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Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

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Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby peekseeker01 » Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:43 am

I am hiking the HST from Crescent Meadows to Mt. Whitney and exiting via Mt. Whitney Portal. I plan day 3 to be a hike from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake. I have intermediate to intermediate advanced backpacking experience, with a lot of hiking in the Georgia Mountains, Dolly Sods W. Va., and Linville Gorge, NC where there are some serious elevation gains. My physical conditioning is very good. However, I realize that this planned day requires serious elevation gains and an overall distance of 14.5 miles. Additionally, I realize that I will be at altitudes I am unaccustomed to.

My question is - is this a realistic objective for day 3. I have read Paul Richins Mount Whitney book and he seems to suggest going from Bearpaw to a 10,000 ft tarn south of Nine Lakes and camping at the base of Black Giant and Eagle Scout Peak by a small lake on day 2, and then on day 3 going to Moraine Lake. I on the other hand, having heard so much about camping at Hamilton, plan to go from either Bearpaw or Buck creek to Hamilton the 2nd day and then on day 3 leave Hamilton and go to Moraine, but the distance to Moraine and elevation gains and the fact that Richins does not suggest such a route, has caused me to question such a day hike.

Advice is welcomed. Thanks.



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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:26 am

Why not try it? You can always decide along the way that you would rather stop before that. I don't know about you, but most of our trips involve a certain amount of careful (or at least thoughtful!) planning followed by a bunch of improvisation once we hit the trail.

14 miles at elevation with a pack is a long day---but may thru-hikers do far more than that. We usually do far less than that in a day, because we like to explore a few side trips.

YMMV
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:26 am

Thats about 3800 uphill feet or such so somewhat strenuous yes but not greatly. There are backpackers that do twice that trail distance regularly on the PCT, and peak baggers today that climb thrice the vertical while also doing mondo distances. So SOME very fit atheletes yes. Much depends on how much weight one carries. Those doing the above often carry rather light loads. But for we ordinary folk carrying usual backpacking loads, that would be a somewhat strenuous day.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:45 am

Day 3 from Hamilton lake to Moraine Lake implies that you are taking 2 days to get to Hamilton Lake. I have reached Hamilton Lake in one day several times, once with a fairly heavy pack (lots of technical climbing gear). To me, one day to Hamilton lake is a bit easier than one day from Hamilton lake to Moraine Lake. To get to Hamilton lake in one day you have to get a very early start (say 7AM) and walk steadily all day (took us 8.5 hours). Your transportation plans may be such that you cannot get on the trail by 7AM on your first day. Just as beautiful as camping at Hamilton Lake is camping at Precipice Lake. How about camp on Buck Creek Day 1, then Precipice Lake day 2, Moraine Lake Day 3?
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:06 pm

If you are comfortable with long days than why not get a very early start
and hike to Hamilton the first night. If I get a late start making Hamilton is
fine, otherwise 9 Lakes Basin or beyond, but then I hike a little faster than
average.
Making Hamilton the first night will allow you to spend the next day and evening
resting and soaking in the scenery before getting a early start to get to Moraine Lake
which should be no problem, even better, instead of spending another night at Hamilton
go on to 9 Lakes Basin for a night which would be my personal preference since it is a
very scenic area too.
Buck Creek is okay if one runs out of time because of a very late start, and is
better than Bearpaw which can be very crowded and is not the most appealing
camping area's.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:06 pm

I'm with Maverick & Wandering Daisy as far as aiming for Hamilton on day 1. It's a gorgeous place & worth the effort. Keep in mind that for the roughly 17 miles (CM to Hamilton), Daisy was averaging ~2 miles per hour which is quick in my book. But even if it takes you 11-12 hours, it's worth the effort. Then, as Mav pointed out, you could take it easy the next day and either go up to Precipice or into 9 Lakes basin befor finishing off the trek to Moraine. The fall back for all of this is if you crash on the last stretch to Hamilton, there are a couple places to camp along Lone Pine creek that are far better than Buck/Bearpaw.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby fourputt » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:16 pm

There's really no problem playing it by ear. You can drop .5 mi to nice camping on the Big Arroyo at the Little Five Lakes Trail junction should you run out of steam after Kaweah Gap.

BTW, the next must-camp is the Kern Hot Springs.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:14 pm

I'm just adding my agreement to WD's post of going to Buck Creek day 1, Precipice day 2, and then Moraine. Buck Creek is the best place to camp between Crescent Meadow and Hamilton. Precipice Lake is one of the wonders of the Sierra - sunset there is beyond description with the shifting light on the lake and the view of Mt. Stewart and Angel Wings.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby vhsvhs » Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:26 pm

@peekseeker01 - When I hiked the HST in 2008, I went from Hamilton to Moraine in one day. If you're in shape, you can easily do this! The most exhausting part of the day will be climbing to Kaweah Gap in the morning, but your legs and lungs will be fresh. From Big Arroyo to Moraine, the trail climbs a little bit, but the grade is excellent and you can really cruise through this section. Enjoy.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby Cloudy » Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:57 pm

It is doable if you are in good shape. As I remember, the walk from Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw Meadow is pretty much a (relatively) lower elevation cruise with a more tiring portion being afterwards heading up to Hamilton Lakes late in the day. I have made Moraine Lake a couple of times from Hamilton in a day without it seeming to be too horrible. I get altitude sickness so sometimes it is a bit dicey for me as to what I can do. Start the climb over Kaweah Gap early and once into Big Arroyo, everything is pretty much gravy.

There is also the possibility of making up lost time both on the way down and along the bottom of Kern Canyon. Play it by ear if you have the time since it all depends on how you feel. I personally don't think that Moraine Lake is all that great and that Precipice Lake is more appealing by being very small but starkly beautiful. That being said, if I were in your shoes, I would press on to Moraine Lake since your ultimate goal is to cross the Sierra at Whitney Portal. The hike out of Kern Canyon and then up to Trail Crest is a hard, high elevation slog but you will probably be in better shape by the time you get there :-)
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby stevet » Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:56 pm

Short answer is yes, this is doable in one day. Conditioning plays a part as does pack weight. Hamilton to Moraine was day 2 of my HST loop, so probaby was carrying about 38 lbs.

I started hiking around 7am, and arrived before 3:30. The judgement as to whether you want to attempt this is when you cross the creek in Big Arroyo. Once you start the climb out water can be iffy (if your hike is late August/September) so make sure you are up for another 5-6 miles when you cross the creek.

Regardless of what time of day you get there, Moraine Lake is a beautiful location to camp, and if late August/September the water is quite warm and worthy of a long swim. Not just a dunk but a swim; to the far shore, and back.
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Re: Hiking from Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake in one day

Postby peekseeker01 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:11 am

Thanks to everyone for their very helpful replies. All your answers provided great and helpful information for my decision.

I think I will either shoot for Crescent Meadow to Hamilton day 1 and then day 2 play it by ear to Moraine, and if I do not make it stop somewhere in between and then get to Moraine as originally planned on day 3 or go to Buck Creek the first day, then onto Precipice Lake day 2 , then Moraine day 3.

Realizing I am a relatively low altitude resident, I think with altitude being a factor I will proceed more conservatively to Moraine.

But a follow up question is - from what I read setting up a tent at Precipice Lake is questionable - is this true?

BTW - since I am going late August the swim in Moraine sounds fantastic - I will shoot for the far shore and back. :D And yes I will wipe off any Deet or sunscreen before my swim as this seems to be a topic of concern these days. :nod:

Thanks again everyone.
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