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Re: Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me

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Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me
September 13, 2015 08:08PM
Note: This trip was August 14-16, 2015. Apologies for the backlog; I've been busy...

Friday evening, I was once again at a familiar trailhead, with a rather unfamiliar cloud formation overhead.

A stiff breeze blew from the southwest, but I had a short hike in, and I fortunately found a campsite with a large rock that provided decent protection from the wind.

The wind fortunately died down a bit that night, although a few strong gusts did wake me up.

More Pictures

After breakfast and packing, I headed back towards not-so-Secret Lake.

Unfortunately, in the other direction I could see smoke from a fire just past the Dana Plateau--which we would learn much later was the Walker Fire.

By taking various ramps to the left of Secret Lake Pass, I was soon on the ridge separating Twenty Lakes Basin from the McCabe Lakes.

Not surprisingly, the advance party was enjoying a pancake breakfast near the far shore of upper McCabe lake.

I'm told that they had hung a green quilt over the orange tent, which is why it's not visible...

The climb down from Secret Lake Pass was straightforward, but I took my time due to the loose rocks and gravel on this steep route.

Once at the bottom of the steep descent, it was a nice stroll across the meadow to the lake.

While there was apparently a use trail that went around the lake, I chose the "by sea" alternative to get to camp.

As I neared the far shore, the others were getting their boats--and other things--into the lake.

In case of emergency, the pink bird can be used as a PFD.

We let the breeze push us to the far shore of the lake, then returned to camp on foot.

We decided to day-hike--and day-boat--the other two McCabe lakes--then return to break camp before heading to our final destination.

We walked over a small rise to get to the middle lake.

The wind had picked up a bit, so we went to the "up-wind" side of the lake and floated across it.

Some things never get old.

On the small beach on the downwind shore we had lunch.

After that, we headed down to the lower lake and did pretty much the same thing, crossing it with the help of the wind.

We took a slightly easier route back to camp, passing by a few small tarns.

Unfortunately, once we got a view over Secret Lake Pass, we could see that whatever fire I had seen in the morning had grown quite large.

After packing, we headed towards our destination for the night: over "Don't Be A Smart Pass" then down to Roosevelt Lake.

We had to cross some blocky talus to get around the lake, and the strong gusts of wind threatened to unbalance the lighter one in our party, but this would in fact be the worst talus we'd experience; the pass, by comparison, was mostly sandy and grassy.

We made good time climbing the pass; a good use trail leads most of the way up the north side--although it perhaps would be under a snowfield in early season in non-dry years.

Looking back, the smoke from the fire was quite dark--but so far seemed to be keeping to the other side of the Sierra crest.

We looked back one last time at McCabe lake before turning towards Roosevelt Lake.

Roosevelt is a large lake and seemed quite far away, but the walk to it looked to be a nice stroll.

In fact, the path passed through grassy meadows and followed small streams. In places, flowers were still in bloom.

Above us to the east loomed Mt. Conness.

There was still a good, stiff wind, and behind us the brown smoke clouds seemed to be growing.

Slowly we approached the very large lake just as the late-day shadows started to cross it. Looking towards the Cathedral Range, we could see smoke from a few small fires.

...and in the distance a familiar landmark. I'm such a hack...

Once we reached the shore, the breeze and late hour ruled out any thoughts of one last boating expedition.

We headed quickly to the far end of the lake, chasing the last light of day.

As we neared the outlet, Mt. Conness started to look more familiar.

From camp, we looked back at "Smarty Pass" and could see that the thick smoke had invaded the McCabe lake basin--bopping over to Roosevelt had been a wise decision.

Despite the breeze, the air up higher looked remarkably calm, and the various contrails and other wispy clouds lingered long into the evening.

After dinner, we were greeted with a wonderful sunset, the peaks behind us bathed in warm, red and orange light.

The next morning was clear and not quite as windy--in fact, the lake was remarkably smooth.

We were surprised that there appeared to be another party boating the lake; later we would learn that they were naturalists removing fish from the various nets that had been placed around the lake to de-fishify it. They informed us that the fire had closed the Tioga Road between the Saddlebag Lakes road and Lee Vining.

Since the conditions were ideal, we decided to boat across the lake and back, putting in some serious arm-paddling miles in the process.

Neither are considered water fowl.

The lake did have a few shallow rocks and islands--one of which seemed to be popular with the local birds.

...and visitors

After returning to camp and packing, we left the wonderful lake--for this time.

We walked through a nice meadow around the south, iconic face of Mt. Conness.

To the south was Ragged Peak and the Young Lakes, which we had visited in late fall, when there was still some hope for snow.

We encountered a bit of talus rounding the south side of Mt. Conness, but it wasn't too bad.

We stopped for lunch just short of the use trail--and former surveyor's trail--that leads from the Young Lakes area to the summit of Conness. Above it is a nice meadow where we filled up with water before our final climb back to the crest.

The climb to the crest was mostly nice except for some loose sand and gravel near the top. The views to the south improved as we climbed higher.

The descent from the crest was much more dicey, consisting of loose rock covered with looser gravel, an unfortunate result of the popularity of this approach to Mt. Conness. We made our way down slowly and carefully.

Eventually we were past the most treacherous section, which from below looked to be a vertical wall.

We made our way down to a nice meadow from which a prominent use trail leads back to the Carnegie Experimental Station and eventually the Sawmill Campground.

Of course, our fearless leader somehow managed to lose this trail, but the detour was worth it.

The smoke didn't seem to be as bad as the previous day, but it was apparent the fire was still going strong.

Since our cars were at the Saddlebag Lake trailhead, we had to head up the stream back to the dam, passing by a nice gorge.

When we arrived at our cars, a local sheriff's deputy was there to inform us of the road closure. He indicated we were lucky to be heading in the "right" direction, towards the park. In fact, eastbound traffic was being held up at the entrance station.

Despite the nearby fire, it had been another great trip, and we could add another four lakes to our "have boated it" list.

More Pictures
avatar Re: Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me
September 14, 2015 06:39AM
Nice pictures! Looks like the smoke mostly went above you? The first picture of Roosevelt Lake looks a bit hazy but the air looks clearer in the photos taken by the lake.
avatar Re: Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me
September 14, 2015 09:11AM
Awesome! Looks like a fantastic time. Thanks for the report.
Re: Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me
September 14, 2015 08:22PM
There have been sooo many amazing trips. We finally took this weekend off for a variety of reasons... and though I enjoyed resting at home... I missed being out there... and am looking forward to the next trip next weekend... smiling smiley

As for this one... wow. Lovely country, great company, fun exploring and boating. I worried about the smoke, but the guys maintained a positive attitude and our planned route turned out to be perfect. We kept one step ahead and never suffered. I look at these pictures and remember... and the pictures don't do the reality justice. Never really do.

Huge thanks to Chick-on and Basilbop for putting up with me when I screwed up my food intake and kinda bonked a couple of times. They were incredibly patient with me.

And when it came time to descend the really steep and slippery bit off the ridge next to Conness... well, they were fantastic!!!

Thanks to both of you for making this year, which one of the worst I've ever had in some respects, one of the best in so many other ways.
avatar Re: Twin Passes: Walk(er) Fire With Me
September 15, 2015 08:44PM
I've heard a bit about that loop. Great to see what the whole route looks like. Thanks for posting.
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