Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada’

Tea Time in the Palisades

June 25, 2012

The sun was blazing, the snow was melted, and the trail was mostly missing on our six-day circumnavigation around the Palisades Range in the California Sierra Nevada.  Before leaving the city, we took a detour into Chinatown and bought special tea for our trip.  We made a video about the heady brew of mountaineering and tea:

Our route started at Big Pine (BP) Creek, west of Big Pine, California.  From the BP trailhead, we followed the south fork creek and camped at Elinore Lake.  On the second day, we crossed Scimitar Pass (which is not marked on all maps), took a tea break in Palisade Basin, and then crossed Cirque Pass and camped on a shelf below Palisade Lakes.  On the third day, we followed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Grouse Meadows in LeConte Canyon, where we enjoyed more tea took a zero day on the day 4.  On the fifth day, we climbed from Grouse Meadows into Dusy Basin and over Bishop Pass.  In the burning afternoon, we climbed Jigsaw Pass and camped near the outlet creek to the fifth Big Pine Lake on the north fork.  On the sixth day, we cruised downhill and visited the fourth, third, second, and first Big Pine Lakes, and then finally returned to the BP trailhead.

Scimitar Pass and Jigsaw Pass are both class 2-3 passes, and it was difficult to find comprehensive information about their conditions.  Some general information about cross-country Sierra passes has been collected here: http://sierrabackpacker.com/sierrapasses-new.htm

For Scimitar Pass, I wrote a detailed description on High Sierra Topix bulletin board: link here.

Most of my research about Scimitar came from Bob Burd’s website.  His reports and images were accurate: http://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports/palisade_crest_1.html

Bob traced a blue line on the map linked below.  This blue line generally follows a use trail across and around Willow Lake.  Once crossing to the north side of the creek (past Willow Lake), the use trail disappears.  At this point, boulder-hop along the creek; you may see cairns.
 http://www.snwburd.com/bob/maps/palisade_crest_1.html

On the approach to Scimitar Pass, Bob’s route goes up the right-hand slot (shown below).  However, I climbed the scree to the center-left.  I avoided the slot because I couldn’t determine it’s difficulty. http://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_photos/palisade_crest_1/DSC00013_w5.html

For Jigsaw Pass, I found good pictures at this Webshots collection: http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/186080531DwLfCi

. . .and I also found good data at Bob Burd’s website: http://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_photos/picture_puzzle_1/index_t.html

In general, when I climbed Jigsaw west-to-east, I chose the right side chute (indicated in this photo).  The scree looks crazy from below, but I stuck to the cliff wall and found plenty of hand holds to pull myself up the scree slide.  When I reached the thick white mineral band descending from Aperature Peak, the scree ended and the route continued on solid class 2+ rock (like a steep staircase).  About halfway up the chute, there are remnants of a rock switchback (once upon a time, there was a trail over Jigsaw Pass).  Basically, the top half of Jigsaw’s west side climb is straightforward and safe, although it looks crazy from below.  After reaching the pass, the descent down the east side is not difficult, per se, but it does involve seemingly endless boulder-hopping.  The best route is to follow the creek — sometimes boulder-hopping above the creek — all the way to the fifth Big Pine Lake.  There are cairns along the way, but they’re not really necessary.

Advertisements

Trekking in the Evolution Range

June 29, 2009

I just returned from a short trek through the Evolution Range in the California Sierra Nevada.  It’s a ruggedly beautiful landscape, and all the peaks are named for famous evolutionary biologists (Lamarck, Darwin, Mendel, Haeckel).  You can view my Flickr media here.

I think “evolution” is the theme of my 2009 summer, given my recent participation at the Evolution conference, my upcoming participation at Burning Man (the 2009 theme is “evolution”), and this recent wilderness trek in the Evolution Range.

Obscure notes for the future:

  • This year, patchy snow remained as low as 11,000 feet.  The switchbacks above Upper Lamarck Lake were snow-free, but the terraced plateau to Lamarck Col was mostly buried.
  • In the midday sun, the snow over Lamarck Col was slushy and we did not need an ice axe.  I suspect a morning climb (when the snow is icy) would be dangerous without axe and crampons.
  • The cross-country route through Darwin’s Canyon is straightforward, but the boulder-climbing can be exhausting.
  • There exist many excellent campsites below Darwin’s Bench before Colby Meadow.
  • This year, the mosquitos were active in Evolution Meadow, but they weren’t insufferable.  Given the cold temperatures and auspicious lack of wilderflower blooms, I suspect we experienced an early mosquito hatching and later weeks will have bigger swarms.
  • My favorite campsite in McClure Meadow is beside the trail, west of the ranger station, near the outflow of the meadow.
  • The best place to ford Evolution Creek is in Evolution Meadow, not at the official PCT crossing.
  • An awesome campsite exists in Piute Canyon, on a southern-facing cliff about 2 miles downhill from Hutchinson Meadow.
  • Although most climbers approach Pilot Knob from the eastern saddle, you can also climb from the southeast face (and avoid climbing the saddle).  I suspect the southast face offers more sand and smaller boulders than the eastern ridge.