Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar
muleaaron
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:22 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by muleaaron » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:10 am

I’m taking some older scouts (14-17) on a trip this next summer and am trying to decide where to exit. We plan to enter at Onion Valley, over Kearsarge, North on the JMT past Rae Lakes, and then an exit over either Baxter or Sawmill Pass. I haven’t been up or down either of those passes, so I am looking to the collective wisdom and experience of the group.

Initially, the plan was Sawmill because I wanted to spend the last night fishing Woods Lake, but the descent looks pretty brutal on paper. We have 5 days to hike, which should be plenty of time without pushing the boys too hard.

So, to summarize:

Option 1
OV to Kearsarge Lakes
Kearsarge Lakes to Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes to Dollar Lake (day hike to Dragon Lake or 60 lakes basin)
Dollar to Woods Lake
Woods to Sawmill trailhead

Option 2
OV to Kearsarge Lakes
Kearsarge Lakes to Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes to Dollar Lake (day hike to Dragon Lake or 60 lakes basin)
Dollar to Baxter Lakes
Baxter Lakes to Baxter Pass Trailhead

Thanks!








User avatar
muleaaron
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:22 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by muleaaron » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:21 am

Oh, and we’re going the end of July/beginning of August.

User avatar
psykokid
Topix Regular
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:39 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Pasadena, CA

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by psykokid » Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:31 am

I haven't been up either but I reached out to a friend that has been up both and his opinion would be to exit via Sawmill over Baxter. He commented that the Woods Lake area is definitely worth checking out. "Freaking Gorgeous" were the terms he used to describe the Woods Lake area. Baxter would be a shorter exit distance wise but is pretty steep and harsh in his opinion.

User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
Posts: 10610
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by maverick » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:58 pm

Been over both, I too would go with option 1, Woods Lake is pretty! :)
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

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

User avatar
Jimr
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
Posts: 1936
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:14 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Redondo Beach

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by Jimr » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:58 pm

Just a tidbit; the whole south and east side of Woods Lake is basically void of camp spots (ask me how I know). I don't know about the North side. The smaller lakelettes around have ample camping spots.
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

-John Adams

User avatar
cloudlesssky
Topix Regular
Posts: 159
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 4:19 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by cloudlesssky » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:03 pm

I'd recommend Sawmill pass mostly because the trail on the east side of Baxter pass is steep, slippery in spots and obviously unmaintained. Sawmill is a longer hike but the trail is in better condition, water is more accessible, and Sawmill lake could be a good area to stop for the night on the way out. Either one will be a hot and dry hike out into the Owens valley towards the end in Jul/Aug. Make sure your pickup isn't delayed long - there's no shade and likely no water at either trail head.

User avatar
muleaaron
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:22 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by muleaaron » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:37 am

Sawmill Pass it is! I too had heard good things about Woods Lake, and it’s good to know that we’re better off camping near one of the lakelets.

User avatar
Hobbes
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1120
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:09 am
Experience: N/A
Location: The OC

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by Hobbes » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:33 am

I haven't been over Baxter, but Sawmill is very nice. Both the Woods creek/lake and Sawmill creek/lake/meadow areas are great.

That being said, depending not only on your groups' overall fitness level, but health and well being while in the back-country, you might consider Baxter. What I mean is, with groups, you never know if parents/scouts are going to be sick, not feeling well (AMS, etc), getting sunburned, exhausted, etc. Also, if the weather turns bad, it's always nice to have a closer bail out point.

Lastly, to get to Woods/Sawmill from Rae lakes (without going over hard x-c), you have to drop all the way to 8k to the bridge over Woods creek. You then have to climb all the way back up, through a rocky area I don't find particularly appealing. (It finally gets nice again by the Sawmill trail junction.) In comparison, the Baxter pass trail is right there @ Dollar lake. I don't know the mileage difference, but offhand it looks to be at least 10 miles longer going to Sawmill, along with an extra 2+- elevation drop/gain.

Here's a good piece of advice: drop a car at both THs. The Sawmill TH has got to be the closest, easiest and most convenient TH anywhere in the Sierra Nevada. That's because it's only around 4 miles from US395 and is paved until the last couple of hundred yards. (Even then, it's graded, smooth crushed gravel.) So, leaving a car there is effortless. Baxter is further in, so it take more effort.

If you left a car at Onion Valley, one @ Sawmill and one @ Baxter, you'd be set for any situation or condition. It would even allow part of the group to depart early if some members/parents felt like exiting a day or two earlier.

User avatar
muleaaron
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:22 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by muleaaron » Tue Nov 07, 2017 1:15 pm

Not a bad idea to stash a car at Baxter. If we end up having 3 cars, I’ll definitely consider it. It’s definitely nice to have an earlier bail out point.

User avatar
cloudlesssky
Topix Regular
Posts: 159
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 4:19 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Post by cloudlesssky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:55 pm

Hobbes wrote:Lastly, to get to Woods/Sawmill from Rae lakes (without going over hard x-c), you have to drop all the way to 8k to the bridge over Woods creek. You then have to climb all the way back up, through a rocky area I don't find particularly appealing. (It finally gets nice again by the Sawmill trail junction.) In comparison, the Baxter pass trail is right there @ Dollar lake. I don't know the mileage difference, but offhand it looks to be at least 10 miles longer going to Sawmill, along with an extra 2+- elevation drop/gain.
Hobbes does have a good point here. The drop down to Woods Creek Crossing and then back up to the Sawmill Creek trail junction might not be much fun at the end of a multiday adventure with scouts. It's a pretty good grind up from Woods Creek to the junction (2000'+/3.5 mi).

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: cjt93, Google Adsense [Bot], tie and 7 guests