Nine Days in Sequoia/Kings Canyon

10:46 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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A couple years ago my niece saw a picture of the lowest lake on Picket Creek in Sequoia NP, and said that she wanted to go there.  This year I finally made plans to do it, but she couldn't make it because she got married a few weeks before the planned date.  But I went anyway; she can get me to take her there some other time.  This is the trip for which I invited people in the trip planning subforum.

We started at Crescent Meadow in Sequoia NP.  The first day was 11 miles to Bearpaw Meadow on the popular High Sierra Trail.  Here are a few pictures on that section:


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After spending the night at Bearpaw, we headed up toward Elizabeth Pass.  As we ascended, we had good views toward the Hamilton Lake drainage


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And the Tamarck Lake drainage


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Looking straight up toward Tamarack Lake


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From there we could look toward Elizabeth Pass (11,370'), the saddle with talus right of center


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Looking back down the canyon


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I liked the creek coming down from Tamarack Lake


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Close to Elizabeth Pass, a nice example of exfoliating granite


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10:53 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Right at the bottom of the pass itself, looking up

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From the pass looking east up the ridgeline
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Looking toward Glacier Divide, the eastern wall of upper Deadman Canyon


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And looking down Deadman Canyon


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There was a nice stream draining the headwall even in this extraordinarily dry year


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As we descended we passed a number of nice meadows


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Sunset in upper Deadman Canyon
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The next morning we continued down Deadman Canyon; this is Ranger Meadow


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Lots of slickrock in Deadman Canyon


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Another nice meadow


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11:04 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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When we got to Roaring River and started up Cloud Canyon, the threatening clouds finally let loose, so I didn't get many pictures in that section.  I did pull  my camera out at Big Wet Meadow, but the lighting wasn't good for decent pictures


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We camped just around the shoulder of the Whaleback (over the gap in the left of that picture above).  Just as the sun went down the clouds started to clear, and I got this picture looking up toward Colby Lake


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The next morning when we got up early it was already overcast, so the lighting was very poor and flat for pictures at Colby Lake.  Our route was to go over Colby Pass, just visible on the left edge of the ridge


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Closer view of Colby Pass


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The weather held for our ascent, just some sporadic sleet along the way. Looking north from Colby Pass (12,000')


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And south; our goal the next day was right in the middle of that cloud mass, so I was a little concerned


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But as we descended the clouds began to break up


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That night we camped at Gallats Lake, which is really nothing more than a  big marsh with a water channel and a few open areas.  When we got up the next morning, the clouds had disappeared, we were back in typical Sierra weather


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From there we could look down the canyon to where we would leave the trail and head up the ramp in the middle of this granite face


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Looking back up the canyon from the middle of that ramp, can you spot my friend?


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We went around the corner into another draw, and could see the Whitney group in the distance


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We went around another corner on that face and found ourselves on a ledge about five feet wide and close to a hundred yards long.  This is looking down from the ledge at the canyon 1000' below us


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From there we were only a few rock climbing moves from the primary goal of the trip, the lake on Picket Creek (hereafter to be known as Sarah's Lake, after my niece).....

11:10 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Sarah's Lake was spectacular, I will let the pictures do all of the talking.  They do not come remotely close to conveying the beauty of that place.  We camped on the shore across from where I took the first picture


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As the sun went down, we could see the Whitney group still bathed in light


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I explored the Picket Creek drainage a little above the lake, and found it to be very photogenic, too


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11:18 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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The next day we headed toward Kaweah Basin.  The Kaweah ridgeline has the highest peaks that are visible from my house in the San Joaquin Valley (up to 13,802', most in the 13,300-13,700' range, which is a lot of vertical from my house at 300' above sea level, 4000' more than the Front Range at Denver).  First we crossed the divide between Picket Creek and lower Kaweah Basin and were rewarded with our first views of the lower basin


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Getting higher in the basin


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We stopped for the day and camped on one of the few grassy spots next to this small lake 


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I explored higher to scout our route for the next day.  It is up this drainage and then through Pyra-Queen Col, which is a small window in the cliff at the top of the drainage in the center of this picture


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Views around camp that afternoon


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11:27 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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The next morning we were rewarded with this sunrise view from camp


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We then began the long day of boulders and talus, first passing a few nice lakes in the upper part of Kaweah Basin


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Here is a picture looking down about halfway up the slope, see if you can spot my friend at the edge of the nearest band of snow


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And after a lot (and I mean a lot) of rocks and boulders, here is the final slope; the talus slope near center leads to the col


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Finally, the view back across Kaweah Basin from the Col


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Looking through the col toward Kaweah Queen


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Here is where the fun really began.  The col is little more than a five foot gap in the cliff at 12,800'.  We went through it and down this 60 degree chute filled with VERY loose rock and talus.  The only way for me to do it was to hang onto the rock face on the right as I went down; otherwise I would have ridden a rockslide down.


