TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

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frozenintime
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TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by frozenintime » Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:30 pm

now that snow and cold once again rule the range, i've been thinking back to this past june when i took a short trip to emigrant wilderness full of clear skies, swollen creeks, and the tail end of 2018's snowpack. i wasn't going to write this up, but winter is long and we took a route that included a brief off trail section (piute creek to granite lake) that i haven't seen written about in my googlings. maybe it will be of interest to someone out there on the internet?

june 2

by the time the drive and permit pickup was behind us, we found ourselves standing in the crabree parking lot at 1 PM. we were both new to emigrant. the first few miles are wooded, but soon enough familiar sierra granite opens up before you.

camp lake, only 2.5 miles from the trailhead, is quite lovely, though heavily impacted. we hoofed on towards gem lake. i was particularly curious what west fork cherry creek would look like on june 2nd at 5 PM -- and now i know. it was high! not fast, but high.

a ranger (and his dog) was stationed at the crossing, and for good reason: a 5'2"-ish girl crossed right before us... and was lifted up into the current and carried about 20 feet downstream before the ranger managed to catch her on his trekking pole. the current was slow, and she very likely would've been able to thrash her way to shoreline, but -- yikes.

i'm over 6 feet, and the creek was just above my waist. i had some trouble at the deepest spot, and with no height issues to blame it on. i should've been moving slower and more intelligently, but the water was (you'll be surprised to hear) incredibly cold. as i barged ahead, i managed to slip and fall over onto myself a little bit. i was upright in a second or two, but in that time i was soaked up to my chest and immediately *freezing* cold.

this being the sierra, i dried out in 10 minutes — though it took my nervous system a bit longer to unwind! we made our way to gem and had a lovely night, falling asleep to a chorus of croaking frogs.

emi3.jpg

june 3

initially i had circled leopold lake as today's destination, but the persistent snow above ~8400 ft convinced us to opt for plan B: granite lake.

cherry creek was almost two feet lower in the morning as we retraced our steps back to piute meadow, where we ran into the ranger again, who was an interesting guy. it was here that we veered off the trail, heading north up piute creek. a lot of fun mini challenges presented themselves immediately. it was smooth sailing on game trails and easy terrain until the 'keyhole' where the canyon narrows.

internet voices said that we should head northwest, but that way looked steep and absolutely choked with tall brush. (perhaps we were already further west than the internet expected us to be?) instead we ascended a huge, beautiful slab closer to the creek. as it leveled out, this perfect granite highway turned southwest, leading us directly to the top of the prominence (~8150 ft), with great views south. somehow, i managed not to take a single photo. you’re welcome.

we continued on and ate lunch at the largest of the unnamed lakes at 8230 -- a lovely spot. this is where we encountered some larger patches of snow for the first time, all on northern slopes.

emigrant1a.jpg

the rest of the way towards granite lake involved minor route finding that felt tricky at the time but obvious afterwards. at one unremarkable spot on the climb, we came across three large rock spirals. we were seemingly in the middle of nowhere, near no trail or noticeable landmark. it did not feel like a spot that someone would spend a lot of time doing anything, much less accruing the perfect geologic specimens to make large rock spirals.

emi4.jpg

we continued up slabs and through a brief forested section before cresting a minor hill and hark: there was granite lake in the distance! it was ringed by snow and 3/4ths frozen. we post holed and slid our way around the southern and western shoreline. there were two dry-ish, tent-sized spots amidst the ~90% snow coverage on the west side of the lake. it had been a short day of hiking, and we spent a long, lovely june afternoon at the lake. i'm sure it's not true, but at the time it was easy to imagine that we were the first people up there that year.

emigrant2.jpg

we went to sleep once again to a chorus of frogs.



june 4

on this trip, we were lucky to visit granite lake at a very particular point of its spring thaw: by dinner the night before, the lake was down to 1/4 frozen. but by morning, a thin layer of ice covered virtually the entire surface.

emi6.jpg

we packed up and headed straight west over snow, descending a small, seasonal waterfall and continuing over more snow, scooting between the bare patches around trees and open granite where we could find it.

emi7.jpg

we made it down without incident to slow and wide lily creek, where we traversed a somewhat steep snowfield in order to avoid crossing lily (and getting our feet wet). in retrospect, we should've just crossed and re-crossed a bit later, as the snow was already turning to mush at 8:30.

