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Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes

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JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 21, 2014 07:07PM
Day 9: July 23, 2014

We had managed to contact the H party the previous evening and ask their interest in doing the fourth--and final--Sierra High Route segment. J was interested, which was reconfirmed the following morning.

The early morning contrast between the sunless bottom of LeConte canyon and the white peaks around it was striking.

Having seen Big Pete Meadow, it appeared that Little Pete was in fact larger.

We soon reached the Bishop Pass/Dusy Basin junction. JKW, M, and L continued down towards Palisade Creek and P headed up towards Bishop Pass, while A and I waited for J, who was maybe 30 minutes or so behind us.

Once the SHR group was together, we started the climb to Dusy Basin, passing many large, majestic Sierra junipers along the way.

Eventually we reached the lower lakes in Dusy Basin, where we stopped for a snack, to load up on water, and to scout out our route to the first of today's three passes: Knapsack. While some of the route was hidden by an intermediate ridge, it looked mostly straightforward; the Roper book warned only of willows.

The terrain along this chain of lakes was intricate in places, but there were no serious obstacles, and things that from a distance looked like they'd be challenging were much less so once we reached them.

We slowly wound our way to the top of the pass. Unlike previous days, there wasn't even a hint or suggestion of rain in the sky.

Despite being overall rocky, there were a few nice pockets of lush vegetation, even high up.

We had to navigate a few talus fields, but the final few hundred feet of climbing was over granite slabs.

The top of the pass was quite windy, so we didn't spend too much time there, but we did look down towards Palisade Creek...

...and also checked out our next interim destination: the second-largest Barrett Lake in aptly-named Palisade Basin, which appears to be surrounded by tallest Palisade Peaks: Thunderbolt, North Pal, and Polemonium.

After passing the smaller lake, we continued to the larger one, which is about as far west in the basin as the Great Pink One and I had traveled a few years ago. Back then this lake had looked dark and uninviting; with blue skies and a mid-day sun, it was quite pleasant. (Also, as we had suspected, the camping was in fact quite good west of this lake--plenty of flat, open granite shelves...)

We circled around the lake to the north on a faint path, then started the climb to the intermediate pass between Knapsack and Potluck Passes, where Pinkie and I had managed to get our shelters set up moments before a storm hit.

There were a few steep sections here, and the routefinding wasn't always straightforward, but we eventually reached the top of the intermediate pass.

The small stream that we'd used for water a few years ago was still flowing.

The terrain from here to Potluck was more straightforward--mostly a gentle traverse and climb on open granite that passes a few nice tarns along the way.

At Potluck, we could look down it's steep eastern side to the large lake on Glacier Creek; past that was our final pass of the day: Cirque.

We had no problem finding the "hidden" ledge system that leads to the scree slope; in fact, there seemed to be more "improvements" than I remember from a few years ago. We carefully made our way down the scree slope and were soon at the small lake at the base of the pass.

We chose the Chick-On/rusty bucket route (around, not over) to the large lake, whose outlet ponds appear to be hanging over the distant valleys and canyons. Far away was Windy Ridge and the Cirque Crest.

Despite the steady breeze, we stopped for a late afternoon dip at this lake. We could have stayed longer, but we still had one more pass to go--and a long descent after that to get to the rest of the group at Lower Palisade Lake, with whom we'd been having intermittent radio contact.

The climb to Cirque Pass was mostly working granite ledges and backtracking whenever we reached a dead end.

Cirque Pass has its secrets, too...

We spent a few minutes on Cirque Pass before descending.

The long climb down from Cirque was more tedious than difficult, and early on we were friction-descending steep granite ramps. Unfortunately in one place our shoes got damp and we temporarily lost our friction advantage. We encountered maybe three or four minor cliffs, but all could be bypassed on one side or the other.

On the radio we heard that the others were camping between the lakes--where Twinkie-bird and I had seen some nice campsites on flat granite when we'd passed though. We could see that they were still in the sunlight, unlike everyone else at Palisade Lakes camping near the outlet.

Actual surveillance footage: you can see the rest of our group middle bottom.

Eventually we reached the trail, and just past this reached the lake, where maybe a few dozen backpackers were stopped for the night. We still had to circle around--and climb above--the lower lake before dropping to our much more secluded campsite.

We finally arrived just as the last bit of daylight faded.

We ate dinner and set up camp in the dark--a true mountaineering finish! The non-SHR party had had a great day climbing the Golden Staircase--not a pass per-se, but still an impressive, steep climb--rugged enough that it was the final segment of the current JMT to be finished. It was too bad that we would be spending so little time at this ideal location. But, despite the climbing we had all done today, we would be facing two 12,000' passes tomorrow. Fortunately, we were able to sleep very well and get rested at our all-too-temporary home.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 21, 2014 08:56PM
This had been a rather horrid day for me on a number of levels back in 2010. This time around, just the opposite - from the get-go to the end.. Just super nice...

