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TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

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TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby jimmeans » Mon May 06, 2013 11:14 pm

Wade Christiansen and I took an overnight trip to Cirque Lake last weekend. We wanted to check out conditions in Cottonwood Lakes area, and we included an option to climb Cirque Peak.

On the hike in we took as direct a route as possible. We looped around the south side of Peak 10600+ instead of following the main trail to the South Fork trail. After crossing over the saddle we followed the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek and then hiked directly up the outlet creek from Cirque Lake. There was very little snow on our route. I'd estimate that I took no more the 3 dozen steps in snow during the entire hike in and out.

We reached Cirque Lake at about noon, and as you can see in the photo below the clouds were starting to look ominous.

P1020120.jpg
Cirque Peak on approach to Cirque Lake


After setting up camp and having lunch we discussed continuing to Cirque Peak. The sky was getting pretty dark, and then we heard a few thunder claps. We didn't relish the idea of getting caught on the ridge in a thunderstorm so decided to stay put for a bit.

We took a short hike to the top of the ridge separating Cirque Lake from the South Fork Lakes. Here's a photo of New Army Pass taken from the ridge.

P1020129.jpg
New Army Pass


When we returned to our camp site precipitation finally arrived. It seemed to be a combination of snow/hail and had a very grainy appearance. It continued long enough to give the ground a white frosting.

P1020136.jpg
View across lake after snow fall


In our wanderings around the lake we came across an epic battle between a boulder and a tree. Not sure how long they've been going at it, but I'm sure this battle will continue long after we're long gone.

P1020143.jpg
Rock vs. Tree


Other than birds there wasn't a lot of wildlife around, I'm sure the weather had something to do with it.

P1020151.jpg
Got any spare bugs?


By the end of the afternoon the snow had completely disappeared. The winds calmed down so that the lake turned into a nice mirror.

P1020152.jpg
Late afternoon view east across Cirque Lake


Over night the temperature dropped down to about 27 F, but good old down made for a restful night. On Sunday morning we hiked out via the trail to South Fork Lakes and then followed the South Fork trail back to the trailhead. A good time was had by all.

P1020137.jpg



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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby DavePloessel » Tue May 07, 2013 7:08 am

I'm pleanning on heading out of there this weekend. How was the road in? Do you think it'll get closed again with this bit of snow we are having?

Thanks!
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby jimmeans » Tue May 07, 2013 7:42 am

I think that the biggest threat to the road is rock fall, not snow. There were quite a few people driving to Horseshoe Meadows last weekend although we didn't see any of them out on the trail. The recording at the Inyo NF seems to keep up to date on road conditions (760) 876-6200.
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby maverick » Tue May 07, 2013 8:12 am

Hi Jimmeans,

Thanks for posting this TR and pictures. This time of the year any backcountry info
helps folks get a peak into the true current conditions so they can plan accordingly.
There is a possiblity of snow and thunderstorms in the Sierra till Thursday night, 50%
today and 20% Wed and Thursday.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby DavePloessel » Tue May 07, 2013 12:12 pm

Exactly.
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby jimmeans » Tue May 07, 2013 5:30 pm

FYI although the roads and campgrounds were open and the bathrooms were functional, there was no water available from the trailhead spigots last weekend.
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby cloudlesssky » Wed May 08, 2013 7:17 pm

Jim,
Thanks for the post and pictures. I was thinking of you guys when the weather kicked in Sat afternoon. And then when the temps dropped during the evening I knew your Zpacks quilt would be coming in real handy. Kinda glad I was home playing with my tablesaw. It's amazingly dry for this time of year, maybe worse than last year. Seems like I've seen more snow on NAP in early Aug in years past.
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Re: TR: Cirque Lake 5/4-5/5/2013

Postby DavePloessel » Wed May 08, 2013 11:12 pm

jimmeans wrote:FYI although the roads and campgrounds were open and the bathrooms were functional, there was no water available from the trailhead spigots last weekend.



Thanks!

I'm trying to decide between driving the 4X4 jeep (18 MPG) or the 2WD toyota (33 MPG) up there on friday night. I'm in SD too, so that's a sig. difference in cost - that's why I was asking about amount of snow on the roads/road conditions.... My hope is these fronts coming through the last couple days won't have dropped enough snow to require the 4X to get the TH.

I'll be sure to post a report once I get back :)
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