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TR - TM to Twin Lakes(SHR) June 29 - July 2

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TR - TM to Twin Lakes(SHR) June 29 - July 2

Postby mpeters » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:14 pm

Trip report for SHR section from TM to Twin Lakes:

The short version: Great trip, weather, and hiking partners. Mosquitoes ranged from nuisance to a PITA. Thanks for the advance info provided by several of you in other threads prior to our trip.

June 29:
Spent the previous night near the top of Sonora pass with my two hiking partners. Oddly enough, the mosquitoes were not an issue, although we still chose to set up the tent for bug protection. Crappy sleep, even on my new REI Flash pad and Cocoon pillow. Our assumption is that a night spent at elevation mitigates some of the effects of altitude on us sea level shlubs. Plus, it is always nice to start off a trip in a more leisurely way the first day.

No better way to start a trip than a fantastic breakfast, which we had in Bridgeport at Hay's Street Cafe! Omelet, bacon, coffee, the works. I wouldn't be hungry again until Saturday evening. We stopped to pick up a wilderness permit at the TM station and received a nice sendoff from one of the rangers there who clearly enjoyed his job! His main piece of advice was to mind the thunderstorm activity as the heat in the valley was spawning regular storms in the high country. Thanking him, we made our way to the Gaylor Lakes TH and left our vehicle in the parking lot. (We had decided to skip the first couple miles from TM to Gaylor as we were getting a later start than originally planned.) In a "small world" moment, we ran into a group hiking to Gaylor for the day, also from Modesto -- one of whom I'd taken senior photos for a few years ago. But I digress.

It was hot! Nice climb up to the Gaylor Lakes basin to get the legs warmed up, a brief stop at upper Gaylor Lakes, then the short climb to Great Sierra Mine. Still on a trail... To paraphrase Roper, the view at the top of Great Sierra Mine is described as rather dull. I guess he is right, considering the views we would soon experience, however, I thought it was a nice foreshadowing of things to come. We chose not to enter any of the old GSM shelters that are still standing. Skirting above the tarns, we made our way over the next pass and then the view opened up towards Saddlebag, Conness, and Hall Natural Area. Now it felt like we were getting somewhere!

The path from this pass towards Spuller Lake proved to be uneventful, with a little scrambling(class 2?) to reach the "hidden" valley as described by Roper. We had considered making a direct descent into the valley containing Fantail lake but glad we didn't or we would have missed this wonderful little cut in the mountains which was bursting with snow melt. Lest I forget - the mosquitoes were now registering about a 3 on the Topix scale and Deet was being passed around like bag of chips. (insert small plug for Ben's 99.2%). We stayed high on the slope and contoured our way towards Spuller, reaching the lake early afternoon. At this point, a camping spot for the night was on our minds. The thunderheads had been building all afternoon to the east so we decided to move on over to Green Treble-Maul Lake, spend the evening, then hike east far enough to get outside the Hall boundary. The surface of Maul was boiling with trout, likely feasting on the mosquitoes, which had now prompted head nets for two of us. We enjoyed a fantastic sunset explosion before moving to our campsite. Sore muscles but overall, the day didn't feel like a chore.

June 30:
After a breakfast of Packitgourmet smoothies(my first experience with PIG), we moved down into the alpine valley ringed by White Mountain and Mt. Conness. It was sublime traveling as we started up the incline on the east ridge of Conness, following the stream as described by Roper. We carried this path all the way to the top of the ridge where we turned left and ascended the east flank of Conness to the "providentially provided" spur that curves down toward the lowest Conness lake. Easy going, just a few snow patches to cross and boulders to hop. We briefly entertained the thought of bagging Conness but our age was starting to show and we were eager to get to Towzer Lake in the 20 Lakes Basin.

As an aside, once I got over the "nerd" factor of hiking poles a few years ago, I now count them as the single most important piece of equipment for XC travel. To those of you I insulted, either subtly or explicitly, my apologies. They saved my backside at least a dozen times. It's like having 4 legs!

Towzer Lake had a group of campers so we moved over and found a nice spot near the inlet to Cascade Lake. Tarns everywhere, rushing streams, several waterfalls around the perimeter of Cascade made for an incredible view. Did I mentioned mosquitoes? I was now eating them like french fries. Ben's to the rescue. It was only about 3 pm so we had a whole afternoon of downtime before another PIG meal(I recommend the gumbo). Three brookies caught near below the inlet to lower Cascade by the fisherman in the group. And I wandered around and made photographs while the last of the thunderheads boiled across the ridge. Very windy! I made a 3am wake-up call during the night to grab a few milky way shots; the stars weren't as impressive as other trips due to some reluctant haziness in the sky. Back up at 5 a.m. for sunrise photos which more than made up for the subtle star show. We took our time packing up, enjoying the early morning.

July 1:
At this point, we were "on schedule", intending to complete the route in 5 days. However, I suspected(as chief navigator and bottle washer) that if we made it to Soldier Lake by the end of day 3, we would likely end our trip a day early. I had prepared an alternate exit route over Matterhorn and Burro passes in case we had extra time. We decided this decision could wait until we stopped for the night.

As Sky Pilot Col was our next pass, and since it had received a fair amount of bad press, I was anxious to form my own opinion. Roper says that many "travelers" will find the last scramble over the top "offensive". I wasn't actually offended until we made it over the top...but I'll explain that part later. The pass looked intimidating, filled with snow on the left side with what appeared to be a whole bunch of sh*t everywhere else. We briefly entertained going over the pass to McCabe before working our way back up Virginia Cyn. But what the heck, if Roper can do it, so can we! My "between the lines" interpretation on Roper's text was that Sky Pilot might prove to be more offensive than described.

The sky was mostly clear when we left camp at 9, heading towards the bowl containing "Secret Lake?", but there were a few puffies starting to form to the south.

To be continued,

A link to few of the pictures is here ... 550927183/

and I'll add some to the post during the next installment.

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Re: TR - TM to Twin Lakes(SHR) June 29 - July 2

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:06 pm

Thanks Mpeters for this installment of your SHR section hike, and the great photos.

mpeters wrote:
But what the heck, if Roper can do it, so can we!

SPC is pretty offensive & steep, plus the sandy loose footing doesn't
help. You can bypass the col by using the ridge east of the col which
makes it a little easier.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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