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Gemini Lake Pass

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Gemini Lake Pass

Postby alpinemike » Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:11 pm

TITLE: Gemini Lake Pass

GENERAL OVERVIEW: This pass leads from Seven Gables Lakes to the lakes directly East of The Pinnacles.

Class 2. Only a few Class 3 moves exist descending the pass to Gemini Lake. There may be a Class 2 route that we didn't find.

John Muir Wilderness in Sierra National Forest directly North of the lake East of Gemini unofficially known as Gemini Lake. HST Map


Mt. Hilgard

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: From the North side this pass involves talus, boulders, and lots of fairly easy granite benches and ramps towards the top. An ice ax would be necessary in a heavy snow year or early in the season since there is a permanent snow field present. We (RoguePhotonic and I) only crossed snow once for about 30 feet. The grade was gentle and the snow was soft so there was no concern. Avoid angling up too early from the last Seven Gables Lake as you will have to contour around a looser slope and then avoid a large granite cliff face (which is what we did). Another member of our party stayed further toward the bottom until the route became an almost straight shot up via granite boulders and talus.

The South side of the pass possess an interesting route. We could not find the class 2 route around the lake although it looked as though there exists one if you stay higher along the ridge-line. The class 3 was easy and only included a couple moves to get around the lake on the Northern side. Once you reach the South side of the lake the route is obvious and easy down lots of talus and granite benches.

DSC_6003 Web.jpg

DSC_6008 Web.jpg

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DSC_6011 Web.jpg

DSC_6023 Web.jpg

DSC_6025 Web.jpg
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Last edited by ERIC on Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Gemini Lake Pass

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Nov 19, 2014 6:20 pm


South Side:

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Re: Gemini Lake Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Aug 08, 2015 3:24 pm

This is a very nice description of the pass and I thought I'd add something about the top, which is that the lake at the top can be bypassed without any class 3 by staying exactly on the top of the narrow ridge that bounds it on the north. I just crossed this pass on 8/4/15. I knew about this thread here but did not read the details before I left on my trip because I like to work out my off trail routes on the fly while I'm out there. See post: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13276 and note that there are a number of other off trail passes described on that trip, too.
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Re: Gemini Lake Pass

Postby SSSdave » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:33 am

Will add a bit to what GB said. But first wish you folks posting in these cross country pass threads would make more use of topographic maps in posts so members can better understand what is being discussed. Like GB I am old school when it comes to using topos in the backcountry and feel I can easily do better routes than anyone that just assesses routes by sight alone. So as an example I am going to describe the way I size up this kind of situation that I hope will show those who don't tend to use topos the wisdom of doing so. One can use the online mapper.acme site on any web board.


An advantage of using that map site is the center of the map shows a crosshairs that can be used to exactly identify any location. Note most online topos have no crosshairs so when a specific location needs to be communicated it has to be described by map features which may be awkward. Additionally the tabs switch between topo and satellite views while holding the exact registration.

However when using this HST site one can more readily use Eric's HST page that has been improved over time to be most useful and now I see it has a crosshairs function too.

Now back to the topic, this is a useful example of how a map can improve a route even for a climber who is otherwise an expert at sizing up routes by sight alone. The route the OP took is the obvious SSW canyon from the southernmost Seven Gables lake at 11000+ to the snowfield at 11800+ near the top. Looking at the contour lines, one can see that nowhere would someone climbing up with a backpack and even modest route finding skills probably have issues except at the top at 12040+ early season when the snowfield could be icy hard during mornings. But the south side is a more challenging puzzle. I recall looking at the description going over that col in Sierra South occasionally over the last few decades so had looked at this in the past.

What the map shows is the top of that col is no arete but rather has some more level ground. But between there and the noname lake immediately below the 40 foot contour lines are somewhat steep with the NW side of the lake less so. The lake itself is midway between the 11960 and 12000 contours thus half of 40 feet or approximately water level of 11980 feet. Facing south though at a very high elevation, after normal winters, it probably is ice free by mid July. The little hill just east of the col at 12120+ is thus about 150 feet above the lake. Even if one could reach the lake edge via class 2 below, passing the southwest side of the lake is questionable due to close contours so would have to be evaluated enroute. Also early season the snowfield from Gemini might reach all the way into that lake making it more dangerous and could be an issue into August. Generally contours above the northeast side of the lake show a steep slope that may or may not be class 2 to get around and potentially there could be a blocking small cliff right into the water.

To the east of the small hill from the broad saddle, the route down to Aweetasal Lake is easier versus the route below our small lake at the pass. But someone at the col cannot see that because of the hill. But looking at the map we know that. So from the above map situation the only unknown is whether one can pass over the small hill east of the col? A person using only visual sight at the col won't be able to see any terrain on the other side of the hill so is more likely to go straight down instead of expending effort to climb the hill first to find out. The col itself might be 12060 feet and the top of the hill 12130 feet so maybe 70 feet to climb. The lines are not close together in the west to east orientation and in the north south orientation is not arete-like as for instance the rib south of Gemini. So the strategy is to work up the hill in that direction and not say traversing around it at pass level. Once a person reaches the top like giantbrookie did, the easiest route is to then move southeast to the minor saddle of a sub-hill then jog northeast a tad down a shallow gully to the broad saddle. Note peak 12441 is the striking pyramidal peak as viewed from the Seven Gables Lakes chain we have always called Horn Peak. (geologic term for glaciated pyramidal peaks)

OK so now lets add another use of the mapper site or our HST map page that won't be useful enroute in the backcountry like a paper map but can be used before a trip at home. Switch to the Satellite tab that always has more magnification possible than the highest map resolution. Zoom in 4 times that will leave it one less than minimum. Now we can see more interesting features. One is, a rib divides the north snowfield and might be useful climbing up. The map shows talus from Gemini reaches all the way to the lake's west end as does its snowfield and then a section of bedrock that might be a cliff because it is shady. The questionable steep northeast side of the lake shows a section of bright featureless slabs right into the lake that make travel by the edge even less likely and certainly more dangerous in that a fall could mean tumbling in.

Now looking at the hill to the east we see a very serrated broken shadowed landscape with southeast to northeast granite jointing. Is the top of the hill somewhere there? Nope those are slopes on the steep northern side of the ridge. Indeed making sense of vertical satellite views takes some experience. On the topo tab put the crosshairs exactly on the top of the hill. Notice how the east end of the lake is slightly west of that top. Now switch to the Satellite tab and zoom back in noticing how it nicely maintains that registration. Notice how what is the top edge of the ridge delineated by where the above noted shadows begin, has a bit more texture versus the slabs closer to the lake edge. That is a good sign as it means there is terrain one can probably work with versus the smooth slabs lower, in order to get to the top and then drop southeast. See the line of shadows just east of the east end of the lake. That is the subtle gully to walk down northeast to reach the broad saddle and notice it is not talus but rather sandy.

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Re: Gemini Lake Pass

Postby nunatak » Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:47 pm

On August 15th, 2017 the top lake up from East Pinnacle Creek looked thus:

ImageImage 8-17-17 at 15.33 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr

And the descent down on the north side was mandatory steep snow with icy patches, requiring the full suite of spikes:

ImageImage 8-17-17 at 15.38 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
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