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Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

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Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby sierramel » Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:10 pm

Quennnntic.........
East Side: Baxter Pass and Sawmill Pass. Don't forget Those nasty switchbacks coming down Whitney from Trail Crest to Trail Camp. 101 corners of Misery.
"Some places remain unknown because no one has ventured forth. Others remain so because no one has ever come back."



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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby quentinc » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:09 pm

Mel, thanks for starting this thread! All I remember from Sawmill Pass is that it was full of loose rock at the top and full of soft sand at the bottom, which was just delightful. I've never done Baxter.

If I may slightly hijack this thread, I think one needs to define a "worst switchback" candidate as one that is both unpleasant and unnecessary. The Whitney switchbacks are a nightmare, but the trail does need to climb over 1,000 feet in a very short horizontal distance, so they are at least somewhat understandable. Another unpleasant but understandable stretch (because of the contour of the cliffs you are traversing) is the 500 feet you lose, on the way up the Shepard Pass trail. Here are some that I don't understand (with a small bit of artistic license):

(i) one of the Shepard Pass trail switchbacks between Mahogany Flats and Anvil Camp must be half a mile long in order to gain 50 feet, and takes you completely in the opposite direction of the pass to which you are headed,

(ii) west side of McGee Pass has approximately 8,576,000 switchbacks in order to descend about 500 feet -- it is a new trail and you can still make out (and follow) the old trail, which accomplished the purpose with about 1/5 of the switchbacks

(iii) the last stretch up to Cottonwood Pass (also a new trail, where you can still make out the original, better one) is so ridiculous that, going uphill, I seek out a cross-country route so that I can go more or less straight up. You know switchbacks are bad when you are tempted to cut them going up (in lieu of cutting them, I try to find a route that simply avoids the trail altogether)

(iv) don't notice it so much going up, since it's at the very beginning, but the bottom of the Kearsarge Pass trail from Onion Valley employs the "great circle" theory of airplane navigation, as it sashays from one side of the canyon completely to the other and then back several times.

I'm sure there are many others!
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby sierramel » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:10 pm

I concur..
I just had to start this thread once I saw you mention it as an idea.
How does the north side of Bear Ridge qualify? Granted, it is on the JMT, but its 12, 974 endless switchbacks in the boring woods can be subverted by simply taking the Edison Lake excursion ferry ( ;) ) to the resort, and walking southeast across the dam.
I never minded going down those switchbacks, mind you, but going up?
And as for Baxter Pass? I think there should be a heliport at the bottom.
"Some places remain unknown because no one has ventured forth. Others remain so because no one has ever come back."
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby markskor » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:45 pm

Among many bad trail designs, three immediately come to mind -
Twin Lakes Trailhead: Mono Village to Barney - one long 1/2 - 3/4 mile switchback that gains ~30 feet of elevation.
Tuolumne Pass (out of TM)- at the 10,000 ft. metal sign, one way goes down to Boothe and the other says 1/2 mile to Voglesang but feels closer to a mile and with their great switchback planning, gains and looses the same 500 feet of elevation 3 X.
Cobblestone switchbacks above Merced Lake coming from Voglesang: 2000 foot loss of too-small cobblestone hell.
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby lambertiana » Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:13 pm

My vote for the worst in terms of grueling and poor condition is the drop into Tehipite Valley. When I went down them in 2007, I had done the Whitney switchbacks two weeks earlier, and they were a walk in the park in comparison.
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby Cloudy » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:03 pm

Climbing out of Kern Canyon towards Colby Pass is a bummer - really pretty steep and worn in spots. The climb out of Simpson Meadow heading for Granite Pass is also not very happy at times due to steepness but I guess not really too bad overall when I think about it. I don't mind the switchbacks as such but what really kills me is when they are combined with areas of fist-sized granite cobbles or granite horse-steps...
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:19 pm

Lots of passes mention I have done and are pretty bad, but from the west side, Black Rock Pass is the most exposed grinding grueling endless trudge (starting below Pinto Lake). I would also say the nearby Sawtooth Pass going west to east would be the worst, but I would never do that on purpose.
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby quentinc » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:43 pm

I really hated coming down Black Rock to Pinto. You are tantalized the entire time by the view of the beautiful meadow and stream bed below, you keep thinking the trail is about to drop down onto it, and it keeps tricking you at the last second with another pointless switchback over ankle-torturing small rocks.

Sawtooth is like climbing a giant sand dune, but at least there's nothing the trail builders can be blamed for.
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby John Dittli » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:14 am

Any switchback that goes downhill when traveling in the uphill direction, or vis versa. :retard:

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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby sierramel » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:48 am

Ahh.....
True connoisseurs of the death march....
"Some places remain unknown because no one has ventured forth. Others remain so because no one has ever come back."
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby BSquared » Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:17 am

Ah, what I wouldn't give for a few decent switchbacks in the Green Mountains (Vermont) or the Whites (New Hampshire)! Out here, the (*&^% trails seem to go directly up (or down, which is worse). "Where's the trail" we ask? "Oh, it's that waterfall over there." Sheesh...
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Re: Worst Switchbacks in the Sierras...

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:39 am

markskor wrote:Among many bad trail designs, three immediately come to mind -
Twin Lakes Trailhead: Mono Village to Barney - one long 1/2 - 3/4 mile switchback that gains ~30 feet of elevation.

Are you talking about the ones just above Barney, where you switchback up and then 1/2 mile later switchback down again? I really hated those. (Also hated the the 3 Robinson Creek crossings within 1/2 mile, 2 of which were completely unnecessary...but that's another topic...)
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