedient to lower my pack on a cord than go back up. I stupidly decided to try to circle the lake and angle up to Potluck Pass instead of simply going over the ridge directly to the pass. This alternate route goes through interesting complex benches and meadows perpendicularly across a joint system, quite pretty but did not save any time- in fact it probably cost me an hour. I intersected the pass higher up but still had to struggle up the steep upper scree. Then I over-shot the horizontal ramp to the pass and ended up in hideous rock scrambling that got me nowhere! Given the path I had followed I was not the only fool who ever had done this! Descending the north side I ran into a Ptarmigan, and finally reached Barrett Lake inlet at 3:00. Although I had been on this route two times previously, I sure messed it up this time. I briefly looked for a campsite and then decided that the outlet would be better, even if it looked like there were only rock there. To my pleasant surprise I found an established set of sites right above the outlet. The sites even had a rock oven! I immediately went to the outlet, gathered water and bathed and washed clothes. I knew there would be a fabulous alpenglow on the Palisades and was not disappointed. I was also blessed with late sunshine allowing me a later dinner. Still windy, it was not as cold as the previous night. It was a nice end to a tough day with lots of route-finding errors.

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Lake between Cirque Pass and Potluck Pass

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Sunset on North Palisade from outlet of Barrett Lake

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Lower Barrett Basin lakes

Day 31 September 2 (9.6 miles, 8.25 hours, +2200 feet). It was great to get going with early sunlight for a change. I found the use-trail to Knapsack Pass and managed to hit the right route both up and down arriving at the Dusy Basin trail at 10:00. As I dropped to LeConte Canyon I ran into more and more people. Once on the PCT/JMT it was a zoo. The trail was dusty and horse smelling. It was hot. I soon was bored with the trail walking; I am beginning to really dislike the JMT/PCT. Few hikers I met seemed to be happy – lots of bent backs and heads down. I left the trail at about 10,500 feet to a set of small lakes about a quarter mile west and found a great secluded campsite at 4:00. Being very thirsty and tired, I brewed a big pot of tea. I had walked past these beautiful lush lakes many years ago on a loop trip from Ladder Lake. There were no fish but plenty of frogs. The site was in the shadow of the Black Divide by 5:00. Other than hearing a few hoots and hollers from the PCT, I felt very “off-trail” here. I ran into three big buck deer today; one below Knapsack Pass and two at my campsite.

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View from trail descending into LeConte Canyon

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Camp at small lakes near PCT

Day 32 September 3 (8.5 miles, 6 hours, +1640 feet). There was frost by early morning and the tent was again soaked. After taking some morning photos I left at 8:30 ascending to Muir Pass in the heat under clear skies. The south side of the pass was spectacular; the north side bleak until I reached Sapphire Lake. Wanda Lake was full of swarming gnats and frogs – tadpoles at the upper end and frogs at the lower end. I pondered why this frog distribution, as I walked down the trail. The trail was crowded. I kept passing people from a huge Japanese group. I reached the peninsula at Evolution Lake by 2:00 finding a good secluded campsite but it lacked the view I wanted. I then spent the next 2 hours wandering around trying to find the “perfect campsite”. I gave up and camped within sight of the trail at the outlet. Evolution Lake is a cesspool. After a dead rodent floated up at my bath site, I was really grossed out and walked back up the trail to a spring to get water. I was in a really poor mood. But the sunsets at Evolution Lake would cheer up anyone! I wanted to camp here precisely for this photo opportunity. The night was cold and condensation intense. By early morning everything turned to frost.

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Helen Lake

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Evolution Lake

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Sunset at Evolution Lake

Day 33 September 4 (6.1 miles, 6 hours, +2040 feet). I was frustrated with my soaked tent but packed up wet deciding to dry everything later. I was surprised to again find an official sign at the use-trail to Darwin Bench. I finally hit sunshine at the first lake where two guys were camped. Finally I left the trail and headed for Alpine Col, glad to be alone again. The official High Route goes over Snow Tongue Pass. I had done this section of the High Route two years ago and honestly think the pass is dangerous and had no desire to repeat it. I had not been on the north side of Alpine Col so now I could actually compare the two routes. The route finding at the south end of Lake 11,910 is tricky but having been here before I was able to hit it right on finding the slots that offer easy travel. I was at the base of Alpine Col at 11:00 and at the Col at 11:45 where I pulled everything out of my pack to dry. The north side of Alpine Col is supposed to be the hard part. Other than taking three tries to find the correct route in the mid-cliff section, I found the travel rather delightful. Others would disagree, but I happen to like solid, stable, big talus hopping. You do have to be willing and able to jump the chasms between the refrigerator-sized rocks. I arrived at the north end of Goethe Lake by 2:10 and set up the tent in the windiest spot I could find hoping to reduce my chronic condensation problems with my tent. I just hung out in the sun and soaked in the wilderness for this, my last night, on the High Route. Two day-hikers from Muriel Lake broke my isolation but they soon left and I was again at peace. I had again unwittingly picked a site with early evening shadows.

