TR: Taboose and the lake basins | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Taboose and the lake basins

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: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:46 pm

I just got back from an 8 day trip, attempting to replicate most of the route CGunderson took in June. He was kind enough to provide me with detailed information and photos on two passes and, ingrate that I am, I ended up taking neither of them.

[Note: for some reasons the pictures were getting cut off on the right side, but I think I fixed it. You can (hopefully) view them in full on Photobucket, although they are in completely jumbled order, so they should call it Slopbucket: ]

I'd always avoided the Taboose Creek trail, assuming it was just miserable. It is somewhat miserable, since half of it is covered in rubble, but it also travels up a stunning canyon, with terrain on both sides of the pass unlike anything I've seen in the Sierra. Even the "desert" part of the trail is pretty attractive:

Image

But things really take off near the top of the trail:

Image

Image

West of the pass resembles a beautiful velvety meadow, even though it's late season in a dry year:

Image

Day 2 was on the JMT. Here was the first detour. I had been considering taking CG's suggested route of Upper Basin Crossing (UBC), to get into Amphitheater Lakes basin, but the weather looked very iffy. I also had hoped to climb Split Mountain, but also passed on that because of the weather. Exploring later in my trip, I found out this is what I missed out on, on the west side of UBC:

Image

Uh...maybe next time (maybe not!).

I realized it had been at least 15 years since I had been on the JMT through Upper Basin and Mather Pass, so it was nice to revisit. The view north from Mather Pass (North Pal, middle, Middle Pal on right):

Image

On day 3, the hike up Cataract Creek into Amp Basin is a grunt, especially since I followed Secor's ever-unreliable advice to start going up on the west side of the creek. It was steep, crumbly and miserable. The east side of the creek (which I eventually crossed over to) looked much better. Amphitheater Lake is nice, but the real magic is in upper Amp Basin:

Image

Image

Image

The next day, the hike over Cataract Creek Pass wasn't bad at all. From the pass, it's only 800 feet to the top of Observation Peak, which has to have the best view of any 12,000 foot peak in the Sierra. Judging from the register, not many people climb it, although I did see Rogue Photonic's signature back from July. This is looking west, with Devils Crags in the middle:

Image

All of the lakes in Dumbbell Basin are gems:

Image

Image

On day 5, I began the trek to Dumbbell Pass with trepidation:

Image

I had run into a guy on the Taboose trail who had just done it, and he seemed thoroughly traumatized by the experience. However, keeping to the right (west) shoulder of the main chute rendered the climb quite harmless. There was very little loose rock, so it was a straight-forward if somewhat strenuous class 2 climb.

Lake Basin deserves all the accolades it gets:

Image

Image

Image

But then came my first disappointment -- the vastly overrated Marion Lake. It's rather a chore to get to, and then quite ordinary, and rather overrun with hardened campsites. My theory is that people tell themselves it's incredibly beautiful to justify the effort it took to get there (aka "cognitive dissonance"). But no matter how much they tell themselves it's worth the effort, it isn't.

Upper Lake Basin is even nicer, but my camera (actually iPhone, since my point & shoots keep breaking) battery was getting low so I don't have many photos. Anyway, on day 6 my plan was to go out over Vennacher Col. Unfortunately, the western ridge of Lake Basin is rather convoluted and confusing, so I ended up going up something that looked right and was tolerable class 2 - 3, featuring a nice notch at the top. However, I peered over to the other side, and I did not like what I saw. I know I'm not heading to heaven, but I wasn't exactly expecting this:

Image

Image
(Gosh, you can even see the bloodstains on the rocks below.)

Something told me that this wasn't really Vennacher Col after all. I later did find VC, but I was already pretty tuckered out from climbing the Horn of H*ll, and got discouraged by the mile of talus in front of VC. So I took the easy way out (I thought), and did Cartridge Pass instead. It actually looks awfully steep from a distance, but turns out, miraculously, to have a class 1 trail snaking the whole way up.

