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Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC

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Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 15, 2012 08:58PM
My social experiment with two friends that I've backpacked with in the past (varying from four times with one, once with the other, and previously little acquainted) was sorely put to the test on the off-trail path from near Lake Nelson to the Sunrise High Sierra Campsite. I gather from my reading here that there is a route that connects Matthes Lake and the Echo Creek canyon west of Nelson Lake (certainly looked impassable from our p.o.v.), but I did not find any indication of a trail per se, but in fact we had to tree-bash our way for some two or three miles (felt like five) from near Nelson Lake to connect to the Cathedral Creek trail. But I would certainly welcome any comment 'advising' me of my failure to find and follow the right pathway or trail - and hopefully illuminate the way for others attempting this route - hopefully with means-tested friends.

We made pretty good time starting just past noon from the Elizabeth Lake TH, even with a nice Greek lunch at E.L., and were following a good use trail down the canyon to where it opens up widely, when the trail literally went cold onto a rocky ridge. The mozzies were already thick enough to persuade us that the extra mile to Nelson Lake would not be so pleasant, so we pitched a camp near the creek. In the a.m., we thought we'd pick up the use trail again by wandering vaguely downhill and slightly switchbacking, but gravity seemed to outweigh the challenge of tree-bashing uphill and west more than south, where I vaguely thought we needed to be heading. We had a Tom Harrison map, some printouts from Google Earth and Google terrain view, and two USGS maps - but little agreement on what was what. And not helped when the USGS map went walkies.

Eventually, we came out of the Echo Creek valley, and no more tall rocky domes or walls on our west, so we got across Cathedral Creek and found the trail. After all that wonderful wilderness, the relative civilization (pit toilets, especially) of the Sunrise HSC was tremendously welcome to all of us, but 11 hours on the trail that day, with probably only 30 minutes net of pauses and breaks was seriously crazy. I'm certain it should have been no more than six hours.

After that, two of us spent a (long) day ascending Cloud's Rest (excellent!) (except for the 21st C. annoyance of a malfunctioning digital camera, and no smart phone) and returning to a curiously vacated HSC, before hiking out (with gratuitous swims in Sunrise and later...) to Tenaya Lake. I meant to include a few photos but put them on Panoramio instead - see Andy Why pics along this route ( :-( - no CR!).
avatar Re: Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 16, 2012 07:10AM
Quote
Andy Why
My social experiment with two friends that I've backpacked with in the past (varying from four times with one, once with the other, and previously little acquainted) was sorely put to the test on the off-trail path from near Lake Nelson to the Sunrise High Sierra Campsite. I gather from my reading here that there is a route that connects Matthes Lake and the Echo Creek canyon west of Nelson Lake (certainly looked impassable from our p.o.v.), but I did not find any indication of a trail per se, but in fact we had to tree-bash our way for some two or three miles (felt like five) from near Nelson Lake to connect to the Cathedral Creek trail. But I would certainly welcome any comment 'advising' me of my failure to find and follow the right pathway or trail - and hopefully illuminate the way for others attempting this route - hopefully with means-tested friends.

There's no trail from Nelson to Matthes or from Matthes onward, its cross-country. Here's a recent thread where that route was discussed (question was about taking it in the opposite direction), I have a link in that thread to a trip report from last year, Chick-On has a link to a trip he and Bearproof did earlier this year (I went the normal route to Matthes, Chick-On and Bearproof went to the south from Matthes).
Re: Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 16, 2012 07:36PM
This would be the reason I plan 12 mile days when on trail, and half that (or less) when off. You just don't know. Might be crawling over downed trees, might be clear sailing.... but cross country usually doubles the time you spend hiking.
Re: Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 17, 2012 08:41AM
I agree, We figure on 2 miles an hour on the trail. We rarely exceed one MPH off trail



Balzaccom

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avatar Re: Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 17, 2012 11:45AM
Don't know about Nelson to Matthes Lake. From Matthes to Echo Lake is moderate cross country, just follow the creeks below the end of Matthes Crest. If you are looking for the trail from Sunrise to Merced just cross Cathedral Creek, go another 100'-150', then turn south. You will run right into it.
Re: Trip Report: Nelson Lake to Sunrise HSC
July 17, 2012 09:41PM
Hey, thanks everyone for chipping in their thoughts and links. We didn't have Matthes Lake as a destination, we just wanted the quickest route from Nelson to Sunrise HSC (we actually thought we'd make it in a day to the creek between Sunrise Lakes and Cloud's Rest! Fools!). I guess I just thought that if there was a sign posted at the Elizabeth Lake TH saying "Sunrise HSC - 9.6" there might be at least a use trail and some experienced folks who found it and did the distance from Nelson to Sunrise in less than 11 hours. I myself found the way-finding to be fairly modest for tree-bashing (but no trees were harmed in the making of this route), and rewarding in a certain way, except for the constant complaining of my compadres: "You promised us a trail!" Me: "I just promised you an adventure!" (followed by "you can't just draw a line on a map and call it a trail" - to which I agreed, while thinking the route was still viable). I should really add that the obstacles we encountered were very modest.
Matthes & Echo Lakes must be nice, but are pretty clearly modest off-trail excursions compared to the distance between Nelson and the Cathedral Creek trail. (I see references to the "Echo Creek" trail, but this appears to refer to the trail along Cathedral Creek between Echo Valley and Echo Lake; seems to me that "the Echo Creek trail" was the long route we took following gravity from near Nelson along Echo Creek).
Well, if anyone follows our route (unlikely), maybe they'll find a couple of soggy USGS maps of the area we lost - :-( - and get some new benefit from them. Still less likely would be a Nalgene-type water jug.cool smiley
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