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TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

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TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby alpinemike » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:20 pm

Wow...what a trip this was. Started at Lodgepole Campground on the 30th of June and ended there on the 10th of July. It was a full 110+ miles of unbelievable scenery, remoteness and grandeur. I did this trip solo and I must admit 11 days in very remote canyons was quite an experience...

Day 1- Lodgepole to Ranger Lake 10 miles
Got to the trailhead via several trains, buses, and shuttles around 9:30 A.M. and boy was it hot already. Started about the great western sierra forest among the grand pines and that continued for several hours until I reached the pretty Twin Lakes. It was probably around 2 when I got there. Lots of people there and Lord Almighty the Mosquitoes were bad...very very bad. I ate some lunch and relaxed for a bit continued up the trail to Sillman pass which was nicely graded with switchbacks. It was getting late in the day so the sun didn't heat me up to bad. Crested the pass which is around 10,200 Ft and the views were unreal. Could see beyond the Great Western Divide in the East under beautiful evening light. Made it down to Ranger lake which was about a 1.5 miles from the pass in a little bit and made some dinner. No one was around me but more awful mosquitoes. It was very warm even at night which made me think I was in for some heat for the next few days.
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Ranger Lake


Day 2- Ranger Lake to Roaring River Ranger Station 13 miles
This was a brutally hot day. The scenery was quite bland and the trail was horrendously sandy for many miles. I was around 46 pounds when I started...11 days worth of food will do that. And I'm also a photographer so I carried about another 8 pounds worth of gear. So the sand and the heat and the oppressive mosquitos made this day quite annoying but...then the rain came. The thunder started really early..around 10:30 or so and continued for quite a few hours. The rain didn't actually come until quite a bit later but the clouds kept the direct sun off which was a great relief. There was plenty of water, even in Sugarloaf Valley and I attest that to the fact that I was there really early in the season. Finally made it to Roaring River Ranger Station which was around 3 P.M. and I saw lots of clouds but still no real rain. Just as I finished pitching my tent the drops started falling and then harder and faster. I still had all my gear out so I rushed with all of it into my tiny solo tent and sat out the 15 minute downpour! Boy it came down hard for a while, but as soon as it was gone the skies were crystal blue. Mosquitoes were not nearly as bad there but still very present. The water in the river was moving fast so I had no issues with water there.

Day 3- Roaring River Ranger Station to Upper Ranger Meadow 8 Miles
This day started out fairly warm too but the clouds built so quickly that by 11 again there was a great overcast sky. The scenery though today made up for yesterday. The first view of Deadman Canyon was unreal. It was absolutely spectacular with the massive granite walls rising thousands of feet above the floor of the valley. With such spires and buttresses I couldn't help but want to climb them all. I was forced into a grove of trees when a thunderstorm seemed to follow me but never wanted to drop any rain. I waited it out until it looked clear again and continued up the trail until I reached the final bench and finally saw the headwall of the canyon. Wow...what a sight to be seen! It was the most perfect U-Shaped valley I had ever come across. Absolutely gorgeous. The flowing creek was very nice and added a picturesque element to the overcast seen. The clouds soon started to blow over when I reached Upper Ranger Meadow. The mosquitoes were bad but seemed to be slightly better than Ranger Lake. Still it looks like I had come when they were all hatching. After my parting with Twin Lakes 2 days prior I had only seen 1 group of people on horses and that was today so for the most part I felt quite alone in this canyon. It was an eerie feeling but amazing to realize I had it all to myself. Even at 9,200 ft it was still a warm night.
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Deadman Canyon

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Day 4- Upper Ranger Meadow to Hamilton Lake 8 miles
The scenery today was quite unreal and so were the trails. I woke up quite early to head up to Elizabeth Pass because I wanted to beat the heat. More importantly I wanted to beat the thunderstorms! They were starting earlier each day...even noon on top of a pass seemed dangerous to me. The trail was graded fairly but it was steep and some parts seemed quite brutal. I made it up by 9:40 which is just when I could see all the clouds building behind the Great Western Divide. Elizabeth Pass 11,370 Ft. didn't have a grand view itself but coming down the South side the views were spectacular. The south side though...trail wise was quite ridiculous. I kept losing the trail because of how poorly marked it was. I actually found myself climbing down a 600 ft cliff with a full pack on! That was quite an experience..eventually I found the trail again and started to stare out toward the Southeast where the Kaweahs, Great Western Divide, and Valhalla were imposing their massive stone walls among the bleak and cloud ridden sky. What a scene that was. The trail was brutally steep for a quite a while...several miles it seemed like until finally it bottomed out right around where this trail met the High Sierra Trail. The clouds parted a bit by this early afternoon hour and the heat was on. Now I had to begin my climb up to Hamilton Lake which wouldn't have been nearly so bad if it wasn't at least 87 degrees! Possibly the hottest I've ever experienced in the High Sierra...The clouds actually began to build again as I climbed up the walls of Valhalla. Valhalla was unreal..Angel Wings is definitely something anyone that has hiked in the Sierra needs to see at least once. It's shear size and starkness is unparalleled. And so is Hamilton Lake...which I eventually trudged to by 6 that day. A rain storm started just as I got there so I was able to stash my entire backpack into an empty bear box and wait it out. The cool rain was very refreshing indeed! I couldn't believe my eyes though at the lake. Set in this unbelievable cirque where the walls around it rise over 4000 ft on all but one side. I have officially deemed Hamilton Lake the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. The night was still warm and the mosquitoes were almost nonexistent there which was a very nice relief.
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View Toward the Kaweah Peaks Ridge and the Great Western Divide

