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Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Discussion related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby canyonfish » Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:00 am

Hi, All,

I'm planning a trip with my almost 10 year old son. I am an experienced on/off trail backpacker of 20 years. The eventual destination is Mammoth Lakes. The plan is for my wife to drop us off somewhere on the west slope and we walk over on a 3-5 day trip. Options I have outlined so far:

Clover Meadow to Granite Stairway to Devil's Postpile: This is the default as I know snow will not be an issue. I do wish it were a bit longer of a trip, or that we could somehow cross over Iron Mountain to add a more alpine experience. We could also try to go around the North end of the Ritter Range around Lake Catherine.

Edison Lake to Mono Pass, Rock Creek Lake: This is appealing to me, concerns are snow on Mono Pass (which looks like a very low sloped pass) and a stream crossing to get into Fourth Recess

Dana Meadow-Koip Peak Pass-Silver Lake: This is appealing in that it is much less driving for my wife (she can drop us off on the way to Mammoth). My concern is Koip Peak Pass. Looks steep, and at 12,400 north facing I imagine a significant amount of snow remains. If it were feasible to posthole in the PM I wouldn't be too worried. I suppose I could bring an axe and rope my son to myself. Also, this route seems a bit barren compared to the others

JMT Tuolumne-Agnew: I doubt I can get a permit at this late hour, and the crowds make this slightly less appealing. Pro's would be almost no extra driving on either end for my wife

Thanks in advance to any input you can give. I'm open to other suggestions as well.



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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:36 pm

I would go with Edison-Mono Pass. The resort is open, the road is clear, and the ferry is running. The road all the way out is paved - if you've hiked from there before you know what Kaiser Pass is like, with the rocks in the asphalt and narrow notches and all...

Going from Clover Meadow via Hemlock Crossing and Granite Staircase is a huge amount of loss and gain, and the roads going up there aren't fun to drive - less fun for people who don't drive rutted, potholed roads often. Dana Meadow - Koip would be great, if not for the snow. The JMT is a freeway of hikers and crazy bears to rattle the bear cans six times a night. It's gotten worse...
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby canyonfish » Mon Jun 20, 2016 6:02 am

Thanks for the input, I appreciate it. I had pretty much come to the same conclusion. I will definitely reserve Koip for another day, maybe later this year.

It's too bad about the JMT, it sounds like it is way more heavily travelled than it used to be. I hiked the first 100 miles of it with some buddies in 2002, and the only bear visit was the first night in Little Yosemite. What a PITA that was. We had too much food for the cans on that first night, but fortunately we found a perfect food hanging branch. Immediately after we hung the food, a bear showed up and worked for hours trying to get out to it (unsuccessfully). It took some time to retrieve our cans in the morning, one of which had been rolled a few hundred yards into a creek. We learned to wedge our cans between rocks and branches after that. That was clearly no longer a wild bear.
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:33 am

If you were in Little Yosemite why didn't you use the lockers? Instead of risking a $5000 fine hanging food?
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby canyonfish » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:03 pm

We were a little outside Yosemite Valley. I was not aware of a fine, and we hung successfully. $5,000 seems a little steep. Is that the fine if you get caught with an Ursack inside the park?
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:29 pm

That's the max fine for using anything other than the canisters on their approved list of bear resistant containers. You can use anything on the approved list, nothing else -- no Ursack, no hanging by any method. The bears get properly hung food there. You're very lucky.
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby canyonfish » Fri Jun 24, 2016 8:07 pm

We opted for the Mono Pass option, it was a great trip. Mosquitos weren't near as bad as anticipated, though definitely present. Water level was very high. North Fork Mono Creek (coming down from Mott Lake) would have been impassible for the two young boys if it weren't for a large log with a flat top 50 yards or so above where the trail crossed. The other crossings were safe enough to escort the kids over one at a time.

Snow was present above 10,700 or so. We had to reinvent the trail a bit on the switch backs on the way up to Trail Lakes, that was the most difficult part but very feasible. Trail was snow free above Trail Lakes until the approach to Summit Lake, which is flat enough as to not be a concern. Snow from there until about 200 yards down the north side of Mono Pass. Clear the rest of the way down.

We saw a golden eagle soaring directly above us as we crossed the pass. That and bobcat scat and tracks across the pass. Really fun for the kids to see.
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby Sierra Miguel » Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:20 am

canyonfish wrote:We had to reinvent the trail a bit on the switch backs on the way up to Trail Lakes, that was the most difficult part but very feasible. Trail was snow free above Trail Lakes until the approach to Summit Lake, which is flat enough as to not be a concern. Snow from there until about 200 yards down the north side of Mono Pass.


How was the snow? how deep? postholing? consistency? What equipment did you need/want? microspikes? gaiters?
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Re: Fresno-Mammoth Trans Sierra June 21-24

Postby canyonfish » Sat Jun 25, 2016 9:44 am

The snow was not bad. We started up the switchbacks toward Trail Lakes around 8:30. It was a bit firm in spots, but exposure was limited and I was able to kick in steps for the boys, who were in tennis shoes. No need for spikes. Up in the Summit Lake basin, which we reached around 11:00, snow was soft sun cups. Fairly consistent, would sink in a few inches in most spots, occasionally a foot if you hit a sink hole. Hiking boots and tennis shoes were just fine here. We hit the backside of the pass around 12:30 (we moved slow). Snow was similar to inside the basin, but a little steeper at points. I did spot one of the boys across one section. I wore my pant legs on my zip offs, which served just fine as "gaiters". For a moderately experienced hiker I would say no equipment was needed.

We did talk to two guys who had gone over the pass from east to west the day before. They said they were post holing up to their waist at points, but they came across the pass late. We saw them at the bottom of Trail Lakes switchbacks around 4:15. So they probably hit the pass around 1:30-2:00. They also lost the trail and came down the north face of the slope down from Trail Lakes instead of the more snow free western face where the trail is cut.
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