2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES | High Sierra Topix  

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 richlong8 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:50 am

I am heading over Duck pass to the Tully lake area in about 2 weeks. any condition updates would be appreciated.



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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby MADgenius » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:10 am

Hi folks! Got back this weekend from lovely Sequoia NP. Overall, backcountry seems especially beautiful this year with the abundant wildflowers and snow. We were backpacking in the park between August 4th-12th.

The Lion Fire lead us to skip our original objective of Kaweah Basin. Viewed from the west, the Kaweah Peaks Ridge - and the more distant peaks of the Great Western Divide - were often smoked out, though occasionally clear with favorable wind directions. We inferred that the basin and peaks farther to the east were too likely to be smoky. Views west into the foothills and Central Valley were extremely hazy, but we did enjoy the crimson sunsets. Locally, within a narrow valley or small basin, there was not enough atmospheric thickness for the smoke to obscure vistas.

Route taken: HST to Kaweah Gap, cross-country over Lion Rock Pass and down to Tamarack Lake, brief stroll on Elizabeth Pass Trail, cross-country over Pterodactyl Col and down the Tablelands, Pear Lake Trail back to civilization

Difficult section encountered: North side of Lion Rock Pass remains 100% snow-covered and icy during morn and aft'n. Our route from Lion Lake to Tamarack Lake - south side of Lone Pine Creek - encountered several relatively flat snowfields that were nonetheless icy even during mid-day. We also dayhiked to the base of Pyra-Queen Col and found microspikes useful though not absolutely essential. No difficult creeks crossings anywhere.

Special equipment needed/used: Microspikes necessary for descent of north side of Lion Rock Pass. Extreme care and/or ice axe likely required for travel on this slope during early morn or late aft'n (much of it is in shadow and the lake below is 90% frozen). Lion Lake to Tamarack Lake (south side of Lone Pine Creek) has options on loose talus which avoid the most problematic snowfields.

Possible alternative routes: West sides of both Pants Pass and Pyra-Queen Col are snow-free, though the latter pass has much snow en route to its base, some of it on slick and steep slopes. Both the south side of Lion Lake Pass and southwest side of Elizabeth Pass appear easily passable with one or two snowfields which can be avoided. I can't comment on the opposite sides of these passes.

South side of Lion Rock Pass was no worries with perhaps more careful route selection necessary than is typically the case. Pterodactyl Col is a snow-free. The Tablelands has a few tricky snowfields and Table Meadows' creeks can be deep, but these obstacles can be easily circumvented - or even enjoyed, as sometimes the snowfields are preferable to boulder hopping and the creeks offer cool respites. Wildflowers are amazing and lakes above 10k are gorgeous as they thaw.

Be safe and have fun!
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby caak » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:27 pm

Has anyone been over Lamarck Col of late? My daughter and I are headed up there on 8/25. How's the snow?
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby rlown » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:37 pm

Welcome, caak!

Check out viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6550
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby SweetSierra » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:27 am

I'm going over Duck Pass for a nine-day trip beginning this weekend. I've heard that there's no major snow issues over Duck pass. Just some patches. There's still quite a bit of snow over 11,000 feet, I've heard.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby no2haven » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:09 am

Hoover Wilderness: 8/12-14
Route Taken: Virginia Lakes TH->Summit Lake. Cross country to Return Lake and Stanton Peak. Summit Lake->TH

Tiny bit of snow on the trail to the pass over the Virginia Lakes, but the packers have made it easy to traverse. Virginia Pass was reported by other hikers to be snowed to the top on the North side and requiring an ice ax, but I didn't go there to see first-hand. However, the snow above Return Lake on the way to Stanton Peak was nicely consolidated (no post-holing at 2pm) and easy to kick steps in - made for agreeable travel (especially since the suncups were pointed in the right direction!). Still enough snow up there for dangerous snow bridges, but they're obviously out in the open and easy to avoid.

