Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

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Harlen
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Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:31 pm

Three friends and I made our annual trip to Tuolumne Meadows to cache winter food for ski trips, and to get in an autumn hike. (*One of the friends being the great dog "Bearzy"). We chose to return to the Leavitt Meadows high country, but one thing didn't lead to another- the plans changed, and Bearzy and I were able to break off and head off over Kirkwood Pass. We descended to the east, down, down the wide, colorful and empty Buckeye Canyon to meet up with our friends two days later at Buckeye Hot Springs.

As has been my luck all summer and fall- we saw no other humans the entire trip- 2 days in the Walker River drainage above Leavitt Meadows, and 2 days alone with Bearzy on the trails down the Buckeye River. I had great luck seeing furry and feathery creatures, including one very large black bear, a total of 36 deer, and ducks and raptors, and myriad songbirds beyond counting. There were plenty of very friendly people enjoying the Hot Springs areas around Bridgeport. I camped by a father and daughter from the mountains of Austria, and they plied me with fine coffee and we shared the last of my liquor flask- Bulleit Bourbon mixed with Cointreau this time. So it turned into a fine couple of days with my friends, then 2 great days with Bearzy, and then the wonderful Hot Springs, hanging out with new folks. The rendezvous with my hiking partners worked out fine, and we recrossed the Sierra via Sonora Pass.

There were scattered copses of fall-colored aspen, and assorted riparian vegetation coloring the creeks and wetlands on the Walker River side, but the autumn really became glorious along 11 mile corridor of Buckeye Canyon. Bear and I covered about 30 miles over the course of our wanderings. We had warm, dry weather, with blue skies and a full moon. [Our trip began on the full moon day of October 24, and we came out very late on the 27th.]


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Our first colorful willow and aspen!

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This area is one where the basaltic volcanic rocks begin to dominate.

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This is looking west from the Walker River Basin toward the Emigrant Wilderness; the far right is near to Sonora Pass.

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Me and Bearzy.

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For the early risers there was a beautiful moon every morning.

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We headed up the West Fork of the West Walker River, passing Fremont Lake, the Chain of Lakes, and the upper and lower Long Lakes.

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Not upside down, a clean reflection.

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Bear by an immense juniper.

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And another even bigger one.

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The whole trip was at low elevations, with diverse forests, and fire friendly camping. There were rare scattered stands of western white pine. I notice the cones first, and then look around to find the trees.

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Sometimes they are just amazing!
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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Part 2- Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:47 pm

Bear and I made our way east over 9940 foot Kirkwood Pass, which leads one into a wilder feeling Sierra, with many striking rocky peaks from 10,700 to 11,700. Low elevation, but immense vertical relief! As you descend upper Buckeye Canyon you are in an area called "The Roughs," and it is named for the wild cliffs and bristling craggy slopes in and around Hunewill to Eagle Peaks on the south side, and the Ink Rocks and unnamed peaks to the north of the upper canyon. Both sides of Kirkwood Pass feel like "Beary Woods"- a term I have long used to describe a place that has the feel of likely bear habitat. And we did find a lot of bear scat on the trail, and there are claw marks on some of the aspen trunks near the "Buckeye Forks." The one bear I did find on this trip was on the Walker side of the pass- near the area where I saw the biggest black bear of my life on a snowy June trip. This time I was really searching for animals, as it was late afternoon. I saw a dark, bear-size shadowy mass 50 meters away amongst aspen trunks, so I stopped to stare.... the shadowy thing slowly arranged itself into all four fat legs of a 300+ pound bear who gave us a look, and then bolted off. It was magical! Not a great close up view, not even a very clear view, and certainly brief; the magic was the way the unknown mass slowly became the big bear that I so hoped for. Okay, more images:

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Tall Aspens mixed in with the Red fir.

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Heading up to Kirkwood Pass, along a nice path through flowerless red mountain heather.

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The crags beginning to emerge.

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This is now on the east side of the pass, and there are some very steep and blank little walls, and even a few over-hanging roofs for the climbers among us- I know Daisy has climbed in there.

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Looking down Buckeye Canyon.

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I believe this is Center Mountain, but that may be wrong. I am looking south-west from above the Buckeye Forks.

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What a wonderful fall path... "in leaves no step had trodden black..."

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Some of the aspens have taken on orange and crimson hues.

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Lower down the canyon the aspen is mixed in with fir trees and Jeffrey Pine again.

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By the 12th mile Bear was getting tired. Here he has dug down to cool black soil, so I pulled up and read my book for awhile.

