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2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

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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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby sealog » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:04 am

Thanks a ton Apeman!
We will see you up in the Miter Basin, at skyblue lake probably!?
You described our route well. We will get onto long lake or so on friday for the night, then go over new army pass to soldier lake for saturday, or possibly will go on up a ways into the Miter on saturday and will stay there a couple days for fishing and acclimating.
My plan was then for us to go back down past soldier lake onto the trail that shows soldier lake to rock creek and camp there at rock creek on maybe tuesday night, then up to crabtree meadows and lakes, then up to guitar and to the top of whitney on friday, or down to outpost camp on friday night for return to lone pine on saturday. I can't think of anything else but this, it is like the opening of lobster season used to be for me. Buck fever sounds similar too.
Any advice on fishing in the miter? Or in general? I will be taking a fly rod, and also a spin set up with bubbles, spinners and flies.
Best to you!
Don



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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby afisher99 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:33 pm

apeman45 wrote:We camped 1 night at Charlotte lake and 2 at Rae lakes. Mosquitoes were pretty bad but not as bad as I expected but I have a high tolerance to bloodletting. I think they are close to peaking in Rae lakes area.


Sorry about the rain! You said they are close to peaking in the Rae Lakes area... any thought as to when they'll be down? I'll be coming through the area on Aug 21-25. Thanks!
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby apeman45 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:37 pm

Hey Afisher. In a normal year late August would be good for mosquitoes dying off. We are about 3 weeks behind "normal" this year so I would expect late July conditions for mosquitoes for your trip. Select your campsite wisely and be prepared for the buggers in the usual likely swampy areas. Should be much better by then with the usual spike early morning and evening and not much of a problem during the day.

Sea log

I'm a spin fisherman myself. Fly and bubble works well in the lakes. Rock creek is ridiculously easy to catch small goldens with just about anything. 6 inchers max but beautiful and fun to catch. Whitney creek similar with slightly larger fish below the Crabtree meadows camping area. Guitar has decent sized golden hybrids that readily take spinners like panther martins. You may want to try Timberline on the way up to guitar.

As for the miter area you'll have to pm me as this falls into the sensitive information area over on the fishing blog. There is lots of great info over there.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby sealog » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:28 pm

Great!
Thank you guys so much!
Just so I am able to help as well as be helped, if anyone wants information on lobster diving, or halibut spear fishing, I am your guy!
Best to you!
Don
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby sparky » Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:04 pm

I would give the mosquitoes a 3.5 out of 5, they were small, but numerous, biting but not really tenacious. I did use deet and a headnet, and was a very happy camper.

KathyW wrote:
sparky wrote:Tablelands July 26 to 28.....conditions are great!!

Route taken was wolverton trailhead up through table meadows to just below moose lake, contouring low in buck creek canyon, ascending to pterodactyl intending to go to lonely lake and back out the high sierra trail. Shined lonely lake and just hopped up on all the ridges from pterodactyl pass to Ferguson canyon, then headed back out cutting my trip a day short.

Tablelands are mostly clear, snow is patchy above 10,800, moose lake was still icy but melting. Buck creek canyon is amazing. Lonely lake was clear, pterodactyl pass had a section of steep snow at the bottom which may or may not be avoidable. I didn't want to risk it. Smoke from the lion fire crept in effecting views from here, but the view from this pass is so beautiful even with the smoke. The lake that feeds into bigbird was still frozen, but melting. The meadows and flowers are exploding with water and color right now.


Thanks for the report.

How bad were he mosquitoes? I'm thinking of starting on either the Alta Trail or the HST on Thursay or Friday and heading to Hamilton Lakes and then over Kaweah Pass to do the short climb up to Eagle Scout Peak. I'm just going to do an out and back trip. It sounds like getting up Eagle Scout Peak early in the morning will give me the clearest view with the Lion Fire still burning.
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True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby Cross Country » Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:59 pm

Thanks for the info copeg. Your'se was of value.
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Taboose-Bench Lake 7/27-8/2

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:29 pm

Route taken: Taboose Pass-Bench Lake-Smaller Lake below Marjorie-Striped
Mountain Basin-Taboose corridor (eastern)



