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2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby rams » Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:16 pm

We day-hiked from Onion Valley to Golden Trout Lake (7/16/11).
The trail to Golden Trout Lake was snow-free beyond the stream crossing above the waterfall but became difficult to follow with water hiding portions of it around the area where it supposedly leaves the hillside to join the creek. Additionally, the creek in this area was still covered in snow. We had never hiked here before and weren't sure about the course of the creek under the snow. Not wanting to risk falling through, we climbed the talus on the hillside above the creek for about 100 yards before spotting the trail emerging out of the snow below us. We got back to the trail below the open meadow where the trail forks to the unnamed lakes north of Golden Trout Lake. At this point, the trail kept alternating between snow-covered and melted-out, though the meadow itself was snow-free. There were lots of fallen trees as well. Unfortunately I didn't get photos where the patches of snow were huge (ie, where we first lost the trail shortly after the top of the waterfall). Here are the smaller patches of snow covering the trail, though:

golden trout trail1.jpg
A bit below the fork to the unnamed lakes north of Golden Trout


golden trout trail2.jpg
fallen trees and more snow cover


After the fork, it looked like it'd be easy to get up to the bench holding the unnamed lakes (ie, no snow-travel required until the bench), so long as you hadn't already lost the trail when hiking near the creek.

golden trout trail3.jpg
near the trail fork


We lost the trail in snow again and ended up finding a use trail up the hiker's left side of the creek spilling down from Golden Trout Lake (official trail is on the other side) until we reached an unnamed lake. From here you could scout Mt. Gould if you wanted to climb it from this side.

golden trout trail4.jpg
Mt Gould


Golden Trout Lake itself is not completely thawed but is on its way.

golden trout trail5.jpg
Golden Trout Lake


If you've never hiked this trail, I'd say be ready to do some talus hopping since chances are you'll lose the trail in a few spots. On the plus side, we didn't posthole once throughout the day (we were out from 9 am to 6 pm) despite all the snow. There were lots of suncups, however.



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Jack Main Canyon 7/16-7/19

Postby sparky » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:17 pm

July 16-19

Jack main canyon VIA beehive....trail underwater in spots in east end of canyon, shin deep. Past trail junction to wampama falls, again trail underwater, knee deep. I was out voted as you can't see the trail emerge from the water. There is a possible bypass that requires off trail navigation through forest and class 2 rock. We turned around halfway through bypass because of time constraints but enjoyed the lake we were skirting on the bypass.

The river crossing at the far east end of jack main to head toward wampama was chest deep. We abandon the route and turned back due to depth. Watched the river rise dramatically during day 2. Patchy snow on jack main trail between wilma lake and trail junction to wampama. Very fresh very large mountain lion tracks in snow.

Original route was the dam at hetch hetchy through jack main canyon to tilden lake looping down through tiltill valley, to the dam. Turned into an out and back with a little variation for spice on the way back. Ranger P Roe's description and warnings of the conditions were spot on, he knows his stuff......but it was still AMAZING!
Last edited by sparky on Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby quentinc » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:04 pm

Flux, thanks for the report. Thinking of heading into Dusy and maybe over Knapsack next weekend.
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New Army Pass 7/16

Postby Packtofish » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:58 am

New Army Pass - 7/16/2011

My wife and I did a three day hike up through Cottonwood Lakes Basin and a dayhike up Langley this last weekend. Conditions were beautiful, trail is completely snow free till just above Long Lake. The skeets were out in force in the meadows during the day, but it wasn't too bad at the lakes. I'd give it a rating of "mildly annoying" on the skeet scale. New Army Pass still has some snow covering the trail and the use of an ice axe proved helpful, but not necessary in midday. There are currently two traverses of about 30ft and 75ft and then it's dry trail on either side. It was a little sporty for my wife who had never experienced anything bordering class 2, let alone a snow slope. It was a non issue if you were careful as there are some nice kicked steps across the areas. We went up to the Left of all the snow trying to stay on a dry rock line, but in hindsight that turned out to be much more effort and exposure than just staying on the trail and doing the traverse. Once on top of the pass all is clear and open as far as I could see and I talked to a guy coming out of Miter that said Sky Blue was clear. Old Army Pass was still a snow climb and I would not recommend heading that way with full packs unless you are comfortable with some mixed climbing.

Here's a few pics.....

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Looking towards the top of Langley
Image
Last edited by maverick on Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Army Pass 7/16

Postby Ursula » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:31 pm

Gorgeous photos! Thanks for posting them. It give the rest of us an idea of the snow melt and it is so nice to see things finally clearing out!

