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Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

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Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby chandler325i » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:42 am

UPDATE: Trek selected, going to do a Mineral King route.

edited original post just to account for things that have already been discussed on the thread in an effort to focus new responses

Trying to plan my first Sierras trip, really need to get a move-on so I can get a permit. Any input is much appreciated.

We were initially looking into this loop: http://www.backpacker.com/destinations/hikes/54414
but have ruled it out on the basis of it being above treeline almost the entire trek, and two of the passes are beyond our capabilities esp with packs on.

The next loop that caught my eye was this Mineral King trip maverick outlines here, but it sounds mostly on-trail and we'd like to get some x-c time in: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5310

I'm looking for any other trip recommendations that would meet the following criteria:

- 4 people. 0 dogs
- Level 3 to 4; comfortable and experienced with x-country travel by map and compass
- we are comfortable with up to a class 2+ pass (Jigsaw pass... not happening), river crossings, and glacier crossings with minimal slope (we will not have any kind of snow shoes, axes, and would prefer not to bring belay equip)
- can comfortably do up to 15 miles/day in neutral to moderate terrain. 7-9 miles strenuous. That's a benchmark of what we CAN do if a good trip required it. We are just as happy covering less miles per day. Not out there looking to rack up numbers
- altitude acclimation days are planned but I am not counting them as part of my days on the trail. How many will depend on the starting TH elevation, and what the first day or two of hiking look like.

What we're looking for, this is where I'm overwhelmed:
- Lakes and rivers
- Forests, meadows, greenery
- Big Mountain Scenery
- We'd like to cover ground above and below treeline, just don't want to be above treeline in a grey world the entire time. We've enjoyed that 8,000 - 12,000 range before, little of both worlds.
- Solitude. The less other hikers and campers we encounter, the better
- X-country travel. Love the sport and challenge of it, have had some of my most fun on treks orienteering
- 1-2 layovers, preferably where we can do some challenging dayhikes to remote lakes or mountaintops; or a couple short days where we can set up camp, drop some gear, and still do some exploring

thanks!
chris
Last edited by chandler325i on Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.



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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby oldranger » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:41 am

Key element of this trip is 3 coming from e. coast. You have no idea how they will handle the elevation. Have you gone directly to high elevation? Need to know that before making any suggestions. How many days of acclimation are you anticipating--going from sea level to 11,000 feet in a day or two can litterally kill some people and at best make them miserable.

Another issue is that no matter how fit, if members of your party have not experienced off trail travel, even if well guided, they may be way out of their comfort zone. I would be concerned about taking your group on significant off trail routes. But then I'm just a cautious old fart who now travels off trail either solo (kind of makes you think I'm not so cautious) or with other experienced old farts and experience young farts that can carry part of my load.

You might consider a w side TH with lower and more gradual elevation gains.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:30 pm

Hi Chandler325i,

Welcome to HST!
Agree wholeheartedly with Old Ranger on both points! Taking folks with absolutely
no experience into class 2 crosscountry terrain is not a good idea and personally
I would not expose them to such.
As the trip leader it is your responsibility to not expose them to anything outside
of their comfort/experience level, and this especially rings true for first timer
backpackers. There are plenty of trailed routes in the Sierra that are gorgeous and
one can be entertain for a while till they get some experience under their belts,
then you can introduce them to the adventures of crosscountry travel.
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby chandler325i » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:46 pm

Thanks to both of you for your responses, these are good issues to bring up. I am open to shout-outs for alternate route ideas on the west side; these two just happen to be ones that piqued our interest so far. There's so much good stuff to choose from but hard to suss out what would actually fit what we're looking for

We are planning acclimation days, and I did NOT include them in the "7 day" duration. All 3 of them have dealt with altitude before (my dad on other backpacking trips, the other two on ski trips). How many days we camp near the TH will depend on what our starting point is, and what the first day or two of hiking will be like. The minimum plan is to do 1.5 days/2 nights at the TH to acclimate, shake off jet lag, and do a final pack shakedown; but if it's a high altitude start and a rugged first day on the trail, we'll make it a 6-day trek with an extra day at the TH and/or a short first day of hiking to see how everyone is getting on.

The distances I posted are for once we're up to pace, and are maximums that we don't have to come near to reaching, but could if the trek required it. Obviously a difficult x-c pass would drop the mileage count for the day. A mileage count is not our priority, but in general we (the 2 backpacking vets) get up and hike until it's time to throw down a tent and go to bed. Even at our relaxed pace, stopping for meals, naps, smelling roses, that's a lot of hours to work with. That being said, we're NOT on a quest to rack up miles.

Fortunately, the experience is split among the age groups. One of the old farts has done off trail travel, up to a couple hairy class 2+/3 situations with me in the Tetons that did involve me dropping my pack and coming back for his at times, or overloading my pack at the onset. His contribution for me carrying his crap is that, being a veteran police officer, he's got more first aid training and experience :) He knows full well what he's in for and what to expect, and is putting the other old fart (recently retired firefighter) through proper test trails and scrambles with weight on beforehand so he's ready as well.

The other "inexperienced" younger guy has done tough scrambles with me on day in-and-outs in the San Gabriels. He had to carry a 70-80lb pack a few miles a day while he was in Afghanistan (non-military, but still required to huff a flak jacket), so that experience with weight + his encounter with class 3 hands-and-knees shuffles on day hikes give him a good indicator of what he's comfortable with.

They've seen pictures from passes that my dad and I have done before, and have been thoroughly briefed by their respective age-partner (just coined that) on what it would entail, and this was the group consensus. The caveat from my dad: "As long as we go slower than last time. Believe it or not, I'm older now than I was a couple years ago."

chris
Last edited by chandler325i on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:54 pm

I would have to agree with Maverick and Old Ranger as well. They never train as much as they say they do, and the altitude can make them miserable if not dead. I have seen the altitude really hammer those that haven't experienced it. Backpacker way oversells peoples' ability to deal with these issues.

