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Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

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Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby sluggo » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:18 pm

I have a 3 day backpacking trip planned about a week from now, and it goes something like this:

Day 1: Wolverton to Hamilton lake (~9am start)
Day 2: day hike to Precipice lake, enjoy, and then hike back to base camp at Hamilton Lake
Day 3: Hamilton Lake to Wolverton

I'm mainly wondering if the stretch from Wolverton to hamilton is doable in one day for a level 2 hiker in reasonable shape.

thanks



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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:28 pm

sluggo,
It's pretty much 17 miles from Wolverton to Hamilton with most of the elevation gain at the end. It's certainly "doable" in one day, but I'd recommend getting an earlier start. There are plenty of plan B options, if you do not make it to Hamilton (Bearpaw meadows, etc). But, I'm really fond of Hamilton, and it's worth the exertion to get there. If not, it will still make a great day hike (with or without Precipice).

The one concern this year is you may be affected by the Lion fire (check out that thread). Recent webcam shots up the Kaweah drainage have looked pretty hazy from the smoke. That will affect both your breathing and the views.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:45 pm

sluggo wrote:I'm mainly wondering if the stretch from Wolverton to Hamilton [Lake] is doable in one day for a level 2 hiker in reasonable shape.

Well, I would think just getting beyond Panther Gap will take a lot out of you (its a pretty steep trail to that point), and you would not be exactly skipping along by the time you got to Bearpaw. Depending on how late you got to Bearpaw, if you had a major rest of an hour or two, you might get up to Hamliton Lakes before dark. It would not be much fun, and it would be a slog. If you just got off the JMT or the PCT, no problem. Otherwise, this plan may border on a death-march for most. After all it would be from Wolverton to Hamilton, 13.5 miles, 5179 foot gain and 4244 foot loss. Coming back would be marginally easier. If you do it, pace yourself, rest often, and be flexible in your planning and execution.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby sluggo » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:09 pm

thanks for the great advice. I'll look into the lion fire and also the physical demands of the hike (sounds similar to half dome but with 20 additional lbs on the back).
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:10 pm

sluggo,
Um, I'm not quite sure where Doyle got those numbers, but my recollection is Wolverton is ~7,000 ft and Hamilton is below 8,500 ft, so your net gain is <1,500 ft. Maybe Doyle has a program that counts every step up and every step down? Also, at least from the markers on the trails, the mileage is very close to 17 miles. But, it's a very flat, very pretty trail and I know plenty of folks who have made it to Hamilton in a day. With the earlier caveat about smoke, it's a great place to reach even in a state of semi-exhaustion (waterfalls should be sublime this year). Oh, and there are nice campsites along Lone Pine Creek, if you cannot make it to Hamilton and want to avoid crowds in Bearpaw.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:22 pm

cgundersen wrote:Maybe Doyle has a program that counts every step up and every step down?

Yup. My program tallies all gains and losses (hence total gain and loss) and over the years has proven to be very accurate. Unfortunately, it is not available any more. Harrison map totals are hit and miss in my experience.
Yeah, I have known people who have gone to Hamilton Lakes in a day, but they tended to be exceptional.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:41 pm

I have done both Wolverton to Hamilton and Crescent Meadow to Hamilton in a day. You have to start early and steadily keep moving, but I did not think it was that bad. On the trip from Crescent Meadow I was carrying heavy climbing gear (rope, cams, harness, helmet, etc for a technical climb). On the trip from Wolverton I had a light pack. I have calculated the elevation gain both ways, and unbelievably, it is not that much more to go in from Wolverton. The route from Crescent Meadow has hundreds of small ups and downs and Merhten Creek had to be waded twice. Merhten Creek is avoided from Wolverton. There used to be a sign discrepencey- you hit one sign and then shortly hit another where you "gain" a few miles! I do not know if that still exists or has been corrected. The last climb up the south facing hill before Hamilton Lake can be very hot and it is nearly impossible to get water at the creek. The bridge is way high above the creek so you have to make a little side trip to access water. The trail traverses a lot and I have found that when I use the TOPO program to calculate elevation gain, it overestimates on traverses because a slight mis-drawing of the trail will cross a contour. You really have to do it the old fashioned way- count the times the trail goes up over a contour line. It is a good trail and you can really make miles on it. I made it to Hamilton Lake in 8 hours, each time. Best is to pick up your permit day before, so you can get an early start. On the second day of the trip from Wolverton I actually climbed Mt Stwewart and then went on and camped below Black Keweah. Third day I climbed Mt Lawson and walked back to Buck Creek to camp. So your trip to Precipice Lake is really not a whole-day trip. The class 2 climb of Mt Stewart from Keweah Gap is a nice climb.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:52 pm

