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Pine creek or Piute pass?

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Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby Hobbes » Sat Jul 13, 2013 8:53 am

In the spirit of asking the group for some trip advice, I've got a question that I'm sure many will hold an opinion: Pine creek or Piute pass to get to Puppet area?

From my calculations on my 1:24 map(s), it looks like Puppet is practically equidistant at around 10-11 miles from either TH. In addition, if I hike 5 miles the first afternoon, each has a similar climb ie Piute pass is 2,100', while lower Pine creek lake is 2,500'. That being said, the following day, Piute->Humphreys basin only has 500' to get over Puppet pass, while Pine requires another 1,200' + a drop/climb of another 500'/500' through upper French cyn.

Ok, so far it looks like Piute is the winner. However, what if I wanted to add a loop through the Royce or Bear lakes basins? Does this change the equation in favor of Pine? How do these basins compare to Muriel, GT, etc on the south side of the Piute trail?

Lastly, if I did go out of Pine to hit Granite park, Royce & Puppet, would it be worth looping through the entire Bears lakes basin down over Feather pass and all the way back up French, or go in/out of Italy pass?

My usual style is very similar to Quentin's: drive up from SoCal in the am, grab a permit & walk in 5 miles during the afternoon and spend the night. I then have two more nights, and like to hike around 10-15 miles/day. Since the Onion, Whitney & Horseshoe areas are so close to home, I've gotten into sort of a rut. However, it's very dry this year, and I'm willing to spend some more time in the car to get to other lake basins.

I'm guessing Pine creek might be the call, so I'm sort of fishing for thoughts on whether or not to go all the way through the Bear lakes basin down to Merriam, or just double back over Italy, scoot over to Royce from Granite park, cut across to the Puppet area, and then follow the trail out.



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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:04 am

Since I haven't been over Paiute, I can't offer anything about it. However, I have been over Pine and if you are driving up in the AM and hiking in the afternoon, Pine might be a good choice, as by then, it might be a bit shaded from the direct sun and there are some lakes around 3-5 miles in with plenty of good places to camp. Good fishing for brookies in those lakes as well, if you are the type to wet a line. After that, its pretty much an easy hike into Royce, Puppet, et. al. after that initial slog up from the trailhead.
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby rlown » Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:09 am

I kind of asked the same question a few years back. I was diverted from Pine Creek towards Piute as my target was French. I like North Lake as I come from sea level and i take a night at 9400' to acclimate.

I have a suggestion: Two trips. One that focuses on the Royces/Bears out of Pine, and then the other out of Piute to French. I'd skip Muriel and march straight to either Tomahawk or Mesa.

Some of the illustrious old farts are up out of Pine doing the Bears right now. They booked horses/mules to get up out of pine creek to near the summit. Brittle 60 YO bones and all.

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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby maverick » Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:14 am

Totally agree with Rlown about splitting this into two trips. Piute will give you
quick access into HB, and there are other lakes you can explore will their.
Pine Creek into Royce, and then into the Bear Lakes region involves a few
xcountry passes depending which area you would like to visit, and 2 nights is
pushing it.
My last trip to HB over Piute, drove from SF area and hiked into Lower Desloation
by that late afternoon.
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby Hobbes » Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:57 pm

Great advice re: two trips.

OK, bonus question: if you did go out of Pine into Bear, would you cruise all the way down to Feather (after entering through Italy), march all the way back up to the canyon, hang a left @ Royce, come out via Granite park and then walk back down the trail?

Or would you go in via Italy, stick around the (upper) Bear lakes, turn around and go back out Italy, walk down through Granite park, hang a right @ Royce, exit in the upper part of French cyn, catch the trail to the pass, and then proceed to walk out?

It seems going over Feather sends you pretty far down the canyon. It would work if I could shuttle my car, for then I could head up to Puppet and then out thru Deso and Piute. However, out of all the open loops, the Pine-Piute THs seem really far away (read: $$$). Classics like Horseshoe-Portal or Onion-Portal are relatively cheap since so many people tend to take those routes.

Opinions and/or suggestions?
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby rlown » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:24 pm

the real question is are you there to fish or hike. If fishing is on your list, you don't have enough time in your plan.

I see those two trips as lollipop trips: In and out from the same TH and then kick around the 7-10+ lakes either trip has to offer. I have not been in the Bears or out of Pine creek yet. Just me thinking out loud, but i'd head for Royce#4 after spending a couple days up and down the Royces, and then work my way up and around Feather Peak towards the Bears. I have no clue what Mark/Mike's route is but they reserved 15 days just out of Pine.

I've looked at the Royces from French and said, that's not gonna happen from this vantage point in even 8 days, cuz those lakes need some lengthy attention (fishing perspective). I tend to spend either a half or whole day at each lake i target.
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Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby Hobbes » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:56 am

I used to be way more focused on fishing - I'd go on shorter trips (5-8 miles/day) with specific destination lakes in mind. However, over time, I've started to become more interested in walking.

