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Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

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Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby Guy Cooper » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:07 pm

Hi all,
About me:

Level 3 numerous trips some x-country, but only easy straightforward x country eg knapsack pass, alta to moose and back to pear, eagle scout around to white chief canyon, beginner stuff

Class 2 definitely completely comfortable with, no experience with Class 3 x-country travel but would like to change that on this trip

Comfortable with snow and ice, this is one area I have experience and training, but I am not planning on bringing ice ax or crampons/spikes on this trip

Main interests Photography, scenery, getting experience with x-country

I will have six days of food waiting for me at the Charlotte Lake/JMT junction. My plan all along has been to head into the Kaweah Basin via Picket Creek over Picket Pass and then into Nine Lakes via Pyra-Queen Col. This is where I'm wondering if I need a reality check. It has been a goal of mine for many years to visit Kaweah Basin (grew up on Kaweah Ave in Visalia, been hiking out of Mineral King my whole life so I have been well aware of this area and it's allure for a long time).

The itinerary after resupply would be;

Day 1: Vidette mdw over Forester to camp along upper Tyndall
Day 2: Upper Tyndall to Junction Meadow
Day 3: Junction meadow to Kaweah Basin via Picket Pass
Day 4: Kaweah Basin to Nine Lakes via Pyra-Queen Col
Day 5 Nine Lakes Basin to Hamilton Lake
Day 6 Hamilton back to Crescent Mdw

Now after doing more research I realize there is no easy route from the east into Kaweah Basin, but based on a thread at bpl I was planning on following this route, described by Tom Kirchner here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin ... d_id=49647

Based on Tom's excellent description I feel confident getting into the area of Kaweah Basin he describes. But how about my plan to exit over Pyra Queen Col? Secor describes it as Class 2, it's usually done from the west though, correct? Does anyone have a link to a picture of the approach from the east, from Kaweah Basin over to Nine Lakes? I've found photos of the other direction with description of the notch to look for.

On the other hand I could scrap the whole plan and head out to the east side, which opens up a whole bunch of other possibilities, I know. My goal is to get some good x-country experience after my resupply at Charlotte, capitalizing on the good shape I will be in (after 10 days of hiking) and my fresh food supply to see some areas of the southern Sierra that are more remote and difficult to reach, namely the Kaweah Basin!

A good friend with limited availability to talk suggested I cross the GWD at Longley Pass and then head up Cloud Canyon. I could also just stay on trail and head up Colby Pass trail (which if so, is it faster to head to Roads End or Big Meadows?) Or do some x-country heading up Kern-Kaweah Canyon and over some combination of Triple Divide Pass, Lion Rock Pass and Lion Lake Pass? Or exite Kern Kaweah Canyon over Pants Pass and down to Kaweah Gap?

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. As you can probably tell, this is the most ambitious hike I have planned and I have never been into these areas, except lower Nine Lakes Basin about 4 years ago from upper Big Arroyo, for the day to fish. I'm trying to figure out if my plan is totally unrealistic or foolish even, given that I will be hiking alone. THanks for reading and any advice.



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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby maverick » Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:28 pm

Hi Guy,

The route up to Picket Creek Lake from the Kern-Kaweah is a class 2 route, and
if you tried the route up from Rockslide Lake taking the branch that leads to the
first lake in lower Kaweah Basin you can encounter class 3 sections if you do
not have good route finding skills.
QPC is a solid class 2 and with your experience, would recommend that you get
some more under your belt before you take on something of this level.
Triple Divide Pass, and especially Pants Pass should not even be a consideration.
Your friend after throwing out the Longley Pass suggestion forgot to mention
that you have two other class 2 passes to cross before you can even get near the
trail leading down to Roaring River, or the other option of descending Cunningham
Creek which is not a route for a newbie with not crosscountry experience.
My advice is stick to the trail and go visit a few crosscountry basins/lakes that is
pretty easy to access so you can gain experience and practice.
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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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby Guy Cooper » Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:24 pm

Thanks for the advice. At this point I am planning on pursuing the route into Kaweah Basin via Picket Creek, then heading out of the basin over Kaweah Pass and meeting back up with the HST. More mileage but safer and might even be faster for someone like myself. I appreciate your advice and warning and I agree I need some more experience or at least a partner before trying something like QPC or TDP or Pants etc.
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby quentinc » Sat Aug 11, 2012 9:58 pm

