Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-finding?

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Summer
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Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-finding?

Post by Summer » Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:50 pm

Hi All,

Baxter pass is new to me, and I'd love some feedback/comments on the trail, with emphasis on how challenging the route-finding has been recently. Are there more ducks around then previous years, or with snow pack am I likely to be lost?

Planned Trip: July 29 - Aug 4th Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass (or the other way around if I'm able to swap entry points with a same -day permit) Plan for a leisurely trip by the lakes with plenty of down-time to take the scenery, and maybe fly fish a little bit.
Group size: 3-5
Experience level: Mixed. Level 2-3. Personally, I've done a few 4-5 day high sierra trips, and a large number of other backpacking adventures almost exclusively on trail, but a few friends lead an XC over Lamarck Col that was excellent. The rest of the group has less experience with both backpacking, and the ass kicking climbs of the sierras. General fitness level is mid-high.

Due to a scheduling/ PTO hullabaloo I ended up with permits headed over Baxter pass, and had some intimidating trail reports for what a slog that can be. I hear there's a camping spot about half way up, which I expect we'll want to avail ourselves of.

I'd love any and all experience/advice offered, but will throw out a few questions too.

-- How much of an ass-kicker is it really? (Read, is it completely dense to take a new-to-the sierras backpacker along?)
-- With all the snow/swollen rivers, any extra concerns about route-finding or river crossings?
-- How is the campsite (Summit Meadow)?

I very much appreciated reading all the great reports here, and thanks in advance for your help/advise.

Best,
Summer








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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by cloudlesssky » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:09 pm

Baxter Pass is a real stair climber that starts at low elevation, climbs 6300ft over 8 miles, and in July it'll be Hot with a capital H. I'd avoid it in July particularly with a new backpacker. I day hiked up early in 2012 and again in 2015 and the trail was easy to follow but wasn't in very good shape through the burn zone. I'd guess with the snow this year it'll be in even worse condition. I noticed that Caltopo doesn't even show the trail anymore.

There's a pretty good discussion of the 4 big elevation passes around Independence: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... f=1&t=9127 and some links to trip reports.

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by Summer » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:13 pm

Thanks for the input, that's what I was afraid of... How much of a dice roll am I doing to try to be in line for same day permits for entrance at Kearsarge and a reverse-direction loop? I really hate to back away from the sierras entirely this year, and I'm (personally) not daunted by un-ending stair climbs of doom, but I am nervous that my companions might never speak to me again.

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by Ska-T » Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:31 pm

You say that everyone in your group is in pretty good shape. I'd stick with the original plan. Baxter Pass is more challenging than some of the other east side passes, but it doesn't have to be a death march.

As cloudlesssky mentions, heat can be bothersome, but there are common sense ways to minimize the heat. One way is to get an early start, like 4 am. Sell it to your buddies as a fun opportunity to hike by headlamp. An early start shouldn't be too difficult as there is primitive camping at the trailhead and a campground down the hill. Another way to hike cooler is to use an umbrella like this one. An umbrella provides shade and allows you to hike with your hat off.

Ascending Baxter Pass with an umbrella
Umbrella on Baxter Pass.JPG
An obvious way to make a difficult pass less strenuous is to hike slower and take plenty of rest stops. You will only have to do that the first day. Further, if you keep total pack weight down to a comfortable minimum, say 25 to 30 lb, it makes the hiking easier and the recovery faster, but if your group is set to carry a lot of gear then ... well, hike slower.

If the Rae Lakes are too busy for you, the hike up to Dragon Lake should get you away from the crowd. Bullfrog Lake, west of Kearsarage Pass, is closed to camping due to chronic overuse. Camping is allowed at Charlotte Lake and Kearsarge Lakes.
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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:10 am

I'd favor choosing different trips for newbies, or semi-newbies. Ones without multiple high passes. Going into Cottonwood Lakes or Cottonwood Pass to Rock Creek maybe, or wandering through Little Lakes valley. Especially if they are toting heavy gear. Twenty Lakes out of Saddlebag, or heading out to Ten Lakes on Tioga Pass.

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by B.Kruger » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:49 pm

Two years ago I was able to get a same-day permit for Kearsarge entry for a party of two on the weekend of July 22; but not until the no-show permit release at 11 am. We had arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger station just before it opened that morning and were something like 30th in line, and there were no same day walk-in's left by the time it was our turn. I imagine it might be even harder this year with lots of early season permit holders trying to reschedule for later in the summer.

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by maverick » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:59 pm

We had arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger station just before it opened that morning and were something like 30th in line
:eek: 30th
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by freestone » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:49 pm

With Baxter, you have to look on the sunny side. The lower burned out section will be hot and ugly, but not hard to navigate. Altitude is quickly gained so heat becomes less of an issue. The flora is rebounding with vibrant new growth and wildflowers then once you are done with it, the forest and meadows are some of the more pristine and untrammeled that I have encountered, when compared to the other three "beasts"...maybe because Baxter has such a bad reputation. Another bonus is stock traffic is nonexistent so the path is not pulverized dust with poop and flies. Once over the crest, the basin is wide open and mostly deserted so a large party can explore the lakes and take in the remoteness of the basin before merging with the JMT traffic. The views of Mount Clarence King will keep reminding your group why the High Sierra is so special.
Fram...

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by Ska-T » Tue Jun 13, 2017 4:24 pm

AlmostThere wrote:I'd favor choosing different trips for newbies, or semi-newbies. Ones without multiple high passes.
If given that choice, I wholeheartedly agree. If only given the choice between (A) Baxter to Onion Valley or (B) Onion Valley to Baxter plus having to get a new permit then I'd stick with the bird in hand (i.e., A).

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Re: Baxter Pass to Kearsarge Pass via Rae Lakes - Route-find

Post by cloudlesssky » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:58 pm

How much of a dice roll am I doing to try to be in line for same day permits for entrance at Kearsarge and a reverse-direction loop?
It might be tough for a party of 3-5 with a planned Saturday start to pull a same-day permit. Getting a same-day permit is a lottery (vs first come first served) at Lone Pine so you might get lucky, but in Jul/Aug there can be a lot of people there. If you aren't lucky then you'll get a late start up Baxter.

If you do decide to go up Baxter then I agree with Ska-T: start early, take your time, and bring an umbrella.

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