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Angel Wings

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Hamilton Lake


Day 5- Hamilton Lake to Big Arroyo Jct. 7 miles
This wasn't a long day but one filled with unparalleled scenery again. The trail up Kaweah Gap is quite unreal..being blasted out of the side of the whole cliff. Kaweah Gap itself was quite something..starring into the massive Kaweah Peaks ridge with the impressive, imposing, and as Secor in his famous guidebook says...sinister. I actually had a little time there on the Gap as the clouds were building a bit later and I could see them right over the Kaweah's. I ventured down into 9 Lake Basin after that and enjoyed several hours of solitude among the grandeur of rock and impressive clouds as they clung to the Great Western Divide. I ventured back to the trail and continued to the Big Arroyo Trail jct. There the storm of my life started....For over an hour and a half I listened to thunder and lighting but no rain. I stashed my pack in the bear box as no one was there and waited for it all to finish as I sat in a grove of trees with my rain jacket by my side. Fortunately the rain came and I never got too wet, and all my gear remained dry as well. The hail came as well for several minutes followed by more rain. It was quite an experience. The lightning also struck the ground a bit off in the southern sky. I was definitely a bit nervous about that but figured since the storm had rain with it I would remain safe. Eventually the storm finished and the air smelt so wonderful I can hardly describe it. I camped with several people the night before..which was my first night with any people and this night I would camp with some more people. These out of 10 nights were the only nights I had anyone camping within a reasonable distance to me. I found that quite impressive. I thought there would be more people on the High Sierra Trail as well.
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9 Lake Basin

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Looking Down the Big Arroyo


Day 6- Big Arroyo Jct to Moraine Lake 6 miles
This was another short day but had some awesome views along the way. The Great Western Divide was on my West the entire day. The trail was very nicely graded and remained nice for my feet all day. The mosquitoes were not bad anywhere anymore. I was very grateful for that. At Moraine Lake I relaxed most of the day and enjoyed the now cooler weather. I believe the storms were gone for the most part, but the clouds still built quite a bit along the divide and seemed to pass over but nothing ever came out of them in my area.
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Great Western Divide


Day 7 Moraine Lake to Junction Meadow (Kern) 13 miles
This was not a very difficult day but quite hot since I was in the Kern Canyon for most of it. The views of Mt. Kaweah were magnificent in the morning right before I descended into Kern Canyon. The view of Kern Canyon was quite magnificent. A classic large Sierra Canyon. The Kern had water but you could tell it was a low year. The trail in the canyon was hot, dry, and dusty, but fortunately very few bugs there. I tramped into Jct Meadow eventually after a long dusty day and the bugs were back again. Not nearly as bad as earlier on in my trip..but still had a nice presence. Junction Meadow hardly was a meadow though but the views of the Kern were quite pretty. It was a warm night but the clouds hardly built that day so I could tell the weather was changing and trending cooler.

Day 8- Junction Meadow to Gallats Lake 6 Miles
This was a really short day compared to the previous day. There was a good deal of uphill associated with climbing into the Kern-Kaweah Canyon. This was a magnificent canyon..although the trail was quite brutal in many places and the sun was direct. The views though across Kern Canyon and toward the grand Sierra Crest kept spirits lifted. I thought I managed to get a glimpse of Mt. Whitney but I wasn't sure because there were a lot of peaks that seemed to get in front of the actual crest. While in the canyon you could truly sense the remoteness of the area. It is a minimum of a 3 day trip into this canyon from any direction. It is one of the most remote locations in the Sierra and I could definitely feel it. I camped along side the trail a bit past what was left of Gallats Lake which is mostly a meadow with an meandering river through it. The views of the Kaweah ridge were outstanding. The night was finally a bit cooler and almost no clouds built today.

