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Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco

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Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 06, 2012 08:46PM
This is a trip I had been planning for quite awhile. Unfortunately, my wife could not come along due to her continuing ankle recovery, but on the bright side, I was joined by someone else who was crazy enough to spend nine days in the Sierra, mostly off-trail and who shares her enthusiasm for the High Sierra. The tl;dr version of the route was: Roper's Sierra High Route (SHR) from Roads End (in Kings Canyon) to Palisade Basin, then back to Upper Basin, down "Muro Blanco", and back to Roads End via Paradise Valley/Mist Falls.

The first day started with a long drive from the Bay Area, then a big climb from Roads End (5000') to Grouse Lake (10,500') with packs loaded with 9+ days of food. It was slow going (for me), and at times I didn't think I'd make it: too much weight and not enough energy, but I felt a bit better as we ascended, especially once in the open area of Upper Tent Meadow. Not great, just better...



Near the top we were taking each switchback one at a time, resting between each one. Eventually we reached the ridge where the trail drops to Glacier Lake and Pass, and we started the first cross-country segment: a short mile-long stroll to Grouse Lake. We (I?) arrived at the lake with nothing left, but it was worth it.



The next day, recharged a bit, but packs still heavy, we crossed the relatively easy Grouse Lake Pass and strolled through beautiful, open country towards Goat Crest Saddle, with views of Granite Lake in the distance.



From the saddle, we could see the upper Glacier Lake and, in the distance, the dark mountains surrounding the Ionian Basin and Enchanted Gorge (an early potential goal we decided to save for another trip...).



From there the route drops to a second Glacier Lake, then enters Glacier Valley which has two nice meadows. Past these we picked up the lightly-used trail to the State and Horseshoe Lakes.



Past the Horseshoe Lakes, we were off-trail again, climbing to our next campsite at Windy Ridge.



The next day we dropped into the South Fork of Cartridge Creek via Grey Pass, then followed a chain of tarns and lakes eventually to White Pass.



At White Pass we encountered a ranger, the first person we had seen since above Upper Tent Meadow. The next destination from White Pass was clear: Red Pass, just south of Red Point.



The drop to Marion Lake was unrelenting, but was rough really only at the final drop into the lake, which descended a rocky notch:



While Marion Lake was wonderful, as advertised, we decided to push on to the more open Lake Basin, camping on granite slabs near the L-shaped lake.



The next day involved a "crux" of the trip, one of the two or three hardest passes of the SHR: Frozen Lake Pass. After exploring a few more of the lakes of Lake Basin and checking out parts of the old Cartridge Pass trail, we started the climb to this pass. The pass was difficult only in that it involved a lot of (mostly solid) talus, especially on the north side. Despite looking like a wall from the north and south, Frozen Lake Pass has little actual exposure.



Once at the pass, we enjoyed the views of Upper Basin.



After spending the night on the north side of Mather Pass, above the Upper Palisade Lake, we explored the two Palisade Lakes a bit before beginning the climb to the next pass on the SHR: Cirque Pass. By the time we were at this pass, clouds were forming (later, we would learn that a monsoonal system had entered the area...)



From Cirque Pass, we descended granite shelves and ledges to the large lake between this pass and the next one: Potluck Pass. We took a bit of a variation on the Roper route (I think it was the "Super Chick-On route"winking smiley, but managed to find the "hidden" ledges near the top of the pass, where we had views of the Palisade peaks (esp. North Pal. and Polemonium) and Palisade Basin.



On the small ridge in Pal. Basin we considered stopping for the night, but decided to push on to explore some other Barrett Lakes. We preferred our campsite on the ridge, and managed to loop back to it and get our shelters piteched just as the rain started. The rain stopped later in the evening, in time for sunset, but it rained a bit more during the night. Long ago, my original plan for this trip was to exit via Dusy Basin/South Pass, but the current plan was to backtrack to Upper Basin and return to Roads End via Muro Blanco. That night, we both worried about re-crossing the granite ledges of Potluck and Cirque in the rain--if that would even be possible...



In fact, the next morning was mostly clear, and we had no problem returning to the Palisade Lakes.



Clouds formed again, and we encountered light sprinkles going up Mather Pass. As with the previous night, we managed to get our shelters pitched near the large lake in Upper Basin just as a brief shower started.



The next day we decided to visit a few more lakes in Upper Basin. Just after leaving the lake due west of Split Mountain, we noticed dark clouds invading Upper Basin, and soon had on our rain gear.





The storm was cold and windy, but by the time we were near the trail, it had passed and the sun was out again.



Just past the Taboose Pass junction, the JMT takes a hard left turn to cross the S. Fork Kings River. Several logs are piled up here so you won't be mistaken that the trail goes straight. In fact, long ago, before the current Mather Pass route was completed, the still-visible and blazed trail past these logs was a segment of the JMT, continuing over Cartridge Pass, through Lake Basin, just past Marion Lake, then down Cartridge Creek. to the Middle Fork of the Kings River, just upstream from Simpson Meadow. On the map this abandoned trail continues past the Cartridge Pass junction, but we quickly lost it.

Beyond it is what is called a "classic Sierra bushwhack": the canyon of Muro Blanco, otherwise known as simply "Muro Blanco". (Muro Blanco itself is technically the name of the south canyon wall...)

Muro Blanco is a fun mix of talus and often-thick brush. Progress is often easiest on the talus. When that fails, second best is the river itself--a convenient trick that works only when the water is low. The brush, on the other hand, is often thick and hard to make much progress through.