Difficult section encountered:
8200 ft creek crossing is very difficult, must be done
as early in the day as possible. 9200 ft creek crossing not as difficult, but if done later
in the day it has potential to be difficult.
There are two smaller camp spots before you cross the 8200 ft crossing if you get there
to late in the day.
There is a spot before the 9200 ft crossing also, but you should be able to do this.
Taboose had maybe 100 ft total of snow that had to be crossed, and that could have
been avoided if one got there when the snow is too hard, snow is not an issue.
Start the hike as early as possible, before 5:30 am, it gets really hot, and you'll want to
make the crossing as early as possible to.
There are some camp spots at 9600 ft if you need or want to have a nice spot to
make the crossing nice and early, also one at 8500 ft, on the right side of the trail as
you coming out.



Special equipment needed/used: Hiking poles for creek crossings, and down hill



Possible alternative routes:
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 kpeter » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:44 pm

I will post a more personal trip report soon. For those who may be planning a trip and about to leave on a North lake - South Lake loop here is my recent experience strictly about trail conditions.

1. July 27-28 Tyee Lakes Trail to Tyee Lakes over Table Mountain to George Lake and out to Sabrina: Trails in generally good condition with only two unremoved deadfalls. Trail from Table Mountain to George lake sketchy at times as its old switchbacks crossed sandy soils. 1/2 mile long (but not wide) snow bank on top of Table Mountain hides the trail; best to cross to opposite side when the trail runs into it and follow the bank until the trail comes out the other side.

IMGP1936.jpg
Trail over Table Mountain disappears under long snowbank


2. July 28-29 Piute Trail from North Lake to JMT. Entire trail seemed in reasonable good shape with no deadfalls I remember. Piute Pass has a snow bank a few hundred feet long on the east side but horsepackers have excavated a wide level path through it with only one 20 foot steepish section.

IMGP2001.jpg
Easy snow crossing over Piute Pass


On the west there stream crossings headed into Humphries Basin that have made the trail a creek for a couple of hundred feet, but can easily be picked around or splashed through. The stream crossing coming out of Desolation can be managed without wading by heading upstream a couple of hundred feet and picking your way across the multiple branches. At Hutchinson Meadows put on your waders when you hit the first stream and don't take them off till you have finished the whole bunch--8 if you count the little ones. They all come within a couple of hundred yeards. There are one or two more streams to wade as you approach the famous West Pinnacles Creek ford.

West Pinnacles Creek is scary because the water is so turbulent that you cannot see the bottom and judge the depth. However, at the time I waded it there were areas that were no more than knee deep--but you cannot see that, you have to measure it with your poles. Wade in the wrong spot and you will wind up in a hole. You want to use the two feet on the downstream side of the crossing area--not downstream of the trail but on the downstream side. This won't be obvious by looking, but will by probing. Whatever you do, don't wade straight into the middle--the 3/4 of the crossing area in the middle and on the upstream side have been scooped out into a hole. Feel your way to be sure you stay in shallow water.

IMGP2035.jpg
West Pinnacles Creek Crossing looks bad but wade on downstream side (showing)


3. July 30 JMT from Piute intersection to Evolution Valley. Mostly well maintained as you would expect for one of the most popular trails in the world. A rainstorm created some additional wading just before the trail heads up to Evolution Valley.

Evolution Creek crossing had notes from the ranger indicating that the regular crossing was no more than two feet deep and safe now. I watched several strong young hikers cross there before deciding to go to the meadow. There had been recent rainstorms and the regular crossing did seem to be knee deep much of the way but somewhat deeper than that on the far side.

IMGP2066.jpg
Most are now crossing Evolution Creek at the normal crossing.


The meadow crossing was very manageable. Thigh high on me (I'm only 5'7") but placid, clear, easy to see the bottom. It does help to walk diagonally downstream rather than crossing completely perpendicular to the current, allowing the current to help you take your steps.

IMGP2068.jpg
I was conservative and still preferred the meadow crossing


Ranger Station in EV is manned and provides weather reports and trail conditions.

