Need advice on trip plan

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pudgygroundhog
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Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:07 am

Update: We ended up hiking from Horseshoe Meadows to South Lake and had a fantastic trip! I posted a trip report thread here: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... =1&t=17258

Hi. I actually live in New York State, but came across this board while looking for information regarding a trip to the Sierra Nevada. Lots of useful information here - thank you!

We have permits for a Big SEKI Loop, with the alternate route over Colby Pass instead of Kawaeh Gap, starting on August 20th (next Sunday). Unfortunately, it looks like our trip has coincided with some unfavorable conditions and we are worried we won't be able to do our trip as planned. An extra concern for water crossings is that we are backpacking with our 9 year old daughter.

I know that posters here can't guarantee/promise conditions, but I was looking for general advice if we need to devise a backup plan ASAP. We have a short runway since we are leaving next Friday and since we aren't very familiar with the area, am looking for some guidance on some alternatives and any advice regarding walk up permits (or feasibility of getting them). We are flying in/out of San Francisco and will have a rental car and are willing to drive further afield if need be, although would like to maximize our time on the trail. We will have two weeks and are interested in both backpacking and day hikes. I'm not expecting anybody to plan a trip for us; just looking for some general suggestions of areas/trails for us to research.

Information on us:

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel (maybe 3+, husband is 4)

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking - comfortable
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country - comfortable
- Class 3 terrain/pass/x-country - uncomfortable
- River crossings - uncomfortable
- Snow travel/Glacier crossings - mixed - basic snow okay, no glacier

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
- Photography

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 14 days

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? 8-14 miles is fine (depending on elevation gain), if higher mileage, also need some shorter days and possible layovers with day hiking options, base camp with hikes is also an option

Have you hiked at elevation before? Any prior issues with Altitude Sickness? We have hiked at elevation before and had no altitude sickness issues

Do you have a route logistics preference: loop, out and back, point to point (which may require 2 vehicles or hitchhiking)? loop or out and back are preferred as we have only one car, but if there is a shuttle that can be arranged, a one way hike is fine too

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in (Yosemite, SEKI, western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? Anything is fine - biggest considerations are river crossings/other trail conditions and feasibility of a walkup permit

Have you hiked in the Sierra Nevada before, if yes, where? Please list a few of your more difficult hikes, so we can then recommend routes based on your experience level. Yes - Rae Lakes Loop, hiking/backpacking in Yosemite, and additional trip my husband did: Pine Creek trailhead to Royce Lakes - the summits of Merriam and Royce Peaks, Puppet Lake and Pass, Desolation Lake, Alpine Col, Darwin Canyon, Evolution Basin, Leconte Canyon, Dusy Basin, Thunderbolt Peak, and out via South Lake.

Will you be hiking with a dog? No.

Thanks so much for any advice you might have!
Last edited by pudgygroundhog on Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.








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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by giantbrookie » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:48 am

You mention you have permits for a Big Seki loop. In this area permits are issued on an entry point basis rather than itinerary/destination with the exception of the Whitney Zone. What is your entry point on your permits?

Because you are within the quota period the first set of options would be to work with and devise a route plan based on your existing entry point given that you already have reservations for permits.

Before we get to specifics, you mention a 9-yr-old daughter, and for the vast majority of kids that age (but certainly not all of them) 14 miles with a full pack on one day is too much. Whereas I once encountered a 7-year old who left his dad in the dust (was in the lead with his grandpa) hiking with a huge pack over rugged off trail terrain, that is super rare. Even for the easiest segments of trail (ie with little elevation gain) the lower figure you cite as your daily range maximum (8 mi) should be near tops with the possible exception of an all-descent day.

Another question is this. You have 14 days set aside for your trip. The implication is that your permit reservations are for a single 14-day backpacking trip. Are you considering scenarios that might include two trips (ie hike out, move car, hike in for trip no. 2)?
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:22 am

Thank you for your reply!

This is our permit info:

Entry Date: 8/20/2017
Entry Trail: Copper Creek

Exit Date: 9/3/2017
Exit Trail:Bubbs Creek

Our daughter is a strong hiker and she will not be carrying a large pack (since we generally cover a lot of miles/elevation, we carry the weight - if anything, I worry about me, lol). The majority of our hiking/backpacking has been on trails, although when we did do some off trail in the Wind River Range she was fine. She has not hiked in the Sierra Nevada, but she has done 10+ mile days in the Canadian Rockies, Wind River Range, Grand Canyon (Escalante Route), a lot of difficult hikes in the Northeast (i.e. she recently did a 13.5 mile hike with 4000 feet elevation gain in Maine on rugged trails with a lot of scrambling and at the end of the day she was literally running the last flat 1.5 miles), and a 12 day trek in Peru (Huayhuash Circuit - although that was lighter on miles given we were above 14k the bulk of the trip). That being said, although she is capable, we certainly don't want to death march her for two weeks. Long days are fine, but best mixed with some shorter days or basecamp days with day hikes only.

