Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

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Love the Sierra
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Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by Love the Sierra » Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:37 pm

Hello my friends,
Glad to be posting again. After more than a year of family illness, a broken ankle and now fires, I have not set foot in my beloved Sierra for way too long. Sorry for the long post and thank you so much for your skill and experience and advice.

I am hoping to get out in late October but I realize the risk of getting snowed on. I was thinking that to minimize the risk, I should do a lower altitude trip in either the Carson Iceberg or Emigrant. Here are the routes I was considering:
1) 2 days to go from the Sonora Pass North on the PCT to Golden Canyon and explore East Fork Carson River and falls and Golden Canyon and maybe Murray Canyon on a layover day
2] Kennedy Meadows South to Emmigrant Meadow Lake to Grace Meadow and a layover day in Jack Main
3] Highland Trail or East Fork Carson trail south to Carson Falls and a layover exploring Golden Canyon etc.
I know how to snow hike and camp but usually shorten my spring trips to 3 or 4 days and very little mileage because of the heavy gear. I am fine with crampons and snow shoes but would avoid very steep passes in ice and snow unless th footing was extremely stable. I do not mind creek crossings but will not be able to cross if there is very fast moving water.
Now for my questions:
1] Which trip leaves the best opportunity for good footing and reasonably easy navigation, (NO BUSHWAHCKING) during the unpredictable fall?
2] How much winter gear should I bring? Crampons? Snow shoes? Winter tent? Shovel?
3] Any other trips that you would recommend that would give me better chances for a delightful, one time to save my miserable year, trip?
4] I think that the high water only comes from snow melt in spring, but is it possible to get a hard fall storm that raises the water so high it is impossible to cross?
Thanks again.








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balzaccom
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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by balzaccom » Mon Sep 14, 2020 7:31 am

A few thoughts:

1. The weather report is your friend. We have a rule about trips in October---the weather man decides. If the weather looks really good, we'll go. If there's a chance of ugly weather, we won't. That takes care of a few of your questions right there.
2. Bear in mind that a lot the eastern part of Carson Iceberg burned in a fire a few years ago. It is still heavily impacted in placed. We haven't been up to Golden Canyon yet since the fires, so i don't know exactly how much---but I do know that the fires reached 395 North of Sonora Pass. So that may affect you plans here.
3. Your option #2 is on the best defined trails. We'e hiked all those trails. We love Golden Canyon and the West Fork of the Carson...lonely and beautiful. But the trails in that area are sketchy in places...particularly if you want to go South from Golden Canyon,..
4. You might also consider a trail out of Highland Lakes or Clark Fork over to Highland Creek. From there you can hike to a few lakes, quite a few streams and include Spicer Reservoir and other areas as destinations. Lower elevations (below 8500 feet) and lots to see and do.
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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by c9h13no3 » Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:22 am

Love the Sierra wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:37 pm
2] How much winter gear should I bring? Crampons? Snow shoes? Winter tent? Shovel?
3] Any other trips that you would recommend that would give me better chances for a delightful, one time to save my miserable year, trip?
4] I think that the high water only comes from snow melt in spring, but is it possible to get a hard fall storm that raises the water so high it is impossible to cross?
Thanks again.
2] Maybe a winter tent, but that's it. If snow falls, you'll be able to just walk through it. And previous snow in the season generally melts. If you get a dump where you need that kind of gear, you've screwed up somewhere in your planning. If you check the weather forecast, there should just be bits of snow on the north facing aspects you can easily walk around.
3] I personally target aspen groves for fall trips for the turning leaves. Most of those are in day hike distance. But going in say, McGee Canyon or via Barney Lake in the Hoover Wilderness will get you that fall color.
4] High water is not a concern.

The main conditions issue is cold. It'll get down in the 20's and teens at night, and the nights are long with less than 12 hour days. Many water filters won't work right after they freeze, and batteries will die in the cold. Put those in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. Bring enough clothes to setup camp & make breakfast in the dark & cold. And pick an east facing campsite that gets morning light, so you'll warm up quicker. Read about winter camping for other tips to stay warm (miso soup, a thermos, ect.).

5-6 days might be pushing the weather forecast a bit. Keep it at 5 days.
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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by commonloon » Mon Sep 14, 2020 9:37 am

I'll echo much that @c9h13no3 and @balzaccom have said.

I try to plan late fall trips every year. Last year I did the Circle of Solitude in November. Watch the weather! I only go if a big storm isn't forecasted. I've gone with some lesser storms forecasted, but anything major and it is smart to wait.

Last year at my campsite below the Whaleback, the temps dropped down to 13F. I always bring a sleep system good down to 15F or even 10F. I also always bring a good set of hardshells: pants, jacket and mitts or gloves. By good I mean something that won't wet out easily. No single layer rain gear. I also bring a midlayer (fleece, etc.) long sleeve, so I can stay warm if its nasty when hiking. If a snow storm hits then the primary issue is navigation, snow shoes aren't needed. Crampons and ice only if there are permanent snow fields that you can't navigate around -- the same ones that would be there during the summer. Not usually an issue unless you're climbing or the odd x-country pass that is known for it. Yes, bring a tent that is a stronger, sets up fast and has a vestibule you can cook in if need be. but a full winter tent is generally overkill. I like to bring a cook system that is fast and works inside of a vestibule; in the summer I use esbit or alcohol, but not in the fall.

