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Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

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Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby oleander » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:29 pm

Desolation Wilderness has not always been my first-choice destination, owing to the crowds. But I wonder if I could change that by trying some off-trail routes and lakes.

I have been up Horsetail Fall a couple of times, and once stayed at Ropi Lake. Not too many people there.

Have you found some off-trail lakes that are especially scenic and are also CAMPABLE? (I am into high alpine scenery; prefer a lake without a lot of trees, as opposed to say Lower Velma. Not into fishing.) I am really curious about...

1. Silver Dagger Lake (the narrow one, that drains via a falls into Twin Lakes)
2. Fontanillas Lake: I love that place, but am curious about a high tarn that drains into it from the south. The tarn is due west of Dicks Lake, at about 8700 feet. Campable?
3. Azure/Kalmia/Snow/Tallac Lakes. I hear there is a old route from Cascade Lake that goes up Cascade Creek? X-country from the Bayview Trail looks easy to Azure Lake.
4. Tiny tarns high above Gertrude Lake, to its east (about 8700 feet)
5. Jabu Lake
6. Lost Lake
7. Phipps Lake
8. Cup Lake (just south of Ralston Peak) must have an amazing sight line to the south.
9. Umpa Lake - although, it doesn't look very campable just going by photos
10. Favored location in the basin draining toward Ropi Lake? (Waca, Pyramid, Toem, and Gefo Lakes.) I have wandered about Desolation & Frata Lakes, but remember them as pretty steep, probably not campable. Also, based solely on the topo, it looks like there is a logical route to climb Pyramid Peak from the environs of Pyramid Lake - presumably traversing southwest up to the south ridge, then walking north to the peak along that ridge?

Thanks!
- Elizabeth



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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby paul » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:08 pm

If you like to camp on nice clean smooth granite slabs, with plenty of natural benches for furniture, and a nice granite slab sloping down into the lake for bathing purposes, you can't beat Waca Lake. Plus nifty sunrise light on Pyramid peak, and it's a great base camp for a Pyramid peak hike. Pyramid Lake is also very nice, also great base camp. The Route up pyramid is easy - it's all big shelves up to the ridge, then boulder-hopping to the summit.

Oh, and one more - there's a tarn up the the shoulder of Pyramid that sticks in my mind - I've always wanted to camp there. this is it in the bottom of this photo:

http://static.panoramio.com/photos/orig ... 979907.jpg
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby tim » Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:55 pm

I'd agree - Waca lake is my favorite, though we've not camped there, just done as a day hike from Lake Aloha a couple of times. Great swimming, especially with the island in the middle to dive off (the lake is ~30 feet deep in places). Nice flat surroundings close to the lake, though you might be camping on granite not on dirt. The place people seem to camp quite frequently is at the col above the lake (on the American Lake side). There is a small pond there for water (though you'd need to filter) and great views both back to American Lake and across to Pyramid Peak. To get there from Lake Aloha go across the dam and directly up and over the granite mound on the west side, then head round to the left of the second hill to reach the col (there is an isolated group of trees there which make a good landmark). All very easy hiking (we did it with a four year old and six year old last summer).

Waca Lake.jpg
Waca Lake from col
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby windknot » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:08 pm

This isn't off-trail, but it's a good 13-14 mile hike to get to Highland Lake via trail and so for this exercise I think it counts as off-trail (6.5 miles from Van Vleck going over the top from Forni Lake).

Very scenic (especially the view from the ridge south of Tells Peak) and lots of great camping spots, especially on the tarns just below the lake on the outlet stream, and a nice remote setting in a not too often visited area of Desolation. Nice for an overnighter weekend trip to get away from the crowds.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby mschnaidt » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:57 am

Cup Lake is beautiful but has very few flat areas to setup camp. The lake sits in a crater-like depression with very steep rocky sides.
PICT0084 (Small).JPG
Cup Lake
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby oleander » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:12 pm

Hmmm, Highland Lake, that's been on my bucket list for a while. Which trailhead would I use?

It also looks like one could x-country up to that lake by following the outlet stream up from Rockbound Lake or Rubicon Reservoir.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby paul » Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:22 pm

No matter which way you get to Highland Lake, it's pretty close to cross-country, even by the trail. I came up the trail from Camper Flat on the trail past the 4-Q's, Horsehoe , and Zitella, and it was pretty faint. Wasn't much different going on past the lake to the two little ponds just to the north.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby oleander » Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:30 pm

Here's another question:

Has anyone walked the length of Lake Aloha on the southwest shore, from the Waca Lake area to the Mosquito Pass area? How's the x-country?

- Elizabeth
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Re: Desolation Wilderness: Off-trail lakes

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:18 pm

Highland would be my top choice in Desolation. To me it is the most alpine of the Desolation lakes. The so-called trail is so faint that it may as well be a cross country trip. Going in from Van Vleck off trail over the top is fun. There are several ways of doing it. A particularly fun route goes from Shadow Lake to Huth Lake (off trail and unnamed on most maps), set in a particularly secluded off trail basin, then over the shoulder to Highland. One can work out some pretty fun off trail hikes in this area. On my last trip through this area, we went to Highland out of Van Vleck via Shadow and Huth, then out by Horsehoe et al. by the 4Qs and McConnell then to Schmidell (cutting the corner off trail from near 4Qs) then up and over the range to Top (off trail, but first part would not have been had the trail not been under snow) then to Lawrence, No.3 then finished the loop (on trail) to Van Vleck. There are off trail options going in from the Buck Island/Hidden/Rockbound etc side of things. This looks easy on the topo, but there are patches of brush that makes this a tad harder than it looks. Still, it isn't a bad hike to go in that way, too.
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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