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Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

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Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby oleander » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:51 pm

Hi,

I'm planning to do most of Roper's High Sierra Route in 2012.

The one bugaboo I keep hearing about is Snow-Tongue Pass. I want to avoid it, if possible.

What is the work-around? (And how much mileage does that add?)

- Elizabeth



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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby Mike M. » Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:31 pm

Elizabeth, the logical workaround would be to cross over the divide at Alpine Col. This route involves travel through beautiful Darwin Basin. It is fairly routine Class 2 travel until you get to the north side of the col, where you will encounter a field of huge boulders, which makes for strenuous, time-consuming hiking down to Goethe Lake. It's a safe route but requires patience.

Another option, just to the east of Alpine Col, is The Keyhole. This would be a little more difficult; the final approach to the pass is steep scree but the footing is reasonably stable. Route finding might be the biggest challenge from this side of the pass (I have only crossed over from the east side). Just before the top of the pass is a hole in the divide -- the keyhole. Just remove your pack, pass it up through the hole, climb on through, and you're on top of the pass.

Both Alpine Col and The Keyhole have fabulous views of Mt. Humphreys.

The other option is to follow the Muir Trail down to the junction with the trail leading up to Piute Pass, and then head up towards Piute Pass. This involves a substantial loss/gain of elevation and would add about 12-15 miles to your itinerary.

Mike
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby paul » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:59 pm

Another option: you can go over Lamarck Col, down to the North Lake Campground, and up over Piute pass. I think this is shorter than the JMT option, but avoids the nasty talus at Alpine Col. Plus it throws in the possibility of a resupply at North Lake, and a spectacular view from Lamarck Col. Oh, and one other possibility - Packsaddle Pass. Don't know much about it, but have a seen a couple trip reports, I think here on HST. it's just a little further west on the glacier divide.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby oleander » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:30 pm

Oh yeah, I've heard of Packsaddle as well, but don't know anything about it.

We'd be going north-to-south.

I wonder which would be easier, both in terms of exposure and routefinding: Alpine Col or Packsaddle?

- Elizabeth
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:57 am

I wonder which would be easier, both in terms of exposure and routefinding: Alpine Col or Packsaddle?


Alpine Col is very easy for route finding but just make sure if you go that way to go around the West side of Goethe Lakes. If you don't it's a talus nightmare. It's also best to stay on the East side of lake 11,910. You can dig through this set for images of Alpine Col:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/roguephoto ... 892200329/

Plus it throws in the possibility of a resupply at North Lake


What sort of resupply option is at North Lake?
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:56 am

Packsaddle has been discussed other places on this forum- do a search and you will find info.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:43 am

I guess it depends on how "true to route" you want to be with the High Route. Both alternatives (PCT west detour or North Lake east detour) are very scenic, but the Alpine Col, Keyhole or Packsaddle routes stay more "true" to the route. Although longer I doubt the trail routes would take much more time. You definitely would see more people via the PCT route. Coming from the north, you will have been on a long stretch of off-trail, so you may be ready for some trail. On the other hand, if you do the route south-to-north then you will have been on lots of trail through LeConte canyon and down to Evolution Lake, and may be ready for off-trail. When I did the High Route, after a day on the trail (particularly the crowded PCT) I was totally ready to get off trail.

I did not like Snow-Tongue Pass because I hit it during very bad conditions- actively melting snow made it very unstable. That said, the unstable part is very short, compared to the long talus hopping on Alpine Col. Also, I ascended Snow-Tongue; it certainly would be faster going down and probably easier. I suspect that if you were to do Snow-Tongue when it had either more snow or no snow, it may be easier than what I encountered. I personally feel that soloing Snow Toungue is not safe. There is so much loose stuff that if you were to pin your leg, you would be had. I happen to have LOTS of experience hopping large talus with a pack on my back so prefer Alpine Col. I also am probably more freaked by loose rock than most. So for me, I would choose an alternative to Snow Tongue. But I think there are plenty of people who would choose otherwise. I would not totally give up on Snow Tongue until you talked to a few more people who have done it.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby oleander » Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:08 pm

So Alpine Col is a boulder/large-talus slog. How does it compare with another talus slog: the north side of Thunderbolt Pass? That is tedious, but I could handle it.

