TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby Tom_H » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:09 pm

This report is a little late, but when this happened, the DOD was about the only entity with internet access. Nevertheless, I think some will find it of interest.

While in grad school in the late 70's and early 80's, I used to work summers for a small outfitter. Our CA division had a base camp near Pinecrest and ran trips out of Kennedy Meadow, frequently heading across Brown Bear Pass and Emigrant Meadow to Dorothy Lake, then out from there via various routes including the West Walker to Leavitt Meadow or Kirkwood Creek to Buckeye Creek.

I decided I wanted to do a trip and exit at Twin Lakes Resort. The first time, in 1981, we took Kirkwood Creek to the North Fork of Buckeye Creek, then turned up the South Fork of Buckeye Creek. The 15 min. USGS topo for Matterhorn Peak showed no trail from Peeler Lake to Barney Lake, but it did show a trail straight up the ridge between Hunewell Peak and Cirque Mtn. and over a small saddle, then down the other side. The trail up the ridge had not been used in years but was mildly visible. The climb was a workout. Coming down the east slope was another story. The mountain side was composed of Volkswagon sized boulders, many of which were tipsy and even able to rotate. To make matters worse, manzanita had grown up through all the boulders to a height of six or seven feet. What little semblance of trail there was quickly disappeared. It was a miserable afternoon fighting our way down the mountain, eventually emerging through the manzanita onto the trail below Barney Lake on Robinson Creek.

I finished grad school, moved to Stowe to do some recreational work, but always thought there had to be a better way to have done that route. My best bud had taken over our little CA branch of the outfit and invited me to come do a trip with him in the summer of 1985. I went to the library @ U-VT, where they had a full collection of USGS topos for the nation, and spent hours pouring over the maps. I felt like Theodore Judah when the details crystalized. We only had 5 people on the trip, but they all were strong and able to endure rugged hiking. I knew it was going to be a good trek.

We made our way from Kennedy Meadow to Dorothy Lake with ease in 4 days on trail. At this point, we left the trail for a few days of cross country that avoided most of the elevation losses and regains we would have had to do on trail. We left the PCT at top of Dorothy Lake Pass, skirting Stella Lake and crossing the stream connecting it with Lake Ruth. Following the elevation contour, we made our way past the south side of Lake Helen to her easternmost tributary. We followed that stream SE about 2/3 of its way up to its glacial origin and continued SE to a saddle pass between there and Tower Lake. We camped at Tower Lake. Next day was spent climbing the pass to Mary Lake, side-hilling the ridge south of Tower Peak into the saddle between Tower Peak and Craig Peak, then climbing most of the way to the top of Tower Peak, before returning to Tower Lake for the night. The third day of off trail was spent following contour lines and the compass from the SE corner of Tower Lake at about 9200', curving in and out of ravines, just north of the little crest labeled 9422' on the 7.5 min. topo and arriving at the headwaters of the West Walker River (not marked by name on USGS topo), just a mile or so below its source. No trails were shown on the maps (and still aren't) but there was a use trail in great condition following this stream. We walked the trail along this stream to a cluster of four small ponds near the source where we encamped for a mosquito filled night. It was the only portion of these several days on-trail. The next morning, as we were about to break camp, a participant asked me how long I thought it would take to make the pass above the source of the river. Guessing roughly I said, "Thirty-five minutes." When we topped out, he pulled out his watch and said, "Thirty-five minutes on the nose." That was a nice feeling. From there we turned SSW and began dropping into a tributary flowing toward the big meadow in Thompson Canyon. This meadow is surely a fully eutrophicated ancient lake and a beautiful stream meandered through the 1.6 mi. length. We set camp on a small table rock elevated slightly above the valley floor at the upper end. I went for a meadow stroll while the others set out to bake in the old Optimus oven we carried. Near the other end, I spied a Black Bear, so quietly started my way back. The meadow was so long the bear looked like no more than a mite through the binoculars. (My buddy told me that in later years and avalanch swept tons of debris and trees into the meadow, greatly upsetting its beauty.) The next day we turned upstream onto the other stream entering this meadow at its northeasternmost point (Rancheria Creek) and continued upstream until about midway along the ridge connecting Center Mtn. and Acker Peak. When perpendicular with the lowest point of this ridge, we turned to a direct ascent straight up the side of the ridge through the little saddle at the top, continuing due east and following a stream down to the uppermost portion of Kerrick Meadow, crossing the pack trail and hit dead on the trail to Peeler Lake. The end of our off trail adventure. The dam on Peeler Lake raises the level just enough that now, rather than emptying only from the NE corner, some of the water flows from the NW corner into a completely different stream. Our evening at Peeler was a cozy one under the rain tarps during one of those rare summer Sierra showers. And of course, the trail that does not appear on my 15 min. map, certainly does exist on the ground. It made the descent to Barney Lake a thousand times easier than that ancient trail over the ridge and through the manzanita. It was a gratifying end to our trans-Sierra trek.

The moral of the story: Maps can be wrong. Where it says there is a trail, there may not be. Where it says there is no trail, there may be an excellent one.

Sorry no photos, just like the web, we didn't have digital cameras back then. As to the TR, I guess better late than never. Thanks for the opportunity to belatedly share the TR.
Last edited by Tom_H on Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.



User avatar
Tom_H
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 455
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:11 pm
Location: Wilton, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby wildhiker » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:30 pm

Thanks for the nice description of your off-trail adventures. I've been to most of that area, but you describe some new possibilities for me. Back in the pre-digital days, planning these off-trail trips was a much greater adventure. There were no forums where you could easily check your plans with others who may have been there before.

-Phil
User avatar
wildhiker
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:44 pm
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby Tom_H » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:17 pm

Thanks Phil,

We took my daughter who's a HS senior to a conference on women in technology @ Stanford recently. You surely live in a beautiful city.
User avatar
Tom_H
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 455
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:11 pm
Location: Wilton, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby Oubliet » Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:44 pm

This sounds like an amazing route!

I am tempted to try using the the same exit from Tower Lake to peeler Lake described on a bp trip this summer.

Does anyone know whether the stream that drains through Thompson Canyon is reliable for water for the first half of summer?
User avatar
Oubliet
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 56
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:10 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:33 pm

The 2 times that I have been in Thompson Canyon, one was in Sept, water was not an issue, you will be
fine in the first half of the summer. There are numerous lakes scattered in the canyon that will
have water if for some reason the creek is dried up, which I highly doubt.
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
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8028
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Off Trail Adventure: Dorothy Lake to Peeler Lake

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 24, 2015 2:13 pm

Tom H,

I've been looking at route possibilities like this as a way to do a one way hike from 108 to Mono Village tagging Tower Peak along the way. Given the committing aspect of such a hike, it's nice to see some reports by you and WD confirming the nature of those passes and cross country routes near Tower, Ehrnbeck, and Hawksbeak that look very doable on topos.

I can confirm some of the challenging stuff one can find on and near the south and east of Cirque Mountain. Class 2 and 3 Volkswagen to cabin size boulders with big gaps forced me back to the north when my dogs were too smart to be led through class 3 to reach a class 1-2 section along the top of the cirque. Center Mountain earlier in the day was more scenic for the effort.

Thanks!
User avatar
seanr
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 257
Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:46 am
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests