Apr 30, 2010 at 11:50 am #1258386
I'm planning a week-long trip starting out of Mineral King. Is there someone here who knows all the trails going out of there, and/or the cross-country routes surrounding Nine Lakes Basin? Thanks!Apr 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm #1604124
I know it pretty well… whatcha wanna know?Apr 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm #1604203
Great! Here's our rough plan:
We'll have 9 days.
We prefer the high country/alpine/backcountry (to lower elevation/woodsy areas). Normally we try to get above timberline as quickly as possible; unless the below-timberline stuff is unusually spectacular.
We would like to focus on some of the famous offtrail basins in the area, setting up a base camp in Nine Lakes Basin and then exploring some of the others (notably Kaweah Basin, and the heads of Cloud Canyon and Deadman Canyon).
The logical trailhead into that area appears to be Mineral King.
Indeed, to access Nine Lakes Basin, Mineral King is the trailhead suggested in Phil Arnot's book High Sierra. Also, he thinks the most scenic route between Mineral King and Nine Lakes is via Sawtooth Pass.
So my first question is: What is the next-most-scenic way to get between Mineral King and Nine Lakes Basin, assuming we want to go out via Sawtooth Pass and come back another way (just for a change)? I see three options on my map: Franklin Pass; Blacktooth Pass; Black Rock Pass; and the long way via Bearpaw Meadow and Kaweah Gap.
I've been on the High Sierra Trail on the section between Bearpaw and Kaweah Gap before; I know it's *very* pretty; but I'm not sure about what looks to be a long (hot??) forest slog between Bearpaw and Mineral King.
My second question is, if you had a few days to explore from Nine Lakes Basin, how would you do it?
I was thinking, to see Kaweah Basin, we could set up a camp at the southeasternmost lake in Nine Lakes Basin (I think it's called Lake 11,600) and then drop down into Kaweah Basin the next day with our day packs.
For exploring the areas to the north, I'm less sure. It looks like there is a lot to see up there. Arnot's book suggests thoroughly exploring upper Deadman and Cloud Canyons, and Glacier Ridge between them, and even the Tableland to the east. It looks to me like (some of) that might be possible in a long day hike if we set up camp at Lion Lake or Glacier Lake, but I have no recon info about whether either of those lakes is hospitable for camping.
Thanks in advance for any info! :)
ElizabethApr 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm #1604214
I can give you some more info later, but this trip report from last fall gives a little info on Mineral King area – it was at the south end of a loop hike I did.
Tom Kirchner will also have some great ideas about this.Apr 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm #1604237
To get to the Nine Lakes Basin, I took a completely different and radical route. I started at Roads End, went up over Avalanche Pass, and to the north end of Deadman Canyon. Then up over Elizabeth Pass and down to Hamilton Lakes. Then up over Kaweah Gap into Nine Lakes. Instead of going down the Big Arroyo, I went down Rattlesnake Creek to the Kern, then north to Kern Hot Spring. North along the Kern to Junction Meadow, then west and northwest up to Colby Pass. Down Cloud Canyon to Roaring River, then back out over Avalanche Pass to Roads End. The whole thing is between 90 and 100 miles.
If you do start from Mineral King, remember to marmot-proof your vehicle.
–B.G.–Apr 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm #1604260
I like going out from Mineral King via Timber Gap, and camp first night at Pinto Lake. That's about 10 miles, and is a much easier pass than Sawtooth, which is pretty much scree with no shade, and gives you a bit of time to acclimated to the elevation. Next day take Black Rock Pass on the early side, which gets you into the true back country. Black Rock is pretty challenging, BTW. Once there, go wherever; there are lots of lakes, sub-alpine stuff, and no huge passes until you leave.
Note that this gets you into the Basin Area a day later, but I think the views back toward Timber Gap as you head toward Black Rock are as good as anything you see from Sawtooth, and the view down from Black Rock to the Little Five Lakes area is really cool. Exit via Sawtooth or Franklin's Pass when you want to leave.
The cross-country/unmaintained trail through Sawtooth is pretty easy to follow, though make sure to put your gaiters on for the section between sawtooth and the small lake (McGee? can't remember the name now). I wouldn't camp at Colombine Lake (no shade).
Another quick way back is probably to use the very poor, unmaintained trail up to Glacier Pass, then cross-country past Spring Lake to Black Rock Pass. That's arguably quicker than Sawtooth, and likely gets you to a better place to stay night one (Little Five Lakes vs. somewhere short of nine lakes), but is much tougher.