Our original plan was a single 14 day trip (husband was detouring to Onion Valley for resupply - we already shipped our food), but we are perfectly happy breaking up the trip into several shorter backpacks (with day hikes filling up gaps if needed).

I hope that helps. Thanks so much!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by cgundersen » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:08 am

Hi Pudgy,
OK, sounds like your daughter will be doing recon whilst you're catching your breath. That said, this is an unusual year for the Sierra with huge water flows that may constrain what you can do. With Copper creek as your starting point, you'll be on a long, hot, exposed hillside for most of the first day. As you go up, you'll get "killer" views that make it worthwhile, and fortunately, there are spots along the way (like, Upper Tent Meadow) for camping if the first day's exhilaration wears off quickly. Where I think you may encounter more-serious problems is after you work your way into the Middle Fork of the Kings River. The flow down Cartridge Creek may still be pretty impressive, but, if you hit it early in the morning, you may be OK. The bigger issue is the junction where Palisade Creek meets the Middle Fork. There used to be an elevated bridge, but as far as I know, it washed out years ago and has not been repaired. Even in average snow years, it can be a challenge to cross Palisade creek, and I'm guessing that this year it will still be thundering. Thus, if you're really keen to do this route, I'd urge you to consult with the rangers or make a specific posting here to ask whether anyone knows the status of this junction. If you get past this spot, I think you should be good the rest of the way!
Cameron

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:44 am

Thanks Cameron! Palisade Creek is one of our immediate concerns, along with South Fork Kings River Crossing in Upper Basin, Tyndall Creek Crossing, Kern Kawaeh Crossing at Junction Meadow, Colby Pass, and various creek crossings in Cloud Canyon (typing all that out makes it look like we should just cancel, lol). We have been monitoring the NPS page for trail condition updates and they have not been promising, especially since we only have ten days before we are supposed to hit the trail. I was thinking of calling the ranger station, but wasn't sure if they would have more info beyond what is already posted.

I just ordered 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California: Sierra Nevada / Cascade Mountains / Klamath Mountains / Coast Range & North Coast / San Francisco Bay Area and we are willing to go anywhere (i.e. my husband just sent me a link to a backpack on the Lost Coast trail).

Thanks!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by giantbrookie » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:13 pm

pudgygroundhog wrote:Thanks Cameron! Palisade Creek is one of our immediate concerns, along with South Fork Kings River Crossing in Upper Basin, Tyndall Creek Crossing, Kern Kawaeh Crossing at Junction Meadow, Colby Pass, and various creek crossings in Cloud Canyon (typing all that out makes it look like we should just cancel, lol). We have been monitoring the NPS page for trail condition updates and they have not been promising, especially since we only have ten days before we are supposed to hit the trail. I was thinking of calling the ranger station, but wasn't sure if they would have more info beyond what is already posted.

I just ordered 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California: Sierra Nevada / Cascade Mountains / Klamath Mountains / Coast Range & North Coast / San Francisco Bay Area and we are willing to go anywhere (i.e. my husband just sent me a link to a backpack on the Lost Coast trail).

Thanks!
As Cameron noted above, it looks like your daughter will be fine, so now, back to the various creek crossings. I recall there was some mention of the problem with the Jct Meadow Kern-Kaweah crossing---something to the effect that it is more or less impossible right now (post may be on the conditions thread here? forgot where I read that). This would compromise the southwestern part of your loop because you wouldn't be able to get to the Kern-Kaweah R. from the east and thence to Colby Pass/Cloud Cyn, etc.

There remain many alternatives for hiking and camping spots without doing the southern leg of the loop, though. Depending on what you choose to do, these may involve in-and-back legs to your trip. For example, let's say you wanted to proceed southward over Forester Pass. If you can't get across the Kern, you could explore some way south but would then have to double back and perhaps do your ultimate exit out via Bubbs Creek to Road's end. That having said, there are little side basins you could explore on the way south and different ones you could explore on the way back north. Alternatively you can lop off the southern portion "hairpin" and trade it for a northern "hairpin". There is an enormous amount of territory with many beautiful basins to explore that can be spun off of your central route.