the rest of the morning involved straightforward cross country wandering in the general direction of bear lake. we were constantly walking alongside or right through temporary creeks and waterfalls, as the snow higher up continued to melt out. it was beautiful. there is some absolutely gorgeous granite up there (i'm thinking especially of the area southeast of the word "creek" on the topo). again, i managed not to take any photos here. we followed the use trail around bear creak's north and west sides, including a couple of deep marshy sections that seemed unavoidable. we took a final break at camp lake and then all of a sudden we were back in a car speeding home.

this was my first time in emigrant, and i really liked it. it's mellower and more welcoming -- closer to "normal" camping than the high sierra, which feels more akin to four hits of acid (chased by an ounce of maltodextrin?).
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Wandering Daisy
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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:03 pm

Granite Lake was a part of my early season trip in 2014, a low snow year. I camped at Granite Lake after dropping down to Leopold Lake to Toms Canyon on Piute Creek at 8200 and then up to Granite. Here is a photo- much less snow! I went in and out from Gianeli. I did a trip report- but it does not show up on the list of similar TR's below. Were you unable to drive up to Gianeli?

8114_GraniteL_Camp_edited-1.jpg
Granite Lake June 4, 2014
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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by TehipiteTom » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:44 pm

Great report, thanks for posting.
I camped at Granite Lake after dropping down to Leopold Lake to Toms Canyon on Piute Creek at 8200 and then up to Granite.
I did this in the opposite direction--Granite to Leopold via My Canyon. Fun route.

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by frozenintime » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:12 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:03 pm
Were you unable to drive up to Gianeli?
i believe the ranger said the road to gianelli was not plowed yet? even if it had been, that would've meant pretty much constant snow coverage between the trailhead and granite lake, which is something for which i feel under-experienced!

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:41 pm

Now, someone with the name "frozenintime" should be able to deal with snow! :D Just kidding.

The road was just opened when I went. Having now been in both ways, I like Gianeli better. Burst Rock is pretty neat. I had considerable snow up there but nothing steep and the snow was hard enough not to post-hole. It is a nice way to go in when the road is open. One advantage is that there are no deep creek crossings. I probably would not have made it across Cherry Creek since I am short.

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by Flamingo » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:47 am

Thanks for sharing this TR @frozenintime! Granite Lake is one of my favorite spots in Emigrant, and it's fun to see your early-season photos.

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by frozenintime » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:29 pm

ha, yes WD i need to start living up to my name!

we just moved west, and the circumstances in which you encounter snow out here are so different than on the east coast.

gianelli does look like a great option since it starts and stays so much higher than crabtree. in an average or below average snow year, would you likely need spikes (or anything else) in early june to get from gianelli to granite (and environs)?

thanks flamingo! i'm a fan of your reports too. i believe it was you that made me want to get to sphinx lakes someday:)

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:08 pm

I do a lot of early season backpacking in snow and no, I do not use crampons or traction devices, although, IF I were to bring them, I would have more options. You can generally get over the spotty spring snow or detour in Emigrant because it is more gentle terrain than the higher Sierra to the south. Trekking poles definitely help. I also have hiking shoes with an aggressive (deep tread) sole. And I hike early in the day before the snow becomes too soggy. Gaiters essential. You do have to adjust your mileages- a bit less than you would make later on. For me, deep river crossings are more of a route-stopper.

Another access is via Kennedy Meadows. The road opens early (it is only 7000 feet elevation). You get to the Wire Lakes-Deer Lakes area via Upper Relief Valley, where there would be some snow, but mostly soggy. You do have to cross Summit Creek, which could be hard at peak runoff. I would say Kennedy Meadows is the most scenic trail into that area. Gianelli IS a later opening trailhead.


Emigrant_Trailheads.JPG
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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by frozenintime » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:53 am

thanks, WD. i've looked into the kennedy meadows trailhead before, but for some reason hadn't considered it for early season. i will now!

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Re: TR: granite lake (emigrant wilderness), june 2-4, 2018

Post by frozenintime » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:38 am

hey WD, do you think it's possible/advisable to get from KM to the iceland lake/lewis lakes area before the mosquito's get too crazy (in a normal snow year)?

\that area looks lovely but i'm not sure how bad summit creek is around there (between saucer meadow and sheep camp), or how deeply frozen the lakes would be since they're ~500 ft higher than granite lake. the slope up from east of the lakes doesn't look too bad topo wise.

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