Day 9- Gallats Lake to Roaring River Ranger Station 13 Miles
This was a really long day but one that had quite a few amazing benches, valleys, canyons, and a glorious pass. Started out early to get up to Colby Pass before it got too warm. The trail right after my campsite was actually quite steep and seemed to gain the elevation quite quickly. I quickly leveled out at the bench and hanging valley right below Colby Pass. The entire Great Western Divide was in front of me with Milestone Mountain to the North. To the South I could see the entire Kaweah Peaks ridge along with parts of that basin. It was quite an amazing view. The trail up to the pass from this point was graded really nicely but some parts were not so easy to find as I hear this part of the trail is quite irregularly maintained because of the lack of traffic it sees. I made it to the pass quicker than I thought..possibly because the trail was mostly sand instead of sharp jagged rock. The views were amazing. All the way north to probably the mountains south of Yosemite. There was some haze which obscured the view a bit. To the South the Kaweah Peaks Ridge rose boldly with amazingly colored rock which stands in sharp contrast to the granite around it. The pass while marked 12,000 feet is shy about 30 feet of the 12k mark. I descended the north side of the pass while was everything everyone warned me about. It was brutally steep with many switchbacks and quite irregularly maintained. Quite hard to believe that stock have manged to get through there. It is certainly not recommended for any stock since the trail is not maintained but nonetheless the hearty have ventured. My descent into Cloud Canyon was quite gorgeous. The walls all around including Whaleback and Glacier Ridge were quite unreal. The are glacially scoured the the Cloud Canyon itself had a magnificent headwall. Eventually my descent lead into the Big Wet Meadow which I've heard can be called the mosquito factory of the Sierra but to my fortune it was not bad at all there. I believe the hatching season was over and that the weather change helped to move them elsewhere. The meadow was gorgeous with an amazing view of the impressive and jagged Whaleback. My descent continued through thick forest to Roaring River Ranger Station..a place I had been to a week prior. The ranger was actually there this time around.

Day 10-11 Back to Lodgepole. Day 10 was long and hot back to Ranger Lake. The trail was still as hot and dusty as ever. The bugs were fortunately a lot less feverish and my pack weighed considerably less. There seemed to be less water which means we are in for a dry midseason and very dry late season. I eventually got to Ranger Lake quite tired by late afternoon. Day 11 I was really excited to get to Lodgepole and drink something other than water for the 11th day straight. I manged to pull 11 miles back to the Wilderness Office in about 4 hours! I was quite impressed even with the 1000 foot uphill to Silliman Pass which I was at the top not much later than Sunrise. Quite a beautiful sight that was.

The sandwich and Mountain Dew that I had when I got into the Lodgepole store were quite magical. I was so happy I could drink something other than water. It was ice cold too which was extremely refreshing.

This was an amazing trip filled with so many unbelievable sights that many never venture to see because of the remoteness of many of the areas. I was really happy I got to do it and will definitely recommend it to anyone that wishes to see some truly remote and magnificent areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and is up for quite a walk!

Happy Trails and may everyone have a wonderful 2013 backpacking season!
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
Alpine Mike-

http://mikhailkorotkinphotography.com/



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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby alpinemike » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:24 pm

Have a few more photos...

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Mt. Kaweah

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Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
Alpine Mike-

http://mikhailkorotkinphotography.com/
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby balzaccom » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:50 pm

Wow. I was up Cloud Canyon more than 40 years ago===and that last shot of the Whaleback brought some great memories.

Thanks
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby Buford » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:26 am

Cool trip. Thanks for the Elizabeth pass trail info. I checked google earth satellite and the trail is visible the entire way, the images must be a couple years old.
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby schmalz » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:32 am

Amazing trip! Surprised the mosquitoes were not an issue.
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby jessegooddog » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:14 pm

One of the very best trip reports I have ever read. 11 days nearly solo, heaven for me. Gorgeous country, thank you!
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby copeg » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:52 pm

What a trip! Some amazing and remote country. Reading through some of your descriptions and seeing those photos sparked some vivid memories. Thanks for posting! :thumbsup:
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:13 pm

Beautiful TR and pictures. Surprised of no mention of wildflowers in the upper
part of Ranger Meadow, guess this was not a good year for them in that area.
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby lambertiana » Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:43 pm

Great trip!

If you camped at the highest group of trees in Deadman by the small marshy area, on the shelf above where the creek from Big Bird Lake comes down, I camped there last year. Nice spot.

I had the same problem on Elizabeth Pass last year, going south to north. The south side is pretty sketchy toward the top, I ended up just making a straight line to the pass instead of trying to follow the trail. The final hundred feet has nice switchbacks, and the north side of the pass has a wonderful trail that must have taken a lot of work to build. Lots of sledgehammer work breaking the rocks into uniform size.
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby tomba » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:46 pm

Great trip, report, and photos. I like the 3 deadman canyon photos - they remind me of my trip there last fall. Nine Lake Basin looks inviting.

I don't remember the trail south from Elizabeth Pass hard to follow. Perhaps it is easier later in the season, when new vegetation on it is trampled. That area looks great, and there is a neat creek in a crack coming from Lonely Lake. Noon sun warms it when water is low.
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby tim » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:30 pm

Great report and photos, this area is high on my list of płaces to visit. If transportation hadn't been a constraint (I see you got there by bus not car) then would you have chosen to go in from Marvin Pass instead and cut a day off each end?
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Re: TR Lodgepole to Lodgepole Via Deadman and Cloud Canyons (SEK

Postby BakoGal » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:38 am

So jealous....I haven't been to Deadman or Cloud....they're on "the list". Thanks for the report and photos, really beautiful.
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