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Route Planning

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Re: Route Planning

Postby RoguePhotonic » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:49 pm

Going into Ionian Basin itself shouldn't be the main goal although I will end up seeing more of it on the route I planned. Earlier in the trip if everything goes right I will explore allot of Ionian in late July.

When I did Goddard Creek last year I didn't see any Nettle at all so I guess I was lucky. It doesn't sound like the Enchanted Gorge will be all that difficult compared to Goddard Creek but it does suck for sure going back into the heavy bush at the bottom. I was wondering if by that time of early October in a low snow year if it would be possible to stay in the creek itself and avoid the bush.

There is also a really epic rock fall that happened this year in the middle of the worst bush. It extends all the way to the creek so it must be crossed. It's pretty dangerous also. I dislodged a 6500 pound boulder that almost fell on my foot while I crossed it.

I'll just have to see what happens over the summer. If I make it that far I may or may not choose to take that route. I really want to do Cartridge Creek and then through the Muro Blanco and i'd hate to be so destroyed by that route that I back out and just take Granite Pass.



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Re: Route Planning

Postby oleander » Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:24 pm

Congratulations on a wonderful adventure in 2011 (I couldn't help reading the whole thing) and another one upcoming. Sounds awesome.

I only have a comment on your first section. If it were me, I'd skip the layover at Big Five Lakes, which my friend and I found to be boring compared to everything else in Mineral King which is so spectacular. Especially since you're going to Kaweah Basin on the same section! Re-allocate the Five Lakes day to Kaweah Basin.

The uppermost Little Five Lake, though, is beautiful. You could pop over the easy little ridge from Big Five Lakes basin, which will drop you down right into the uppermost Little Five. I'd go that way on my way to Nine Lakes Basin, rather than taking the dull trailed route (down in the hot forest) from Big Five to Little Five.

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Re: Route Planning

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:10 pm

The only thing about taking the day away from Big Five Lakes is I also have a layover day in Kaweah Basin planned already. So if I did that I would spend 3 nights there. That's probably not a bad thing but being the start of the trip I will probably need the rest.

As for the whole Little Five Lakes thing your comments made me check my maps again and I had the lakes mixed up. One thing I hate about Mapsource is many markers are way off target. The Lake I was planning to stay at is Lake 10,410 that is just North of Little Five Lakes. Since my goal in this area is sight seeing jumping over the ridge is probably a good idea.

I have only been to the Mineral King area once and that was at the start of my hike last year crossing Farewell Gap and then Timber Gap. Everything else will be new for me.

The only changes I have made to this plan so far is I plan to climb Clyde Minaret while I pass by it moving North instead of coming back South. Also I had planned to follow the Sierra High Route over White Bark - Garnet - North Glacier Passes but then it occurred to me why not just jump over the Ritter / Banner saddle. I have climbed it once while doing Mt. Banner. It is steep for sure near the top but I can make it. Then if I am doing that why not take a shot at Ritter while there?

Also I have been analyzing my photos taken from Mt. Banner of the ridge I want to cross that leads SW of Rogers Peak. It looks nasty. Of course from a distance it's impossible to tell but that is a remote enough area that I think having a plan B is a good idea. Bailing out over Clinch Pass is an option if I cannot go that way. I could head over Donohue and down to Tuolumne. I would probably miss my shot at Mt. Lyell but it's no big deal.

I'd ask if anyone has seen that ridge in person closer up but I think the question is futile.

It does amaze me sometimes when you plan a route based on the topo maps and when you actually see the terrain it turns out to be way more steep then what the map shows.
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Re: Route Planning

Postby AndyMac321 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:04 am

Just remember that VVR may be closed by oct.... They stay open until around the 15th, but if you notice the weather turning in late September, you may want to have a backup plan for resupply.Sounds like an awesome hike! I really enjoyed your 2011 trip. I will be in Sierras (Rae Lakes) around beg of August!
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Re: Route Planning

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:11 pm

Rouge wrote:
The only thing about taking the day away from Big Five Lakes is I also have a layover
day in Kaweah Basin planned already. So if I did that I would spend 3 nights there. That's
probably not a bad thing but being the start of the trip I will probably need the rest.


Spend some time in Red Spur Lakes Basin, which has oustanding views of the Whitney
Range/Sierra Crest, and Pickett Creek Lake, which is one of the ultimate swimming holes
on the Sierra, while in Kaweah Basin.

LFL would be my preference over BFL by a long shot, especially the ones away from
the trail, which have some fine views, and are not frequently visited.

The Muro Blanco is fun, especially if the water levels are low which they may be, but the
brush as you get to Woods Creek is nasty (think Goddard), and Cartridge Creek ain't
to much better, so your putting 3 routes, one after another that have nasty thick brush
on it, sure you want to do that?
As an alternative in to going down the Muro, climb Arrow Pass, and checkout the remote
Arrow Lakes Basin which is quite pretty, then climb over the southwest spur of Pyramid
Peak, and down to the Woods Creek Trail, which is much easier than the Muro. You could
also follow Arrow Creek down, and see a beautiful waterfalls, but it is a little
harder, and you have to go through the brush before you can get to Woods Creek.

