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Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

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Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby SandStorm » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:22 pm

The discussion about Wallace Col made me wonder just what other passes could (or should) be considered underrated - misleadingly at best and perhaps dangerously at worst. (The assumption here is that full packs are being carried.) Since Secor is the primary source for so many of these routes, his ratings provide the most logical basis for evaluation.

Also, are any of the following passes badly underrated and/or particularly difficult to cross carrying a full pack? ("Full" meaning roughly 30-40 pounds.) Grazie mille.

Lion Rock Passes (Class 2)
Lion Lake Pass (Class 2)
Italy Pass (Presumed class 1-2)
Gabbot Pass (Class 2)
Bighorn Pass (Class 2)
Shout of Relief Pass (Class 2)
Beck Lakes Pass (Class 2)
Blue Lake Pass (Class 2)
Knapsack Pass (Class 1)
Chimney Pass (Class 2)



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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:28 pm

Everyone has a standard which can vary allot. What I may see as easy might be impossible for another but in my opinion every pass you listed that I have done is not hard at all with a full pack on.

They are:

Lion Rock 2
Lion Lake
Italy
Gabbot
Blue Lake

On the other hand passes like King Col are rated class 2 and I will never do it again even with no pack! I also would not recommend anyone else take it. I would much rather do some class 4 and 5 with a full pack then something like King Col.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby SandStorm » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:32 pm

Thanks for the input, Rogue. Good to hear. Duly noted re King Col. That's what I'm talkin' about. Sounds like a big discrepancy. What was so bad about it?
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:38 pm

It was very steep hard packed dirt with marble sized rock to slip on. The dirt itself was mashed in between crumbly granite that offered no footing. Every step I could only think "omg this is bad!" I began using the cliff walls to try and lower myself down but it did not help much. It was one of those passes I feel your lucky to get off alive.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby sparky » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:16 pm

^^ those are the worst because from far it looks easy, it isn't until your on top of it slipping like ice that you realize how ugly it is. Makes me want to pack a broom!
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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Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby ironmike » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:28 pm

Rogue that sounds a bit like Kaweah Pass (or at least what I've heard about it), which I think would place it in the underrated category.

Prego cento.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby kpeter » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:20 pm

I only have experience with Italy pass from that list, and I don't understand how it could be rated anything other than a 1.

That said, in bad weather any pass can be dangerous, a point that was brought home to me by an episode of "I Shouldn't be Alive." That episode centered on Charlie Hench, who was crossing Italy Pass from West to East in an early snowstorm, took a wrong turn, and fell over a cliff, breaking a few bones and being trapped on a tiny ledge for days before rescue. The episode was titled "Trapped on a Ledge" and was quite gripping. You can read about his story here:

http://www.intrepid-optimist.com/content/lost-mountains

Hench's story notwithstanding, I don't see Italy Pass as any kind of challenge at all in normal conditions.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby SandStorm » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:33 pm

Thanks, kpeter. Yeah, I've never been over Italy and seeing as how the trail's been out of commission for so long I've been curious about it.

Thanks for the info on Charlie Hench, too. I've seen that show a couple times but not that episode. Too true about conditions. It doesn't even have to be weather, it could just be little things like gravel or loose dirt like Rogue and others have mentioned that takes a "class piece-of-cake" route into the danger zone.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby SSSdave » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:34 pm

The Sierra Club developed the current class system in the 1930s. As it relates to we backpackers carrying heavy packs, I've never really liked the full scope of what seems to be included within class 2 and wish it was also broken down into a few more decimal divisions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing)

Much depends on the exact route one takes. Off a few feet left or right can sometimes make a lot of difference. Also many passes like Jigsaw Pass or Wallace have loose scree that change from year to year. When Secor and others who are very skilled rock climbers assigned classes to passes, I don't always think their perspective was objective and sometimes they maneuvered through obviously class 3 terrain without paying attention to how difficult a section might be to lesser skilled. Also I think there is a tendency for some who rated passes to err on the side of rating passes easier because they did not want to make it sound to peers like it was difficult for them. Especially down at higher class 2 lower class 3.

For those carrying weighty packs there is the tendency with packs is to pull a person off backwards from rock and one's handholds. Even a slight pack weight shift backwards can sometimes take considerable forces on ones precarious grip to counter. Thus when carrying weighty packs, any steep class 2 with exposure of even 10 feet can be dangerous to one's life. Whitebark Pass on the HST between Nydiver and Garnet is a good example of something that is noticeably more dangerous with a pack than freeclimbing such that calling it class 2 needs an asterisk.

There is talus and then there is talus and then there is talus. Negotiating through areas of really large talus with a pack can be very dangerous even though falls are likely to be less than fifteen feet. For the solo person the kind of places one might fall into are sometimes places no one is ever going to be able to escape from especially if one's pack is still strapped in and pressing one into an awkward wedged position much like treewells kill skiers and snowboarders. So one gets off the less difficult more used routes say going through Goethe Cirque over Alpine Col just a little bit and it can be a whole other world for we backpackers.

I still have a 30+ year old 60 foot length of 5mm climbing rope and a couple biners always in my pack and am really really glad they are there when I've ocassionally had to make use of them.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby quentinc » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:15 pm

In addition to weight, the other difficulty a pack entails is the bulk -- it's harder to squeeze around and through things that would be routine without a pack, and you have to factor that into your calculations.

I've done most of the passes you listed, and didn't find any of them particularly difficult, although I bet I ended up doing some class 3 moves on Blue and Gabbot. The problem with the rating system, as Rogue and others have pointed out, is that just because no rock climbing moves are required doesn't mean the pass is easy or even safe. Lucy's Foot is rated class 2, but the propensity of boulders on the north side to spin out of control from under you made it borderline risky, to me.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby SandStorm » Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:44 pm

Good comments.
quentinc wrote:just because no rock climbing moves are required doesn't mean the pass is easy or even safe.
Absolument.
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Re: Which passes are most underrated in terms of difficulty?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:24 pm

I never rate something as more difficult or easier then it is for the sake of story. I value raw truth in all things in life too much for that although it's possible that something I might rate as class 4 or 5 may officially be considered less. Exposure plays a part in ratings but I do not factor this in at all. I only judge how vertical something is and the amount of hand holds available. I may be 10 feet off the ground but I would certainly rate a climb as class 5 simply because the holds are no bigger then your finger tips.
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