TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop | High Sierra Topix  

TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

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TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby cgundersen » Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:10 am

This goal of this trip was to give my pal from VA a chance to revive his fishing skills and test whether his fitness routine of the last year was a success. He was also the designated photographer and a parsimonious set of photos accompanies this TR in the accompanying link (sadly, the camera battery was almost out of gas halfway through the trip). Another key to the trip is that I’d wondered whether one could make it over the ridge from Mist Lake to Hilgard Lake and with that goal in mind, we headed in at McGee Creek trailhead on Aug. 13th (Saturday). The parking lot had 15 vehicles, somewhat fewer than we expected for mid-August, but still enough that we ran into several parties heading out. Mosquito reports were tolerable: mostly in the 1-3 range dropping to 0 in breezy spots. We still needed a bit of DEET above McGee Lake on night 1. There was plenty of snow around McGee Lake (photo 1). As we ascended McGee Pass on day 2, the bugs vanished and there were sporadic patches of easy snow lingering on the eastern approaches to the pass (photo 2). Along with the sky pilots at McGee Pass, the views of the Silver Divide were great and the skies largely unaffected by the Avalanche fire (photo 3). Our plan was to traverse high from McGee Pass and hop the ridge to Red & White Lake and then continue over Grinnell Pass to Grinnell Lake. Photos 4-9 show some of the terrain/sights on this route (& snow and all the debris on the ice on Red & White Lake!). The only admonition is that the descent to Red & White Lake was made tricky by the very steep lingering snow to the west of the spot we climbed over the ridge and this forced us to take our time picking our way down the pesky boulders, ramps and ledges directly below us. Obviously, one can eliminate this problem simply by dropping down further on the McGee Pass trail and then following the outlet creek up to Red & White. Regardless, Grinnell Pass looked harder from a distance than it was up close. The steeper snow patches were compliant by mid-afternoon and one gets those great views to the South from the ridge (see photos). From Grinnell (bugs were ~1), we ambled past Laurel Lake (great meadows and views, see photo 10, but definitely more bugs and more DEET) and down to Mono Creek where there was a huge log waiting to provide transit for folks on the High Route (or other itineraries; see photo 11). We continued up 2nd Recess, but instead of the usual Mills Creek option, we kept going and spent night 3 in upper 2nd Recess, just below the ascent to Mist Lake. There are several options for getting up to Mist, but instead of doing the exposed scree, we opted for the vegetated hillside that required a bit of willow-bashing at the bottom. Either way, Mist was a fun destination, because it’s clearly a seldom visited spot (we looked hard for signs of fire rings, etc, but it’s pretty pristine) and it also became evident that the ridge that leads over to Hilgard Lake was within our comfort zone (photo 12). However, no fish in Mist (just tadpoles). Not many bugs, either. The next day we climbed the ridge behind Mist Lake (solid 2 scramble, loose junk near the top, but nothing unusual). The views out toward Rose Lake and Mt. Hooper captured an angle I’d never seen before and provided a great lunchtime distraction. The descent from the “Mist Lake” ridge was much easier than the ascent and after scaling an easy dike we reached Hilgard Lake. My pal caught a couple of small goldens at Hilgard, but I think they may have been the only fish up there. The next day we looped around to Teddy Bear Lake and arrived in mid-afternoon with plenty of time to clean up in a small snow-melt pond and read a book while the fisherman went to work. Teddy Bear is LOADED and dinner was a lone ~14 inch rainbow (skeeters were ~2). After having seen no other folks after leaving the McGee Trail, we welcomed some guys who were out sight seeing after dropping packs down by Lake Italy. Later, a father/son duo made it down White Bear Pass and chatted with us before parking at the outlet of Teddy Bear. Finally, past sunset, another pair of hikers (one of whom, Drew, recently posted a report on HST!) also came down White Bear. Felt like happy hour! The next day we leapfrogged the dad/son team in going over Cox col. With heavy boots, we fared much better on the slick snow cups than they did in their lightweights. Either way, Cox is a slog. Our last 2 nights were at Dade Lake (skeeters=1) and upper Hopkins Basin before dropping back into the McGee drainage and out. I hope to get access to a few more photos, especially of the view from Mist Lake ridge but for those going into this area anytime soon, this should help give an idea of the snow-bug-fish conditions.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10845599@N ... 392180095/



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Re: TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby windknot » Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:13 am

Wow. Very creative route and loop, thanks for the report!
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby balzaccom » Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:30 am

Nice job!

You might be interested in our trip up Laurel Creek over 4th of July weekend--where we were stopped by snowfields covering a roaring creek in upper Laurel Creek canyon...

And that log across Mono Creek was wet and click---and the creek as roaring along, touching the bottom of the log. WE chose not to cross it!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby cgundersen » Sat Aug 27, 2011 12:23 pm

balzac,
When I read your delightful TR back in July, it did not dawn on me that I'd be trundling through the same area, because our original plan for August was to go for Kaweah Basin. The Lion Fire scotched that, and by the time we devised a new plan, I'd forgotten your early season ramble. I just looked thru the photos (all of 'em) and they were great! #83 is gorgeous. But, just a query: to me it looks like Gabb is the peak on the left in #88 (not, Hilgard, which sits in the background in that same shot). Beyond that, the water levels looked very much as I'd expect for that time of year: lethal. I have healthy respect for flowing water......even in Aug, the creek in 2nd Recess was going strong!
cg
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Re: TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:31 pm

That is a really neat and creative route--certainly not one taken by many. That's a nifty combination of off trail segments.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR:McGee Creek-Grinnell Lake-Mist Lake-Hilgard Lake Loop

Postby quentinc » Sat Aug 27, 2011 4:08 pm

Sounds like a great trip. Looking forward to more pictures!
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