Instead of going down Goddard again, how about after descending the Enchanted, head
up towards Mt. Woodworth, over Rambaud Pass to Rambaud Lakes from where
you can descend to the Middle Kings River, and then go to Cartridge Creek, at least
you will cut one of the major bushwacking sections out of your trip.

Agree with the earlier Smedberg recommendation, also Big Slide Canyon is great with
Doe, Rock Island, Surprise, Tullulah Lakes all fun to visit. The Seavey Pass area has
some very pretty lakes that are close by the trail, some a little further, worth visiting
too.

A night at Upper Mills Creek Lake in Second Recess is worth considering, quite beautiful.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Route Planning

Postby oleander » Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:28 pm

More on Mineral King:

Looking at your schedule, you are moving slowly enough through Mineral King to soak it in, and you won't need a layover day anywhere.

If all you've seen thus far is Farewell Gap and Timber Gap, you are in for a huge treat. Mineral King is my favorite westside entry in the Sierra by a longshot, just so unique. Imagine the stunning juxtaposition of rust red mountains against blinding white granite, the kind of mix you see at the Silver Divide/McGee Pass area. Now add a lot more sheer verticality and steepness to that. And the steepness also means most of the valleys are avalanched out, so where you might expect to walk through forest, instead you are walking up steep-walled valleys more reminiscent of the Rockies than the Sierra, and they are blanketed in more flowers than you have ever seen. If the snowmelt is early this year, hopefully you will get to see some of this flower craziness peeking out.

Big Five Lakes is uninteresting precisely because it has none of this, not the avalanched valleys nor the incredible red/white/green paint. We took about 5 photos here. Whereas I went through two batteries on my camera taking hundreds of photos in the really amazing places, especially Columbine Lake, Lost Canyon, Cliff Creek leading up the west side of Black Rock Pass...and to a somewhat lesser extent, Monarch Lakes, Crystal Lakes, the lead-ups to Farewell Gap/Franklin Lakes, and Little Five Lakes (which have some great views of the Kaweahs).

Now for your day to day itinerary:

Franklin Lakes can be crowded, good to get there early to snag a spot. Surprisingly hard to find a good site (especially one with a bear locker) if you get there towards dusk. The sites are well off-trail and I did not find the toilet nor the third bear locker even after much exploring. The hike there will be spectacular if you hit the flowers.

I am not familiar with the stuff just east of Franklin Pass. Franklin Pass might be the busiest of all the passes around here because it is the "easiest" (the rangers send the more beginner types up that way), so I suspect you'd have a lot of company at Forester or Little Clair Lake.

The col between Ampitheater Lake and Crystal Lakes looks steep on the east side, just looking at the topo. If there is snow I'd be wary. You can probably find someone here who's done that pass.

At Crystal Lakes, there's some great camping between and above the two lakes (on the eastern side of the lakes) and solitude.

Monarch Lakes are beautiful but incredibly overused, if you must stay here stick to the upper lake.

Columbine Lake: My favorite camping is near the outlet. Walk a bit northeast of the outlet. From there you will be able to see both Sawtooth Peak and the Black Rock Pass/ridge from the same spot, and the latter with its red rock gets fantastic alpenglow. This is one of those "on top of the world" campsites.

The trail from Columbine to Big Five Lakes will take you through Lost Canyon, which looks like nothing on the map but actually is a gorgeous little Shangri La (the top two-thirds of the valley, anyway). Take your time walking through here. But it doesn't strike me as a great place to camp, as it's meadowy and fragile, and meadowy means skeeters. If you are thinking of camping in Lost Canyon I'd recommend just stopping early at Columbine instead, and doing some exploring at Columbine, maybe down towards Cyclamen Lake (although that steep north face may be a wall of snow).

From Lost Canyon, take the trail north to the lower Big Five Lakes, back west up the Big Five Lakes basin (the higher you go the more solitude you might get), and then over the easy hump to the upper Little Five Lake below Black Rock Pass. That's a gorgeous lake, although there are very few campsites and they may be taken. The next lower Little Five, at 10476, is less breathtaking and it will have skeeters, but on the other hand is a lot more protected/less exposed and has more camping, and a nice view of the Kaweahs. Don't take the official trail from Big Five to Little Five Lakes, which is viewless by comparison.

I have not been to the more northerly chain of Little Five Lakes but someone here mentioned them and I'll bet they're indeed pretty with good solitude.

And I would truly save max layover days for Kaweah Basin and the surrounding areas (Picket, Red Spur). I have not been to those places, but they sound expansive and outstanding, and if you have only just over a day there you will probably kick yourself. That basin is a really long haul to get to from any direction, so I say extend your stay as long as you're there. In the future it will be very easy to get back to Mineral King but a much longer slog to get back into Kaweah Basin.

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Re: Route Planning

Postby RoguePhotonic » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:03 pm

you may want to have a backup plan for resupply.


If the weather didn't look good I could call from Mammoth and see if they are still open. Other then that there would not be much of an option. I'd get there and be out of food and the next best choice would probably be to hike back to Mammoth and resupply with enough food to get to Cedar Grove.

