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Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

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Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby schmalz » Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:15 pm

Hey Everyone,

I'm taking off on a 9 day trip in about a week and a half. I'm planning on doing the Circle of Solitude in SeKi, and I was wondering if there is any specific info that would help me plan the trip. I've looked at the previous trip reports for this area so I have a vague idea of what to expect. Two things I am specifically interested in hearing about is potentially difficult river crossings, and stretches of trail where water might be scarce.

Here are my responses to the form questions:

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Somewhere between level 2 and 3.
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel


What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
I'm looking to keep things mainly on trail but am looking for a few offtrail excursions to get me into some pristine areas. I'm not interested in anything too sketchy (I'll be by myself and am not super experienced)

What is your main interest?
I'm interested in exploring the Sierra and getting some good photos along the way. I want a mix of forest, streams, lakes, above the treeline ridges, etc.


How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
9 days. I'm looking to do an average of about 12 miles a day. If things go bad, I'm prepared to skip some of my offtrail excursions so I can get out in my timeframe. I'm also confident I'll be able to cover up to 20 miles a day at the end of the trip, if needed.

Here is a proposed itinerary:

Day 1: Onion Valley to Kearsage Lakes
Day 2: Kearsage Lakes to Lake Reflection
Day 3: Lake Reflection to Sphinx Creek (Should I expect water flow here?)
Day 4: Sphinx Creek over Avalance Pass to Moraine Meadows/Roaring River area
Day 5: Moraine Meadows to Cloud Canyon
Day 6: Cloud Canyon to Picket Creek Lake (Kaweah Basin)
Day 7: Picket Creek Lake to Milestone Basin
Day 8: Milestone Basin over Forester Pass (weather permitting)
Day 9: Forester Pass to Onion Valley

Any advice/information/concerns are greatly appreciated.



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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:25 pm

Hi Schmalz,

Yes you will have water on day 3. You are aware that you have a class 1(cornice
should not be an issue this year), and two class 2 passes (Brewer Creek Pass and
Sphinx Pass) to go over in order to get to Sphinx Lakes?
Instead of describing the route myself, Phil Arnot as a great description of the route
in his book "High Sierra, John Muir's Range Of Light".
The route up to Picket Lake is up a steep incline, and you should aim to reach
the northern side of the lake where there is a ramp (chute) which leads down to the
lake. You should start up at about where Kern Point is on the opposite side and
traverse up to the lake which will make it much easier to ascend up too the lake.
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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby schmalz » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:42 pm

maverick wrote:Hi Schmalz,

You are aware that you have a class 1(cornice
should not be an issue this year), and two class 2 passes (Brewer Creek Pass and
Sphinx Pass) to go over in order to get to Sphinx Lakes?
Instead of describing the route myself, Phil Arnot as a great description of the route
in his book "High Sierra, John Muir's Range Of Light".
The route up to Picket Lake is up a steep incline, and you should aim to reach
the northern side of the lake where there is a ramp (chute) which leads down to the
lake. You should start up at about where Kern Point is on the opposite side and
traverse up to the lake which will make it much easier to ascend up too the lake.


Thanks for the advice on getting to Picket Lake. It looks like a steep incline but doable. My pack will be getting lighter by then so I think I'll be up for it. If not, plenty of good camping around there for sure.

Regarding Sphinx, I'm not planning on going up to the lakes. I was planning on camping near the creek on the trail up towards Avalanche Pass. I don't think I'll be able to get over the pass that day, and I want to be able to camp near water so I figured I'd have to stop at Sphinx Creek to accomplish that.
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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:06 pm

Schmalz wrote:
Regarding Sphinx, I'm not planning on going up to the lakes. I was planning on
camping near the creek on the trail up towards Avalanche Pass. I don't think
I'll be able to get over the pass that day, and I want to be able to camp near
water so I figured I'd have to stop at Sphinx Creek to accomplish that.


Oh, so your planning to hike back down to Bubb's Creek from Reflection and up to
Avalanche Pass. Cool trail, quite amazing how the CCC built that trail right into
those cliffs. There is a decent camp site at the top of the cliffs next to the stream
and a great site where Sphinx Creek meets up with the trail on the way to Avalanche
Pass, nice and leveled ground.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

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: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby schmalz » Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:08 pm

maverick wrote:
Schmalz wrote:
Regarding Sphinx, I'm not planning on going up to the lakes. I was planning on
camping near the creek on the trail up towards Avalanche Pass. I don't think
I'll be able to get over the pass that day, and I want to be able to camp near
water so I figured I'd have to stop at Sphinx Creek to accomplish that.


