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Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning

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It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
June 06, 2011 10:06PM
Going through some old (and some not quite so old) pictures on yet another rainy weekend...

1) Red Peak Pass '05: https://picasaweb.google.com/basilbop/RedPeakPass05?feat=directlink

Not unlike this year, summer came a bit late in 2005, and my wife, friends, and I encounted 100% snow coverage crossing the Clark range. We started at the Ostrander Lake trailhead, camped at snow-covered Buena Vista lake, traversed the aptly-named Buena Vista Crest, then picked up the trail--under several feet of snow--near Merced Pass. After crossing Red Peak Pass, we left the trail above Red Devil Lake (also snow covered), descended to the Merced via beautiful Red Peak Fork, then returned to the valley via the Merced Lake trail. (Unlike Gray Peak Fork, the descent into the Merced from Red Peak fork is straightforward, at least on the east side of the creek.) The worst part: not the endless snow and suncups, but the high-water crossings below Ottoway Lake, whose outlet was easily waist deep--and freezing cold. A few years later, on a much drier 4th of July weekend, these crossings would be barely ankle-deep. This year will have lots of high-water crossings well into July--be careful!


2) Cherry Creek Canyon '08: https://picasaweb.google.com/basilbop/CherryCreekCanyon08?feat=directlink

Much like this year's trip, my first trip in '08 to Cherry Creek Canyon involved a late-season Memorial Day snowstorm. The rain at Shingle Springs quickly turned to snow by the time we were at the snow course marker; by the small tarn near Lookout Point there were several inches of snow all but obscuring the trail. Visibility was poor; we navigated by compass and GPS waypoint-hopping. Near the YNP border monument we encounted some disoriented backpackers leaving from Boundary Lake, but heading the wrong direction. We pushed on only becuase we believed that Lord Meadow, lower than Kibbie Ridge, would be snow-free, which it was. The next two days were classic Cherry Creek Canyon: granite traverses, bushwhacking, backtracking, and more bushwhacking. In retrospect, we were just trying to get down the canyon and missed a lot of it--such as Cherry Bomb Gorge, which we stayed quite far from.


3) Redwood Meadow Grove '11 https://picasaweb.google.com/basilbop/RedwoodMeadowGrove11?feat=directlink

Back in late April, when it seemed spring was just around the bend, I did a last-minute overnighter to Redwood Meadow Grove. (My wife, unfortunately, had to stay home due to a cracked rib...) I've done the Alta Meadow and High Sierra trails, so in many ways this trail was oddly familiar, crossing those middle-fork "friends" Panther, Mehrten, and Buck creeks. After crossing the Middle Fork Kaweah River, I took the park service's advice and went left, on the theory that it's easier to cross Eagle Scout Creek alone than the combined flow of it and Granite Creek without a bridge. This was perhaps true, but the only significant snow I encountered was along this upper trail. Redwood Meadow was nice--I would have preferred a more open location with views, but there is something special about camping under giant sequoias. Fearing that the snow traverses along the upper route would be too firm to cross in the morning, I returned via the lower route, locating an icy log across Granite Creek that others had informed me about. (No pride: I butt-scooted across the log...) The weather was almost hot by the time I was back at Panther Creek. This hike offers an odd combination of foothill and "High Sierra" scenery and provides an unusual opportunity for a long-ish early-season trip in the Sierra, since most of it is below snowline. It's definitely on the list...

For park service history buffs, Redwood Meadow Grove was a stop on Stephen Mather's infamous mountain party excursion. The grove was privately owned then, but Mather solved that problem, as typical, by writing a check. This is the trip that ultimately resulted in the Kern drainage being added to Sequoia National Park. Oddly, some in the party then had concerns that this High Sierra backcountry didn't "fit in" with the big trees frontcountry the park was known for. At the end the party went north for the opening of the no-longer-a-toll-road (yep, Mather wrote a check for it...) Tioga Road.


4) Wapama Falls '11 https://picasaweb.google.com/basilbop/WapamaFalls11?feat=directlink

My wife still recovering at home, and the forecast calling for light snow above 5500', this was supposed to be a quick, low-stress overnighter. Saturday was beautiful, and I confirmed for myself that Tueeulala Fall's water comes from Falls Creek overflowing its banks when Tueeulala is more than a drip. Sunday morning was oddly quiet in the tent due to several inches of new snow covering it--there was almost a foot at the Beehive trail. I had a GPS track to guide me back, but I should have just followed the deer and bear prints--they clearly knew the way better than I did. The hike out in the fresh snow was beautiful, and there were a few glances at Hetch Hetchy that reminded me of one of Bierstadt's paintings of the then-undammed valley. The snow level had in fact been much lower than forecast: the road from the dam to Mather was closed briefly due to plowing, and even Groveland had patches of snow.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
June 06, 2011 10:33PM
Awesome pictures! I really enjoyed the Redwood Meadow one. I always wondered how you could get there from the bottom. Lots of poison oaks and ticks I'm guessing.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2011 10:33PM by rightstar76.
avatar Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
June 07, 2011 07:26AM
Redwood Mdw has a trail right to it. Somehow I didn't take a picture of the cabin there tho.
Explored the meadow so I'm slightly confused why I didn't.
Legal camping right next to Sequoias. Pretty cool. Old Dude, the misses, and I were
there back in '03. Last time we had ever had a campfire (we got rained on a few days straight).
Here's a couple of photos of The Old Dude in action that I love:
https://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/MoreJunk#5615482522410943458
https://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/MoreJunk#5615482547581607650