Spend some time in Red Spur Lakes Basin, which has oustanding views of the Whitney
Range/Sierra Crest, and Pickett Creek Lake, which is one of the ultimate swimming holes
on the Sierra, while in Kaweah Basin.


Both those locations seem to be in opposite directions. I would probably need to add another day or two in the area to move to those areas. I don't know how rough the the terrain is in Kaweah Basin but after last year I have been trying to keep cross country travel down to 5 miles in a day.

There is also a good chance that even with the low snow year while I am there the lakes will still be mostly frozen over. If I am looking at the right lake that you say is Picket Creek Lake it's over 11,500 and it will be early June. It's certainly a good idea to see what I can while there because I may never make it there again. Of course that is if I make it there at all. Might go cartwheeling down Pyra Queen Col. :lol:

Maybe what I will do is instead of staying at Big Five Lakes I will just wait one more day and layover at the next lake. I may have a layover listed only two days after that but that day is for exploring more then rest.

I'll give some thought to the idea of going over Arrow Pass. The Muro Blanco has just been a route I have wanted to do for the sake of doing it. I bet Arrow Pass would be allot more scenic though.

I do realize that I would be doing three major bush whacks in a row. That was the plan last year and I gave up after the first although I think if I made it that far I wouldn't back out again.

I'm not sure doing Rambaud Pass would be that great. I did consider that while planning that section but I'm pretty sure that the area you start up for the pass is in the thickest brush where I had to turn around and find another way. Then your talking about 5000 feet of gain to the pass before dropping down. It would take me longer for sure.

The mention of the lakes around Smedberg looks like it might be nice to bail off the PCT and do a route up around most of those lakes and then drop back to the trail on Wilson Creek.

Franklin Lakes can be crowded, good to get there early to snag a spot. Surprisingly hard to find a good site


How about at that time of year? June 2nd is pretty early for casual backpackers. Last year with the high snow people told me there were no reports anyone had crossed Franklin Pass yet for the year on July 6th.

Monarch Lakes are beautiful but incredibly overused, if you must stay here stick to the upper lake.


I did not plan to stay at Crystal Lakes because of how I was moving North. I think that day will be short considering it's not too many miles and an easy peak bag. I thought it would probably be too much to try and bag two peaks that day and go to Columbine Lake.

I saw some photos of at least the West side of that ridge I want to go up from Ampitheater Lake and it looks easy. On that side anyway...

Thanks for all the other good info to all of you. You've given me allot to think about for sure and these are the sorts of things I should know to see the best stuff. Sounds like I should spend more time in Kaweah Basin. I suppose I could suck it up and carry even more food which is already going to be hard. I will be starting with more days of food then I have ever had on day 1. :eek:
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Re: Route Planning

Postby maverick » Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:23 am

Hi Rogue

My timeline was messed up, looked at the wrong dates for Kaweah Basin, my bad.
Picket Lake in under 10800 but will still be frozen, as will all the lakes in early June in
the Basin. It would be much better to visit this place at the end of July if the snow
levels turn out to be below or average for the year. The only pluses with the snow is
that all that rocky terrain will be easier, and faster to travel over, but the passes will
be more difficult, unless you preferred the snow.

The decent up to Rambaud Pass can be started before you get to the brush, will have to
see if I can find my old log book to confirm.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Route Planning

Postby quentinc » Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:21 am

When I've been in the Franklin Lakes area, the lower lake was a bit crowded (it's where the bear boxes are), but it's easy x-country travel to Upper Franklin, where I've never seen anyone and it's more scenic as well. I've been over Franklin Pass at high season twice, and did not see many people. In fact, last time was in an August, and I didn't see anyone once I was over the pass all the way to Big Five Lakes, where I caught up with the group I was supposed to be hiking with. Still didn't see anyone outside of my group, until Pinto Lake, which is a good swimming hole, but otherwise well worth skipping -- the trail west from Black Rock Pass all the way to Timber Gap is remarkably unpleasant. I'd x-country via Glacier Pass if I ever did that trip again.
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Re: Route Planning

Postby oleander » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:01 pm

Ha, interesting to get quentinc's impression of Cliff Creek. We thought it was the very best part of our whole trip, better even than Columbine Lake, Little Five Lakes or Lost Canyon. Pinto Lake, yes, is uninteresting (although the camping nearby is good), and Timber Gap is awful. But going uphill along lower Cliff Creek to Black Rock Pass was spectacular the whole way, starting maybe a mile above that campground at the junction. Unending blankets of green and flowers, waterfalls, steep valleys topped by pretty mountains, and then finally the view opposite, of the three cirques coming down from Columbine Lake, a lot of snow still on the north faces of the ridges there. On top of that, we saw no one (whereas Columbine/Monarch was a zoo).

My guess is it's all in the timing. We went in a big-water year (2010) with exactly the right timing (mid-July), so were surrounded by all the flowers and waterfalls. I am hoping you (rogue) get to see some of this flower display in early June this year.

Upper Franklin Lake is a great idea, completely forgot about it.

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