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Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

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Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Fri Dec 16, 2011 1:42 pm

With the shortest day of the year almost upon us, I find myself thinking more about next summer’s treks. Here’s the quick breakdown of a 6-night trip I’m hoping to do with a maximum of five other people at the end of July/start of August. The trip is, of course, contingent on the snowpack delivered this winter and conditions through the summer. We are hoping for a relatively snow-free hike. I’ve researched this extensively, borrowing a lot from Calipidder’s trip report (http://calipidder.com/wp/2010/10/bear-lakes-basin-loop-from-pine-creek/) from a couple years back and read the relevant passages in Secor. I think I have a very good idea of what to expect I’d love any feedback on the logistics, route, permits and sites to see the experienced crew here would care to offer.

Day 0: Drive from Sacramento to Pine Creek TH, camp there for the night
Day 1: Pine Creek TH > Granite Park
Day 2: Granite Park > Italy Pass, drop packs and summit Mt. Julius Ceasar, Italy Pass > Dancing Bear Pass > Bear Lakes Basin
Day 3: Layover- fish, summit Feather Peak
Day 4: Bear Lakes Basin > Feather Pass > Merriam Lake , possibly drop packs and summit Royce Peak
Day 5: Merriam Lake > French Canyon > French Lake
Day 6: French Lake > Pine Creek Pass > Pine Creek TH, drive back to Sacramento

I’ve looked over the online permit site (brand new for Inyo, correct?) and it looks like permits are available 6 months out.

Couple questions:
• Are permits for this area in high demand? Should I be on the ball 6 months out?
• Camping at the Pine Creek TH—any issues there?
• Secor had good info on all the passes, would you recommend I also pick up Roper and read the relevant sections?

This is definitely a step up from the trips I’ve taken the past 4 years, so I’m preparing very meticulously. Any and all help is appreciated. Happy holidays!
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.



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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby hikerchick395 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:15 pm

Permits are not in that high of demand for the Pine Creek trailhead (it is my "home" TH.) Yes they are now available on recreation.gov six months before your starting date.

Since it is so close to me, I've not had any experience with camping at the TH itself, but there is dispersed camping up Pine Creek Canyon close by during the summer.

Did that trip in 8 days (leisurely with layover) the opposite direction. No special info was needed for passes.




The only other comment that I have, which will probably be a non issue in 2012 by all indications, is that my neighbor, quite the mountaineer, attempted this trip this summer and bailed because of incredibly snowy conditions.
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Mike M. » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:49 pm

Sounds like a terrific trip. Even if we do have the kind of snowfall we had last winter (doubtful), this route should be fine by late July/early August. It is a beautiful area, especially on weekdays when it is less crowded. Beware the Pine Creek Trail, which has been re-engineered in places over the past two decades by determinedly demented trail builders, who favor the placement of huge granite steps wherever possible. These are knee busters for sure.

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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:19 am

Years ago I went over Royce-Merriam Col (class 2). Although the guide book says "ice axe required" it depends on the snow. We did not take ice axes and did fine. If the snow is hard at all, then it is more difficult. The north side of the pass is steep, but if you can kick steps in the snow it is not bad. If anyone in your group is freaked out on steep snow, this is NOT the route to take. I also was in the area in a low-snow year and the north side of the pass was actually dry- it looked ugly- loose talus and scree so I chose not to go over it. I think the pass is easier with snow on it, if you are experienced with snow. Once at Royce Lakes it is easy cross-country to Pine Creek Pass. This route allows you to see Royce Lakes and avoids the drop down and back up to the pass. But you do have to backtrack a bit if you camp at Merriam Lake. It seems like your group is qualified to do the pass, based on the climbing you had planned. You may have to take ice axes anyway for the climbs.

Dancing Bear Pass and Feather pass (west side) can also have snow late July - early August. You can hardly avoid the snow on Dancing Bear (but it is not steep) and you probably can avoid snow on Feather Pass - where the trade-off is harder rock scrambling. The steep part, snow or rock routes, is the top 200 feet.

Your plan looks good. Bear Basin can be crowded so do not expect to have it to yoursleves. The first day is a rigorous one. Get an early start.
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby SSSdave » Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:03 pm

Your itinerary in just 7 days is ambitious except for those climbers regularly bagging peaks thus in strong condition with light gear. Consider your route is longer than Calpider's who took 9 days and was often rather worn out. A 9-day trip into Bear Lakes basin via Italy Pass and back out the same way is about all most would chew off as crosscountry across talus is always tedious and slow.

David
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:01 pm

hikerchick395, if the winter turns out to be anything like the last one we’ll postpone for a season. We don’t want to deal with lots of snow.

Mike M., thanks for the heads up on the trail—I’ll make sure to hit some steep trails and maybe some stadium stairs in preparation.