Thanks for sharing Aaron. Great stuff. Lots of really great routes. Actually contemplated
two of those for this coming weekend. Prob. just end up at frozen Ostrander and do
some exploring, all depends on what can CONvince the wife into. wink

Thanks again



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 11, 2011 06:28PM
Very nice pictures, thanks. I'm thinking of doing something similar to your Red Peak Pass route in a couple of weeks, if the high water crossings and snow are tolerable. It looks like you had mostly snow along the Buena Vista Crest traverse, but assuming the snow is mostly gone, would you anticipate anything harder than class 2 scrambling on this portion of your route? I notice an ice axe in one of your campsite picks -- did it come in handy on Red Peak Pass? I ask because the person in your pictures appears to be using just trekking poles. Also, did you use crampons or microspikes on the pass? Finally, I see that Secor describes Red Peak Fork as easy cross country hiking, but he also talks about crossing the Merced at the junction. I assume you must have walked upstream to the footbridge instead, right?
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 11, 2011 09:41PM
Actually, the Buena Vista traverse was mostly snow-free between Buena Vista lake and Merced Pass since it's south-facing and generally open. There was, however, deep snow around Buena Vista lake and between the saddle north of Moraine Mountain to, well, just below Red Devil Lake. The traverse is mostly a hands-in-the-pockets walk; the only rough spot is some talus at the part of the crest south of the Hoover Lakes--the best bet is to drop down (south) off the crest to avoid it. The creek crossings on the trail from the Merced Pass trail to Ottoway Lake were all swift and deep when we did it, and I imagine conditions now are similar to--or worse than--when we did the trip. There was a log upstream of the first major crossing--broken, but workable. The second--the Ottoway Lake outlet--was a waist-deep ford that wasn't too swift.

We did bring ice axes, which we mostly used on the north side of Red Peak Pass. In hindsight, they were not needed--the snow was soft. We brought CMI instep crampons, which worked well. Based on my trip this weekend, I would use something with "real" crampon teeth (CMI, Camp 6 Punte, Kathoola KTS) and not "microspikes" or similar--I don't think the microspikes do well on steep, soft snow (but they are great on flatter surfaces and ice...) Be prepared for miles of deep, nasty suncups.

Red Peak fork is an easy cross-country descent; there are a few "friction slab" areas where it drops into the Merced canyon, but nothing technical. We hiked upstream to the bridge to cross the Merced. There were a few logs that looked like they could have been used, but why risk it... It's a bit of a bushwhack--and a surprising amount of climbing--to get to the bridge.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 11, 2011 10:05PM
Thanks a million for the info. It sounds like the crux will be the Merced Pass to Ottoway Lake creek crossings, assuming that the suncups don't wear us down first. The Buena Vista Crest looks like it will be much fun. We'll be flexible and save Red Peak Pass for another day if it starts to look like it will be too much of a slog to get up there.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 12, 2011 01:27PM
Red Peak Pass wasn't all that difficult or dangerous, compared to the steam crossings below Ottoway Lake. However, if you have never been over the pass, I would recommend waypointing the trail and using a GPS--it doesn't go over a particularly obvious low-point. You might be able to make out bits of the trail rockwork sticking out from the snow near the pass, at least from the south, but who knows this year... It is also easy to lose the trail north of the pass until approx. 10,200', but it should be obvious once it starts descending to the lakes south of Red Devil.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 12, 2011 02:20PM
Thanks for the waypointing advice -- sounds like an excellent idea. I'm glad to hear that Red Peak Pass isn't extremely hairy. I suppose if we are able to make it as far as Lower Ottoway we'll give it a go.
avatar Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 12, 2011 02:02PM
Haha, wow if I didn't know better I'd say that was my camp at Wapama in picture #14 as we have all the same gear:
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 - Check
Platypus Bag - Check
Aquafina bottle for water - Check
Neo Air - Check (although this season I just switched to the Exped UL7 which I like much better)
Bearvault small canister - Check

It appeared the only difference was the hiking poles and the backpack. How'd the UL2 do in snow? I've been curious as to how it would hold up...