Piute/North Lake does look like a conveniently appointed place to resupply after the long section southbound from Mammoth. (Do people go to Bishop, or is there a resort nearer North Lake that people mail their supplies to?)

If we exited the wilderness there and then decided to "skip" back into the wilderness via Lamarck Col rather than, say, Alpine or Snow-Tongue or Packsaddle, what would we miss scenery-wise? I've seen photos of the north side of Glacier Divide and it does look gorgeous. (Not sure I recall which lake basin that was.) And we've already been over Lamarck, so seeing something new is always fun.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:17 pm

For some reason, I assumed you were headed south to north.

Thunderbolt from the north is much easier than Alpine Col from the north, in my opinion, but going up Alpine Col, heading south up the field of large boulders, is easier than heading down it (it's a knee buster). In any case, you will be trail-hardened by then and should have no problem.

I have not been over Snow Tongue Pass and am reluctant to try it, based on the reports I've read here. But I would much prefer to try it coming from the north, since I'm more confident climbing up short stretches of steep "loose & crappy" terrain than climbing down.

Also note that approaching and locating The Keyhole from the Muriel Lake side of the pass is pretty straightforward and the steep descent through sandy scree into the upper Darwin Basin is easy.

The views from both Alpine Col and The Keyhole are killer!

There is a nice small campground at North Lake and it is easy to hitch-hike from there to Bishop for supplies.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:34 pm

You can still see a lot of good scenery without going over Alpine Col, if that is your intended route. From Piute Pass it is a few hour detour to Goethe Lake outlet where you see a lot of the north side scenery. From Darwin Lakes, it also is a nice few hour hike to the lake just south of Alpine Col. You will see all the scenery without the agony of going over the Col.

Snow Tongue does have some very unique scenery and travel that is not easy to see other than going over the pass. You could do a day hike up to Yahoo Lake from the Golden Lakes. But the bench on the south side of the pass and long traverse over to Darwin Bench is very unique. Although I swore after making it over Snow Tongue without getting hurt, I would never attempt it again, I am glad I did the route once. I guess you could day-hike the bench from Darwin Bench, but it would be an all-day hike.

Lamark Col is spectacular. Just as spectacular or even more so than doing any of the other passes. What you give up is "High Route purity", not scenery. I think North Lake as a really good resupply spot. I used it when I did the High Route. I did not have to hitch to a store, because this was the point that my husband joined me for the middle section of the route. You could possibly pre-stash food in a bear box at one of the campsites or trailhead. You would just date and label it like you would if it were camp food you left at the trailhead when backpacking out of that trailhead. Of course, that precludes perishable food.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby paul » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:45 pm

I phrased it "possibility" of resupply at North Lake because there are several possibilities that may work. As others have mentioned, you can hitch to Bishop very easily, or you may be able to stash in a bearbox at the campground, or have a friend meet you. Also, there is a pack station there, run by Bishop Pack Outfitters, and I'll bet you could work out something with them where you could mail them a package and they'd hold it at the pack station for you. Plus there is the Cardinal resort about a mile and a half down the road from North Lake, where you might also arrange for a package to be held.
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Re: Snow-Tongue Pass: What is the workaround?

Postby fourputt » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:27 am

I did "No Snow" Tongue N-to-S in 91, a severe drought year and still a possibility this year. I don't remember too much exposure, only that it was steep and so loose that it required a four-limb spider crawl in order to maintain ones progress. At the top I was momentarily alarmed to see my buddy disappear in a cloud of dust below. Luckily he only slid a few feet before stopping.

I heartily agree that strongly-inclined soloing, especially on large talus and/or in wet conditions, is extremely dangerous.

South side is easy. 'Francis Lake' (11092) is beautiful w/killer views of Emerald Divide and really nice camping below the lake along the outlet. Have you considered further west end of Glacier Divide? The basins near Ramona are intriguing.

- Lou
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