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Topic: Southern Sierra Loops, Any suggestions?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 1:00 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi!

I'm looking for a good 5-8 day backpack for this summer in the Southern Sierra, possibly Kings Canyon.  One option we're looking at it Rae Lakes, but I was wondering if anyone else had any good options to share.  What I'm hoping for is something...
1.  5-8 days, not too brutal because some of the people that want to come aren't super experienced (but they are in good shape),
2.  Ideally something that loops so we don't need a shuttle, but that's not a must,
3.  Something in the palisades area would be really cool,
4.  A trip where we could do a layover day with a side hike would be great.
5.  Not too much rough off-trail,

If anyone has any suggestions please let me know!
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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 4:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So.....yer looking for sand at the beach....


You are going to have to narrow it down a little because there are a thousand hikes that fit the bill. Like do you want an east side or west side trailhead? Are there any towns or attractions you want to be near the trailhead? What is your transportation situation? Do you want thick forests or high crags? Is "not too brutal" 5 mile or 12 mile days?

I suggest you do read a bunch of trip reports on
http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/index.php
and you may enjoy my TR from last summer:
http://forums.backpacker.com/cgi-bin....mineral
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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 5:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tom Harrison maps is a great resource, they print trail mileages so getting a wide area look allows for people to pick and choose with immediate feedback on distances. Then there are the books: Wilderness Press has been in the Sierra guidebook business for decades and they've always proved out on the ground. Their Sierra South is a classic and, IMHO, deservedly so, they've recently produced a combination for Sequoia and kings a canyon though I expect the two separate volumes are still available.

Rea Lakes loop might be a challenging wilderness permit to get this late. East side permits, via the national forests, are available through recreation.gov: before getting too locked in best to check out what's possible.

Some of the Sierra around there require bear resistant food canisters.

East side entrances can involve less immediate elevation gain versus, say, Cedar  Grove road end where other than out to Paradise Valley they're all climbs... Out from Crescent Meadow is a more gradual introduction, and a gradual start while new people get pack and boot fit sorted out is a very good thing. Fitness by itself doesn't deaden the pain of an ill fitting load nor stop the bleeding from broken blisters.

If it were me I'd get a national geographic trails illustrated overall map of the park/s and lay them out and eyeball routes as a group, then look at elevation gains and see what fits. Hit the trail guides for the details.

One thing to consider is during peak season Sequoia has a shuttle in the park so there are routes out of Wolverton, Crescent Meadow etc. that can be linked by the free park transport.

Why the Palisades?

Oh and if you can narrow that "summer" down. There are routes I'd do in September I'd not do in June (ice) and vice versa and that's all "summer".

Oh and how many people?
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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 7:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Three east side loops are usually included in somebody's list of things to do someday.

From easier to harder.

Lone Pine:

Horseshoe Meadows accessed by 26mi road that starts on Whitney Portal Road the South along road that would pass Tuttle Creek campground.  Road ends up at two trail heads.  Take the one going to Cottonwood Lakes/Army Pass.  There is a back packers walk in camp ground there.  You would have to be early in the day to get a spot.  This trail starts at 10,500'

Trip goes first night to Lake 4/5 for Old Army Pass (recommended) or near Long Lake just to the south.  I prefer staying at Muir Lake then can decide the next morning.

LOOP 1: This goes south. There is a shorter loop that takes you south around Cirque Peak and to Cottonwood Pass and then a spur trail back up to your car.  This trip is a nice check hike  for first time high altitude members and a chance to spend a more leisure trip.  You can base camp at Muir Lake and do a day hike to Mt Langley (via Old Army back down New Army).  For those who don't like that so soon, they can explore the more than dozen lakes in two cirques that includes Cottonwood Lakes and South Lakes.   OR everybody up New Army Pass trail drop packs and catch Cirque Peak on the ridge line then scurry down to the PCT.  You are close to Miter Basin and the Old General.  Nice place to spend a day as well...then continue on the south loop.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.45708,-118.28224&z=14&t=T

Then down continue south on the PCT and take it around to Cottonwood Pass or Siberian Pass north of Big Whitney Meadows .  If you plan an entire week in the area there are also Rocky Basin Lakes.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.44700,-118.28224&z=14&t=T

LOOP 2 ok its not a loop anymore: This goes north. Over Army pass then down picking up Miter Basin then to camp ground below where PCT crosses Rock Springs Creek.  Up to Crabtree Lakes or pick up the John Muire Trail and push it to Sandy Meadows.  Then Tyndall Creek for the next night.  Note that you have a lot of things you are missing unless you look north on the map.  Wallace Creek takes you up to Wallace Lakes for a looksee. Most people don't see these as they are almost done with the JMT and the horse run to the barn affect takes over.  Same thing for the Wright Lakes.  