WD, I did read up on the Royce-Merriam Col, but from the description it sounded like it might be above our comfort range. (I tend to be pretty conservative with the route and usually have to keep my more adventurous companions in check.) I’ll keep your advice in mind—maybe it’s worth checking out knowing we may have to back out and head down the canyon. I appreciate the vote of confidence. I’m not worried about a few patches of snow on the passes, we just don’t want to head up in conditions like last season.

SSSDave, good point about the itinerary. Calipidder’s trip included a bit more aggressive peak-bagging in my opinion. I view Feather and Royce peaks as options we can pass on if needed. We are bound by our responsibilities back home and getting more than a week off together is tough to do. It is an ambitious plan for us and that’s the point.

Thank you all for the feedback
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:45 pm

I can't speak to the peak bagging aspects of your trip. However, the rest of it sounds like a great trip and quite doable in your planned itinerary. I covered quite a bit of the same route in 2009 from the other direction beginning at North Lake. The one day I see could be a problem with your itinerary is the first day - I agree with WD that it will be a tough one. Dancing Bear Pass had quite bit of snow, but it was as WD said, not difficult. I saw a total of 8 people in two days while I was in Bear Lakes Basin and I spent a layover day wandering over to Vee Lake. Bear Lakes Basin is a wonderful place for simply wandering around. Granite Park was where I saw a lot of people, which surprised me since the other time I went through there in 1998 and camped at the lake below Italy Pass, I saw one group of 4 people after Honeymoon Lake. Feather Pass had snowfields right below the steep part. If it might be helpful, I have a trip report with photos here:

http://www.sonic.net/~words/ASITHSTripReports.html
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:05 pm

Thanks, LMBSGV. I've stumbled across your site a couple times and was looking it over earlier today. Great stuff!
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Snow Nymph » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:08 pm

We did this as a 10 day loop trip in Sept 2005 (included 5 peaks). One of my favorite trips!
Days 6 - 10 covers the area you're going to. Have a great trip!


Day 1-3 Piute Pass, Hutchison Mdw, French Cyn, Merriam Lk
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/459161226YqZNAv

Day 4 Royce Peak and Merriam Peak
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/460092914VtHPVr

Day 5 Feather Peak
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/462132388EXkuEj

Day 6 Bear Lakes Basin
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/463560371VZtLAO

Day 7 Black Bear Lk, White Bear Pass to Brown Bear Lk
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/463646304lVCUUd

Day 8 Mt Hilgard
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/464163290EtvKIe

Day 9 Mt Julius Ceasar and Chalfant Lakes
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/467006807zSrdOd

Day 10 To Pine Creek Road End
http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/467006845GDbcRM
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


http://snownymph.smugmug.com/
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:23 pm

Thanks Carne.

Snowy, I used your 2005 trip as my primary source after maps to plan mine in 2009. I found Roper's and Secor's descriptions only somewhat helpful. A map, trip report, and a photo offer real guidance. And for non-technical climbers like me, a sense of reassurance and confidence.
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby calipidder » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:24 pm

Just noticed this post. Hi. :)

There is a BLM campground (Horton Creek) near Pine Creek. That's where we stayed. Disadvantage is that you're not really getting much acclimation out of it. You can also dispersed camp in the Tungsten hills.

Day 1 is a hard day if you haven't been out. I had just come off of a four day trip out of Mineral King so I was relatively acclimated. But just remember it's a 4000ft+ climb on day 1.

Day 2 (Italy pass -> Dancing Bear -> Bear Lakes Basin) is not bad if you don't throw in Julius Caesar, but that made it a long day. The cross country over Dancing Bear is really easy. There is a tarn on the map at the top of Dancing Bear but it was bone dry - don't expect to get water there. We filled up on some untreated fresh melt coming off a snow field between italy and Dancing Bear.

Take a day or two to explore Bear Lakes Basin. I really enjoyed our 'down' time there. Fishing was incredible!

I found Feather Pass to be really easy from the Bear Lakes side. It looks a bit intimidating but the rocks make up some nice ramps that are easy to scramble up. Coming down we got into a bit of sketchy terrain just above that upper lake (LaSalle? Don't have my map open right now) but nothing we couldn't figure out.

The days we spent climbing Seven Gables and Four Gables were our longest, most tiring days. You don't have those on your itinerary, but Feather isn't going to be a breeze. Royce is easy as long as you're not chased off by thunderstorms. :retard:

Enjoy! I need to start working on my summer 2012 trip planning. Wheee!!!
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Re: Feedback requested: Bear Lakes Basin Loop 2012

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:37 pm

Snow Nymph and Calipidder, thanks for the feedback. Sorry for taking so long to reply back—crazy days.

Sounds like we'll need to be in good shape to handle day 1 and from Snow Nymph's photos I think Feather Peak might be a bit more than I'm comfortable with. Flexibility with the plan will be a must.
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