Packtofish wrote:New Army Pass - 7/16/2011

My wife and I did a three day hike up through Cottonwood Lakes Basin and a dayhike up Langley this last weekend. Conditions were beautiful, trail is completely snow free till just above Long Lake. The skeets were out in force in the meadows during the day, but it wasn't too bad at the lakes. I'd give it a rating of "mildly annoying" on the skeet scale. New Army Pass still has some snow covering the trail and the use of an ice axe proved helpful, but not necessary in midday. There are currently two traverses of about 30ft and 75ft and then it's dry trail on either side. It was a little sporty for my wife who had never experienced anything bordering class 2, let alone a snow slope. It was a non issue if you were careful as there are some nice kicked steps across the areas. We went up to the Left of all the snow trying to stay on a dry rock line, but in hindsight that turned out to be much more effort and exposure than just staying on the trail and doing the traverse. Once on top of the pass all is clear and open as far as I could see and I talked to a guy coming out of Miter that said Sky Blue was clear. Old Army Pass was still a snow climb and I would not recommend heading that way with full packs unless you are comfortable with some mixed climbing.

Here's a few pics.....

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Looking towards the top of Langley
Image
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7/19-7/20 Clouds Rest-Sunrise-Cathedral

Postby ChinMusic » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:34 pm

7/20: Clouds Rest - zero snow to south, very little snow on north, no traction devices

7/19: Sunrise Camp to Sunrise Lakes - little snow camp side. Still some 10-ft deep spots going down to the lakes. Route finding fairly easy. No traction devices

7/19: Cathedral Pass - some minor snow. Route finding fairly easy. No traction devices.
Last edited by maverick on Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby Flux » Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:42 am

quentinc wrote:Flux, thanks for the report. Thinking of heading into Dusy and maybe over Knapsack next weekend.


Should be pretty good at that point. Things are changing quick, but there will be snow. Extra socks and an axe. Crampons would be good if you hit steeper sections early up high. But if you wait them out, the sun will gush em up.
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Re: New Army Pass 7/16

Postby Hobbes » Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:37 am

Packtofish wrote:New Army Pass - 7/16/2011
Old Army Pass was still a snow climb and I would not recommend heading that way with full packs unless you are comfortable with some mixed climbing.

I was up last weekend as well fishing a complete loop of all the CW lakes. I was heading out from #4/5 around 8am (I was the only one around - most were down by the #1/2/3 junction) and ran into a clean-cut kid (22-24 yo - looked like an AF 2nd lieutenant) on his way up over Army to Langley. He looked like he was in great shape, and didn't seem to think it was that challenging to day hike the entire loop from the HM TH.

Thing is, he had neither his crampons nor axe - and if you saw Army, you'd probably be thinking that might be a little gnarly. In fact, kudos to you going over New Army - I met other various people by Long who had turned back from that route as well.

Anyway, to finish the story, later that afternoon around 4pm, I was nearing the HM TH after coming down the SF lake trail. As I was passing someone, I looked over and saw that it was the same kid from earlier that morning. I stopped and said hi and asked him how he had fared.

Well, as you might expect from the tone of this tale, he actually didn't make it over Army. In fact, as he described it, he "involuntarily glissaded" around 300 ft! What! :eek: Yep, and somehow he arrested his "descent" via the use of his hands/forearms that looked like he taken a motorcycle spill from both elbows to wrists.

Well, at this point I went into 'dad mode' and asked him if that was his closest near death experience, one that he would later tell to his g/f, wife, kids, etc., that he had experienced to date. Well, of course it was. As we talked a little longer, he mentioned that it took around 20 minutes for the uncontrollable shaking from the post-adrenaline high to wear off. Besides avoiding flying off the side of the mountain, he still couldn't believe he hadn't at least shattered both legs up to his pelvis.

As an aside, he mentioned he had been in scarier situations on other summits, but then I replied that he hadn't fallen. That was one lucky kid. As I took off, I told him he was fortunate to be young - it usually takes me an overnighter or two to expect to travel that far.

PS My brother and I are going over both passes to/from Miter & Crabtree after Labor day.

PPS Just took a look @ the NPS page. Here's what they posted on 7/19:

New Army Pass 7/19 Large snow cornice covering top of switchbacks on eastern side. Can be avoided by going up a rock/dirt chute on the northerly side of the cornice. A 30-yard snow chute needs to be traversed below the cornice. It may require crampons and/or ice axe, depending on the time of day. May be hazardous.

Army Pass 7/19 Not recommended. Impassable except to skilled mountaineers. Lots of snow - ice axe, crampons, etc. necessary.
Last edited by Hobbes on Thu Jul 21, 2011 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby quentinc » Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:52 am

Flux wrote:
quentinc wrote:Flux, thanks for the report. Thinking of heading into Dusy and maybe over Knapsack next weekend.

