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TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

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TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby MattL » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:51 pm

I headed out on a solo 5 day/4 night trip to the French Canyon and Humphreys Basin via Piute Pass on August 12.
I was able to get the second-to-last available permit on the 11th, so woke up early on the 12th, made the final drive from Mammoth to the North Lake trailhead, and started hiking about 7:30. I live at sea-level and carry a pretty heavy pack, so can clearly feel the effects of the 9,400' starting elevation and the climb up, but make steady progress and hit the first lake about 9:30, then the top at about 11:30. My initial plans were to stay the first night at one of the Humphreys Lakes or one of the Desolation Lakes, but as the time was still pretty early I decide to keep going, and continue along the Piute Canyon trail (I never see the trail off to the Humphreys Lakes anyway). I go through Hutchinson Meadow, turn right on the French Canyon trail, and camp along the other side of the river, at about 9,500'. The site along French Creek makes a good place to stay compared to many of the barren spots in Humphrey's Basin, with nice view of Merriam Peak on one side and Pilot Knob on the other. I’m only showing 8 photos in this report as the posting screen keeps scrolling up as I try to paste the links.
The morning of the 13th I move pretty slowly, feeling the effects of the day before, and probably don't leave camp until about 9:30 am. I take my time, and head up French Canyon and admire the views as the elevation goes up and the trees thin out. I turn right on the trail to Elba, Moon and L Lakes, and find a very nice spot above and on the outside of the L in L Lake, and decide to camp there after a rather short hiking day. I spend several hours exploring the area, make a circumnavigation of L Lake and visit Steelhead Lake. The place above L has excellent views all around, including Merriam Peak, Royce, Julius Ceasar, and Bear Creek Spire. Here is a look back at L Lake on the way out the next morning.

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On the 14th I head up the talus to Star Lake, traverse over to Puppet Lake and skirt around it a bit to head to Carol Col. From Puppet Lake, I do not see a good way up the col, but know that there is a way, so head to the area I think most likely to have a decent route. As I get closer, I can see that people have used the area on the left towards the larger rocks. I head up and don't really have any difficulty, although the route is steep and certainly requires hand holds. These are the times I wish for a smaller pack. I reach the top of the col, which has excellent views, have an early lunch. Here are views of Mt. Humphreys and looking back at Puppet Lake from the top of the pass.
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From the col I head to Mesa Lake. I’m impressed with a real sand beach along Mesa, but the lack of any trees at all nearby diminishes its appeal to me. I continue past Mesa to Tomahawk Lake, and find a camping spot on a small knob about 100’ above lake level at the southwest corner of the lake. Perhaps some of the best views from any of the places I’ve stayed in the Sierras. I also like having the entire lake to myself, as I had the previous night. Here are views of Humphreys from between a couple of rocks nearby, and the requisite camp shot as the sun began to go down later in the day.
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Although reluctant to leave my place, the morning of the 15th I head east to Lower Desolation Lake, easily make my way around the lake and find the trail going up to Desolation Lake. I stop for a while at each of the lakes, and certainly like the scenery, but at the same time am very glad that I did not decide to camp at either of them on my first night out. Here is a shot of Lower Desolation Lake and the Glacier Divide.

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I then pass Desolation Lake and head up the inlet stream to the appropriately named Forsaken Lake. After another brief stop, I head over a ridge to reach the Humphreys Lakes and briefly visit these. I never quite hook up with the trail, so end up following the outlet stream back down to the Piute Canyon trail. I backtrack along the trail, towards Piute Pass for a mile or so, and then cross to the other side of the basin and make it to Muriel Lake, finishing up around 4:00 in the afternoon. While the scenery around Muriel is just as spectacular as what I have had the last few nights, the lake’s more accessible location makes it much more popular, with at least four other groups staying nearby. A very nice sunset helps to make up for the additional popularity here. Here are photos looking in two different directions from my camp.

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On the 16th, I pack up and head back down Piute Pass and back to the car. While I brought supplies for another night, and am somewhat tempted to head over Alpine Col and then back via Lamarck Col, the morning clouds and wind help dissuade me. Besides, I had not adequately researched these routes and did not want to get caught off route somewhere. I had been able to see all the areas in and around Humphreys Basin that I had wanted to, so I was quite satisfied and left with a new appreciation for the area.



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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:57 pm

a nice report. bummer you don't fish.
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby balzaccom » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:36 pm

rlown wrote:a nice report. bummer you don't fish.


Bummer for the fish? How do you figure?
Balzaccom

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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:40 pm

Balz,

I've no clue what you mean. I know what i meant.


Still a nice report. Nice pics.
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby Mradford » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:01 pm

rlown wrote:Balz,

I've no clue what you mean. I know what i meant.


Still a nice report. Nice pics.



HAHA!!

nice report.
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby justm » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:42 pm

Nice trip, thanks for the report ! I love that area !
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby kpeter » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:52 pm

Your report brings back many pleasant memories of several long day hikes I did through the French-Steelhead-L Lake area from base camps at Honeymoon or Granite Park, and a different trip to Humphrey's Basin. Your final sunset photo is gorgeous.
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby sekihiker » Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:01 pm

Cool area. I hope I get to go there some day. Thanks for the report.
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby justm » Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:05 pm

Thanks for the TR. Nice photos and yes, that's some good fishing water up there !
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby Ryanoa » Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:36 pm

Came over Puppet Pass (Carol Col) on the morning of the 14th while on the high route...probably didn't miss you by much. I can attest to the good fishing. We had a nice "brunch" at Elba Lake.
Nice pics
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby rlown » Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:39 pm

Ryanoa wrote:Came over Puppet Pass (Carol Col) on the morning of the 14th while on the high route...probably didn't miss you by much. I can attest to the good fishing. We had a nice "brunch" at Elba Lake.
Nice pics


Welcome to HST!

When can we see a TR?
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Re: TR - 5 days in and around Humphreys Basin

Postby Ryanoa » Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:29 pm

rlown wrote:
Welcome to HST!

When can we see a TR?


Thanks...I've been lurking here for quite awhile now. It's probably about time I contributed something. :)
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