I put my BeFree in a ziplock at the bottom of my quilt, battery pack and charger stuff in there too. Don't bring you summer puffy! Or at least double it up with another over it. You need to be warmer when doing things in camp.

I generally make a bit of a mental shift as far as planning. I try to plan campsites in advance. I try to have contingency and bail out plans also thought out. I like to camp in the trees. I give myself more time and make a point not to push the envelope. You will spend extra time at camp, so extra hot drinks are a good idea as well.

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by SSSdave » Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:41 pm

Image

Dawn after an early October storm Conway Summit. As soon as the sun rose, I was tromping around out in those aspens dressed in all my winter snow skiing gear. What fun!

For short 3 day trips, there are plenty of places along the Eastern Sierra to get in and back out given dependable weather. Beyond that is increasingly risky. Higher elevations become increasingly unpleasant as everything is dry, brown, dormant, cold,ice patches about, shadowy, lifeless often windy, with short days and boringly long long nights. Instead usually advise people to stay down at lower elevations car camping and exploring all the amazing fall leaf color. Plenty of places to ramble out into aspen forests amid sagebrush along lower streams where I will guaranty one is not going to see anyone. But then I hear the usual "I want to be in the High Sierra" in your post. Might as well find out for your self and get it out of your system.

Much better to be in a vehicle at 6pm when sun has set, drinking something warm just heated out the door on a stove, where one can maintain some warmth, good illumination, radio, tunes, food, books whatever for a few hours before settling into one's sleeping bag versus a tent laying prone with a headlamp where one is not going to sleep for 13 hours in the darkness. Holding a book up for more than an hour will get old.


https://www.davidsenesac.com/MonoFall_2 ... _2013.html

https://www.davidsenesac.com/2015_Trip_ ... html#oct16
https://www.davidsenesac.com/2018_Trip ... 18-11.html

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by thegib » Wed Sep 16, 2020 5:48 pm

If the forecast is good it hardly matters what elevation you go to, don't limit yourself to just low elevations. But the nights are long, and likely cold. Be prepared for that. Have a non-technical route out if the weather goes bad. Crampons are only useful for consolidated snow, useless for you. A stronger, warmer tent adds a lot to my psychological security. Warmer clothes, a little extra food, it can be a special time to be there with fewer people about it feels like the mountains return to their preferred quietness.

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:41 pm

All great advice. A local once told me: you don't need to worry about the first snowstorm, it is the second one. So even if it snows, if you are on a trail, it is generally NBD. Small issues I have found include colder and much shorter days and nights; frozen water sources; and water filters, batteries and platys need to go into the bag at night as mentioned. I take a face mask sometimes; heavier gloves; sometimes down pants which bumps the sleep system; ditto a heavier puffy. With the terrible time we are having now, I fully expect to be out there until snowfall #2.

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by Harlen » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:36 pm

Highly recommend 2 headlamps with new batteries; 2 books; and 2x amount of your favorite spirits... or extra warm drinks of whatever you like, and extra fuel to make it with. The long nights are not so bad with the above aids. Though I try not to make big fires, having a fire camp sure makes the longer nights more tolerable. Check the fire regulations for the areas you are interested in.

One piece of safety advice for cold weather trips is to be conservative on any day hikes or climbs you make away from camp. It is so much more critical were you to be separated from your camp in cold weather. Some would advise not setting out without at least your sleeping bag and a bivy sack. It doesn't have to be a snow storm, I was once "whited out" just by masses of dense cloud. So compass and map skills are a good thing to have down too.

I'll bet you'll love the peace and solitude of the fall; best of luck.

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:39 am

I agree - just try it out. I personally do not like late season trips because of all the darkness. Be aware that the sun is low so any camp in canyons will be very shady. Locating a campsite with maximum sun, yet with sufficient shelter is essential. Eastern approaches- you will get earlier AM sun; western approaches- earlier PM sun.

Also be aware of some of the road rules. For example, you cannot park along Tioga Road after Oct 15. I have descended Tenaya Creek in late October because it only can be done safely with very low water flows. We put one car in Yosemite Valley then I dropped off everyone at the start at Olmstead viewpoint, drove back and parked at the gas station, then hitched up to the start. Even if the fires are out this year, I bet there will be a lot of early road closures. And DO NOT park your car on a pass! I did this once, and it snowed enough that they closed the road. Luckily by the time I got back to my car the road had opened. That was Sonora Pass- I do not recommend parking here!

As for weather, if you have an In-Reach or other 2-way communication, you can get current weather reports. I find it more accurate to have someone at home just send a message about weather after they have reviewed reliable weather forecasts. The In-Reach forecasts are pretty minimal. Be prepared to sit out a day of snow if needed. Walking in a snowstorm is not very safe- not only will you get wet, fresh snow on trails can be quite dangerous.

Your trip 2, don't you mean Kennedy Meadows North? It is at least 100 miles from Kennedy Meadows South to Emigrant Lake! Other than that, I think this plan of yours is a bit too long. Just go into Emigrant Lakes- there is plenty to do there. Buck Lake is wonderful.

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Re: Trip advice for late October 5-6 day backpack

Post by CAMERONM » Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:59 am

Regarding weather, localized reports seem useless. I have stayed dry while watching the neighboring valley get deluged by the worst storms. So for late season I watch larger general Sierra trends; if storms are predicted aways away, they easily shift, and I plan to be on a trail or on my way back to a pass.
There is an argument for spikes even days after the first duster storm. Some trails stay icy in the morning.

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