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Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

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Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby pavel » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:27 pm

Hello,

My wife and I would like to spend 9-11 days in August 2012 in High Sierra backpacking, which should be our second trip here (see my report on a loop from Mineral King through Black Rock Pass and Sawtooth Pass). We were thinking about a trail from Florence Lake to JM Trail, and on JMT to Rae Lakes and end the trail at Road's End. We are looking at app 10 miles a day, both on very good conditions and rock climbers. From your experience, is this doable? We also appreciate solitude, Are there sidetrips you would definitelly recomend? Should we consider return to Road's end through Middle Fork King's River and Simpson Meadows trail, as there might be less people - but we would miss part of JMT and Rae Lakes... Or would you have any other, totally different proposal? We like high mountains, lakes, solitude, do not mind going up and down... Thank you, Pavel



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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:37 pm

I don't think you would have much trouble doing Florence to Roads end on the JMT then Woods Creek but you certainly will see allot of people. This year in August I had gone 3 days without seeing anyone while on the Sierra High Route then I got on the JMT on Palisade Creek and within 2 hours I must have seen 30 people.

You would certainly see less people on the Middle Fork but it's not nearly as scenic as that section of the JMT. If you have not done it then it's certainly worth doing even with all the people.
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby Turtleggjp » Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:03 pm

My #1 suggestion for a side trip would be to hike up Goddard Canyon to visit Martha Lake:

IMG_8722b.jpg
Mount Goddard and Martha Lake


My mom and I did that in 2010 during our South Lake to North Lake trip. It was a long day, but well worth it. Goddard Canyon is very scenic, and gets more scenic the higher you go, culminating in the massive Martha Lake at the top. If you camp at the trail junction just before the climb up to Evolution Valley, it's about 9-10 miles each way to Martha Lake with about 2600 feet of elevation gain. If you catch the first ferry from Florence, you might be able to make it to this camp the first day. It's a lot of miles, but fairly flat (only 1100 feet of gain from Florence).

Some other side trips to consider would be:
McGee Lakes (above Evolution Valley).
*Darwin Bench, and the lakes above it (near Evolution Lake).
*Davis Lake (just West of Wanda Lake).
Climb Black Giant (near Muir Pass).
Climb Split Mountain (just South and East of Mather Pass).
*Bench Lake (between Mather and Pinchot Pass).
Sixty Lake Basin (West of Rae Lakes).

The ones with the (*) I have experience doing and can offer additional info if you are interested. I would definitely advise you to stay on the JMT rather than continuing down the Middle Fork. Otherwise, you'd miss some very beautiful areas like Palisade Lakes, Upper Basin, and Lake Marjorie. The nice thing is, when you get to Woods Creek Crossing, you have the option of bailing to Roads End early, or continuing on to the Rae Lakes. That way if you see something you like earlier in the trip, you can spend more time exploring. Hope that helps.

Matt
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby lambertiana » Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:41 pm

You say you are in good shape and are rock climbers, which gives me the impression that you would not have problems with class 2 routes. My suggestion would be to skip the Palisade Lake/Upper Basin section of the JMT and instead head south from Deer Meadow over Observation Pass (Cataract Creek Pass in Secor) and Dumbbell Pass to get to Lake Basin. From there, go over Cartridge Pass and then head back up the South Fork Kings to meet the JMT before the ascent to Lake Marjorie. This is about the same mileage as taking the JMT for that section, but would probably add a day since off trail will be slower. Having seen the Palisade Lakes to Upper Basin section of the JMT and Lake Basin, I would take Lake Basin every time. It offers beautiful scenery and usually no people. I have never been to Cataract Lake or Dumbbell Lakes, but the trip reports I have seen look very nice, too. Here are some pics of Lake Basin, starting with Marion Lake, which would be a short side trip from the lower end of Lake Basin:
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And the view looking south from Cartridge Pass
P8170280.JPG
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:58 am

If you could take the Dumbell Lakes route as suggested it's worth it! That place was an amazing hidden gem I would love to go back to.