The trip into Kaweah Basin from Rockslide Lake up Picket Creek isn't bad at all, as long as you follow the easier branch of the creek. It's also quite beautiful. I haven't exited KB heading west, but I don't think Kaweah Pass is any easier than the others you have been considering!
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby maverick » Sun Aug 12, 2012 12:35 am

KB pass is worse than QPC, steep and very loose, unstable rock. This is one of the other
easier routes into KB if you are intent on visiting KB, but come back the same way or via
Picket Creek instead of trying any of those difficult passes, and then use the HST to
Chagoopa Plateau on to Hamilton Lake via Kaweah Gap.
HST Map
While ascending this route use Kern Point on the opposite side as a reference point, if
at any time you feel uncomfortable with this/or any part of the route do not proceed
but turn around instead, it's better to try again at another time than push beyond your
capabilities and get in trouble or worse.
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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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:11 am

I went into Kaweah Basin using the Picket Creek route the week before last. Crossing the Kern-Kaweah is easy this year since the water is so low. Finding the Picket Creek Lake is a bit of a problem if you don't have a GPS (I don't). Follow Maverick's suggestion of Kern Point as a reference. Ascend diagonally up the ridge on the terrain that does not require ascending the granite slabs, which are too steep and slick to ascend or descend. Near the top, you should encounter a long gully that descends all the way down to the Kern-Kaweah. The Picket Creek Lake is to the right, at the top of this gully. I found I had to pay close attention to my compass bearing since it's pretty easy to get turned around when you get near the top of the ascent.

To get from the Picket Creek Lake to Kaweah Basin, stay on the right side of first two "lakes" after the Picket Creek Lake in Picket Creek. At the end of the second lake, there will be willows beginning on the right side. At that point, cross the creek and then stay well to the left of the creek. In about 1/4 mile, you'll then encounter a headwall about 20-30 feet high above a dried up pond. Ascend the faint use trail on the far left. This will bypass the headwall. At the top of this ascent, look through the trees and you will see the top of the ridge separating Picket Creek Basin from Kaweah Basin. It's an easy walk up to the top of the ridge.

From the top of the ridge, descending to Kaweah Basin is relatively simple as long as you are willing to follow the terrain instead of trying the most direct route down.

I'm with Maverick about exiting via the Picket Creek route. Also, if you can add an extra day to your trip, to make it 7 days of food, I would advise it. You don't want to rush through Picket Creek Basin or Kaweah Basin.

Don't expect to see many, if any, people once you cross the Kern-Kaweah. I saw no one for 6 days.
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby sparky » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:25 am

Kaweah Pass and meeting back up with the HST. More mileage but safer


I have not been over this pass, but from what I have heard, and have read multiple places online, it is not a safer route.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby lambertiana » Mon Aug 13, 2012 7:58 pm

I just went up Picket Creek/Kaweah Basin/Pyra-Queen Col a few weeks ago and enjoyed it very much. A few comments:

1. Your plan to go from Junction Meadow to Kaweah Basin in one day may be a bit ambitious, plan for a long day. I would add a day if possible to enjoy the lowest lake on Picket Creek, it's a special spot.

2. We headed up to Picket Creek after camping at Gallats Lake. I don't have a GPS, but the 7.5' topo worked fine. We crossed the Kern-Kaweah just above the first large marshy area that you reach below Gallats Lake, and followed the talus ramp diagonally up the granite slopes. It was easy most of the way, with only a few spots of class 2. You go around the bend on that slope (halfway up) and cross the large gully that has been mentioned. We continued on up diagonally instead of straight up, and ended up on a wide ledge right on top of the cliff below some steep slabs (we stayed as high as we could). We followed that ledge until we turned a corner and could see Picket Creek and the stream draining Kaweah Basin crashing down the cliffs and steep slopes. Right when you dead end if you are not a serious rock climber, head up the slabs. You get to a small draw, follow the gully from it northward and it drops you right onto the east shore of the lake.

3. From the lowest lake on Picket Creek we started off in the center of the drainage hopping the rocks so I could get some pictures there, but after a short distance we went left and stayed on the left of the drainage (south) and found it easy walking all the way to the point where we headed over the divide to Kaweah Basin.

