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old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

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old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby SSSdave » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:01 am

One of two 9-day Sierra backpacks I've just tentatively scheduled for this summer is out of Mineral King over Sawtooth Pass, a slog I've done twice before via the maintained Monarch Lake trail. However on this year's trip I want to use the old unmaintained use trail from Groundhog Meadow at 8757 that goes up the north side of Monarch Creek until 9700 then up the sandy sub-canyon on the south side of Empire Mountain directly to Glacier Pass. Am wondering if any others on this board have come up or down that route the last decade or two and have any interesting advice? Note the maintained trail has nauseating switchbacks over about 7.3 miles while the direct route is about 4.1 miles and we won't complete the full 3900 feet to the pass till early the second morning.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.45729,-118.58252&z=15&t=T



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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby fourputt » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:09 am

Bit more than a decade, but I've done it several times in both directions. You'll easily find the remains of the old trail for the first several hundred feet above Groundhog Mdw, then it's pretty much just a slog over some outcrops turning into about a mile of solid small scree in the bowl below the pass ... which probably hasn't changed much over the last few millennia.

Early in the year there's a good runout for snow sliding down the "express escalator" on the north side.

You can access Glacier from the trail at the saddle above Monarch heading to Sawtooth ... but the whole point is to avoid that of course. It's best west-to-east quickest route to Spring Lake. The one time we did it as an exit route we cut over to Sawtooth trail. The x-ctry old trail descent wasn't a pleasant prospect.

BTW, Bob Burd did it in the dark! http://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports ... eah_1.html
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:41 pm

I descended straight down from glacier pass until about 10,400 a couple years ago. I really don't remember there being scree in the bowl below glacier pass until I contoured east to head over to monarch lakes @ maybe 10,400. I remember it being fairly solid and grassy....but I was going down so perhaps that memory didn't stick.

I do remember following a faint trail for awhile.

I do remember steep scree to the east to get out of that drainage though. Then some class 3 scrambling, then deep sand :eek:

I could be wrong though, and I obviously didn't go all the way down to monarch creek.

oh what do you know....I have pictures! I was right, grassy, rocky, mellow.

IMG01452.jpg
below glacier pass looking SW


IMG01453.jpg
furthur down below glacier pass looking SW


IMG01454.jpg
Now east of that drainage and looking east toward monarch lakes probably 3/4 of a mile away


IMG01455.jpg
Same locantion as photo above, but looking WSW toward that drainage and where you would be ascending from below probably @ 10,300 or 10,400
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:50 pm

Also is ground hog meadow where the monarch lake trail crosses the creek? If so I have picturers looking up the creek at this point. It is steep with lots of vegetation but looks fairly straight forward. There is a trail here? Good to know! I camped here....it is a major crossroads for deer.

IMG01503.jpg
looking up monarch creek

IMG01506.jpg
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby fourputt » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:15 pm

Your pic looking west from the top reminds me that I did it early, and was perhaps just stuck between doing small scree or snow.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby SSSdave » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:22 pm

thanks fourputt, sounds about what I am expecting and probably less effort for this person than the trail.

sparky thanks for the pics. What you are showing is the the route down from Sawtooth Pass. Read my opening post where I describe the route and then go to the link. Also shows where Glacier Pass is. I've a lot of old 15' topos from my twentysomething days and the Mineral King quad shows that trail. There are indeed some people decend like you did directly down from Sawtooth Pass because there are some obvious foot paths in the sand at top. However further down where one cannot see from the top, it steepens to class 3 as the topo shows. The old trail, not always discernable, goes all the way up the north side of Monarch Creek. The route I will use branches off to hikers left at 9.7k then goes up as noted directly to Glacier Pass. The only moderately steep spot is about 100 feet at 9920.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:28 pm

No, that is the route down from glacier pass toward monarch creek. I assure you. I topped Glacier pass, and went straight down the same drainage you will ascend. I had to contour perhaps a little less than a mile east @ around 10,400 to reach the trail from sawtooth down to monarch lakes.

In the photos it looks less steep than it actually was.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby fourputt » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:41 pm

The old Sawtooth Pass Trail went straight down Monarch Creek before it was re-routed to the southeast. You might be thinking of that.

Bob Burd has the old Glacier Pass trail accurately traced at the link on Map 1.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:59 pm

The route of my trip when I came through here was similar to bob burds. Little 5 lakes, hands and knees pass, spring lake, glacier pass, down to 10,400, then I left the faint trail to contour SE to monarch lakes, then on to crystal lake, ect ect....It was a great trip!
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby SweetSierra » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:33 pm

I went over Glacier Pass about a decade ago. We started up the switchbacks to Sawtooth Pass from Mineral King but then veered left after we hiked around a pronounced bouldery area (after the junction to the lake). We kept to the north and west until we reached the area of Glacier Pass. I remember hiking quite a distance up the Sawtooth Pass "trail" before we angled over to Glacier Pass. We camped at the pass as it was late and there was uncertainty about the best way. Ther next morning, we found a bench that led to a snow shelf that angled down a short distance (the Class 3 part of this pass). It was the only reasonable place to cross in a high snow year. The terrain was more gentle after that.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby SSSdave » Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:37 pm

Yep I see now sparky you did go down the west Glacier valley. Your first photo is indeed on the Glacier Pass route because I can see Minor's Nose directly across the canyon. But what is not in that canyon is your third image because it shows Sawtooth Peak directly at its head and Mineral Peak at frame right. So you took the first two images on the west Glacier valley descent but the third image after dropping out of that valley.

The other statement that did not make sense unless it was along Monarch Creek was "I contoured east to head over to monarch lakes @ maybe 10,400". Going down the Glacier Peak route one goes no where near Monarch Lake. Also "some class 3 scrambling, then deep sand" did not sound like the west Glacier Valley since I see no class 3 on the topo but maybe you descended away from the center sweet spot at the 10000 steeper area? So figured you were talking about dropping directly from Sawtooth. Your last two images I suspect are just above Groundhog Meadow. Again thanks for your input.
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Re: old Mineral King Glacier Pass route

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:09 pm

I hate to continue to derail your request for information, but if you locate the faint trail on satalite view, you will see the trail head west out of the bottom of the drainage. This is where I left the trail and headed east. It is actually @ 10450 where I exited.

Anyway unfortunately I don't have information on the steeper sections of this trail, but I did follow it on satalite view. I am very grateful for your post because I now know that was indeed an old trail, and I would most certainly love to use it! I am looking forward to your trip report for sure.
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