After a few miles of talus/brush/river walking, we found a nice campsite on the south side of the river and stopped for the night.



Early on, we had plans of reaching Roads End by day-end, but Muro Blanco got the best of us. The first half was very beautiful, so we spent a lot of time taking pictures of the various domes, spires, cascades, and waterfalls.









As the afternoon progressed, the routefinding became a bit more intricate, and we often found ourselves boulder-hopping in the river, that being the most expedient option available. We realized that we would not be able to reach Roads End by nightfall. (Note that even with ideal conditions--no snow and low water--Muro Blanco almost definitely isn't the fastest way from the JMT at the South Fork (or even the base of Cartridge Pass) to Pleasant Valley. Instead, go over Pinchot Pass and descend Woods Creek...)



We eventually hit the trail in upper Paradise Valley and decided to push onward to the campground at Lower Paradise. We briefly considered (again) exiting that evening, but decided instead to spend the night in the calm, peaceful, and mild campsite. By this time we were mostly out of food and could take only a few more pictures due to empty batteries and/or full memory cards.

The hike out to Roads End the next day was uneventful. All in all, it had been a great trip, with wonderful companionship and beautiful scenery. I think we saw maybe four people total off-trail, and probably 10x that while on trail.

Oh, and we kept encountering these two strange birds that seemed to be everywhere...



(Many) More Pictures
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 06, 2012 09:17PM
Wow. That must have been quite the experience. Thanks for the pictures and the trip report. What did your pack weigh in at on day one?
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 06, 2012 10:26PM
Thanks for your trip report and the additional photos. Enjoyed viewing all the photos!

(And it looks like your Chick-on Trap™ finally worked once you substituted a cupcake for the Twinkie. Who would've thunk it?)

.
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 07, 2012 03:22AM
Looks like you had a good time. Thanks for posting. Great pics !
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 07, 2012 07:10AM
Nice write-up and pics, thanks! Definitely stuff to file away for possible future trips.
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 07, 2012 04:24PM
Awesome. Thanks so much for posting. Great adventure.
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 07, 2012 04:58PM
great pictures, looks like fun
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 07, 2012 06:37PM
Just out of curiosity. Is the name Basilbop from this Basil Bop the Burper book?
http://nswagtc.org.au/reviews/younger-readers/668-basil-bop-the-burper.html
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 09, 2012 09:39PM
Nope... Basil is the name of a real African Gray parrot. When he first learned how to talk, he called himself "Basil Bop"... no burping involved (although he could mimic that and most other sounds quite faithfully...)
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 10, 2012 10:39AM
Wondered about the name for a while. Thanks for all of the great posts.
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 08, 2012 07:35AM
Tanks for Sharon

Looks like I had a fun time. smiling smiley

(and special thanks for the coffee on two mornings)

Toreo - it's just not possible to go ultralight on self-contained 9 day trip.
Pretty sure basil does not weigh his pack. I don't have a scale at home
and only know my food with bear protection was easily > 15 pounds.
(a box of cupcakes is worth it... wink )



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 08, 2012 09:09AM
Great photos! Looks like an awesome trip.
Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 08, 2012 08:02PM
For those who are curious... I just checked and my "base weight" (everything except consumables--food and fuel used) was approx. 23 lbs. (This excludes several "on-the-body" items: shirt, pants, sun hat, trekking poles, shoes, socks, underwear, bandana...) The pack weight includes two cameras, spare batteries, extra lens, and several gadgets and gizmos (GPS, SPOT, sat. phone, Kindle, iPod Touch, Nexus 7, and extra power). It also includes one stuffed parrot :-) For food protection I borrowed a Bearikade Expedition. I didn't weigh the food, but I would estimate it was 12-15 lbs, of which all but maybe 1 lb. was consumed. I used about 6 oz. of fuel. I carried 2 liters of water from Roads End since the first reliable water is at Lower Tent Meadow--this is the most water I carried on the entire trip since elsewhere we were never that far from reliable water.

Due to the length of the trip, I carried rain gear (rain jacket, tent, pack cover) that I would omit on a shorter Sierra trip with zero chance of precip.

I think in future, shorter trips the Nexus could replace both the Kindle (nighttime reading) and iPod (SPOT messaging, navigation), although there seem to be a few power-draining bugs in its current OS (Media Services, what are you trying to do...?) that could cause problems.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/08/2012 08:48PM by basilbop.
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 09, 2012 09:00AM
Me purty sure you could leave the SPOT at home. With that back-a-pack-a-cova you can be SPOTted from Outta Space:



For fun, using my trusty 10lb Salter Scale I weighed everything I brought on this trip... and lo and behold... right at about 23 lbs base.
Base includes everything except food and water... (including fuel, bear cans, cupcake holder, solar charger, camera + batts, gps, etc. etc.)



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 10, 2012 11:01AM
You mentioned bear cans in the plural. Was that one large one plus your small BearBoxer?
avatar Re: Sierra High Route - Roads End to Palisade Basin; Muro Blanco
September 10, 2012 09:29PM
Quote
tomdisco
You mentioned bear cans in the plural. Was that one large one plus your small BearBoxer?

I took a Garcia and an Ursack. We didn't see any bears ... only some scat I believe iirc around
State and Horseshoe Lakes and then in Pleasant Valley (we got asked about 5 times if we
had seen the bear(s)... at which point I'm pretty sure I said there were no bears. wink)



Chick-on is looking at you!
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