4. Once we went over the divide, we stayed on the north (right) side of the creek because we didn't want to cross that nasty-looking gully. This meant staying on talus for a while, until we got to where the basin widens up and we then crossed the creek and looped around on the south side of the basin, where the walking was very easy. From the main creek we had to follow a small tributary up for a short distance to get through some brush, but there was little water and the rocks were stable.

5. Pyra-Queen col is a lot of larger talus/boulders on the east side and a lot of smaller, looser talus on the west side. We ended up ascending almost dead center in the drainage to approach the col from the highest lake, passing the lakes on the right and then staying just left of the small creek, which kept us on larger rocks/boulders most of the way. I am fortunate to have good balance and actually enjoyed all of the rock hopping it took to go up the east side, where the large talus was relatively stable, but I did not enjoy the descent on the west. The initial chute is VERY steep and VERY loose, I had to hang onto the rocks on the right side of the chute to avoid creating my own personal rockslide.

email me at my forum name at hotmail and I can send you pictures if you like, the Picket Creek to Kaweah Basin section is very scenic, it may have moved into the number one spot on my list of favorites.
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby Guy Cooper » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:44 pm

Hey folks thanks for all the replies, I wish I had been able to view some of them before heading out on my trip. I ended up ascending "the ramp" which I found quite straightforward route finding but quite strenuous. I tried to stay as high as possible and ended up on a ledge above the lowest of the three picket creek lakes, the one where the inlet and outlet are separated by 90 degrees. What a beautiful lake! Looking E from there is really special. I then tried to head into Kaweah Basin via the low point on the ridge but again shot too high and ended up way above the basin on the ridge that separates KB from Picket Creek basin, and had some difficulty getting down to the basin because I was impatient and tried to take the most direct route down. I left a campground along the Kern north of Junction Meadow around 8 am and was at the largest lake near the bottom of KB by 230 pm. I sorta just powered my way up that granite slab, but took several breaks for photos. Perhaps the route up E fork Picket is more tedious and therefore time consuming?

I exited via Kaweah Pass. Maverick it is very interesting to hear you say that KP is not easier than QPC. I imagined it being much easier. Indeed, that pass is nothing to shrug at! I ended up having quite an adventure getting over that pass and in fact I really wouldn't suggest it to anybody (alone, like I was). The E slope is steep and there is SO much loose rock that it just seems kinda crazy, so many opportunities for a serious accident. But then again the Basin is so special and beautiful that it's worth taking some risk. My suggestion, though, would be to enter and exit via the eastern routes, either the ramp or the E fork Picket Crk that many others have suggested. I'm definitely even more curious now about QPC and will head back when I have a good partner to tackle that route (I live on the West side so it requires quite a few days to reach the E approaches!)

Indeed, crossing the Kern and the Kern-Kaweah was ridiculously easy, rock hopped across both. It was thunder, lightning, hail and rain one night in the basin and mostly clear the other, but very dramatic scenery. I had such a powerful experience up there, and I can't wait to get a TR posted, although it will probably be a couple more weeks before I get it togehter. I want to say many thanks to those who gave me advice and suggestions and to the folks who have posted about these routes in the past, thanks so much. I used a lot of advice from older posts, in particular those by Tom Kirchner over at BPL. Even though I didn't follow some of the advice given me, I agree that it was the correct advice. Entering and exiting the KB for the first time should be done with at least one partner, especially if using one of the western passes.
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby cgundersen » Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:02 am

Hey guy,
Maverick kindly posted KP photos in the HST xc routes section that my wife took a few years back. We avoided lots of the loose stuff by being out in mid-June, but even so, there were perilously loose boulders for the final ascent that convinced us to avoid KP in the future. Well, the angle of the snow was a bit daunting, too. But, if you have shots with less snow, it'd be great if you could post them, or see if Mav will do it for you!
Thanks,
cg
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:53 pm

If you've been doing what you've said for your whole life, and you're in shape, I would think you would have a nice adventure if you're cautious. Can't you squeeze in one more day? Then it may not seem so ambitious. You might find yourself with your head down looking at the ground. But then, many of us do that frequently anyway... (unfortunately).
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Re: Route Planning - I need advice and maybe a reality check?

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:55 pm

At least you're thinking about it and asking questions. That's a good start.
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