Oh, so your planning to hike back down to Bubb's Creek from Reflection and up to
Avalanche Pass. Cool trail, quite amazing how the CCC built that trail right into
those cliffs. There is a decent camp site at the top of the cliffs next to the stream
and a great site where Sphinx Creek meets up with the trail on the way to Avalanche
Pass, nice and leveled ground.


Correct, I was planning on sticking to the trail for the first half of the trip (and most of it in general), should have clarified in the OP. Thanks for the additional info. Sounds like that will be a good place to stop and recharge before finishing the ascent.
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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby cgundersen » Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:02 am

schmalz,
Nothing against Lake Reflection, but it is a bit out of the way and it requires a fair amount of backtracking to get back to the Bubbs trail. Instead, I'd recommend replacing it with a night in the upper Kern Plateau, say by Lake South America (LSA). The views of the Great Western Divide from there are fantastic. Also, the one place where water may be scarce is the climb out of the lower Kern as you leave Milestone, so make sure you have something in the tank. Otherwise, it's a fabulous loop, esp. with the other "detours" you've planned. In fact, from LSA, you could probably do an early morning scamper to the ridge for a peek at Lake Reflection before looping back and over Forester...........
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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:02 am

CG wrote:
Nothing against Lake Reflection, but it is a bit out of the way and it requires a fair
amount of backtracking to get back to the Bubbs trail.


LR is considered by some as one of the prettiest lakes in the Sierra, and if the winds are
not blowing allowing for that magical reflection, and you got some clouds with some
color in them bringing it all together creating that perfect scene (which very rarely
happens by the way) than yes it can be up there with the best of them.
https://www.google.com/search?q=reflect ... 44&bih=895
The question is whether it is worth it to the OP to cross Bubbs Creek twice, hiking up
2000 ft on day, and then down 2000 ft down the next, a total of around 9.5 miles to
visit LR, well only the OP can answer that.
Personally if I have never seen a lake, have heard great things about it, have seen
beautiful photo's of it, and since I am the curious type, my answer would be yes I
would go visit it too, though probably for more than one day.
The Upper Kern Basin as CG mentions is very pretty too, though personally I do not
care much for SAL. There are many other lakes like for example near Mt Genevra
that have outstanding morning reflection views, as do some of the lakes up Milestone
Creek, but all these places require you to get of the trail, though not for long distances
and all one needs to do is follow a creek, and use the Kern Divide for orientation.
Sphinx Lakes is also a very pretty basin which one can access by following Sphinx Creek
to the lakes, but this part is crosscountry.
Here's Doyle's TR of the area, and from which you can get a peak at the route up from
Bubbs towards the Avalanche Pass section. http://www.doylewdonehoo.com/sphinx/sphinx1.htm
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

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: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby schmalz » Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:29 am

Maverick is pretty spot on with the reasoning in his post. From what I've seen in pictures, Lake Reflection is a very scenic lake, and photography is a big part of what I'm doing out there. I'm not planning on having a full day there, but I intend to get there in the middle of the afternoon so that I can enjoy it and take advantage of the evening light, and then do something similar the following day where I will leave a little later than usual.

I should also mention that I don't think I'll be hiking along Bubb's again anytime soon so this seems like my opportunity to go to Reflection. I'm planning on doing a Horseshoe Meadow to Onion Valley trip sometime, which is when I would check out the area surrounding Lake South America.

You mention the issue of crossing Bubb's creek twice. This is one of the river crossings I was curious about. Considering the low snow year, should I be worried about it at all? Will it simply be a matter of wearing river shoes and getting wet up to my knees? Or is it going to be more involved/dangerous?
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Re: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:42 am

Schmalz wrote:
You mention the issue of crossing Bubb's creek twice. This is one of the river
crossings I was curious about. Considering the low snow year, should I be worried
about it at all? Will it simply be a matter of wearing river shoes and getting wet
up to my knees? Or is it going to be more involved/dangerous?


Usually it still would be a difficult crossing if it was an average/above average
snow year, but since it is neither this year it will not be a major issue. If the water
is running high at the normal crossing (Junction Meadow) then head down creek
and you will find shallower water that will make your crossing much easier.
Morning crossing and river shoes will be adequate.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

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: Trip Advice: Circle of Solitude

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:20 pm

Hey Schmalz,

What happened to your TR? See you have all ready posted a beautiful picture
of Lake Reflection on FM before anything here on HST. http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1134294
You haven't forgotten about us? :D
Looking forward to reading about your trip, and seeing the pic's.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

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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