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Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

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Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby mammoth80 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:01 am

Thanks for all the great information on this awesome forum. I love high mountain backpacking and fishing - it's nice to see others that share my passion. I recently became a scoutmaster (working with 14-15 yr-olds) and I was disheartened to hear that none of them had ever been backpacking before. Just a lot of car camp overnighters and summers at structured scout camps.

I decided that that just won't do, so we're doing a 5 day trip to the eastern sierra (for proximity to Socal, ruggedness, and scenery) the second week in July (7-12 to be exact, dictated by the confluence of everyone's schedules).

I am an avid map reader and trip researcher, and I'm having a blast planning this out. I've done numerous backpacking trips, including 3 to the eastern sierra - Cottonwood lakes, Moonlight lake out of Sabrina, and Whitney. Per the guidelines for trip requests, I'd say I'm a level 3+, as are the other 2 leaders, but since the boys (we'll have 4-6) have never been, they're more like a 2. They're athletic (and teenagers w/ energy to burn), so they should do fine, but I should probably stay away from difficult x/c travel or snow traverses.

Since it's their 1st trip I'd like to keep it easy and fun - not a death march. I'm thinking 4-7 miles a day, two days in, layover day, then two days out (15-25 mi). So mostly Class 1 hiking. My prime concern would be to keep it safe. I don't mind if it's hard/steep, just no exposure or potential for broken legs. I've also told them I'd teach them to fish, so I'm looking to camp near a fishable lake each night. (Main interests: lakes, fishing, big mountain scenery).

We plan on car camping at the trailhead the night before to acclimate. We probably won't do a shuttle unless it's really easy to set up. Loops are great if they're available, but out and back is fine. I'd like to leave the afternoons mostly free to fish, explore, and visit nearby lakes and small peaks. I'm limiting my search from Horseshoe Meadow to North Lake, unless there's a compelling reason to make the longer drive further north.

On a normal year we could go virtually anywhere, but with the high snow pack this year (I've been monitoring the other threads) it makes mid July more like late June. Most trips go over >11k' passes that are likely to have snow. My concern is that we'd run in to something that is impassible, dangerous, or just miserable for first-timers. I've narrowed it down to 5 choices and I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions on which ones might be doable and/or recommended in our time frame. Probably need to get permits ASAP.

1) Cottonwood lakes TH - South Fork L., over New Army (probably not doable), to Lower Soldier, and back. (I'd do Cottonwood pass but I hear Chickenspring is fishless)
2) Onion Valley TH - over Kearsarge pass to Kearsarge L. or Charlotte L.
3) South Lake TH - over Bishop Pass to Dusy Basin - may require some x/c
4) North Lake TH - over Piute Pass to Humphrey's Basin, possibly to Desolation L. (lots of >11k travel, potentially lots of snow)
5) Big Pines TH - partial loop through the Big Pine Lakes. (this is the safest bet b/c it doesn't go over a pass, but we'd be relatively confined to a small basin for 5 days)

Side question: which of these require bear canisters?

Thanks for all your help.



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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:34 am

Welcome aboard Mammoth80!
All the locations that you listed are great, especially 2-5, #1 would be great with a trip
into Miter Basin, but this year it would be to early.
I would recommend that you add the Minarets to your group, Agnew Meadow>Shadow
Lake>Lake Ediza>Garnet Lake>1000 Is Lake>High Trail>Agnew Meadow, even though
it is further north, out of Mammoth.
Very good fishing, outstanding lakes, some of the scenery in the Sierra, and no passes
involved.
Would recommend bear canisters to all locations, and be prepared for mosquitoes!
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby quentinc » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:01 pm

I would avoid #5 -- as you say, you'll be confined to a small basin for 5 days. Personally, I think 2 days is enough for that area, although it is beautiful.

Chicken Spring Lake isn't much of a draw, but you could still go over Cottonwood Pass and down Rock Creek, as well as visiting Soldier Lake. Industrial strength mosquitoes, but that's kind of unavoidable. (NAP won't be doable without ice axes.)
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby paul » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:23 pm

I'd go Bishop Pass or Piute Pass. In both cases, better wandering around potential once you are over the pass than Kearsarge, IMHO.
Bishop Pass has more interesting lakes on the way up to the pass than Piute, but it's a little higher. Piute pass is the mellowest ascent and descent, and Humphreys Basin is spectacular and huge. and I think Piute pass/humphreys basin sees somewhat less people than Bishop pass - though that difference may not be much. on the whole, I'd say Piute Pass, but you won't regret either choice. Bring plenty of bug juice and I'd recommend headnets as well. Be prepared to hike on the snow, but you'll find plenty of bare ground to camp on. And bring and use extra sunscreen due to the snow.