4. July 31-Aug 1. Evolution Valley over Muir Pass to Le Conte canyon. The inlet to Evolution lake is easily wadable, although cold and wide--mostly calf deep. There is intermittant snow beginning as you round Evolution Lake and Sapphire Lakes, then long almost uninterrupted snow walking from Sapphire to Wanda. I stayed west and crossed the Wanda outlet right at Wanda, others crossed lower down and trudged up the snow on the east side. I don't know that it made any difference. Wanda lake is still mostly frozen--except for a small patch near the outlet where some neighbors were catching fish. Almost all the shoreline has a little water showing, though it froze over again thinly at night. The trail along the east shore of Wanda is still mostly covered, but there is about 30% ground exposure.

From Wanda to Muir Pass is all snow. The trail cuts to the south of a tarn adjacent to Lake McDermond, but most people seem to cut to the north of the tarn, step across the stones dividing the tarn and the lake, and then begin the trudge to the SW of Lake McDermond nearly straight to the pass. Following the previous trudgings was a godsend--the suncups were often a couple of feet deep and letting others tramp them down. I stayed the previous night on a desolate tentpad at Wanda and went early in the am. Using the microspikes it was almost like walking on concrete.

IMGP2161.jpg
Typical snow trudge up from Wanda to Muir pass


From the pass down to Helen Lake was much steeper than the Wanda side, but also straightforward.

The trickiest part for me was deciding which route to take from the outlet of Helen downstream. Numerous hikers continue not to cross the outlet at the lake but cut high across the snow south of the stream. I thought that looked a little too exposed for my abilities. It was actually easy to cross the outlet stream immediately at the lake--just stepping stones, and about half or more of the actual trail is now exposed on the way down. There were a couple of points where snowbanks/stream/cliffwalls pressed together and I needed to do a little scrambling, but it seemed much safer than the high snow path to the south of the outlet stream. The rangers warn of the use of snowbridges in the area.

IMGP2176.jpg
Looking upstream at Wanda outlet; trail route to right; high snow route out of picture to left


Le Conte canyon has a lot of water in it and a few stream crossings--none particularly challenging, although I watched as a trail companion fell on a simple one. There are no "easy" crossings.

5. Aug 1-2 Bishop Pass trail from JMT to South lake. The trail was in decent shape up until the infamous "Dusy Switchback" crossing. Just before that crossing there had been an avalanche leaving a dozen or so deadfall all over the trail. Earlier I met a nice young trail worker heading up the Bishop Pass trail (who would not tell me where they were working--I think for security they are instructed not to) but I never saw any work being done on the trail during my hike. It would take a couple of people half a day to saw these mostly smallish deadfall and they still had not done so by August. In the meantime the trail area was becoming a maze of detours as hikers climbed through them tearing up the area. What a mess.

For those who don't know about the Dusy switch crossing, it is the first major crossing of Dusy Creek you come to when coming uphill, and the first crossing of Dusy creek you come to after the earlier footbridge crossing when coming downhill. I watched as two men crossed on stones and two small wet logs 20' upstream from the trail. I could not bring myself to do it--both the logs and the stones looked slick, the logs only covered about 1/2 of the creek, and jumping and fine balance were required. Wading did not look promising either, I was horrified when I stuck my poles in and they almost disappeared. Finally I remembered my West Pinnacles Creek experience and wondered if there could be a pattern. YES! Again, on the downstream quarter of the crossing area the water was no more than knee deep, but you cannot tell that by looking due to the froth. It turned out to be a straightforward wade.

The trail through lower and upper Dusy Basin was fine, began to hit a few patches of snow when getting well over 11,000 feet. The snow was inconsequential except for some minor switchback diversions getting near the top. The pass itself was clear of snow.