Regarding some of the other stream crossings.
The S. Fork Kings crossing downstream of Upper Basin proved fatal for a PCT hiker a couple of weeks ago, but there are alternatives to this crossing. For example, it is possible to travel on the E side of the River upstream of this crossing without undue exertion and then avoid crossing the S. Fork altogether. This is a variation on a theme of those headed from Upper Basin to Taboose Pass who wish to "cut the corner" and not lose elevation all the way down to the lower crossing. On this route you'd end up crossing the little creek draining W from the Taboose Pass area then meet the trail from Taboose Pass which you'd take to the reunion with the JMT/PCT near the Bench Lake backcountry ranger station.The only issue to this "alternative" is that it works best if you decide in advance that you want to do it because it would be a pain to backtrack several miles up the S. Fork after finding the crossing too high (note that the water level has surely dropped significantly since the fatal accident). This same situation (early decision to avoid stream crossing saves a lot of extra distance) will apply to...

The Tyndall Creek crossing. If headed southward, it is pretty easy to "cut the corner", diverging east from the trail and approximately following the stream that drains the lakes below and south of Forester Pass. This is easy talus and slabs in the upper reaches and sand and such in its lower reaches. The goal would be to cross the stream draining the lakes S of Forester too so as to cross Tyndall Creek somewhere upstream of the confluence where it has a lot less flow. In fact a bit upstream of this confluence several other forks of the creek come together, so the flow in any one of them will be quite manageable. Once across you'd simply join the trail that is coming from Shepherd Pass and follow it back to the JMT/PCT.
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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by pudgygroundhog » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:23 pm

Thanks so much for your detailed reply.

These are the latest updates on the NPS page:

Colby Pass
7/19 - Crampons and ice ax are recommended. On bottom half of the North facing slope there is a steep snow field. Top half of pass is melted out. South side has a snowfield extending for roughly 500ft down to the little lake near the bottom of pass. Roaring River is impassable on trail at Table Creek. The Kern Kaweah at Junction Meadow remains impassable and is anticipated to remain so for at least a month.

Upper Basin
8/4 - South Fork of the Kings River along the PCT Trail, North of Taboose Pass is still very hazardous at ~10,000ft. Seek better crossing upstream around 10,500ft. The White Fork creek crossing on the PCT trail is fordable with caution.

Kern Canyon
8/8 - Tyndall Creek is still very hazardous and impassable to most. Seek alternative crossings.
8/8 - The Kern crossing in Junction Meadow is now passable with much cautionthrough a braided section near the trail.
--------------
From some of the reading we've done, it sounds like much of the JMT is okay, but the issue is getting to/from there from the west (such as Palisade Creek near the beginning of our trip). I'm not sure how much change there will be in water levels in a week.

I'm going to look over your post in more detail with my husband and discuss. Thanks again for the info!

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by frozenintime » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:36 pm

if i could elbow my way in here, i have a couple questions for myself that the OP might (hopefully!? find helpful regarding the south fork kings/taboose area.

- approximately where in upper basin would an easier south fork crossing be? (i'd guess the area where cardinal lake's outlet drains into the kings -- just below the 'upper basin' sign on the USGS topo.)

- does the 'northern' trail from taboose pass (i.e. the one that does *not* go to bench lake) still exist in a useful form? it's on some maps and not others. that could be confusing for the OP if they are traveling off trail in that area.

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by frozenintime » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:39 pm

(ah, i hadn't seen the NPS recommendation of ~10,500 feet for the south fork crossing. looks to be about the same area i referenced.)

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Re: Need advice on trip plan

Post by Ashery » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:32 pm

frozenintime wrote: - does the 'northern' trail from taboose pass (i.e. the one that does *not* go to bench lake) still exist in a useful form? it's on some maps and not others. that could be confusing for the OP if they are traveling off trail in that area.
At least in parts it is.

When I was up there a couple weeks back, after coming in over Taboose I tried to keep high to maintain elevation while heading to Cardinal Lake, so I can't really comment on the upper stretch.

When coming back, however, I decided to drop down to the river, both as a change of scenery and because the high route was pretty slow going. I eventually ran into a trail that was pretty obviously the trail used for the bypass. I followed that up and out of what would've been the slowest part of the approach to Taboose Pass if there hadn't have been a trail to follow, but eventually lost it at what I recall being a stream cutting through a small, overgrown meadowy area. At that point, since my final destination was Bench Lake and not the pass, I didn't feel it'd be worth my time to hunt for the trail, so I just bailed and headed S cross country.

As far as crossing the river in Upper Basin, I'd just stick to the east side until you find a decent place to cross since it was easy cross country travel. I only made detours in an attempt to keep my feet dry, which you'd have to do if you were following the trail as well. I never crossed the river myself, though.

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