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Once down to a more sane 45 degree slope I could take may camera back out and take some pictures; first toward the north face of Black Kaweah (13,765')


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North toward Kaweah Queen


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And down toward the lake at 11,685'


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After what seemed like interminable talus, we reached the shore of the lake to enjoy the delicious and very cold water


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11:35 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Looking back up toward the Col from the western shore of the  lake


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The smaller lake immediately below 


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Continuing down past another lake


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As we descended, we started to return to the world of green growing things


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And finally to the trees.  My favorite high country trees in the Sierras are the Foxtail pines


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We eventually stopped for the night to camp in Nine Lake Basin; this is looking down Big Arroyo from camp in the evening


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The next morning we got up and headed over Kaweah Gap, where we met the trail again.  Walking on the trail seemed so easy after what we had done the previous few days.  This is Eagle Scout Peak on the south side of Kaweah Gap


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And looking toward the south buttress of Mt Stewart, which is on the north side of Kaweah Gap


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11:43 p.m. on August 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Just below Kaweah Gap is Precipice Lake.  We got there early in the morning when the lighting was not good for pictures, but any Ansel Adams fan will recognize it


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From there we starting to descend toward Hamilton Lake


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View at Hamilton Lake



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Angel Wing below Hamilton Lake


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As we descended we were treated to views of Hamilton Domes


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As we neared Bearpaw Meadow, this is looking back toward the Hamilton Lake drainage


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And looking down the canyon toward the valley where I live


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That night we camped where we did the first night.  The final day was back out the same trail that we did on the first day.  For a final picture, it is only fitting that I show the namesake of the trailhead - Crescent Meadow.  Normally, the 175-200' white firs and sugar pines around this meadow would be considered huge, but the sequoias dominate the scene (look for the rounded crowns)


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I would have to rate this as one of the best trips I have made in the Sierras.  It was definitely physically challenging, but the scenery paid for all of the effort.  And, except for the first and last days on the trail between Crescent Meadow and Bearpaw, we saw very few people.  We went for days without seeing anyone.  I would highly recommend this route to anyone comfortable with off trail travel and class 2 passes.

9:49 a.m. on August 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow. It's gonna take me a while to read and absorb the whole trip, Haha! 

Fantastic photos, too. 

10:32 a.m. on August 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Just awesome! I so wanted to take you up on the invitation; I almost didn't want to look at the report,lol

 

This confirms what I suspected I would be missing.  :(

 

I'll get out there some day.....

 

What were temps like on average? How big was the group?

8:29 p.m. on August 3, 2012 (EDT)
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The pictures don't begin to show what it was like.  You should have come.

Daytime temps varied with elevation.  At the lower elevations of the hike (7200-8500') it would get up to around 80.  But we spent most of the time above that, and at the higher elevations it would be mid-60s.  That is a bit deceptive, because the sun is really intense at elevation.  In Kaweah Basin, we camped at 11,400', and actual air temperature couldn't have been above 65.  But standing in the sun felt warm.  Once the sun went down it cooled off fast.  The next morning I had frost on my tent and ice in my water bottle.

There were only two of us.  

If you like fishing, there were some great spots.  Sarah's Lake had numerous 10-12" trout patrolling the shore, and I bet they have never seen a lure hit the water.  The remote lakes in the Sierras are fishing hotspots.  A few years ago when we were at Colby Lake, you would get a strike on every cast.  I saw one place where the trout would jump out of the water and grab a lure that was dangled a few inches above the water.

10:11 a.m. on August 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Awesome trip!  Even this well traveled Sierra hiker envies Lambertina's trip reports.  This one is no different.  BTW folks she significantly downplays how tough portions of this hike really are.  I too have passed through the Pyra-Queen Col.  The talus over much of the approach is large enough to make for big steps up, yet small enough to present a real stability issue.  Definitely hard core xc with a pack. 

I also agree it is hard to capture the grandeur of the High Sierras.  Lighting conditions usually don’t lend themselves to the camera’s eye; most of the time the light is glaring with too much contrast between the light and dark areas, or it is overcast and flat.  Sunrise and sunset provide better detail and depth, but the accompanying red shift skews images, making it hard to capture verdant greens, etc. 

Ed

6:07 p.m. on August 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed -

I have been accused of downplaying the difficulty of XC routes before.  Perhaps it stems from the fact that I have always had good balance and good ankles, and I don't find boulder hopping with a full pack as difficult as most people.  My friend had a much harder time on the XC sections than I did.  I'm 50 now and don't move as fast as I used to in the mountains, and for me that is frustrating.  But I'm still probably faster than the average backpacker, so sometimes I don't think much of routes that others would feel are quite difficult.  For example, the day we went over Pyra-Queen col, we took almost eleven hours to go from our camp in Kaweah Basin to our camp in Nine Lake Basin.  However, I spent a good three hours of that time sitting and waiting for my friend to catch up at various points.  I didn't mind it so much for two reasons - first, without my friend along my wife would not have allowed me to go, and second, it gave me time to sit and enjoy the scenery.

It is interesting to me that I get that complaint often, and then I look at trip reports from some true hard core sierra hikers that have me shaking my head and saying I could never do that.  I guess it's all relative.

BTW, I am a he.  Lambertiana has a specific origin, and it is not a variation of the feminine name Tina.