Image

In fact, it was an almost Zen-like experience winding my way up -- the most pleasant pass (on or off-trail) I think I've ever been over; I was actually disappointed when I got to the top. To make up for its previous direct steepness, the trail then becomes comically meandering -- I mean, to the point of absurdity. And the wandering trail features some of the most elaborate ducks I have ever seen. If the structures were any larger, they could rent them out for the summer. But that is simply to prepare you for the dust-plunge down to the South Fork Kings River that follows. I found it thoroughly miserable and I was going down. I simply cannot imagine going up that trail (which used to be the JMT, unbelievably). And then you have to fight your way through the Kings River valley, enjoying talus fields, fallen trees and mule s**t to get back to the JMT. I now understand why people risk their lives on Frozen Lake Pass instead. :)

[to be continued]
Last edited by quentinc on Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:41 pm, edited 7 times in total.



User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby windknot » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:57 pm

Great teaser! I just did a trip up Taboose as well and didn't find it to be as miserable as everyone says it is, though if you were to ask me while I was slipping on uneven boulders or trudging up the endless steep inclines I'll bet I'd sing a different tune. Our minds are great at blocking out the more painful stuff.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby windknot » Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:45 pm

Great report thus far. Thanks for taking me with you into an area I've wanted to visit for some time now.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:04 pm

Marion Lake was not at it's peak this year. My theory of it's more blue then the sky water is due to a bright white mineral that runs into the lake. When one of the inlets is dry it looks like snow. I believe this mineral coats the bottom and reflects more light then normal resulting in it's blue. But because the snow year was so low that inlet was almost dry in July and the other inlets do not contain this mineral so it was not as blue. I have seen the same mineral in the inlet of Marjorie Lake which is also very blue.

But I certainly consider Marion to still be my favorite lake in the Sierra which is saying allot.

Image
User avatar
RoguePhotonic
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1664
Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:52 am
Location: Bakersfield CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby SSSdave » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:21 pm

quentinc >>>"But then came my first disappointment -- the vastly overrated Marion Lake"

From the perspective of this old landscape photographer, a number of the more historically reknowned Sierra lakes are not exceptionally aesthetic. The same applies to other non-lake places like Evolution Valley. But then the reason those locations are loved often has more to do with other reasons like being large, deep and thus deeper blue, nice campsites with big trees, pretty turfy shorelines with wildflowers in season, good fishing etc. In this case Marion is down in a deep hole much like another reknowned body Reflection Lake in Kings Canyon NP that I also yawned at.

I have never backpacked into those basins you visited, as they are rather remote, and at least for me there are other areas in the same zone that hold more photographic potential. One of the spots that impressed you was the upper section of Taboose Canyon and you are the first person I've read that had anything of note to mention about it. In other words most people just hike right past it slogging up to the pass usually in one epic day. Much like drivers blasting up SR120 from Mono Lake to Tioga Pass mostly oblivious to the fact Lee Vining Canyon is exceptionally visually impressive. However I've been fascinated about Taboose Pass canyon for decades since seeing old images and noticing the rusty metamorphic geology in that zone and the impressive topo map features of that canyon wall. Your fine image shows that to be true.

This summer of 2012 I had planned a 10-day backpack over Taboose Pass but not in the usual one day marathon since I'm an old guy carrying a huge load. I removed that plan for this year along with another trip simply because the droughty conditions were not likely to provide good aesthetic conditions. So maybe 2013? Of course the mindset of most people is that the good stuff is on the other side of the Taboose Pass so the eastside is just to be endured moving through. Instead I would rather leisurely evening hike on arrival from the low trailhead just moving up about 1300 feet to 2050 meters. Then the first full day would only go up to 2750 meters or up 2300 feet. And on the second day would reach the pass at 3480 meters up another 2400 feet. In other words I would set myself up to camp below the cliffs you shot so on the second day would be there in early morning when they are likely to be most impressive. On the other side of the pass, I have an elaborately planned photography mission often rather strenuous, hour by hour over several areas sometimes climbing up to ridgeline views, and expect it will be one of the most productive large format trips I've yet made. And much of what I hope to capture are landscapes others just whiz by from often limited visuals on nearby trails. S
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby Timberline » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:18 pm

Great TR, quentic! Wonderful, beautiful pix, and welcome personal remarks about your experiences. Can't wait for more. Thanx!
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
User avatar
Timberline
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:55 pm
Location: Prineville, Oregon (Since 7/15/13)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby quentinc » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:45 am

Rogue, well thanks for explaining the mystery of Marion Lake. Even if it were bluer though, it was just that there were so many spectacular lakes in those basins, whereas the surroundings of Marion were comparatively humdrum. I think SSSDave hits the nail on the head about the friendly aspect of Marion, with its comforting trees and campsites. East Lake and the Sallie Keyes lakes are some others that people seem to love (for that reason) and I don't.