Perhaps it was the result of successfully catching good fish in lots of interesting places - no huge lunkers, but good results for GT in high alpine lakes. So, believe it or not, I got a little bored and started wondering what was further down the trail.

I've always been in ok good shape, but I started running (again) and actually got in pretty good shape. Now, I can blast out 10-12-15 miles/day at a pretty good pace and sort of just want to go. However, as I mentioned above, with the S Sierra so bone dry, even the stop over watering points (streams/lakes) are really parched and a little bleak.

So now I'm looking further afield, along with perhaps a renewed interest in spending some more time fishing. The Pine Crk TH looks like a gateway to a lot of spots; like you've mentioned, I need to pick which basin to hit.

My guess is I'll spend the first night around 5 miles in, and then wake up and decide which way to go. If I'm really antsy, I'll probably head for Royce, then cut across over to Puppet. OTOH, if I just want to fish, it's only a few miles to the Bears. One could spend some time there, and then walk all the way out.

Thanx again for the input.
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby snowblind » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:22 am

I have headed to Puppet over both trailheads several times. As I headed to Puppet via Piute just 3 weeks ago, I was asking myself the same question (which way is faster). Not sure I know which is faster but I think Piute a bit easier, I also like that there is more off-trail and you get to head over Puppet Pass.

When I do Pine Creek, I like to start hiking after dinner and do the most painful, exposed and uninspiring part at dusk/dark (generally camping near one of the Pine Lakes). If you are near Puppet, make time to head up Pilot Knob if you like peaks (easy and fantastic view).
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:07 am

If we are looking at the most efficient/least painful way to get to Puppet on day 1 or 2, I would certainly lean toward Piute. I've done both passes multiple times the elevation advantage of North Lake is telling. The initial steep part on Pine Creek (to the first lake) also features more of those giant water bars than any other trail. This isn't a big deal if you are tall, but it is for anyone under about 6'.

Now, it is true that if one wanted to put the Royces and Bear Basin into the mix, this would tend to slant things toward Pine Creek. On the other hand, you could (as suggested in other posts in this thread) do French Canyon, Humphreys Basin, and Glacier Divide destinations really nicely with a Piute kickoff. Whenever I do my next big backpacking trip (hopefully before the first half of this decade is over), I am aiming for Pinnacles Creek but planning entry via Piute to Puppet (thence to Pinnacles Creek area, Ramona, Goethes and out). I figure if I wanted to add the Royces to such a plan, it wouldn't be too hard, but putting all that and Bear Basin would require something better than a week to pull off. Anyhow, I think the decision hinges partly on how badly you want to include Bear Basin plus or minus Granite Park with Puppet et al.
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby MattL » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:47 pm

Thanks to all the posters on this discussion.
I too am planning a trip to this area beginning August 12, and hadn't considered Pine Creek as a way to get in, mainly due to the starting elevation difference (still not considering it). I haven't planned the cross-country portion around Humphrey's Basin yet, but based on the the feedback provided to Hobbes, I will be sure to have both Puppet Pass and Pilot Knob on the agenda.
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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby rlown » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:00 pm

OK.. I see no reason for Pilot knob. Someone needs to inform me how that is better than Carol Col (puppet pass.) The knob is completely away from the trails unless you want to walk down and then up and then down and then up again. Seriously. sure, it's a nice place to look out SW but ? no fish. From Mesa, over to puppet is 2 hrs, with a 52lb pack.


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Re: Pine creek or Piute pass?

Postby Ska-T » Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:52 pm

Seems like your goal is scenery and exercise rather than fishing. I've attached a map that shows some alternate routes out of the Pine Creek trailhead with pleasant views in the area. The red line is off trail hiking. The trails are marked on the map (obviously).

The east side of the map starts about where you would make your first night's camp, i.e., at Lower or Upper Pine Creek Lake, or Honeymoon Lake. Or, if you eat dinner (near some water where you can fill up after) you could camp at the "flat" area west of Honeymoon Lake where the red line starts.

The shortest route idea leaves from lower Granite Basin and goes over Royce Pass. After exploring the Royce Basin you hike down the chain of Royce Lakes and head eastward toward Pine Creek pass on your way to French Canyon to avoid the steepest way down. Once on trail you head up to Elba Lake and Moon Lake. From there you visit L Lake, Steelhead Lake, and French Lake before heading over to Pine Creek Pass. From the pass hike back to the car.

The longest route idea leaves from the "flat" area west of Honeymoon Lake and makes its way over to Chalfant Lakes. From the highest lake you go west over an unnamed easy pass and down into Granite Basin. You cross the basin and go over Granite Bear Pass and down to Black Bear Lake. From there you follow the Sierra High Route in a southerly direction over Feather Pass and down to Merriam Lake. After making your way down to the trail in French Canyon you go up to Elba Lake by trail or more directly by cross county. From there visit the aforementioned lakes before reaching Pine Creek Pass.

Of course you can piece together intermediate routes and you can cut the trip short if need be.

-Scott

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