Anyways, thank you for sharing the pictures! It was really cool to see places that I know somewhat well, but haven't experienced in the snow.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 12, 2011 03:20PM
The Fly Creek did OK in the snow, but it is a small tent, so it was a challenge to pack up in the morning while it was snowing. The fly did sag a bit and touched the inner walls, and I never could get a satisfactory pitch, especially with the side pullouts. Once everything in the tent was a packed--while in the tent--I had to pack the tent itself, and it was hard to keep the inner tent dry while fiddling the poles out from under the fly. The entire tent was soaked by the time It was packed. I would also consider the UL2 a solo tent (or maybe for two if the partner is a stuffed chicken...)--it would be very tight for two adults.

In the future, I would take my Black Diamond Megalite instead for snowy conditions--even for a solo trip, there is enough room inside to stow all gear, cook, sleep, or do packing while it's raining or snowing outside. It is also easier for me to pack the Megalite while it is raining, and even if the canopy does wet out, the tent is large enough that two can sleep in it without touching the walls. The Megalite is also lighter (24 oz. If you use your own poles) and is much more roomy. Maybe in buggy conditions I would take the Fly Creek, but I think I would lean towards the Double Rainbow (Tarptent) for mosquito season in the Sierra.

The Crazy Creek chair, on the other hand, is a guilty pleasure that is hard to keep behind during the final gear adjustment at the trailhead...
avatar Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 12, 2011 03:40PM
basilbop, thank you much for the info. I had assumed that it might have some issues in the snow. Its not one that is really quick or easy to pack back up. Most of the time on the way out I end up just stuffing it all in my pack in a big ball and letting it air dry in my garage. Believe me I am aware of how small it really is. I spent a day and a half in it during a rainstorm in Cherry Canyon. And no matter how close to someone I am, the UL2 is a solo tent for me as well. My other complaint is that it is not really a true "freestanding" tent, as in you have to have it guyed out during a rainstorm or else everything inside will be soaked with condensation. Even with those complaints, I would still purchase it again. If I expect rain, I'll definitely throw it in the pack. If its less than 30% chance, I'll just throw the Marmot Bivy sack in the pack.

I tried the Crazy Creek Chair and I just wasn't a huge fan. I like to be off the ground a little bit. One of my few indulgences is carrying an old school aluminum lawn chair, like one of the ones that were popular in the 70s. Sure I hate those extra 2 pounds uphill, but its like having a lazyboy when you get to your camp... Hah, so if you ever see someone with one of those strapped to their pack, it's probably me or someone I know.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 29, 2011 06:53PM
I just returned from doing a variation of your trip 1) above, staying at Hart Lakes instead of Buena Vista Lake but otherwise following your route more or less exactly. Buena Vista Crest and the Red Peak Fork were snow-free and the hiking was a delight (except for that spot of brushy talus on the Buena Vista Crest that you warned about and which I dropped down to avoid).
Since snow, melted and otherwise, is still on people's minds, here's an update. The creek crossings on this route are no longer anything to speak of:


Lower Ottoway Lake outlet

There was only patchy snow at Lower Ottoway but Upper Ottoway was still 80% frozen over. There were only a few hundred yards of snow to cross on the south side of Red Peak Pass and the steep part was thankfully completely clear:

Red Peak Pass from the south

However, the north side was a different story:

Top of Red Peak Pass, looking north (July 26)


Rather large snow "cups." Red Devil Lake in distance.

Most of the Red Peak Fork descent was a literal walk in the park, but there was one spot near the end that did give me slight pause:

Friction slab

All in all, the whole route was a lot of fun. Thanks again for your original writeup.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/29/2011 07:12PM by druid.
avatar Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 29, 2011 07:04PM
I fixed the links to your photographs.

Quote
druid

I just returned from doing a variation of your trip 1) above, staying at Hart Lakes instead of Buena Vista Lake but otherwise following your route more or less exactly. Buena Vista Crest and the Red Peak Fork were snow-free and the hiking was a delight (except for that spot of brushy talus on the Buena Vista Crest that you warned about and which I dropped down to avoid).

Since snow, melted and otherwise, is still on people's minds, here's an update. The creek crossings on this route are no longer anything to speak of:


Lower Ottoway Lake outlet

There was only patchy snow at Lower Ottoway but Upper Ottoway was still 80% frozen over. There was only a few hundred yards of snow to cross on the south side of Red Peak Pass and the steep part was thankfully completely clear:
Red Peak Pass from the south

However, the north side was a different story:

Top of Red Peak Pass, looking north (July 26)


Rather large snow "cups." Red Devil Lake in distance.

Most of the Red Peak Fork descent was a literal walk in the park, but there was one spot near the end that did give me slight pause:


Friction slab

All in all, the whole route was a lot of fun. Thanks again for your original writeup.


Thanks for the trip report and photographs. Always enjoy reading and seeing how people's backpacking trips went.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/29/2011 07:05PM by plawrence.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 29, 2011 07:08PM
Wow, that was quick work. I just edited the original post but you beat me to it. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

More pictures



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2011 12:07PM by druid.
Re: It-Should-Be-Spring-By-Now Cleaning
July 29, 2011 10:15PM
It looks like you had decent conditions (given how strange this year has been). Glad you enjoyed the trip, and thanks for posting the pictures!
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