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Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

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Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby BigMan » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:22 pm

A friend and I are heading out on a 8-day NL to SL loop. Were actually starting the hike from Tyee Lakes TH; other TH's weren't available and I've been inspired by others here who have done this "complete" loop without requiring a shuttle or a hitch.

Some background info:

Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel

Comfortable with Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country. Not very comfortable with Class 3. Not much experience with river crossings. Very little Snow travel/Glacier crossings.

Main interest is Big Mountain scenery, Lakes, and maybe some forest. No plans to fish.

I completed the JMT with a 16 miles/day average, but I don't want to push that fast for this trip. Also, I'm a moderate-to-slow cross country mover. I want to be patient, safe and comfortable. My partner's in better shape that I.

I'm wondering if we could fit in some time in Ionian Basin AND Palisades Basin AND climb a few peaks. That would be ideal. Here's a preliminary itinerary:

Day 1: Park the truck at South Lake, walk/hitch to Tyee Lakes TH. Hike up to the 4th Tyee Lake.
Day 2: Tyee Lakes to George to Sabrina. Walk the road up to North Lake, then up to Upper Lamarck Lake and possibly to the tarn below Lamarck Col.
Day 3: Over Lamarck Col to Darwin Canyon, Darwin Bench, Evo Lake. Camp at Sapphire or Wanda Lake.
Day 4: Sapphire or Wanda Lake to Wanda Pass, into Ionian Basin. Camp at Chasm Lake.
Day 5: Chasm Lake up to Black Giant Pass, ascend BG, down to JMT, visit the hut at Muir Pass (my partner's never seen it). Camp at Helen Lake or off trail lake nearby (?).
Day 6: Down to LeConte Canyon, up to Dusy Basin, over Knapsack Pass to Barrett Lakes.
Day 7: Climb Columbine peak. Explore Palisades Basin.
Day 8: Over Thunderbolt Pass to Bishop Pass trail, down to truck at South Lake.

Any suggestions? Alterations? Too ambitious?

Does Wanda Lake-Wanda Pass-Chasm Lake-BG Pass involve any Class 3 or hairy Class 2? Same for Columbine Peak, Knapsack Pass-Barrett Lakes-Thunderbolt Pass?

Any obvious "can't miss" areas/peaks that we could and should do? I figure getting to Sapphire by the end of Day 3 is a cinch, with Day 2 being a strenuous "get acclimated" day. From there, we have 5 days to get to South Lake. That's the part that's wide open.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby paul » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:08 pm

Sounds like a great trip. I have a few thoughts - do you particularly want to camp in the Ionian Basin, or just see it? I have not been in there, but from the photos I've seen and what I've read, it's pretty rugged - not class 3, but fiddly route finding and steep. So it seems to me that wandering in there without a pack would be more fun - unless, as I said, you have a special desire to camp in there, in which case go for it. My thought would be to hop over Black Giant pass, camp at the lake just south of it, and do a dayhike exploration in the the Ionian from there. Day after that, pack up, lug the packs up to BG pass and drop them there, zip up BG and then on from there.

Or you could throw a one-day sufferfest into the middle of your trip, and do Mt. Goddard as a dayhike from the lake just south of BG pass.

OR (now you got me going) go from Wando over to Davis lake, over to Martha via the nice little saddle just west of point 12964, into the Ionian from there, bag Goddard on the way, traverse the Ionian and come out at BG pass, bag BG. Probably have to skip some of the palisade stuff, but is that really better than the view form Goddard? Sounds good to me!

Knapsack pass to Barrett lakes I have done - piece of cake, and Barret lakes is a fabulous spot to camp. Thunderbolt I have not done. Have heard it is lots of talus.
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby kpeter » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:17 pm

I very much enjoyed doing the complete loop last year. You probably have come across my TR:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6758&hilit=complete+loop

I did not do Lamark Col nor any peak bagging nor much cross country on that trip, so your trip is significantly more ambitious than mine was. I can't offer very much advice, except to say all your variations look interesting. You will see some places I wanted to see! I will look forward to your report.

