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Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

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Re: Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu May 12, 2011 9:01 am

We did a climbing trip to Sky Blue Lake June 16-21 2006. I suspect snow conditons would be similar early July this year. We went in via Cottonwood Pass and out via New Army Pass. We were all experienced climbers and had ice axes and crampons, and needed both. Cottonwood pass was fine due to all the trail breaking of the northbound PCTers. New Army had a cornice and we had to use our climbing skills and gear, and lower packs. The climbs were not something I would take anyone on if they were not experienced mountaineers. We did The Miter and traversed the Pickering-Newcomb ridge. There were plenty of dry spots to camp on. Here are a few photos.

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Sky Blue Lake from the Miter

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Snow cornice on New Army Pass

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Mt Newcomb

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Sky Blue Lake from the shore



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Re: Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

Postby scottg1178 » Fri May 13, 2011 9:49 am

Nice pics Wandering! That's awesome that you have the experience to get up there early in the season. It's great to see that area before it begins to thaw out. If your up there this year i'd love to hear about it.

Thanks for making a post Gunny....The more I get to read about the sierras the better! Would love to hear about your trip up there as well.

Scott
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Re: Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

Postby SPeacock » Fri May 13, 2011 11:58 am

In recent (many years) including a few heavy snow years, by Father's Day (right around 'start' of summer) the trail to Cottonwood Lakes from Horseshoe Meadows is visible(except for an occasional 4' berm). Traditionally that was the weekend the family (8 and 10 yo) started the season with. There will likely be snow free spots to camp at - around Muir Lake. Any trail above 11,000' will be covered with snow and would take some cross country route finding skills. Both New and Old Army have spectacular cornices. Getting around them until end of July would be an adventure. I (and 14yo daughter) have gone directly up the chute to Old Army Pass (and the other chute toward Langley) in May. Crampons and ax would be a good thing to have along, but I've seen foot kick holes with treks for those obviously not 'packing'. Generally in and around Langley if you were to stay below 11,000' you will have trail or an obvious way if you have been there before.

Going around the south below Cirque Peak you can expect Cottonwood pass to have snow on it until mid July. The Mitre (Soldiers Lakes) are above 11,000 and the route to them from Cottonwood stays quite high for a good portion of it. If not snow, they will be wet. An alternative if there is too much snow there, is to drop into Big Whitney and go over Siberian Pass to pick up the snow there for the last few miles to the Mitre.

Currently the snow pack at Cottonwood Lakes indicates a June hike. But if you have been there before and can figure the way, its a good hike as soon as the trail head road is plowed. I'd go up Cottonwood Creek to just past the Golden Trout Camp and head for the upper meadow if deep snow. Just take care that you don't fall through into the creek. It will be running fast. If it is melting fast (prints might be gone later), and you are a titch paranoid, you might want to take along some red tape to tag decision points where you have been. Clean it up on the way back. It is a wilderness area so anything you put up is an eyesore. There may be some left over from skiers this year.

Generally the additional snow such as this year will delay most snow free trail travel by around two weeks. The passes delayed by perhaps up to a month. I'm planning on a late June hike up to Long Lake (probably will be mostly frozen) and on snow up to the pass. It is my favorite early summer day hike for friends who haven't been up to the Sierra. On a good melt day it can be spectacular with the water coming down from the surrounding 12-13,000' ridge.

Another favorite June day hike is up the Shepherd Pass trail. It should be clear up to near Mahogany Flats for a lunch and perhaps a snow walk up to Anvil camp. Another water show trail. Just make sure the dirt road to the trail head at Symmes Creek is usable for 'city' cars. There is no drinking water on the trail for about 4 hours.

If Cottonwood Lakes are open, then a good day hike up from Onion Valley to the flats above Pothole Lake and the last grunt up to Kearsarge Pass would be a good lunch stop. This will probably clear last as there is a lot of shadow on the trail above Onion Valley. I'm going to guess that there will be a lot of snow (as well as foot prints) on that last traverse to the pass up through July this year. The new trail down to the lakes will probably be obscured until mid July.

Those are my prognostications. I'll let people know as I get up there if I'm first - doubtful that.
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Re: Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

Postby scottg1178 » Fri May 13, 2011 1:42 pm

Thanks for the wealth of info. The warm weather throughout Lone Pine and Bishop should speed things up a bit....but you like said a midseason storm would eliminate that.

I actually don't mind having to hike through a little snow here and there....its when I don't know the trail very well that it becomes a bit of a danger. Thats why I made this post originally to get a better idea of when the first people start heading to the Cottonwood Lakes area. Since I have never hiked this part of the Sierra's I want to make sure that there is some what of a direction to follow in.

....As far as Long Lake, i'm with you, I like to make that my first hike and get up there as soon as there are a few small sections to fish. I will be up there June 23-25th with plans to make the trek.

If you like Long Lake check out my Trip Review in the "Fishing Hole" forum, I posted it the other day. The hike I did last year was in early June and there was a lot of snow. The title of the Thread is "TR: Long Lake"
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Re: Snow Level Information: Cottonwood Lakes/Long Lake etc..

Postby GunnyJC » Sat May 14, 2011 5:25 am

Those are some really helpful & informative posts...thanks Wandering Daisy & SPeacock! While I'm keeping the route I described above as option A (fingers crossed), I need to start looking at other options for my group that would be free of any difficult snow travel but still get them up high enough for some great views. For now I'll just keep monitoring the situation & hope option A comes through. Keep the info coming as you get it & thanks again!
Semper Fi!
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