BTW, I've been in and out of mineral king a bunch of times, and can't remember one when the marmots were a problem at the trailhead. Not to say that I haven't heard of them being an issue, just that they haven't been when I've been through there.Apr 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm #1604264
"My second question is, if you had a few days to explore from Nine Lakes Basin, how would you do it?
I was thinking, to see Kaweah Basin, we could set up a camp at the southeasternmost lake in Nine Lakes Basin (I think it's called Lake 11,600) and then drop down into Kaweah Basin the next day with our day packs."
Your most direct route into Kaweah Basin from 9 Lakes Basin is Pyra-Queen Col, just north of Lake 11,682(Tom Harrison Mt Whitney High Country map) in the 9 Lakes Basin. This is a tough class 2-3 pass between Kaweah Queen and Pyramidal Pinnacle(not named) on the Kaweah Peaks Ridge(see Secor, pp 74-75). Once across the Col,the descent is easy down gentle scree and then slabs into the Kaweah Basin, UNTIL you reach a level, gawd awful talus field that goes on for about a mile. It will test your legs, and head. Once past that you will find yourself in what is, IME, the most beautiful place I have ever visited in the Sierra, or just about any place else, for that matter. It is well worth hanging out for a couple of days to explore on day hikes. It would be a bit ambitious, to put it mildly, to try that route as a day hike, and a missed opportunity as well, IMO. Better to break camp in 9 Lakes Basin, go on over, and spend a couple of days. From there you have several ways to exit the Kaweah Basin, depending on how you want to return to Mineral King: 1) Descend the unnamed East Fork of Pickett Creek to the Kern Kaweah River and either head west over Colby Pass, then south over Elizabeth Pass, etc(Dave T knows this section much better than I), or drop into the Kern Canyon(Junction Meadow) and head down to Rattlesnake Creek and up over Franklin Pass; 2) Follow the chain of lakes in the west arm of Kaweah Basin down to the north rim of Kaweah Basin, descend diagonally NW along a seam in slabs to the Kern Kaweah River, and proceed as outlined in option 1, above. The following link will point you to a detailed description of this option that is part of a trip report I posted on the Kaweah Basin last fall(skip to Day 5 if you don't want to bother with the whole report). It should give you a reaonable idea of what is involved(http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=25394); 3) Ascend the west arm of the Kaweah Basin and cross the low pass between Lawson Peak and the southernmost of the 4 Picketts that, along with Pickett Guard Peak, form the west rim of the Kaweah Basin. Descend down into the headwaters of the Kern-Kaweah River over extended scree slopes and pick up the Colby Pass Trail, from whence you have the same options described above. All of the options will take you through some magnifcent country, and will test your stamina and, to some degree, route finding skills. All can be done in 7 days(assuming 2 days from Mineral King to 9 Lakes Basin, allowing a couple of days in Kaweah Basin for exploring.
"It looks to me like (some of) that might be possible in a long day hike if we set up camp at Lion Lake or Glacier Lake, but I have no recon info about whether either of those lakes is hospitable for camping."
There is an excellent campsite between upper and lower Lion Lakes, a nice sandy bench with a perfect tent site sheltered by a huge boulder. Glacier Lake is campable, but not as hospitable as this one. A lot depends on how you want to position yourself for your explorations.Apr 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm #1604269
As you can see from several opinions here, it is pretty country no matter which way you go.
–B.G.–Apr 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm #1604303
Hikin’ JimBPL Member
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
> Another quick way back is probably to use the very poor, unmaintained trail up to Glacier Pass, then cross-country past Spring Lake to Black Rock Pass. That's arguably quicker than Sawtooth, and likely gets you to a better place to stay night one (Little Five Lakes vs. somewhere short of nine lakes), but is much tougher.
I think there's a general consensus that the Glacier Pass – Blackrock Pass route is the quickest to the Kern River. I'm not sure that you can beat Crescent Meadow to Nine Lakes Basin via Kaweah Gap since Nine Lakes Basin is so close to Kaweah Gap.
