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Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Bluewater » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:30 pm

After taking a few winter trips in the local San Jacinto mountains this winter I was excited to take a real Sierra winter trip. For my first real winter experience in the Sierras I decided to start from familiar ground, the North Lake trailhead near Bishop. The plan was to cross the Sierra Crest at Piute Pass, then cross the Glacier Divide at Alpine Col and finally back over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col. I had four days and three nights to make the loop on snowshoes.

The roads were closed just outside of Aspendell so I parked and walked the three miles to the actual North Lake/Piute Pass trailhead.

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By the time I got started it was already 1:30 pm so I camped on a ridge just below Piute Lake (only a few miles from the trailhead).

The next day I got another late start and after a long breakfast, coffee and chill time I headed up to Piute Pass.

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This was a solo trip. When I got my permit the ranger said, "you probably won't see anybody out there this time of year". I wouldn't see another person for five days. It's always strange talking to people after a long solo trip. I was enjoying the complete absence of anything except big mountain scenery and solitude.

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Snow wave at the top of Piute Pass.

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The second night I camped above frozen Goethe Lake. The view of Mount Humphreys dominates the area.

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The next morning I got an early start for Alpine Col. The hike was beautiful with rolling waves of pristine snow.

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I glissaded down the east side of Alpine Col and walked across Lake 11,910. Alpine Col is the low spot on the left.

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That night I camped in Darwin Canyon.

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This bird was the first living thing I had seen in days.

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I crossed back over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col (12,880 feet).

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This trip was supposed to be four days/three nights but I ran into a lot of difficulty finding the way down from a steep snow covered ridge above Upper Lamarck Lake. I spent hours trying to find a safe way down. At one point I fell into an opening in the snow and into the hidden boulders below. I heard a 'crack' and figured it might be time to use the SOS on my Spot. My snowshoes got caught under the boulders as the snow filled in the opening. I spent a long time on this steep ridge digging myself out but eventually I got down to Lower Lamarck Lake. It turns out the crack was one of my LT4's breaking.

By the time I got down it was 8:00 pm and completely dark. The trails were covered with snow and the small amount of moonlight wasn't enough to find the way. I decided to just sleep there until the morning.

Camping under a tree next to Lower Lamarck Lake I fell asleep listening to the wind howl through the canyon. I watched the stars flickering through the branches above me as the melting creek flowed nearby. It was one of the most serene nights I have spent in the wilderness.

The next day I made my way back down to the North Lake trailhead and finally back to the car. There was a note on my truck from the local sheriff saying, "The owner of this truck is an overdue/missing hiker. Please call. . . ". My family was aware of my location from the Spot messages I had been sending, but they still worried something was wrong. Fortunately everything was just fine. What an adventure!

If you're interested here is a link to the whole story:

http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... lpine.html

Thanks for reading.



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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Ska-T » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:36 pm

Outstanding trip and trip description! I have snowshoes but am reluctant to shell out the $$ for a backcountry ski kit. You leave me without an excuse for not going out in the spring.
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Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Bluewater » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:29 am

Thanks Ska T. It's beautiful out there, a different experience in winter. I hope you get a chance to go this winter/spring.
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:41 am

A great read and wonderful photos. It's fascinating to see what the familiar locations look like the rest of the year. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby maverick » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:24 am

Great TR and photo's from a different time of the year. Happy to read that nothing
serious happened to you during the fall!
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: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby copeg » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:37 pm

Looks like a fantastic journey aside from the posthole experience. One of my favorite times of year with not a soul around. Thanks for posting
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Mike M. » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:03 pm

Really enjoyed your report. Everything looks so serene in the winter. Good on you for having the courage to do this solo and thank you for posting!

Mike
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Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Bluewater » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:29 pm

Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate it. Maybe these winter trips can help lower the lbs that usually come with the off season:)
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby hikerdmb » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:48 pm

Thanks for the great pics and story. Glad you got out unhurt. I was up there Monday and Tuesday the week before Easter and when I came out the ranger was waiting at the gate by Aspendell asking who I saw and where I went because someone was overdue. I wonder if that was you. Or maybe someone else?
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby schmalz » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:56 pm

Thanks for the trip report. You've inspired me to get more serious about getting out in the snow. I too have been getting used to winter hiking in the SoCal mountains.
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Re: Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby jessegooddog » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:11 pm

The bird, a white tailed ptarmigan, was probably surprised to see you! While they are native to alpine areas of the west, they were introduced to the high sierra in the 70s. Inspiring trip report, looks like you had great weather.
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Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col

Postby Bluewater » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:54 pm

Thanks for your comments. I hiked out at about 2:00 or 2:30 on Monday March 26th, the Monday before Easter. It might have been me he was looking for, although I was long gone by Tuesday. I parked a silver 4-runner in the pull-out area just before the gate. BTW the back window was open the entire time. Not a lot of crime in Aspendell.

Thanks for the info on the white bird. I saw several tracks in Darwin Canyon but that was the only bird I actually saw in person. I'm not sure how anything survives in the winter but there were tracks of all kinds throughout the trip. I got an almost perfect window of weather. Only a light dusting of snow the first night so the tracks were all over. No bears in sight.
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