I'll second WD's assessment that is doable, but echo hers and other comments that an early start is a good idea owing to the length of the hike. I have done Crescent Mdw to Hamilton on day 1 of an 8 day trip with a pretty heavy pack (ca 50lbs plus). I've had harder day ones but this certainly was a strenuous hike, and I had put in several warm up hikes to get myself in shape before the trip. I would hope that you have at least one "warm up" backpack trip in the Sierra under you belt before you do this one. This would be extremely harsh if this is the first trip out the gate for anyone in your group.

WD-On my second day we also went for Mt. Stewart, but we were turned back fairly high up by thunderstorms--they wreaked havoc on that trip, cancelling climbs of Mt Kaweah on two different days and cancelling a hike over the shoulder of Kern Point to Lake 11482 on another.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby quentinc » Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:07 pm

If you do Mt. Stewart, find out in advance which side is the true summit. I shot for the north side and when I got there, the south summit looked higher. So I traversed the ridge top (which was a real boulder whack), got to the south side and the north side looked higher. I never did find a register.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby calipidder » Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:57 am

From my GPS tracks:

Wolverton to 9 Mile Creek: 8.4 miles Up about 2200 ft and down about 1800 (yes, you wiggle up and down a lot, even though it feels like you're just climbing).

9-Mile Creek to Precipice: 9.8 miles. Up almost 4000 ft. vert down about 1200 ft.

So from Wolverton to Precipice it's about 18 miles, over 6000 ft of vert gain and about 3000 vt vert loss.

Subtract the values for the hike between Hamilton and Precipice (about 3 miles and 2200 ft gain with negligible loss) and you're looking at about 15 miles to hamilton with almost 4000 ft of gain. I'd consider hiking that in the middle/end of a trip but not as a first day. I wouldn't have any energy left for the next day.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 28, 2011 12:54 pm

I think it depends on your condition, if you are acclimated, and the weight of your pack. I did my 4-day trip with a 21 pound pack- no tent, just a bivy and walked out last day without any trail food. It does seem like a lot on paper, but I really did not find it that bad. I did not start out planning to get all the way, just kept on truckin' and got there in 9 hours. It is not at high elevation, and the trail is very good. I was 50+ in age when I did it and I do NOT have long legs! I agree, not Day 1 if this is your first trip of the season! But for an experienced hiker, going light, it certainly is do-able. To me, getting to Hamilton Lake is worth it, just to camp at that awesome spot. His second day is short, so sleep in and you do not need tons of energy just to get up to Precipice Lake. I personally would rather push the first day. To each his own. On the other hand, some people do not care much about views from camp and just going by Hamilton Lake on the way to Precipice is fine for them. At any rate, start early, go down the trail, if you get to Hamilton Lake, great, otherwise stop short and you still have plenty of time to get to Precipice Lake on a day-hike. PS- I absolutely hate the camp at Bearpaw-- much better to camp on Buck Creek or on Lone Pine Creek.

Also, there are several bear boxes along the way and at Hamilton Lake and at the lake. I did not carry a bear cannister. Not sure the rangers allow you to go without a cannister anymore.
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Re: Wolverton to Hamilton Lake

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:38 pm

Some good advice here from some very experienced people.
I have done this trail numerous times for various reasons and destinations: Most of the time coming back down that trail from elsewhere. I have gone from Tamarack Lake to Crescent Meadow in a day several times, and from Hamilton Lakes to Crescent Meadow in a day a time or two as well, and it was no big deal at the time. Then again by then I had been on the trail for more than a week, my pack was lighter, and I was stronger than when I started, so piece of cake. And every time going back I was glad I did not have to hike back up that hill to Wolverton. But I also have started from Crescent Meadow and got to Bearpaw with my then 50 pound pack and was tired and thinking, "Boy, I sure would like to stop here, but camping here sucks" (as I found out the one time I did camp there).

Since Sluggo says he is a level 2 and it is a first day hike and maybe the first of the season for him/them, I suggest, sure go for it, but if he is tired by the time he (or his group) gets near the Bearpaw area, take advantage of the excellent camps suggested in this thread, next day get up early and bomb up to Hamilton Lakes where they will probably have all kinds of time to do a day-hike. Getting back will be a doable slog, and if they start at Crescent Meadow, that would be easier in my opinion.
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