Happy trails.
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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by wildhiker » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:54 pm

Nice fall trip! I like that area, especially around Kirkwood Pass. It has always been uncrowded for my August trips.
-Phil

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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by balzaccom » Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:55 pm

Lovely. We were up that way a few years ago early in the summer, and climbed up into Long Canyon. The skeeters were fierce below 8500 feet, so we camped accordingly for a few days---each night heading uphill until we started seeing snow.
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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by kpeter » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:57 am

I loved your photographs, both the fall colors and your attractive model stood out!

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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:32 am

I have never been up Buckeye in the fall. Great colors! I have been there several times in earlier summer; very impressive but you do have to share the lower meadow with cows (not quite wildlife). Years ago a friend and I did a first ascent route on Pt. 10518, a very fun 5.7 on surprisingly good rock, although did not have time to complete the ridge to the top of Hunewill, which is still on my to-do list. Flatiron Butte from Burt Canyon is also on my to-do list. You may have already done this but an more scenic but longer route from Upper Piute Meadow is to go up the middle branch of the West Walker (a use trail) to beautiful lakes south of Hawksbeak Pk (another good technical climbing peak) and then over Buckeye Pass and down Buckeye Creek.

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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by balzaccom » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:03 pm

Now ya got me thinkin' about next summer already...
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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:59 am

Daisy wrote:
You may have already done this but an more scenic but longer route from Upper Piute Meadow is to go up the middle branch of the West Walker (a use trail) to beautiful lakes south of Hawksbeak Pk (another good technical climbing peak) and then over Buckeye Pass and down Buckeye Creek.
Congrats on the first ascent on Peak 10,518- I am looking at the 7.5 map, and wonder which face you climbed? It looks like it is very steep on all sides, especially the east face, above that broad couloir that runs down south to north; but the longest routes are the north and west faces, right? Did you guys hope to carry on to the Hunewill Summit along that complicated northern ridge? That looks like a very, very long day, with 3,000 plus feet of climbing!

Re. the other routes up under Hawksbeak Peak, we have poked around in there. My favorite route was to traverse around the west side from Kirkwood Pass, and camp to the northwest of Hawksbeak, where you look up at its very sharpest angle. That made for one of the finest sunset views I have ever had! Hawksbeak was Lizzie and my first mountain climb together, but far from a "technical" adventure, we traipsed up the broad east side on snowshoes in the spring.* I climbed it a second time, but still only a scramble up the south ridge. The continuation of our nice lollipop route was to continue over the saddle just south of H. Peak, to the broad saddle between Acker and Center Mt., and then on over Buckeye Pass and down the South Fork back to Buckeye Canyon. (Paul Balzacom, we recommend that route if you are heading in from the east.)

*The Buckeye Creek river crossing was the adventure, me and a big, wet golden retriever got swept, though I was using full boots, and I lost a Nikon F-2 to moisture- F?(*&[(%!

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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:48 pm

Not likely we did the first ascent of that point, but we did a first ascent of the route. We wanted to do the north ridge clear to the top of Hunewill, so did not get on the east side. Our climb ended up a lot on the nw side just because it had good climbing. From the top of Pt 10518 it is still a long ways to the top of Hunewill. We rappelled down the east side into the broad gully where we had to hop down tons of boulders. On the other side of Buckeye Creek, Pt. 10798 also has some good climbs on even better rock. Lots of climbing potential in that area.

Yes, Buckeye Creek crossing can be really deep and hard. I recall wading nearly waist deep.

Locals have told me that valley leading up to the lakes sw of Hawksbeak from Upper Piute Meadow is called Rainbow Valley. I have also climbed over the nw shoulder of Ehrnbeak Peak into Stubblefield Canyon, which is a wonderful valley, and followed it down to the PCT.

The trail up Eagle Creek is also great late season trip. There is good camping east of Victoria Peak, with great views south to Sawtooth Ridge. I climbed Victoria, Eagle and Robinson Peaks from a camp there. I have always wanted to traverse from Victoria Peak to Hunewill Peak.

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Re: Leavitt Meadows to Buckeye Canyon Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Sun Nov 11, 2018 12:39 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
I have also climbed over the nw shoulder of Ehrnbeak Peak into Stubblefield Canyon, which is a wonderful valley...

The trail up Eagle Creek is also a great late season trip. There is good camping east of Victoria Peak, with great views south to Sawtooth Ridge... I have always wanted to traverse from Victoria Peak to Hunewill Peak.
That all looks great, but how would you return from Hunewill, back the same way? (That's assuming a camp up Eagle Cr.) If you began from the Buckeye side, you could climb that ridge you desired up to Hunewill, traverse to Victoria, and descend a different route down- maybe down the creek that comes from the small lake between Hunewill and Victoria? Sounds like a day for Greek heros! :nod:

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