Mosquitos weren't an issue at Summit Lake, but were voracious at Return Lake. 500 feet higher they were non-existent. Not bad in the canyon bottom on the way back, either.

Wildflowers are in full bloom everywhere. A first for me - there's some plant that gives off a minty-scent when you walk on it. Does mint grow wild at 10k feet? I've got to say, adding a minty-fresh scent is ridiculously sublime when you're wandering through a alpine meadow halfway up the side of a canyon with tons of flowers and huge views.

It was slightly hazy/smokey in the afternoon on 8/12, but it cleared out for Saturday. That plus the light clouds made for a nice sunset Friday night...

294004_573201991490_3901128_32311031_3145338_n.jpg
Sunset over Virginia Peak
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:52 am

What IS that mint scented plant? We smelled it at Rae Lakes but didn't have time to figure which plant it was.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby quentinc » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:08 pm

Pennyroyal (Monardella). Little pink flowers. Immortalized in the Nirvana song, Pennyroyal Tea.

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Duck Pass, Silver Pass, Fish Creek 8/12-15

Postby tomba » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:23 pm

Duck Pass, Silver Pass, Fish Creek (area south from Mammoth Lakes); 8/12-15

Route taken: Lake George TH, Deer Lakes, Duck Lake, Purple Lake, Lake Virginia, Tully Hole, Squaw Lake, Silver Pass, back to Papoose Lake, Lake of the Lone Indian, Wilber May Lake, Grassy Lake, cross Fish Creek, Purple Lake, Ram Lake, X-country to Glennette Lake, Purple Lake, Duck Lake and Pass, down to trailhead.

Difficult section encountered: None.

Duck Pass and the pass between Duck Lake and Deer Lakes are clear of snow. Silver pass (north side) has some easy snow crossing, that can be walked around if one wants.

Fish Creek crossing at the trail from Minnow Creek, below Purple Lake, late afternoon, had water to mid-upper thigh, and current was manageable.

Special equipment needed/used: Trekking poles.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:39 pm

quentinc wrote:Pennyroyal (Monardella). Little pink flowers. Immortalized in the Nirvana song, Pennyroyal Tea.



I wondered if that was it! I love Nirvana. Next time up I'll sit and drink pennyroyal tea as a Cobain tribute. (Or not, since it is considered toxic.) Thanks, quentinc.
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby bheiser1 » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:56 pm

no2haven wrote:Hoover Wilderness: 8/12-14
Route Taken: Virginia Lakes TH->Summit Lake. Cross country to Return Lake and Stanton Peak. Summit Lake->TH


Were there any "wet" water crossings on that route, e.g. requiring wading & water shoes or whatever, or were they all bridges (while on trail of course:)), rock hopping, etc?
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Re: 2011 BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS UPDATES

Postby no2haven » Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:18 pm

bheiser1 wrote:
no2haven wrote:Hoover Wilderness: 8/12-14
Route Taken: Virginia Lakes TH->Summit Lake. Cross country to Return Lake and Stanton Peak. Summit Lake->TH


Were there any "wet" water crossings on that route, e.g. requiring wading & water shoes or whatever, or were they all bridges (while on trail of course:)), rock hopping, etc?


Mostly everything I crossed was an easy rock-hop, or possibly had a quick shin-deep step. The only moderately challenging crossing was the one on-trail at Return Creek just north of the split to Summit Pass - there was still quite a bit of flow, and the only option was right where the trail crossed the creek on widely spaced, slightly underwater rocks. I made it without getting wet, but it was a tricky balance problem and I really relied on my hiking poles to stay out of the water.

If you're going down Virginia Canyon, the crossing right at the trail junction for Summit Pass also isn't bridged, and looked like it might necessitate getting wet. However, I didn't actually walk up and look at it, so take that as you will. Plus, I passed quite a few groups that were exiting from the canyon and no one mentioned any difficulties. Still a lot of water in Return Creek, though.
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