Mineral King does make for some good loop options. Below is a map link for a five day loop out of Mineral King I did last summer. Loop: Mineral King – Timber Gap – Redwood Mdw – Bearpaw Mdw – Kaweah Gap – Big Arroyo – Little Five Lakes – Big Five Lakes – Lost Creek – Columbine Lake – Sawtooth Pass – Mineral King. My loop wasn't particularly ambitious, but it could be greatly expanded to the east to include Nine Lakes Basin, Kaweah Basin, and the Chagoopa Plateau. RJ Secor's book The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails is a pretty good compendium of the off trail passes and routes of the Sierra.
Hey Jim, that sounds like a real nice route. I think I'll try that next time I'm out there.Apr 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm #1604387
After reading Tom's post, I'm thinking it might be more interesting to skip Nine Lakes Basin and head for Kaweah Basin instead? – We'd approach Kaweah Basin from the east (instead of from Nine Lakes Basin) because that approach appears to be somewhat easier (though the hike-in will be longer). Arnott's book has some recon on that approach, and maybe I can also find info in Secor or elsewhere. (I do have the Secor book, just haven't looked in it yet.)
Not sure we are up for carrying our full packs over a "hard" pass to Kaweah Basin with lots of Class 3 from Nine Lakes Basin. And according to Tom, if we just hop over with our day packs we will fail to see the really great stuff in Kaweah.
Another possibility I'm thinking of is to save Kaweah Basin for a time when I'm hiking with a more ambitious friend. My friend on the Mineral King trip kind of dislikes cross-country travel above a Class 2.
How tricky is the terrain above Lion Lake and at the head of Deadman and Cloud Canyons?
Now to order the very detailed topo maps and do some route planning. Too many choices!
ElizabethApr 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm #1604404
"We'd approach Kaweah Basin from the east (instead of from Nine Lakes Basin) because that approach appears to be somewhat easier (though the hike-in will be longer). Arnott's book has some recon on that approach, and maybe I can also find info in Secor or elsewhere. (I do have the Secor book, just haven't looked in it yet.)"
How would you approach it from the east? From Chagoopa Plateau? If so, that would be basically class 1, with a long medium steep, fine scree slope on the Kaweah Basin side of the pass. Probably the easiest way in. The key is to know when to head north-westerly from the Chagoopa Plateau. That would be your next best option if you're still coming from Mineral King. It would also avoid that talus field I mentioned.
"How tricky is the terrain above Lion Lake and at the head of Deadman and Cloud Canyons?"
Coming over Lion Rock Pass from 9 Lakes Basin, the route up to the pass is steep but no big deal, going down to Lion Lakes is a steep, very loose scree slope. A whole bunch easier to descend that ascend! Avoid hugging the cliff to your right, lots of rockfall.
Good luck and I hope you make it in there. You won't regret it.May 1, 2010 at 2:11 am #1604505
Hikin’ JimBPL Member
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
> Hey Jim, that sounds like a real nice route. I think I'll try that next time I'm out there.
James, it's a good one. We did it as a nice "middle of the road" (not hard core, not totally loafing) BP in 5 days. Days one and five were partial days since we drove up and back on those days. You could shave off some time if you delete the Little to Big Five Lakes XC route, but we found that day to be the most interesting. Beautiful and varied terrain. Redwoods to above timberline. River crossings to small mountain rills. Everything from about 5000' to 11,000', all in a nice loop. 'Squitoes were kinda bad at Little Five Lakes but no other real complaints. :)
HJMay 1, 2010 at 10:28 pm #1604826
Yeah, last time I was there I bailed out a day early and did Little Five Lakes => Big Five Lakes => Columbine => Sawtooth => Trailhead in one day. I love the Big Five/Little Five Lakes area; it's one of my favorites. I try to get there every couple of yearsMay 1, 2010 at 10:32 pm #1604827
Whatever you do, avoid the Rattlesnake Creek area, just south of Big Arroyo. I got in there by mistake one time and got too far down into it to turn back. I ended up climbing down the stream canyon to the Kern, and it was no fun.
–B.G.–May 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm #1605018
"Whatever you do, avoid the Rattlesnake Creek area, just south of Big Arroyo. I got in there by mistake one time and got too far down into it to turn back. I ended up climbing down the stream canyon to the Kern, and it was no fun."
That's what I'd call doing it the hard way, Bob. There's a trail that runs from Mineral King over Franklin Pass and on down along Rattlesnake Creek to the Kern Canyon Trail.May 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm #1605019
The trails had disappeared for me several miles earlier. I think the trail is on the north side of the creek, and I was south of it. By descending down into the creek, I could follow it to the Kern, but it was wet.
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