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Lone Pine Peak, 10/28/14

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Lone Pine Peak, 10/28/14

Postby peaksandpotatoes » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:55 am

I arrived in Lone Pine on Monday night October 27, 2014. I was busy all morning getting things together and schedules straight for my sister’s wedding this coming weekend so I couldn’t leave Oakland until later than I wanted. I figured that since I had to drive south to the Los Angeles area anyway, I might as well cut over to Lone Pine for a quick side trip. I called the Whitney Portal Hostel that morning and they said business was slow so if I couldn’t get there by 6:00 pm I’d better just make a reservation over the phone. About an hour later, they texted me the code to my room and the password to the Wifi. Sure enough, I had the entire six bed female dorm to myself for just about $25.

The next morning, I got up at 4:00 am and drove up Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine. I saw a sign (before the Whitney Portal Campgrounds entrance) indicating where I should park on the side of the road for the Meysan Lakes Trail. I gathered the scented items in my car and put them in the bear cabinet a few steps past the gate near the parking area. I was on my way and it was about 5:15 am.

After reading descriptions online, I was worried that it would be difficult to find the start of the trail in the campgrounds area, but actually it was easy and abundantly signed. Just keep a wary eye out for signs and try to remember the way you came for the way back. I had no problems finding where to go in the dark both starting out and finishing up. Here are some points to hit: follow the road through the campgrounds from the gate near the designated parking area, eventually cross Lone Pine Creek on a foot bridge, pass through the “Summer Homes Area,” and a sign will lead you to the Meysan Lakes foot trail.

I hiked in the dark for almost two hours with no problems. The trail is clear and well-graded.

The first place to camp registered at 3.8 miles in on my GPS. I arrived around 7:30 am. There is a small stream available for camp needs, even at this late in a dry season, so I guess it must be pretty reliable.

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I arrived at the ponds above Grass Lake at 5.45 miles in and around 9:00 am. There were tons of tasty looking fish in the ponds and surrounding streams. I saw a huge raven poking around these parts, perhaps trying to pick out breakfast.

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Some shallower parts were frozen at the top. So pretty.

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From this swampy area above Grass Lake you can see the chute you will need to ascend in order to get to Lone Pine Peak. You will be climbing up the chute in the picture below, where the ridge line dips down just a little bit. Then you will climb up the plateau on the left.

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It was not easy for me to find a good way down past Grass Lake to the chute. The ponds have newly dried into meadows and are too swampy to cross, so some of the easy the terrain I saw from above proved to be impassable. Perhaps it was more obvious what to do earlier in summer.

This sign mislead me a bit, but it was mostly my fault for interpreting the information the way I did. The sign says Grass Lake up ahead, Camp Lake and Meysan Lake up towards the right.

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If you go straight towards Grass Lake you will find nice places to camp if staying the night there and not necessarily good places to get past Grass Lake to the chute on the other side. There are impassable boulder ridges, large areas of thick brush, and swamps. If you go to the right towards Camp Lake or Meysan Lake like the sign says, you will be unable to find the trail. The trail is, in fact, behind you several feet where there was no place to hang a sign. It actually rises up above the rocks on the right of the picture and it was not easy to spot. Although I am not entirely sure what the most efficient way to get past Grass Lake is, I think continuing on the Meysan Lake Trail up a bit further, then leaving the trail and dropping down towards Grass Lake when it and a good path comes into view would be the fastest option. This way will include some boulder-hopping after passing the lake, but I think it is a much better option than what you have to deal with otherwise. The lake will be on your left side on the way down. This is basically the way I returned after a few bad turns and an unfortunate incident in a swamp.

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The terrain on the chute is incredibly loose. You need to stay on the more sturdy rocks on the left of the chute. This is only class 2, but it is the scariest class 2 I’ve ever been on. It was so loose and steep, I really wished I had a helmet. As I went up I could hear rocks tumble down for thousands of feet on the other side of the chute. There were perhaps animals up there scurrying around and setting things loose. Even the larger rocks, which I would normally look at and assume safe as footholds were not. It took me three hours to get from Grass Lake to the top of the chute. This does include the time I spent taking wrong turns at the lake and puzzling over which chute was the right one.

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still a long ways to go from here… plenty of chute left behind that middle spire

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the view down after just passing the spire

There were gorgeous views of Meysan, Whitney, and surrounding peaks from the top of the chute. Mallory, Irvine, and LeConte would be other nice peaks to climb from this area. You can see a pristine, sandy beach at Meysan Lake from here.

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At the top of this chute I saw some piles of rock that might look like the peak, but I knew that I would encounter many false summits. Keep going straight uphill and you will reach a incredibly beautiful, rock-strewn plateau. When you reach the top of the plateau, look to your left and the peak is behind there somewhere. If I were to do this peak again, I would stay pretty low on the shoulder and to the right. There are many false summits and I would wait to the end to climb boulders to the top.

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view of the summit area from the plateau

At the end of the plateau I spotted a bighorn sheep! There was also a mom and her baby on the other side of the plateau. I’m so lucky to have been in the presence of these great wild animals who live their lives in this gorgeous and harsh place.

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looking back at the plateau from the summit area

The summit view was certainly worth the trek. I signed the register and read other messages. I spent a good half hour resting my legs and eating a lunch of sorts. The weather was perfectly clear and still. There was hardly even a light breeze.

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Going down the chute was a bit scary. I used a combination of screeing, boulder-hopping, hands and knees backwards, really long poles, going across and making switchbacks, sliding on my bottom, everything I could think of. No matter what I was doing, something else seemed like it would have been better and no matter where I positioned myself in the chute, the other side looked safer and quicker. Ugh. I don’t know which was worse, going up this thing, or going down. I celebrated nearing the bottom with taking this nice picture of Grass Lake in the afternoon light. When I got to the boulder field at the bottom, I never thought I’d be so happy to go boulder-hopping!

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a peek at Peanut Lake

After finding my way past Grass Lake, life was good and easy. I walked the last half hour in the dark, and was at the trailhead by 6:45 pm. Another happy day in the Sierra.

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peaksandpotatoes
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Re: Lone Pine Peak, 10/28/14

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Fri Oct 31, 2014 3:19 pm

Sweet TR with plenty of great pics! Thanks for sharing and taking us along. Cheers!
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

Some pics of native salmonids: http://flyguydave.wordpress.com/
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