Canisters - I believe that Bishop pass area has canisters required, while Piute pass does not - but I would take canisters myself in either case, as it's so much simpler and so much more reliable.
Have fun and great to hear you're getting those boys out there!
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby East Side Hiker » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:26 pm

When I was a Boy Scout, we did the JMT two summers in a row. I was 11 and 12. I eventualy got my Eagle Scout award, and Richard Nixon "signed" my Eagle card. What a trip, because eventually I got to vote against him.
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby mammoth80 » Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:30 pm

Thanks for the replies. I seriously change my mind about 5 times a day about which location is my front-runner and which to eliminate. I need to get permits ASAP, but I don't want to sign up for a snow slog-fest or be unnecessarily curtailed into a sub par trip.

What would Humphrey's or Dusy be like in a typical late June? Being above 11k' I'd imagine there'd be significant snow coverage.

I've eliminated 1) Cottonwood-NAP for this year, and maybe 5) Big Pine lakes since it's doable as an overnighter. But thanks to maverick and some suggestions from friends I'm now considering the Mammoth area. 1000 island looks good if we can get permits for Agnew. Another suggestion I got was big Mcgee lake, has any one done that one before?
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:54 pm

Mammoth80 wrote "What would Humphrey's or Dusy be like in a typical late June? Being
above 11k' I'd imagine there'd be significant snow coverage."
Snow, and more snow in June!
Dusy Basin is gorgeous, as are of coarse most places in the Sierra, but the views
west towards the Black Divide, and of the Palisades to your east right close up, is just
riveting.
So many pretty lakes lakes, especially Lake 11393 after a clearing thunderstorm at
sunset with the alpenglow reflecting in the lake is breathtaking, and Rainbow Lakes
are also worth visiting while there, so make sure you do visit this magical place later
in the year on a 4-5 night trip.

Mammoth80 wrote "1000 island looks good if we can get permits for Agnew."

If you get to the permit station early or before it opens, especially on a Fri or Sat, than
you should have no problems scoring permits the day of your hike.

Mammoth80 wrote "Another suggestion I got was big Mcgee lake, has any one done that
one before?"

Pretty place, but doesn't touch Minarets in beauty, and variety, unless of coarse
you jumped over one of the x-country passes to visit Grinnell Lakes , Hopkins Lakes, or
Pioneer Basin, but that is not a trip for the inexperienced, and even in July you'd have
snow.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby Jimr » Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:40 pm

If I were to take a small handful of scouts for their first trip and chose Piute pass route, I think I'd take them to Muriel Lake instead of Desolation lake. The northern side of Humphreys basin is a high, treeless plateau. A beautiful place, but a desolate place. Muriel, on the other hand, has the knarled stands of trees clumped here and there, typical high sierra at treeline. It is tucked right up against the divide for rugged mountain scenery and there is an easy cross country scramble up to the Goethe lakes. Just keep them off of the talus along the left side of the lakes and they'd have plenty of scrambling opportunities with limited avenues to wander off into lostville. IMHO
P8160291.JPG
Desolation L

P8180331.JPG
Muriel L
What?!
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby East Side Hiker » Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:09 pm

The high passes from the East Side will be snowed in for a long time - I don't know if any of us can predict what this summer will be like considering this is the second year of heavy snow. But it seems that we've seen some good pictures of high, wind-blown slopes that are snow-free. Its not that bad to slog through a couple miles of snow, but if you're in a forested area and you have 5 miles of snow, that'd be a drag. I guess you can somehow find a good camping spot and warm up and dry out...

I think that by the second week of July, it'll all open up, and the flower show will be fantastic. Maybe even in some places, at 9,000', it'll be the second week of August. The alpine will be fantastic this September. Sonora Pass should be cooking by the first or second week of July. Look for dagger pod and anemone, amoung all the others.
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby hikerchick395 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:22 am

Here is Long Lake on the Bishop Pass trail last year June 21st. Lots of snow past the inlet. Expect these conditions the first of July this year. (maybe not the ice on the lake, but the snow...)
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby mammoth80 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:01 pm

I've decided to leave the "high" high sierra for future summers with the scouts. Thanks for all the input. Lakes and passes above 11k will likely have considerable snow and many of the boys don't have proper gear yet.

I plan on doing 20-25 miles around 1000 island lake and vicinity near Mammoth. I'd like to see as many lakes as we can and try to camp at the less crowded ones. Is it better to go out of Agnew Meadows or Rush Creek? Suggestions for routes?
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Re: Eastern Sierra passes - mid July

Postby oldranger » Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:38 pm

m80

Did I miss something? You are talking about 7 people and you do not yet have a permit? You'd better check quotas before selecting. Half of total quota (usual amount saved for day before/day of start may be less than 7 people for some TH. In case you have issues with getting permits on the east side, midweek permits are almost always available for one of the entry points from the Sunset Meadow TH just w. SEKI. This gets you into Sugarloaf Valley/Ranger lakes (lakes range from 8600 to about 9400 ft.)area and could meet your desire for a loop trip (at least a lolipop with a short handle. I suspect there will be some snow but it should be doable by after the 4th of July unless we are in for a new ice age. You pick up permits at Grant Grove.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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