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Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

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Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby SimonC » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:12 am

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I am looking to plan an trip to the Marble Mountain Wilderness (MMW) and would like to know from anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the region what the best time of year would be to go ideally? What is the latest time of the year you could get in before it was too snow packed. For instance would a trip in for Christmas be advisable? Does snow really arrive in Nov. Dec or Jan/Feb and later?

Also any recommendation for the best trailheads for entry to the region. I have one idea to traverse the area via the PCT and start at Etna Pass and hike NB on the PCT to Seiad Valley. Thoughts, insight, resources, recommendations? Thanks in advance.



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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby Willythedog » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:30 am

Haven't been in the Marble Mountains but I go up to the Trinity Alps which is close enough i suppose.

Its a total cop out answer but: Depends on the rainfall

Last year there was barely any snow on the mountains let alone the valleys so it was pretty much all accessible around Christmas time. Even after the meager rain / snow in Jan, Feb, and March everything up until 6000 - 6500 feet was accessible by end of March. According to the Weaverville ranger station, most of the lakes didn't even freeze last year.

2010 on the other hand was socked in until what, late June? July? in some areas.

Long range forecasts show some rain and snow in November but not much in December (we all know weather forecasts are 100% accurate all the time) so who knows.

Best time I'd say would be Spring or Fall, during the summer it gets pretty damn hot up there.
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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby maverick » Thu Nov 13, 2014 12:59 pm

Hi Simon,

Welcome to HST!
Would highly recommend the Spirit Lake Trail starting on the Haypress Trail, gorgeous
lakes, lots of wildlife, and marvelous fishing, about 34 miles round trip. Spend a night
at Cuddihy Lakes, and then move on to beautiful Spirit Lake.
Agree with Willy, a lot depends on what happens this Winter, but would recommend
to time things so you hit the height of wildflower season.
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: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby Ikan Mas » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:21 pm

A fair amount of the northern end of the Marbles burned this past summer. I would check with the FS to see the extent and to see what trailheads are open. A map of the fire can also be found at:

http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/photos/CAKNF/20 ... 3-CDT.jpeg

However, the map is a bit hard to read.

The Marbles aren't as hot as the Trinities. I found August 2009 to be quite pleasant. The grass in the meadows around Sky High Lake was just beginning to dry out. Typical highs in the upper sixties. Surely varies with the year though.

A couple of photos from August 8-15, 2009

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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Nov 16, 2014 11:46 am

Regarding a winter (Christmas) trip to the Marbles, note that a winter trip to the Marble Mtns is not a whole lot different than a trip at that same time of year to the High Sierra. In any average year the Marbles and the other Klamath Mtn wilderness areas (Russian Wilderness, Trinity Alps etc.) will get enough snow to become snow-camping destinations by sometime in November (ie just like the High Sierra). In addition to lots of new snow covering the trails, this also means that the high lakes start to freeze over, too. The thaw in a normal year does not come until Memorial Day weekend or later, just as is the case for much of the High Sierra. The elevations in the Marble Mtns are about the equivalent to the northern Sierra (Donner Summit and N) but the latitude is a bit further north and they commonly get hit by northerly storm paths that might miss the central-southern Sierra (or not hit the central-southern Sierra as much).

There are a number of highlight areas in the Marbles, depending your tastes. The areas off of the PCT are nice but there is a lot of territory further west that is a bit more off the beaten path (Ukonom L., Cuddihy Lks, Pleasant L. areas) (NW Marble Mtns), Hancock L and vicinity (SW Marble Mtns). The scenery, however, is most spectacular, along the swath that roughly coincides with the PCT, although there are nice places to getaway off the PCT that will give you a bit more seclusion. What I like the best about the Marble Mtns are some of the unique mountain scenery, which includes the marble and other metamorphic rocks, as well as what seemed to me biggest variety of conifers I've ever seen growing in any one area in the mountains. I've also come across some stunning wildflowers, such as the stunning Lilium washingtonianum (a hike in the Marbles was the first time I saw one; subsequently ran into a whole mess of them in the northernmost Sierra). There are also some amazing clumps of western azalea.

If I were hiking to parts of the Marbles off of the PCT I would not start hiking from Etna summit because that is a rather long overture without much reward. You get into the good stuff much faster going out of a trailhead such as Lovers Camp or Boulder Creek.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby gene.hancock » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:04 pm

I spent 10 days there caving in the marble caves. It is best to start at lovers camp. Trails steep stairs made out of marble rock. We stayed near the maintenance shack. I recommend no later than September, Christmas is out. If you want to know anything else. Just ask. Cheers.
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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby gene.hancock » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:15 pm

The high lakes a few miles over are magnificent. And a great place to camp as long as you're 100 yards from the lake
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Re: Backpacking the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Postby maverick » Thu Nov 20, 2014 12:14 pm

Hi Gene,

Welcome to HST! Thanks for helping a fellow member. :thumbsup:
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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