If you want to see some high country, use a base camp at 8000 to 9000 feet and then day hike up to something of interest. The 8-9 shouldn't bee too bad and you can monitor how they feel and adjust. Also, keep the first day easy if at all possible, 3-5 miles at most. Typically you are going from sea level to whatever, your biggest jump, and people will feel the crappiest.

Even relatively straight forward x-country can be troubling to experienced trail hikers. I would avoid it with a team of first timers and people that haven't hiked together. You might be out ahead and them dragging their butts, leaving room for problems.

I note that the Backpacker mag article is over Bishop Pass. I passed through there last summer minutes before a major thunderstorm passed through. There were a lot of first-timers doing foolish things and then having to deal with the consequences of being cold, wet and hiking in the dark later that day. If you do decide to go that way, I suggest you camp at Long Lake over night before hitting the pass. Bishop Pass is not what a first timer needs to see on their first day. Mineral King is definitely an easier way to go, but experienced friends of mine experienced altitude sickness there and it kind of wrecked his whole week of hiking.

When you are done, give us a report. Note how your team does, even if things don't go as planned. Some of the best learning experiences for all of us is hearing other's not so good days. Don't mean to harsh on you too much. Good Luck!
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby chandler325i » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:58 pm

Don't sweat it Ian, that's good advice. And if we do the Bishop Pass route, that's a great tip about staying at Long Lake. I should have included the intended acclimation days in the original post, as I know how important they are. Whatever route we go, I'll be sure to post a report about the route and how the group does!
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:14 pm

Just read the Backpacker route you posted, and the author who posted this must
have been high or crazy when he recommended this route without posting
the dangers/warnings involved, especially to those with no experience.
In 34 miles, you climb 2 class 3, 3 class 2 passes, all in 4 days :eek: , and then after
writing up this ridiculous route they write "Author hasn't hiked this trip" W$%, how
totally irresponsible of Backpacker.
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby chandler325i » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:20 pm

Yep. I was dubious when I picked up a Tom Harrison Palisades map and looked in detail at those passes and started calculating grades. That's when I started looking for more info and write-ups on the passes, and that's how I found my way to HST forum
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby tim » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:40 pm

If you are really set on doing some cross-country travel, then you might consider the route I'm planning this summer with my kids: Florence Lake to Evolution Basin, then through Davis Lakes Basin to Goddard Canyon (~45 miles), see the discussion here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9048

We're planning for 6 days, but a side trip to Muir Pass and/or Martha Lake would be a straightforward addition. You start below 8000ft, so have plenty of time to get used to the altitude, and if anyone doesn't feel up to the cross country section, they can always go back down the JMT to meet you at the bottom of Goddard Canyon.
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:12 pm

The Mineral King TR is a good trip and you can always augment it by climbing
a peak. There are also lakes away from the more heavily used ones that offer
plenty of solitude and great scenery.
Also if your up to going in from the east than the North Lake to South Lake trip
is a great trip. Humphrey's Basin, Evolution Meadow, Evolution Basin, Muir
Pass, LeConte Canyon, and Dusy Basin are some or the best places in the Sierra.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby Tom_H » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:26 pm

I agree with the observation about going to such high altitude so quickly for those who are not used to it. Also, vigorous exercise does not necessarily prepare someone for rigorous backpacking. Nothing really makes you ready for backpacking except previous backpacking. They could be strong weightlifters and distance runners, yet wind up with burst blisters all over their feet simply because the friction of a pack and a Sierra rock trail are a completely different kind of exercise.

I have recommended the route below in other threads. The altitude is not as high, but you will have plenty of above ridge line views yet also forests. You asked for lakes and this route will give you one after another. The only shortcoming is the route is less than the 15 miles per day you requested, but to be genuinely honest, I think that is more than I would take novices.

Day 1 Near Echo Summit, take the water taxi from the marina at the lower end of Echo Lakes to the upper end of Upper Echo. You start out from a fairly high elevation. It's not a bad first day to the little plot of land in between Tamarack, Ralston, and Cagwin Lakes.

2 From there, depart for Lake of the Woods. Going north from there, you find a number of small lakes to visit if you choose on the way to Aloha. Aloha itself might be a good second day camp or hike up to Le Conte for a little isolation and more view.

3 Next pass Heather and Susie on the way to Gilmore. The climb of Tallac is a nice side trip.

4 On to Dicks Lake with a possible side trip to Half Moon.

5 From Dicks, take the use trail by Fontanilis and follow the stream exiting it as it cascades down the face of a pluton. This is not hard hiking and it is only a few hundred feet of extremely easy cross country at the foot of the granite through a level forest until you rejoin the PTC. This is a short, but very worthwhile detour from the PCT. From there, continue to Upper and Middle Velma (as well as another lake that shows no name on my map).

6 Now climb to Phipps Pass and down to Phipps Lake.

7 Pass Grouse, Rubicon, unnamed, Stony Ridge, and Shadow, (possible side trip to Hidden) on the way to Crag Lake. There are some nice secluded flats near the SE corner.

8 Pass Genevieve and exit at Meeks Bay, Tahoe
Last edited by Tom_H on Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Advice: versatile 7 days between mid-July and mid-Sept

Postby chandler325i » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:19 pm

This is great, I've already got 4 route options that are totally new to me. Going to scrounge for trip reports and look at some maps to research them all tonight.

maverick: I've gotten an impression that the North Lake/South lake trek is pretty heavily travelled. Is that true? If we're only going point to point and not doing a return loop, is there a route in particular you'd suggest?
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