I do wonder a bit about your day 6. It seems like a very long day to me. On a different trip I camped in Dusy Basin and tried to get up Knapsack on a dayhike.
DSC01382-2.jpg
Knapsack Pass from Dusy Basin side

We got hung up in brush below and then a light rain made the friction slabs wet up above, so we turned back. Knapsack looked quite doable but it was going to take more effort than we were willing to expend on our lazy stroll. Still, starting at Wanda, going down LeConte and the steep climb up to Dusy finished off by bushwhacking over Knapsack will be quite a day.

In any case, almost anything you do on this trip will be spectacular. Have a great trip!
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:13 pm

Hi Bigman,

When reading initially that you had intended 8 days for the North Lake-South Lake
via Lamarck Col plus some extras it sounded great, but then reading that 2 nights
of the 7 nights where spent on the eastern side before even crossing the crest it
sounds way too ambitious, especially when you wrote " I completed the JMT with
a 16 miles/day average, but I don't want to push that fast for this trip.
Also, I'm a moderate-to-slow cross country mover. I want to be patient, safe
and comfortable.
"
As you mentioned and are aware of that crosscountry travel is much slower than
what one can do on trail, I too have the done JMT (8 and 11 days).
You will not enjoy your trip because you will be rushing, which in turn will make your
trip unsafe, especially over rugged terrain that one encounters in Ionian Basin for
example.
Though none of your passes are extremely difficult they still need to be approached
with care.
Also consider the unexpected like some nasty weather that may bog you down and
throw off your whole itinerary.
Ionian Basin, Darwin Canyon, Evolution Basin, Dusy Basin, and Palisades Basin are
places that one can spend several days at easily, especially if one throws in some
peak bagging, so why rush.
Would recommend dropping the Ionian or the Palisades Basin part of your trip and
taking your time to enjoy, and exploring one of these regions, and then include the
other section on another trip.
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:20 pm

I have done lots in Ionian Basin and Barrett Lakes. I think Ionian Basin deserves more than one overnight. Barrett Lakes, on the other hand makes a really nice 2 day trip from Dusy Basin. Do Ionian Basin on another trip and spend several days in there. A dedicated trip to Davis Lakes and Ionian Basin makes a nice week long trip. Thunderbolt Pass is easy on the south side if you find the ledges to get to the pass. It is a bit tricky. The north side can be difficult depending on snow. This is one pass where lots of snow actually makes the north side easier. When melted out there are some big rocks to climb over and it goes slow. The traverse to Bishop Pass is also tricky routefinding but easy. It is difficult to exactly traverse - you end up either going up above Bishop Pass a bit or descending and then have to climb up again. But Thunderbolt pass and the traverse to Bishop is really pretty. I have been both in and out of Barrett Lakes via Thunderbolt Pass several times and in many different snow conditions and did all in a day from South Lake, with a relatively heavy pack (full of technical climbing gear). Not this season, but early in a high snow year you can actually camp on Thunderbolt Pass. There are constructed sandy bivy spots and water close on the north side (trickles). I always had an ice axe when doing Thunderbolt pass, but that just was because I went into Barrett Lakes to do climbing. Although handy in a few places, it is not necessary in most conditions.
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby BigMan » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:50 pm

Thanks for the great advice everyone.

I think we'll forget about Palisades Basin. That way, we'll have 3 days dedicated to Ionian Basin.

I like the idea of entering IB via Wanda Lake / Davis Lake / Martha Lake. Then we can leave the Basin via Wanda Pass, or if we're moving more quickly, BG Pass.
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Re: Trip Advice - North Lake / South Lake Loop

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:43 pm

As an alternative you could go see McGee Lakes by going over McGee Lakes Pass
located here: HST Map
Then over to Davis Lake via Pass 11,720 located here: HST Map and continue on your trip into Ionian, exiting either using Wanda Pass or BGP.
This would give you something different to see on the way in and the way out.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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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