TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

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HighPlainDrifter
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TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by HighPlainDrifter » Wed May 27, 2020 9:42 pm

Hello fine HST folks!...Im proud to say this is my first TR after a decade following this cherished platform...Just wanted to share a solo four night high route loop (Sabrina to North Lake) back in September 2019....I'd been planning on this trip for years as I had never crossed the divide and wanted to orient the journey going S/N...but the logistics of weather/partner/work never coincided into the right moment. The thought of doing this solo was always an option, but with one tedious high pass and the other potentially hazardous, I wanted to make sure everything lined up so that safety was top priority...Having been a high snow year and slow melt, I knew the more snow the better for navigating the talus-heavy upper cirques, but also limit the mosquitos in the lower elevations. The plan was late September initially but scheduling had to be moved up a little bit...Always planning my trips around the busy weekends, I like to leave trailheads on Sunday afternoon to have the empty mid week days as meat of my journey...This was after the Labor Day rush, so it seemed like good timing...

An early season dry cold front was moving into the high country the night before departing, so I was a little cautious on whether or not I would have to bring my ice axe/crampons if I was to experience the hard freeze while up high... Not having any beta on Snow Tounge Pass conditions, I thought it was smart to just bite the bullet and take some extra weight. From past experience in this scenario, I thought of the axe/crampons as a little bit of overkill, so I opted for my whippet/micro-spikes (which was perfect).

9/8/19
Day 1: Leaving Santa Barbara,Ca at 4am I arrived at White Mountain Ranger Station around 10am for my walk up permit...The plan was to park my truck at the North Lake parking lot and hitch a ride down to Sabrina. Not finding any takers (real labor day LA vibes), I moseyed my way down the dusty road and up to the Sabrina trailhead...The weather was perfect in the 60s with a slight breeze and plenty of sun as I started the hike at 130pm...The trail was buzzing with friendly faces that did overnights in the Sabrina Basin with good stories and talk of ripping winds the night before...Taking my time acclimating going from sea level to my objective at 10500' was a slow deliberate pace...made it to camp right below the outlet to Midnight Lake as the sun went over Mount Darwin to the west...








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Day 2: Winds were strong in the morning and shifted to more SSW at my elevation, so I knew things would get more intense as I started the rest of my accent up to Haeckel Col...Leaving early I made my way above Midnight Lake following along a spur ridge up to the cirque below Mt Haeckel, then up and over the class 2-3 pass...I eventually made it to my objective (Sapphire Lake) a little later than anticipated because of the difficult but manageable route finding I found myself in...

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Day 3: Woke up early and hopped on the JMT around 8am for a short few miles to meet up with the trail that goes up to Darwin Bench. Then traverse the high benches above Evolution Valley to get to the isolated Lake 11092. Ive been wanting to get over to this lightly traveled area for a long time and it was absolutely worth the wait... After leaving the JMT I never saw anyone for the next 48 hours.



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Day 4-5: By far the most engaging and mentally challenged section...temps got down into the low 20s overnight, so it was definitely a little rough sleep with my 30 degree quilt...started early up to Snow Tongue and it was a mellow tour up a gradual couple benches and eventually the pass...This pass was the most difficult i've ever experienced in my Sierra history. No "snow tongue" this year, even with the above average winter...just a rock solid sand chute littered with unstable rocks of all sizes...50 degree slope of pure adrenaline and razor sharp focus...Never felt so good to be up and out of its presence...then after that, the most gruesom (but oddly fun challenge) talus smorgasbord...then I went to my favorite Wahoo lake for a dip and reprise...Spent the night above Golden Trout Lake and was out Paiute Pass to North Lake in the morning...What a great trip!
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CAMERONM
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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by CAMERONM » Wed May 27, 2020 10:38 pm

Your photos make me want get out there tomorrow. Looks like a perfect loop hike.
I wonder if Snow Tongue is any better ascending. I hated every moment descending, it left me drained.
Last edited by CAMERONM on Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by xcountry rider » Sat May 30, 2020 10:16 pm

Thank you for the trip report and the pictures

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by jhfowler » Sun May 31, 2020 4:42 pm

what a great trip! snow tongue is high on my list of most nervous/must do.

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun May 31, 2020 4:46 pm

I did Snow Tongue once, and never again! I now use Alpine Col instead. Although more technical and still plenty of talus, it at least is fairly stable. Plus I think Alpine Col is a more scenic route.

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by c9h13no3 » Sun May 31, 2020 6:28 pm

Eeww, why would you do that without snow? Some serious garbage right there.
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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun May 31, 2020 6:38 pm

Not sure if the "eeww" refers to Snow Tongue or Alpine Col. As for ascending Snow Tongue, I ascended it mid-August 2010 and it still was horrible, right after snowmelt and the slope was saturated and dangerous. So all the way up I was saying "just let me get up this one time and I promise never to do it again". Did not help that the week prior some poor backpacker was buried in a landslide up in the Rock Creek drainage in similar conditions.

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by c9h13no3 » Sun May 31, 2020 7:54 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sun May 31, 2020 6:38 pm
Snow Tongue or Alpine Col.
Snow Tongue. So many passes look like loose garbage chutes that'd I'd hate every minute of without snow. His pic just looks like infinite loose talus and dirt.
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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by Solace-seeker » Sun May 31, 2020 8:51 pm

What a wonderful adventure. Great photos!
Thanks for posting.

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Re: TR: Haeckel Col/Snow Tongue Pass Sept 2019

Post by HighPlainDrifter » Wed Jun 03, 2020 11:46 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sun May 31, 2020 4:46 pm
I did Snow Tongue once, and never again! I now use Alpine Col instead. Although more technical and still plenty of talus, it at least is fairly stable. Plus I think Alpine Col is a more scenic route.
Ya I think im done with ST, at least going solo...but if you or anyone else know of a class 2-3 route over the divide not Alpine/Keyhole I would love to hear some suggestions...I remember a thread a long time ago about a way over near Ramona Lake but I can't find it...thanks
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