However, it was sad to say goodbye to P this day! She was an absolutely fabulous trooper! She had had a tough backpacking season, and was concerned about making the distance so she would often start off early, take shorter breaks, and whatnot, but she'd ALWAYS join us in camp, never really delayed! She is so strong and again her amazing attitude was an inspiration to me. We would have worked harder at fixing her gear issues, but she had to leave at Kearsarge anyway, and hitching from South Lake is much easier than from Kearsarge, so Bishop Pass made sense. Don't feel sorry for her, she needed to get home so she could go on a trip to the Wind River Range! (Those folks had set up their trip before we'd set up our JMT trip!)

Anyway, when we took off, we knew that M, L and I would take the trail, but we weren't sure when L would catch up with us after leaving her sister, J, with the SHR group. (Following all the initials? We didn't make trail names.) M and I were quite happy to be on our own together and were happily chatting and enjoying the lovely scenery in Le Conte canyon (sublime morning meadow scenes with families of deer, birds, squirrels - a true Disney-fest of creatures) and then later Palisade Creek canyon. Not long after turning up Palisade Creek, L caught up with us. We looked for a spot to soak, and managed to find a decent spot in the creek, but a relatively crappy shore, so staging wasn't fun, but the creek had a nice pool and rocks for leaning into to lie down upon and let the water run over us. And the water was deliciously cold - just right for me! This was miles better than the shallow, muddy, treesy spot we had used in 2010.

Back on the trail, we leap frogged with a couple that the H party (L and J) had run into before. P and C (different C than on Bear Creek). They were curious and had questions which ended up being directed at me. They were from SF, and were very nice. (Should have gotten their contact info.) They were on the same schedule as we were and eventually said they wanted to hike with us, but I warned them I was slow, but steady... P commented that he knew we were steady because they'd been consistently running into the H party over the days. Turns out I was too slow on the uphills for them, and they took off after a bit, which was fine. We liked them, but I don't like feeling pressured to go faster than I want to, so I was fine saying goodbye. M was happy to go my pace, so we settled back into our routine. L had kept going when we stopped to chat with C and P. In talking with L earlier, I found out she'd been having blister problems, so I understood her desire to just keep walking.

Though warm, the canyon and the Golden Staircase was not nearly as hot as my previous trip in 2010, and I was most thankful. Though we got water at the final crossing of Glacier Creek's strands, I think I should have made sure we both picked up more water there. Access to the creek when you start heading up isn't that great. There are a couple of spots that aren't too bad... but it took longer than I'd liked.. and there was so much more up to do in the blazing sun... As we were topping out, I was really hoping we'd hit easy water as I was almost out... I wasn't really rationing, figuring I'd do better to keep myself hydrated and take a hike to the creek as necessary when I ran out. I was truly happy though, when we leveled out and had a crossing with easy water! That Golden Staircase is really a piece of work.. pretty steady grade though, and though it was work, seemed easier than I remembered it. Probably because it wasn't as hot. In any case, any time we wanted a break, the views *every* which way were rewarding and it was never a true hardship to go up that lovely trail.

We'd been in touch with L on the radio, and she had settled to rest as soon as she hit the lower lake. As did everyone else, it seemed! So many people! We recognized a few from the trail, but P and C were not there, I figured they'd kept moving because, iirc, they wanted to get over Mather that day... though I told them that it would be a haul to find a decent campsite on the other side. M and I did not stop, but kept moving to the campsite that Basilbop and I had thought would be nice. L wasn't far behind, though she had to warm back up for the climb up from Lower Palisade Lake. We heard on the radio where the SHR group was, and I figured they'd be hauling in a bit late... M and I kept going and luckily, the area where we thought would be nice for camping was free and we were able to be picky and found a truly excellent campsite! I managed to soak my lower body in the creek between the two lakes and was in piggy heaven again.

I had a very relaxing evening chatting with M and L. Though this was only my second trip with L, I told her I just loved her attitude and would love to do future trips with her! Sadly, she lives a fair distance away, so who knows how often we'll meet, but L, if you read this, know that you were a huge part of making this trip wonderful!

Dinner by headlamp with my hubby and great friends in a stunning location... it really doesn't get better!
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 21, 2014 09:36PM
You're killing me.

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 21, 2014 09:47PM
Awesome. Brings back good memories. I went the wrong way on Potluck and ended up doing some class 3 BS. The outlet of Lower Palisade Lake is one of my favorite spots on the JMT.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 22, 2014 03:53PM
I went the wrong way on Potluck and ended up doing some class 3 BS.

Did you miss the ledge system that leads from the pass to the scree slope? When the Twinkie addict and I did it, he insisted on not going up the scree slope, so we had to work some class 3-ish stuff to the north...
Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 23, 2014 10:30PM
Yeah, I never walked on any scree. Went up a switchback of grass ramps up the middle/right, then up some class 3-ish ledges from there. It wasn't awful but there was one hard move to overcome a 6 foot gap between ledges.
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 9 - Knapotluque Passes
August 24, 2014 09:08AM

After passing the smaller lake, we continued to the larger one, which is about as far west in the basin as the Great Pink One and I had traveled.

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