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Which of these trips/passes require ice axe late into season

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Which of these trips/passes require ice axe late into season

Postby oleander » Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:36 pm


We are going to do several eastside x-country trips this summer. Timeframe around July 20 to mid-September.

As my hiking partner and I tend to dislike steep snow or having to carry an ice axe, we are wondering, how would you order these trips to minimize snow travel? (We want to leave for last the ones that are likely to melt out last.)

Listed south-to-north:

1. Whitney/Miter Basin. (Trek #20 in Trekking California book.) Passes: Whitney-Russell Col; Discovery Pinnacle; Crabtree Pass; New Army or Cottonwood Pass.

2. Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass. Center Basin; Junction Pass; visit upper Wrights Lakes and Williamson Bowl. May also have time to go explore one of the streams just west/southwest of Lake South America (prob the one below Thunder Mtn, but open). The only actual x-country pass here may be Junction Pass, but wondering if Williamson Bowl might also have very late-season snow given lots of north/east exposure.

2a. In and out Shepherd variation. Skip Kearsarge/Center Basin/Junction Pass and focus on visiting Picket Creek/Kaweah Basin. Little visits to the other spots (Milestone Bowl/Wrights/Williamson) if time allows.

3. Dumbbell Lakes. More or less identical to a route Larry Conn took in his Sept 2012 report. Taboose Pass, Mather Pass, Ampitheater Lake, pass to Dumbbell Lakes, pass to Lake Basin, Cartridge Pass (or maybe Frozen Lake Pass), out Taboose.

4. Roper route, section from Piute Pass to Mono or McGee Creek. Passes: Puppet; Feather; White Bear; Gabbot. If we continue to McGee we'd probably do Bighorn/Shout of Relief; I'd like to do Pace Col from Grinnel Lake, but not sure partner would go for that.

5. Northernmost Roper: Tioga Pass to Twin Lakes. Passes of concern are Sky Pilot and Stanton.

We realize that we won't know for a while what kind of snow year/melt pattern we'll have this summer. Nevertheless, have to start snagging permits right now!

Can't do *all* of these routes in 2013; will have to save some for future years.

- Elizabeth

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Re: Which of these trips/passes require ice axe late into season

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:11 pm

Each year is unique and different. For example, one year I did Frozen lake Pass with an ice axe and used it (would say I needed it) and another year did it just fine with trekking poles alone. I did the entire High Route without an ice axe in 2010, but I had to sit and wait for the sun to soften snow three times - once on the north side of Horse Creek, once for the snowfield below Cecile Lake, and once at Ritter Lakes. If you get late lingering "Sierra Cement" sometimes even an ice axe is no good without crampons. But in late season often you can get by by hopping from one suncup to another. I did that and climbed from the west side of Mt Sill in tennis shoes! Also depends on the person. I spent most of my mountaineering career not using crampons. In Miter Basin, one early season climbing, my friend used crampons (really needed them) and I did not. But we both needed our ice axes! My strategy now,for backpacking, is not to take crampons or ice axe and be willing to retreat and detour when necessary. I have always been able to avoid snow - albeit on some harder routes or on more unpleasant routes with lots of tauls. Be very careful in how you plan- hit snowfields about noon - earlier they may be hard, later you may be post-holing.
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