From Bishop Pass down to Bishop lake there were a couple of hundred feet of snow walking on relatively level snow near the top. On the cliffy switchbacks there were only a few minor patches of snow that blocked nothing important and caused no safety issues that I saw. The stream crossing at the inlet to Bishop lake required a safe wade. The trail all the way to Long Lake and to South Lake was in reasonable shape. Between Saddlerock lake and Long Lake some people (I presume horsepackers) have excavated the trail 10' deep through the few snowbanks remaining--I am guessing so they can get their livestock over it.
Last edited by kpeter on Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby cgundersen » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:39 am

kpeter,
Thanks for the detailed report; I too am surprised that the lower Dusy crossing has not been fixed given that a trail crew has been camped downstream since early July. How hard would it be to spend an hour clearing those toppled trees?
cg
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:05 pm

I returned last night from 5 nights over Kearsarge Pass to Sixty Lakes Basin and Rae Lakes. I’ll do a real trip report sometime later, but here’s a quick summary for anyone planning a trip to the area in the near future. As Apeman45 said, Glenn Pass is easily passable as long as you have a trekking pole. The scores of hikers have created obvious passages over the snow. On the north side, the long passage from the top of the pass is turning into a trench.

It rained Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I intended to go to Gardiner Basin on Friday. It rained from when I left Glen Pass about noon. I lost the Sixty Lakes Basin Trail about where it starts to climb due to not being able to distinguish trail from rain runoff and then found it partway up. When I reached the lake where the trail turns north, I headed in the other direction towards Sixty Lakes Col. I decided to camp since there was no way I was going to attempt the Col under these conditions. I moved towards the one lake to the northwest and wasn’t seeing any camping prospects when I looked back and through the rain made out an obvious site at the north end of a small peninsular on the large lake where the trail turns south. Backtracking to that site, I set up the tent in the rain and waited it out until it stopped sometime after 5:00. The mosquitoes where pretty bad, but with deet they were tolerable.

From my campsite, I had a great view of 60 Lakes Col. It was solid snow all the way across. I don’t know if it would require an ice axe and crampons to make it up the last 50-100 feet, though I suspect so.

The next morning after drying things out, when I headed in that direction, thunderheads began appearing around the peaks and the Col so I decided to turn around and head to the north end of Sixty Lakes Basin. The Sixty Lakes Basin Trail is clear of snow except for a couple of sections including one where I had to do kick steps to climb up and over an outcropping. One person had used this route at least several days before. Otherwise, I say no sign of people that day or the day before except for one person walking down carrying a DSLR on the other side of the lake later that afternoon during one of the breaks in the rain — he must have been camped a little higher up the basin. I arrived a little before 2:00 at the north end of Sixty Lakes Basin at a perfect site, set up camp, and the rain returned, alternating from downpours to drizzle to short breaks of no rain until 6:45. The mosquitoes were awful, but with coverage and deet still tolerable. And the evening/sunset was spectacular so there was no way I wasn’t going to put up with the bugs. The light on the surrounding peaks was magical and a rainbow appeared alongside Fin Dome, remaining for close to half and hour.

The next day, Sunday, I headed cross country to Rae Lakes. Rain began about 10:00. After what was possibly the most hellish hour I’ve ever spent in the Sierra (details in the detailed trip report — it’s a long story), I hit the JMT a little north of Dollar Lake. The clouds, rain, fog, and mist swirled through the Rae Lakes basin, obscuring any view beyond a few hundred yards. The rain stopped about 2:00. I camped between the two large Rae Lakes. No one else was camped there. The fog/mist and clouds began dissipating, creating one of those spectacular late afternoons/evenings that occur in the High Sierra when a storm clears. Sunrise the next morning was just as spectacular. That next day, I went back over Glenn Pass and got caught in a hail storm downpour in the area of the lakes below the south side of the pass. I spent the night at Kearsarge Lakes and hiked out yesterday, Tuesday. Of course, it was sunny with no rain.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby afisher99 » Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:23 pm

apeman45 wrote:Hey Afisher. In a normal year late August would be good for mosquitoes dying off. We are about 3 weeks behind "normal" this year so I would expect late July conditions for mosquitoes for your trip. Select your campsite wisely and be prepared for the buggers in the usual likely swampy areas. Should be much better by then with the usual spike early morning and evening and not much of a problem during the day.


Great! Thanks for the info... much appreciated.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby orbweaver » Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:58 pm

Many thanks for this trip report - I'm starting from South Lake in one week - Aug. 10 - and going around the loop and out Bishop Pass. I'll study the hints for wading.
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