You have an option to take the more western side of the Kern River Drainage.  You will probably be one group of maybe two that do it each year.  Again Whitney is too close for this side trip.  It is a BIG DOWN Wallace Creek and another BIG UP to get to JMT/Tyndall Creek crossing.  Either trail puts you in the sweet spot of the High Sierra.  

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.61184,-118.39047&z=14&t=T

Once at Tyndall Creek you can take a 'rest' day and go up the Tyndall Creek trail to Shepherd Pass and two 14,000's on your south east.  Chance for the hearty hiker.  The pass makes a good day hike since you get a panorama of the entire area you have hike the last few days.  The other part of THAT picture is from the one of the passes on the western side of the basin.  You see a passel of 14ers from that side.

You can bail out here and call it a trip by continuing over Shepherd Pass and having left a shuttle car, pick it up...or take your chance on a hitch back to Horseshoe Meadows.   Best to preposition a car.

Loop 3 - ok its still not a loop anymore Continuing north on the JMT your next challenge is Forrester Pass - at 13,200' it is one of the more awesome days in the Sierra. I like the south to north trail as the north side is beautiful as more and more lakes are exposed.   Anyway that night in Vidette Meadows

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.71973,-118.36112&z=14&t=T

The next day up to Kearsarge  Lakes and Pass and down to a shuttle car is done in the morning.  It is almost criminal not to spend the rest of the day around the lakes, however.    BUT if you are in a hurry, take the trail that is well above Bull Frog lakes that follows the 3300m contour.  The slow strip tease of Kearsarge Lakes on your right gives a nice high light to the almost end of the trip.  

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.76797,-118.37631&z=14&t=T

Independence

LOOP 4 no kidding this is one.  Consider it strenuous West out of the center of Independence gets you to Onion Valley at a large (LARGE) parking lot.  9800' is considered high enough for most hearts and lungs.  Retrace Loop 3 back to Tyndall Creek/JMT crossing and head for Shepherd Pass.  In the map link below that is in the south west end of map

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.70194,-118.31039&z=14&t=T

Then down the pass to Symmes Creek at the north east end of the map.  Drop packs and pick a person to walk the three miles to the Onion Valley road, get an easy hitch up to the car and return to pick up the ones broiling in the hot sun at the trail head.  There is a dirt road access that is a bit rough but I've taker our Prius over it recently.

I'd rather do the trip clockwise starting VERY VERY early in the morn.  You are fully exposed to the east sun all the way.  I like the slow appearance of the large mountains as you toil away, giving a reason to rest on the relentless up hill trek.  This is the strenuous part.  from around 6000 to' about 11,000'. Once you leave Symmes Creek, the first water is just before you get to Mahogany Flats.  BUT you have waterfalls and if you take the extra effort to get to Anvil Camp the first day (gawd you are all animals!) there is a beautiful long switch back that bypasses an extinct glacier head wall.  This part of the trial to Anvil is by far my favorite DAY HIKE in early spring.  Loads of water streaming off the ridges and down Shepherds Creek from snow melt.

Bishop

LOOP 5  North Lake to South Lake.  Some of the most beautiful scenery and deep canyons in the Sierra.  All in one glorious trip.  Each Canyon is usually a destination for those that can't take the time.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.18056,-118.55802&z=13&t=T

North Lake is northwest corner.  South Lake is near center.  

Piute Pass, Humphreys Basin, Piute Canyon, Evolution Basin, Le Conte Canyon, Dusy Lakes, Bishop Pass then catch a ride (pre set up) from Parcher's camp to recover your car.  

Ok not a complete loop but you could take another day to walk the sometimes missing trail directly from South to North Lakes.   The fee they will charge you is worth it.

Ok I'm out of loops on the eastern side.  

WESTERN SIDE

There are some long loops out of  Kings Canyon and Sequoia. Others might pipe in on those.

Such as taking part of the High Sierra Trail  from Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw Meadow to 9 lakes basin and the big Arroyo, then off to Little Five Lakes , spectacular Black Rock Pass then down Cliff Creek and back to Bearpaw Meadow.  From BP Meadow and early start gets you to car by lunch.

You can extend this loop by going over Sawtooth (ugh) or even farther south over Franklin Pass then Timber Pass to get out of Mineral King back to Bearpaw.