SSSDave -- yes, I think the east side of the top of the pass is worth some time for a serious photographer. I caught those cliffs early-mid morning but I'd bet they were even better at sunrise. Also, south of the trail, the views of Goodale mountain and the shoulder of Striped would have been quite spectacular in early evening. I got there as most of the area was already in shadow. Travel in that area, though, is very tedious because of all the rock. I'm not sure where it comes from -- it's not the loose rock that you see at the bottom of moraines, but embedded rock everywhere. Not something I recall seeing elsewhere.
User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby Coops » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:35 pm

It's the color. Big Pine Lakes have their own thing going on, but Marion has that Crater Lake like blue.
Marion Lake.jpg
User avatar
Coops
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:21 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby cgundersen » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:33 pm

quentin,
Great report and I'd second your comments about Upper Amphitheater basin and Observation Peak. For me, the former rivals Kaweah basin for the views and solitude, and in terms of scenic bang for the buck, it's hard to think of any other 12Kers that match Observation.
So, did you loop south (left) around the lake to reach the base of Dumbell Pass or did you go the quick route (right). I suspect the guy you ran into might have gone right where it's easy to achieve some ticklish exposures on rounded granite faces. Adrenaline moments when you least need 'em!
Finally, I thought Maverick did a great report on the stark beauty of upper Taboose last year and your report confirmed the scenic rewards of perservering up that cranky trail. Still, I'm keen to see if Birch Lake offers an easier way in to the Amphitheater area, as I'm very keen to get back to that alpine basin. I may have convinced a buddy to try it out next year. We'll see!
cg
User avatar
cgundersen
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 655
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:07 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby quentinc » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:15 pm

Thanks CG. Yes, I went right (west) around the main Dumbbell Lake. There was one spot with a bit of class 3, and the slick polished granite did make one think for a moment. But the guy I encountered was freaked out about the chute itself -- I didn't see why.
User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins -- PART II

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:45 pm

Last 2 days of the trip:

On Saturday, I made it up the surprisingly unpleasant south fork of the Kings (talus fields, downed trees, mule s***) and wanted to explore the lakes west of Striped Mountain, which is one of the most beautiful mountains I've seen, if you ignore the fact that it doesn't really have a peak. I took the outlet stream from where it crossed the JMT, and it was pretty steep going, especially given this was the first day I really felt fatigued. Here's the first lake:

Image

Image

And here's looking back to the west:

Image

The top lake gets a different section of the mountain, with different colors:

Image

Then, I slowly made my way back over Taboose, and explored the tarns to the south. The views of Goodale Mountain and the shoulders of Goodale and Striped would have been pretty spectacular if I had made it an hour or so earlier. Still pretty nice:

Image

Image

That area is fantastically rocky -- rocks embedded in the ground. It's difficult but beautiful travel.

Image

Image

And finally, a nice view down Taboose Canyon, inspiring my morning plunge over rock and rubble back to the trailhead.

Image
Last edited by quentinc on Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Taboose and the lake basins

Postby phenocryst » Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:55 pm

Nice to see Taboose getting a little love! I think for the combo of where it takes you and scenic beauty on the way up, it's my favorite e side pass. I do try to avoid punishing my feet and knees by taking alternate routes back down, tho.

My s fork Kings/ s side Cartridge experience in Aug (going the other way) was more positive than yours... some road apples, yes, but we followed a nice trail that led us around the toes of 2 of the 3 big talus fields, with just a little brush and down timber. And I actually kinda enjoyed the ascent of Cartridge from the the Kings, while at the same time not wanting to go back down that way. We found the trail just as shown on the Mt Pinchot 15 min quad... and I remember being pleased to see almost no ducks (!?) there and elsewhere on our route. I did notice looking back from the top that there might have been more than one trail heading down, so maybe you found a more circuitous route.

To be clear: the trail is hot and dusty along the Kings and the lower half of the ascent to the pass is a real grind. But I had been ready for a semi death march based on info I had read here and elsewhere, and it really wasn't that bad. It's class 1... definitely the option for those not into risking their lives!.. and Lake Basin is SO worth it.
User avatar
phenocryst
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:11 am
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot] and 11 guests