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Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:32 am
by Btaim
Me and my wife have permits for Duck Pass on July 6-7. I'm concerned about snow. Is it more patchy or completely covered? Would we be able to hike to Duck lake and setup camp there? There's just over a week left until our trip, so more snow will melt but maybe not enough time. We have a backup plan that includes a camping reservation in Mammoth. I was hoping to cancel it but probably better not to. Another backup plan could be other walk-in permits at lower elevations (if they're even available on a busy holiday weekend!).

I better provide this info too- this is only our second backpacking trip. We are in very good shape (do 8-10 mile day hikes regularly) and have invested in all of the great, lightweight equipment (though I might go back to REI to buy hiking poles). It's time to put that equipment to use now because it was expensive! We have experience hiking in huge snow patches, but not backpacking in it. The days prior to Duck pass (July 4-5) will be spent car camping near June Lake so we'll be adapted to elevation.

Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.

Re: Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:19 am
by Wandering Daisy
I too have been looking at Duck Lake for this next week. It is 10,500 feet elevation. The NWS forecasts have shown night-time temperatures near freezing and cool day temperatures until mid-next week, so probably not a fast melt. The FS snow map shows a patch of snow on the northeast end of the lake, which is where the campsites are. It also looks like a bit of snow on to get to Duck Pass, as well as snow on the pass. Given this data I decided not to go. I have no feet-on-the-ground data, so take this with a grain of salt.

There are actually two ways to get to Duck Lake. One is the trail from Cold Water campground, which is what I allude to above. The other, at lower elevation and less snow, is to go down to Reds Meadow and then take the PCT to the Duck Lake trail junction and then continue to Duck Lake. The trail runs high on the southeast side of the lake to get to the north end, but this is sun-facing so would likely be melted. The is no camping allowed exactly at the outlet, but if you move a bit away you are OK, and this side of the lake may not have snow. I think I read that Reds Meadow road will be open Monday. This route is not as scenic as the route from Cold Water Campground; it goes through an old burn area.

You can also reach the PCT via Horseshoe Lake TH and Mammoth Pass (9300). I have not done this trail since 2010 but it was hard to follow then. It may have been worked on since. It also goes through a burn, so there may be lots of dead logs across the trail since it is early season and any trail improvement for this year will have not been done. This is logistically easier than Reds Meadow since you have to take the shuttle (fee) to Reds Meadow.

Re: Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:16 am
by Wandering Daisy
I just checked CDEC and there still is 3 feet of snow on Mammoth Pass. Not necessarily bad, if you are good at navigation; it is an open forest and if you know where you are you will intersect the melted out trail at some point. A GPS would be helpful. If there is 3 feet of snow on Mammoth Pass there surely will be a lot of snow on Duck Pass, which is also steeper. Mammoth Pass is gentle.

Re: Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:20 am
by jhfowler
We just hiked across Fish Valley from Duck Lake on 6/27 and the snow line below the lake looked to be about 9500 feet.

Re: Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:02 pm
by maverick

Re: Conditions Request- Duck Pass

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:04 am
by happycamper0313
Duck Pass is ok when there is a bit of snow, but the trail around Duck Lake is steep and if there are patches of snow it's really sketchy. In 2017 I sectioned hiked the JMT around the Mammoth Area starting 4th of July weekend. Red's Meadow road was closed and I went through Mammoth Pass, which was covered in feet of snow. It's a slow, tiring start to the trip. Snow travel through there is precarious - lots of snow covering downed trees and boulders. I was careful but also so lucky not to snap my leg in half as I stepped through soft, hollow bits of snow right through to the ground in patches. But as soon as you get through the patches down into the trails that either go south to Duck and Purple lake or North to Thousand Island Lake, there isn't a patch of snow in sight. My second entry a weekend later was through Duck Pass and snow was a bit better, but the patches that stuck around required at least hiking poles and a lot of's steep!