Or...


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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 7:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks a lot everybody!  I ordered the maps you recommended.  This would be late july with 4 people.  Also the mapper website is cool... never seen it before.

Really appreciate the ideas!
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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 10:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I like being able to pass on links to what I'm looking at too.  The price is right.

Ok you owe us at least 4 trip reports. :)

HSF knows of what he suggest.  I do very much like TomHarrison.  If you are near an REI (far east Pasadena and others in SoCal), they have a stock of maps, trail books and human knowledge.  Well worth a pot of coffee and an afternoon to browse the library and pick brains. Adventure 16 is another source of fun stuff too.

You are in luck with late July.  With this winter there shouldn't be a load of snow on the passes and it is early enough that you will have some flowers and ample water.  Now.... you have to run for a  wilderness permit.  You might be on the late side of the days you want.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 03 2014, 10:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The other sort of route to keep an eye out for on the maps is what is often called a lollipop: where you head out from a trailhead a day or so and then loop off from there: so the overlap is a minor portion of the trip.

Late July is nice especially higher up: potentially still flowers and some of the intermittent streams but less mosquitos than earlier in the season and far fewer problematic snow slope encounters.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 04 2014, 9:12 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm a little wary of recommending high elevation to someone who says "not too brutal" because of the total subjectivity of "brutal." I've had people who say they are wimps and outhike me, and people who just about die swearing "that was the hardest hike ever" on a dead flat trail at 9,000 feet (Lyell Canyon).

Best to learn yourself about all the symptoms of elevation sickness and be on the lookout for each other - plan in advance what should be done if anyone suffers and get everyone committed to it. It'll save you some drama if anyone does develop symptoms. I've run across people looking for their friends out there after they argued with their buddy and someone stormed off in a huff only to vanish into the wilderness. And don't forget to leave a good itinerary complete with descriptions of your cars, your companions and your gear, the entities that should be contacted (Inyo Sheriff, Fresno Sheriff, Tulare Sheriff, and/or the parks if you cross boundaries - search teams outside the park system are affiliated with counties, not the national forest) and when your reliable friend should activate a search. It's a little work but a lot of gain if it's needed. Trust me, searches being delayed for days because no one remembers where you started the hike does no one any good.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 04 2014, 12:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Would it be crazy to consider the High Sierra trail?  It's not a loop obviously but I could figure out some shuttle option.  

I'd probably stretch it out as long a possible, probably 8 days to keep it to around 10 miles per day but is obviously a pretty long trip.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 04 2014, 12:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The shuttle is rather aweful. An alternative you might look at is swinging back over Colby Pass and back to Lodgepole. Then you could shuttle back to Crescent Meadow for the car or wherever the long term parking is located.

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/parktransit.htm

Of after touching Hamilton Lake and admiring Valhalla, backtrack and head over Elizabeth Pass etc. back to Lodgepole. Nine Lakes Basin as is Precipice Lake (dayhike?) is nice but the slog along the sandy banks of the Kern isn't.

Exiting through the Whitney Zone can be problematic, lots of bureaucracy  not to mention carrying your own feces out..... The Waste elimination And Gelling Bag.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 04 2014, 4:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(High_Sierra_Fan @ May 04 2014, 12:51 pm)
QUOTE
The shuttle is rather aweful. An alternative you might look at is swinging back over Colby Pass and back to Lodgepole. Then you could shuttle back to Crescent Meadow for the car or wherever the long term parking is located.

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/parktransit.htm

Of after touching Hamilton Lake and admiring Valhalla, backtrack and head over Elizabeth Pass etc. back to Lodgepole. Nine Lakes Basin as is Precipice Lake (dayhike?) is nice but the slog along the sandy banks of the Kern isn't.

Exiting through the Whitney Zone can be problematic, lots of bureaucracy  not to mention carrying your own feces out..... The Waste elimination And Gelling Bag.

I like this idea.  Let me sure I'm on the same page as you...