Cataract Creek Pass this year though in early August was very dangerous. I had to lower my pack by rope once and I had the constant feeling that if you do not stay very focused you will not get off it alive.
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby Turtleggjp » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:46 am

Ah yes, the magnificent Lake Basin. I had the privilege of visiting that area back in 2009 and can't wait to go back again! In my opinion though, that area would be better to see in its own trip. In fact, I told myself that if I ever got the chance to visit Lake Basin, I wanted to stay there for at least 1 layover day rather than rush through it. The Sierra High Route (Steve Roper's book) passes through Lake Basin, and that is how I went in there in 2009, exiting via Cartridge Pass and looping back to Roads End over Pinchot Pass and the Woods Creek Trail. That took us 3 days to get to Lake Basin (Lake Marion), but if you can start on the East side, the Taboose Pass Trail could probably get you there a day sooner. Since this is only your second Sierra trip, you might find it more comforting to get familiar with the "main highways" like the JMT before attempting something more ambitious like a trip through Dumbbell Lakes Basin.

That being said, how about this for a future trip:
Roads End -> Lake Basin via Sierra High Route
Lake Basin -> Dumbbell Lakes Basin
Dumbbell Lakes Basin -> JMT via Cataract Creek Pass
Return via Middle Fork Kings -> Simpson Meadow -> Granite Pass -> Roads End

That way you get to check out the alternate return route you mentioned. So much to do, so little time...

Matt
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:33 am

I will admit my bias- I really DO NOT like the JMT! I honestly think you will be bored with the JMT and disappointed with all the people on the trail. You seem to be qualified to do Roper's High Route. You could do a day's side trip to Dumbell Lakes from Lakes Basin without going over Catarac Pass. If you choose the JMT, the best bet is to do lots of little side trips off the trail to camp. For example, why camp on the trail when a few hours on a use-trail gets you to Wallace Lake, a spectacular camp. It is less than 2 hours (uphill) to Arctic Lake, rather than camp at Guitar Lake. The JMT is simply the "highway" to quickly get you to the point where you can leave the trail and get to the better stuff.

Other worthy remote places to go that are not on Roper's High Route-- Keweah Basin, Cloud Canyon, 9-Lakes Basin, Brewer Basin, upper Kern, Ionian Basin.
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:52 pm

I'm going to put in a good word for the Middle Fork. A lot of people here are elevation snobs, but really the Middle Fork below Palisade Creek and Simpson Meadow are just as spectacular in their own way as the high-elevation stuff (and, as you guess, a lot less populous than the John Muir Freeway). The gorge below Pal Creek is rugged and forbidding; Simpson Meadow is remote and idyllic, and for me at least has a real feel of the Old West. Definitely worth checking out.
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby lambertiana » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:40 pm

You said that you like high lakes, etc. But Tom and Wandering Daisy raise a good point - There are places in the lower to mid elevations that offer great scenery and true solitude. The first is the Middle Fork Kings. During the three days I took going from Crown Valley to the JMT junction at Palisade Creek, I did not see another person (besides the one friend who was with me). Here is a view up the Middle Fork showing Tehipite Valley, which is just as deep as Yosemite Valley. The wall at the far end of the canyon is only the midpoint of that section of the Middle Fork (it's above Simpson Meadow):
Kings Canyon 2007 055.jpg


If I were to choose a place I have been where I felt the most profound sense of solitude, it would be where we camped on the Middle Fork at Blue Canyon Creek, just above Tehipite Valley. This is looking down canyon from that spot:
Kings Canyon 2007 107.jpg


This is a little above Simpson, looking toward Goddard Creek
Kings Canyon 2007 153.jpg


Above Simpson, the canyon narrows again, and you pass Devils Washbowl
Kings Canyon 2007 179.jpg


Some views in the upper part of the canyon
Kings Canyon 2007 207.jpg


Kings Canyon 2007 209.jpg


Imagine having that all to yourselves. And a nod to Wandering Daisy, here is a teaser shot of Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon, which does not get a lot of traffic.
Whitney 2006 069.jpg
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby Cloudy » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:03 pm

I'm going to have to head through Tehipite Valley sometime soon. I've been through SImpson Meadow a number of times but only as a hard slog up the Copper Creek Trail over Granite Pass. Lovely photo of the Whaleback. Cloud Canyon is one of my favorite places in the Sierra - perhaps even my favorite for reasons that I can't fathom.
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Re: Planning 9-11 days in HS - preferably King's Canyon

Postby Cross Country » Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:01 pm

Wouldn't all of us love to do this trip (9-11 days) in August right now!
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