John

2:01 a.m. on August 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Pinus lambertiana = sugar pine?

9:16 a.m. on August 6, 2012 (EDT)
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lambertiana said:

BTW, I am a he.  

 So sorry! I was guessing, since your bio page does not specify.

 I have been accused of downplaying the difficulty of XC routes before.  Perhaps it stems from the fact that I have always had good balance and good ankles...

..It is interesting to me that I get that complaint often...

You forgot to mention quads of steel.

No matter how you choose to downplay your exploits this still is a significant effort, requiring conditioning most young men lack.  I’ve done some silly adventures too; this trip is nothing to sniff at.  I am not complaining, however; I am calling you out for the mountain goat you are!

Ed

12:49 p.m. on August 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Big Red - Yes, pinus lambertiana.  Not many people make the connection.

Ed -

Not so much quads of steel, especially when I think about how easy it used to be for me.  Now what really helps is good endurance.  At the end of the day after going over Pyra-Queen col I was not tired at all, but my friend was wiped out.  That is the primary difference for me now.  I used to be in so much better shape.  During my sophomore year at BYU, I was living at 4500', running three days per week, swimming two days per week, and spending pretty much every Saturday climbing in the Wasatch mountains that were literally walking distance from where I lived (good thing, I didn't have a car).  I had my heart rate at rest under 40.  It was so easy for me to tackle steep slopes.  Not anymore, though.  At least I still have a semblance of endurance.

I also hike with a pack weight to total body weight ratio that is higher than a lot of people because of two things.  First, I believe in staying comfortable, so I carry a full size inflatable air mattress and full coverage tent.  I also carry a complement of repair items (I ended up helping someone repair his son's pack on this trip).  I have invested significantly in recent years to reduce my pack weight, but you can only go so far without impacting emergency preparedness, and my long years in scouting as a scout and a leader does not allow me to head out to the wilderness without a minimum set of gear to be able to handle emergency situations.  At the start of this trip, with nine days of food and two full water bottles, my pack weighed 40 lb.  And when you consider that I am 5' 7" and 150 lb, that translates to a significant percentage of my own body weight.  Some of my hiking friends who are larger and weigh 200 lbs can carry my load a lot easier than I can.  I may not be nearly as fast as I used to be, but I can walk all day.

2:00 p.m. on August 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Yea, folks generally gas out at the end of such days.  But at least they recover their energy overnight.  The thing I find that gets them is their legs don't recover and they can't duplicate that kind of effort the next day.

If you are in good shape a pack that is 25-30% one's weight is doable on trails, but you need to be in real good shape to drag such a beast up talus to a col.

Ed

10:27 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Sweet trip. Makes me wanna get back out to the Sierra. Maybe in a year or two. Your photos are top notch IMO.

4:07 p.m. on August 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Big Red,

Good recognition on your part.  Sugar pine is one of the grand trees in the Sierra, along with ppines, and "Abies magnifica" Shasta red fir.

 

Nice photos.  My doctor died in the Park 2 weeks ago in a climbing accident.

3:50 p.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Awesome trip with awesome pics. I especially enjoyed the pictures of Elizabeth Pass and Deadman's Canyon. In 1976 I was hiking the Theodore Solomons Trail which goes up Deadman's and over Elizabeth Pass but unfortunatly there was a fire burning in that area so we had to miss that part. Your pictures make me want to go back and complete that section. Sarah Lake looks like a beautiful spot as well, as do all the other spots you visisted. I can ceratilny understand your sentiments regarding this trip as it really hihjlights some of the finest Southern Sierra.

4:28 p.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Beautiful country. I can relate to it better than places like the Appalachian trail (no disrespect intended for those who love it) just because I enjoy the alpine - the summits and the ice and rock and the scree slopes - so much.

People under 50 are sometimes faster than me, but they seem to run out of steam pretty early. I can do a 12 hour day and still have energy left to sit around and enjoy the scenery - they always seem to be moaning about how their feet hurt, or how exhausted they are.

I'm 5'8", about 150 lbs, and my backpack this weekend weighs in at just under 40 lbs. Tomorrow morning, I will have 21 km (13 mi.) to do, with 800 metres (2625 ft.) of elevation gain in one 5 km section. I expect it to take 8-10 hrs. And I only know a couple of kids I'd be willing to take up there.

'Age before beauty' every time!

11:48 p.m. on September 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow! The classic green/white is stunning!

11:03 p.m. on September 4, 2012 (EDT)
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android said:

Wow! The classic green/white is stunning!

 You will have to explain to me what this means.

12:52 a.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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What kind of camera did you use. I cant get over the clarity of some shots and how well it deals with colors without "bleaching" out either the sky or things on the ground.

9:43 a.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I used a Canon SX130IS.  It offers a good balance of reasonable image quality, low weight, and long battery life (I got about 1800 pictures out of one set of two lithium AA batteries this summer, 1400 of those were on this trip).

One of these days I'm going to have to splurge and get one of the newer compact digital SLRs.  I don't want to carry a full size SLR backpacking (I used to backpack with a Leicaflex SLR 35mm before I went digital, but that thing was heavy).

September 23, 2014
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