1.  Leave from roads end,
2.  Turn north on Woods creek, follow as it goes north then turns east,
3.  Turn right at the JMT, follow it south to Rae Lakes, Vidette Meadows, keep going past the moraines,
4.  Follow along Tyndell creek then take the right fork when it splits from the JMT,
5.  South following the Kern River,
6.  Right at the pack trail (not sure the name) to Colby Pass
7.  Southwest towards Triple Divide Peak and west through Elizabeth Pass,
8.  Follow as it turns South, past the Lone Pine Meadow fork and on to the intersection of the High Sierra trail at the footbridge.  
9.  Optional side trip east on High Sierra Trail to Valhalla/Hamilton Lakes.  
10.  West on High Sierra trail back towards Lodgepole

Did I get what you meant or was that off track?  Any idea how far that is?
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PostIcon Posted on: May 04 2014, 7:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nope, start at Crescent Meadow out on the High Sierra Trail (so building off your suggested route), continue over Kaweah Gap and down to the Kern returning over Colby or, after touching Hamilton Lakes with maybe a day hike up to Precipice and Nine Lakes Basin, heading over Elizabeth Pass and in either case ending the trip at Lodgepole to get the park shuttle back to Crescent Meadow for your car(s).

Cedar Grove Road End in Kings Canyon isn't involved and the High Sierra Trail goes no where near Lodgepole.:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/high-sierra-trail.htm
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PostIcon Posted on: May 05 2014, 3:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I was way off... Thanks

Now I have to deal with permits.  I should have started on this a while ago... procrastination strikes once more
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PostIcon Posted on: May 05 2014, 3:31 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This will help on the trailhead quota maze:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/reservation-availability.htm
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PostIcon Posted on: May 05 2014, 10:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Or... Consider a trip you have your heart set on but you can't get permits this year to plan that trip next year.  Few people sketch out possible treks a few years out.  Keep a spare Tom Harrison map on the back of a closet door and keep track of which trails you were on and the ones you would recommend to others - like you - a few years from now.

To miss 10 miles of sandy walking (no so bad as there are hot baths in a HUGE bathtub about half way to the Colby Pass trail) you could, from Cedar Grove roads end at Kings Canyon go up towards Junction Meadows - Bubbs and Rae Lakes then over Glen Pass (or just stay on Bubbs Creek),  down to Kearsarge Lakes and Vidette Meadows then over Forrester Pass then down to bottom at Junction Meadows - Kern up Colby Pass down Cloud Canyon  and return to car going over Avalanche Pass from Roaring River Ranger Station and down Sphynx Creek back to car.  The problem there is getting trail head rights to Rae Lakes.

Might have better luck going reverse direction and/or skipping Rae Lakes.  But it is a lot more valley and creek walking than most other trails mentioned.

Forrester Pass is a mighty impediment as well as almost touching the stars.  Plan on leaving very early in morn from upper Vidette Meadows so that if it gets to be a challenge you will have more time to play with it.  It is worth lots of breathing stops on the way up to look at the scenery.  If you don't look back you are missing a spectacular view.  For the JMT hikers going south it is Forrester one day and Whitney the next or two days away.

You miss the section of a wonderful trail over Valhalla into 9 Lakes Basin from Crescent Meadows which is worth every step up. That trail will have little islands of wildflowers this time of year - where ever an intermittent creek crosses the trail.

As with all higher trails, go slow, rest and eat often.  Don't skimp on the water.  Go back if someone is reacting to the altitude significantly.  Being out of breath is not an unexpected reaction :) But know the symptoms of not being able to adjust to altitude.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 05 2014, 10:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think Forester is my favorite of the passes.

Elizabeth is my least favorite, but only because I was limping down it with a neuroma in the left foot shooting lightning up my calf. And there's no trail left, and it's an endless alpine stairwell of grassy mounds, sandy bits, rocks on decomposed granite on slab, and the occasional cairn. And I was in pain... The views from the top were stellar, and I still have the picture of Moose Lake and the Tableland I took from there as my desktop image.

And then, as we reached the Kaweah, lightning... running through the pouring rain in a leaking poncho... ah, memories.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 05 2014, 10:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Random fit of nostalgia:


East from Elizabeth - Copper Mine Pass is over there somewhere. Note the tiny people in the lower left, near the patch of grass... I was a little faster than my companions. We found three young fellows spreading gear all over the rocks halfway up the switchbacks that morning, they'd been caught the previous evening when the rain poured down and had to throw up their tarp at the first opportunity to get out of it.


What little you see of Deadman from the top of Elizabeth.


Took this from a spot where I fell down as we descended the pass.

I hated doing the pass. But I loved the scenery. I am enamored of the alpine - it's all this wonderful. The only reason we were on Elizabeth was because the lightning storm sitting over the Tablelands lasted through breakfast, making us opt for the shorter pass crossing rather than hours of navigating open granite above 10,000 feet.


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PostIcon Posted on: May 06 2014, 11:04 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great pics!

Yep.  Forester is a special place.


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