Should be pretty good at that point. Things are changing quick, but there will be snow. Extra socks and an axe. Crampons would be good if you hit steeper sections early up high. But if you wait them out, the sun will gush em up.


Did you feel you needed an axe? I did Glen Pass two weeks ago, and although the north side was pretty much covered with snow it was comfortable with hiking poles. The snow was soft enough that you could easily self arrest with your hands if need be. (And not like that self-arrest Hobbes described hearing about on OA! That trail is notorious for icy snow just below the pass, on an insanely steep slope.)
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Re: New Army Pass 7/16

Postby Packtofish » Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:10 pm

Hobbes wrote:
Packtofish wrote:New Army Pass - 7/16/2011
Old Army Pass was still a snow climb and I would not recommend heading that way with full packs unless you are comfortable with some mixed climbing.


Anyway, to finish the story, later that afternoon around 4pm, I was nearing the HM TH after coming down the SF lake trail. As I was passing someone, I looked over and saw that it was the same kid from earlier that morning. I stopped and said hi and asked him how he had fared.

Well, as you might expect from the tone of this tale, he actually didn't make it over Army. In fact, as he described it, he "involuntarily glissaded" around 300 ft! What! :eek: Yep, and somehow he arrested his "descent" via the use of his hands/forearms that looked like he taken a motorcycle spill from both elbows to wrists.

Well, at this point I went into 'dad mode' and asked him if that was his closest near death experience, one that he would later tell to his g/f, wife, kids, etc., that he had experienced to date. Well, of course it was. As we talked a little longer, he mentioned that it took around 20 minutes for the uncontrollable shaking from the post-adrenaline high to wear off. Besides avoiding flying off the side of the mountain, he still couldn't believe he hadn't at least shattered both legs up to his pelvis.

As an aside, he mentioned he had been in scarier situations on other summits, but then I replied that he hadn't fallen. That was one lucky kid. As I took off, I told him he was fortunate to be young - it usually takes me an overnighter or two to expect to travel that far.

PS My brother and I are going over both passes to/from Miter & Crabtree after Labor day.

PPS Just took a look @ the NPS page. Here's what they posted on 7/19:

New Army Pass 7/19 Large snow cornice covering top of switchbacks on eastern side. Can be avoided by going up a rock/dirt chute on the northerly side of the cornice. A 30-yard snow chute needs to be traversed below the cornice. It may require crampons and/or ice axe, depending on the time of day. May be hazardous.

Army Pass 7/19 Not recommended. Impassable except to skilled mountaineers. Lots of snow - ice axe, crampons, etc. necessary.


Wow, brave kid. Obviously it was not the best decision he's ever made, but I'm glad to hear all turned out OK. There in no chance I would have tried Old Army last weekend, New Army was sporting enough. We probably crossed paths at some point last weekend..... thanks for the update.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:45 pm

Packtofish wrote "Wow, brave kid." Really? Brave. :rolleyes:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby Flux » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:31 pm

quentinc wrote:
Flux wrote:
quentinc wrote:Flux, thanks for the report. Thinking of heading into Dusy and maybe over Knapsack next weekend.

Should be pretty good at that point. Things are changing quick, but there will be snow. Extra socks and an axe. Crampons would be good if you hit steeper sections early up high. But if you wait them out, the sun will gush em up.


Did you feel you needed an axe? I did Glen Pass two weeks ago, and although the north side was pretty much covered with snow it was comfortable with hiking poles. The snow was soft enough that you could easily self arrest with your hands if need be. (And not like that self-arrest Hobbes described hearing about on OA! That trail is notorious for icy snow just below the pass, on an insanely steep slope.)


We bagged the peak and headed up a fairly steep slope early in the day (Base of Agassiz). Snow was hard and I could have easily slipped, so we needed axes. once we got higher up we transferred to rock from the snow and it got steep. No way I would have walked on that slope without crampons let alone an axe, it was dang steep though and the runout went right into a choke, so no way.

I suppose it depends where you go and when you do it. We glissaded too so having an axe is key! I am not familiar with Knapsack pass, but I would bet there will be no trail and it will be alot of snow. It's hard for me to say, but I always err on the side of caution. I got a lightweight axe that weighs a pound so I can't see a reason not to take it. Again, I think if you hit a slope that was hard and scary, you either back off and wait til it softens or say screw it.

Plus I look all extreme with my axe on my pack, it helps diffuse that desk jockey flatlander sucking wind look that I always have on the trail.
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