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Upper Darwin Bench Lake south of Alpine Col

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Goethe Lake camp

Day 34 September 5 (5 miles, 3 hours, +70 feet). For the first time in days, the sun hit my site early and the tent was dry. I left at 7:00 and met very few people considering it was the Labor Day weekend, soon reaching Piute Pass. As the morning passed, the trail became crowded. I reached the North Lake trailhead at 10:00 but still had to walk half a mile down the road to my poor car that was covered with three week’s of dust. Thankfully it started. A truck was idling next to me as I pulled out as there were no parking spots. I quickly left and pretty much drove straight home. I really wanted to get home before the end of Labor Day traffic. After all those days off-trail, I managed to have my worst accident tripping over a cement parking strip at a rest stop! I was both glad to get out and see my family again, and sad that my adventure had ended.

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Muriel Lake

Concluding Comments

There are many alternatives and off-trail “routes” through the high Sierra, Roper’s High Route being only one. Each person should find their own specific path. I do not think anyone who chooses to do the High Route should feel bound “purity” of route. It was also never intended to be an athletic event or contest to see who could do it the fastest. The spirit of the High Route is exploration and deep appreciation of the Sierra. The time-table and exact route each person selects should be based on whatever it takes to achieve the spirit of the route. There are however advantages of doing the route in one time-block, particularly if you can do it without a night out in civilization. You have the chance to really acclimate and get in shape, making the off-trail travel much more enjoyable. A continuous time frame is quite aesthetic and lets you “feel” the seasons in the Sierra. Each day’s terrain is fresh in your mind so that you can compare and contrast really getting a feeling for the variety of terrain. And the longer time-frame allows adaptation so you feel really at home in the mountains; gone are the uncomfortable transitions from civilization or anticipation of return to civilization. There have been other long off-trail routes in the mountains that have been more challenging and rewarding than the High Route, and although not my all-time favorite, it certainly is up there near the top of my list!



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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby Cross Country » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:01 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with your concluding comments. This was obviously an epic trip. I have been to the majority of the places on this trip. My trips always had fishing in mind so they were quite different than yours. I loved going to all of these places. Oddly enough my favorite picture was of Goat Crest Pass. I went over it 38 years ago and because I went in July of a normal snow year it looked identical with the snow and tarn. In all those years that pass, snow and tarn have been etched in my memory. What a pleasure it was to read you TR and see pictures of all those places treasured in my mind. Thank you so much.
Last edited by Cross Country on Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby BSquared » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:04 pm

Wow, what a ride! Thanks SO much for a great set of TRs and photos, Daisy!
Last edited by BSquared on Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby maverick » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:22 pm

Darn, to bad it came to an end!
I like JT have been to all the places in your epic trip, and wish I could get as much
time off as your had.
I completely can relate about adjusting to civilization after being out for so long.
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby Mike M. » Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:28 pm

Wandering Daisy:

I greatly enjoyed all four of your reports. Thank you.

In 1980, I did my own version of the High Route, solo, starting at Mosquito Flat and ending in the Whitney area. I started with 23 days food on my back and met my brother at the South Lake trailhead on Day 23 to pick up the final 17 days of food. I invented my own route, having never heard of Roper's "High Route." My route included Hopkins Pass, Gabbott Pass, Italy Pass, Steelhead Pass, Alpine Col, Enchanted Gorge, Goddard Creek, Reinstein Pass, Davis Lakes Pass, Thunderbolt Pass, Potluck Pass Cirque Pass, and Russell-Carillon Pass, among others. I would go for days and days without seeing a soul. It was an enchanting and totally immersive experience.

Hope you solve that tent condensation problem before your next trip. Funny, unless I'm hiking in early spring or in winter, I only take a tube tent and only use it when I absolutely have to (I like to sleep under the stars). We ran into some weather this year (in mid August) and were forced to pitch our tube tents three different nights -- only had condensation issues the last night (August 29th), which was wet and very cold, even at 9000 feet. Adequate air circulation is the key!

Mike
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby windknot » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:41 am

Thanks so much for the rest of your report! For many people, this is truly a lifetime's worth of Sierra experiences in a single trip. Having only been to a few of the areas you passed through, your pictures and words are a point of inspiration for me and the trips I hope to take in the future.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:07 pm

Bringing this forward.
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Re: Granny does Roper's High Route IV

Postby hikerchick395 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:12 am

Thanks for bumping these...I missed them the first time around. Great, and inspiring, report and pics.
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