Feb 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm #1285711
Our troop is planning a 5 day/4 night backpack trip in the Sierra's this summer. The boys in this group have all done multiple trips previously and will complete a training program specifically for the hike. We are trying to keep the pack weights low by avoiding bear canister required regions. Can you recommend an area/route?
Here are the parameters for the group.
o 5-10 miles per day
o 1,000 to 2,500 vertical per day
o Would greatly prefer to avoid bear canisters or only need a bear canister per patrol for the exit portion of the route.
o Generally like lakes/streams and fishing
o A single peak bag could be fun.
o Ability to have a campfire at least one night is a plus, but not a must have.
o Loop or one way routes highly preferred.
o Proximity to LA a consideration
FYI, as a reference on the ability level, last year we hiked Tuolumne Meadow to Agnew Meadow with this group.Feb 18, 2012 at 11:05 am #1841242
The 'no bear canisters' parameter really limits the possibilities. The Rae Lakes Loop (40+ miles) or the South Lake to North Lake (or vice versa) come to mind. Both will take you through 'Canister Country.'
If your group mainly older boys (and fit adults), I have a possibility for you. It's a loop 'route' out of Pine Creek trailhead. A lot of it is off trail. No peak bagging. But, going over the passes might feel like you're bagging a peak.
Day 1: From Pine Creek TH, hike up to Honeymoon Lake.
Day 2: Hike over Italy Pass (trail part-way up); hike by Lake Italy to Teddy Bear Lake, and finally to Brown Bear Lake.
Day 3: Hike over White Bear Pass to Black Bear Lake; hike to Ursa Lake and then Bear Paw Lake.
Day 4: Hike over Feather Pass (I think that's the name; just SW of Feather Peak) to La Salle Lake; follow drainage down to Merriam Lake; follow drainage toward Piute Trl; hike to Pine Creek Trl Jct.
Day 5: Hike Pine Creek Trl over the pass and back to the Pine Creek TH.
A modification of this route would give more trail miles over area that I think isn't required 'Canister Country' (wasn't the last time I was there in 2009).
Same TH. Day 1 is the same. Almost the same route as Day 2. As you hike down from Lake Italy, follow the drainage all the way down to the PCT (instead of going toward Teddy Bear Lake, et. al). At the PCT, you turn south. Pass Marie Lakes, Selden Pass, Sallie Keyes Lakes down to Piute Trl Jct. Turn left (north) and follow Piute Trl to Pine Creek Trl and back to the TH. This route just skirts Glen Canyon Nat'l Park.
Note: I carried a canister on the first hike. My buddy did not. Other than the first night and the last night, we were at or above tree line. He hung his food off of rock faces or shrubs to keep the marmots at bay.Feb 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm #1843258
The right question might be "what areas in the Sierra do not require bear canisters?"Feb 27, 2012 at 11:08 am #1845616
This looks promising. I'm concerned the elevation and terrain over Italy Pass and through the Bear lakes region may be a bit much for this group. Age 12-15, athletic, with training hikes…. What do you think? Are any of these passes technical? I'm also considering Lamark Col into Evolution Valley. Any experience with how technical this route is ascending and descending?
I have good information on the latest Bear Canister requirements (Latest map from Ranger Station in hand). I'm looking for more personal experience with the terrain and routes. For example, Carl's comments got me looking at a North Lake to South Lake route which hikes the first four days outside bear canister country, but finishes in Dusy Basin, which is canister required. With only last day breakfast and lunch, we can get away with 1 canister for the whole group. Most of the Western Sierra THs and Southern THs do no require canisters, but I am less familiar with these areas. Any ideas for routes?Feb 27, 2012 at 11:18 am #1845621
Others may disagree but I would not take Boy Scouts aged 12-15 on the Sierra High Route (Route suggested above). While some may be able to do it, the chances of something going wrong are too high when there are great on trail options that could provide some challenges and meet the canister needs. I would look at area in SEKI between Muir Trail Ranch and Pinchot Pass. There are a number of options that could be reached via 395.
As far as where canisters are needed, see
http://sierrawild.gov/bears/food-storage-mapFeb 27, 2012 at 11:29 am #1845628
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
nvm, wrong postFeb 27, 2012 at 11:35 am #1845633
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
John, you could do Mineral King to big 5/little 5 lakes. You are allowed to have fires at monarch lakes and the first, lowest elevation lake you encounter in the big 5 lakes basin. Anywhere under 10,400 feet, and no need to restrict to fire rings (because there are none) You could peak bag sawtooth peak.
There is a bear box at monarch lakes and you can hang over sawtooth pass in the lost valley.Feb 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm #1845691
This is so much more awesome than a hand-holding Philmont trip. My hat is off to you.Feb 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm #1845736
"I would not take Boy Scouts aged 12-15 on the Sierra High Route"
Yeah, that was my reaction too. Oh yeah, lets go over a couple of class 2 passes with maybe a use trail to guide us if we're lucky. LOL
I would have to say the most straightforward, no fuss & no muss, "PCT highway" trail hikes, is either Rae Lakes from the west, or Minarets from the east. (The one their group did last year.)
There's a reason armies of scouts march these two trails each summer. Big scenery, lots of rangers (in case of trouble) and a super maintained trail (PCT) allows leaders to deal with group dynamics instead of fretting over stressful things like route finding.Feb 27, 2012 at 8:31 pm #1845950
The Boy Scout Motto: "Be prepared". Take Bear CanistersFeb 28, 2012 at 10:25 am #1846145
John – If you haven't already, you might want to look over another thread on this forum, the "Ca. destinations" thread, which has a bunch of discussion of a similar question, and may have some ideas for you.
The route through Italy Pass and the Bear Lakes/Feather Pass area sounds pretty good, but I would suggest you take seriously the suggestions some have already made that there is added risk involved in being in that remote an area with a group of kids. Not that I think your boys can't handle the physical challenges – if they are fit and motivated I'd say they can do it. The motivation is key. Also, 12 to 15 is a big range in terms of physical development – but you know that, and you know these boys better than we do. The risk is that in case of injury it's a long way to help, and you won't see a lot of other folks once you're back in there. Not that this should make your decision for you, but it's worth keeping in mind.
That said, I have another suggestion for you. I don't much care for the Pine Creek trailhead myself. I'd much rather go in over Piute Pass if I am heading for that area. A trip starting at North Lake, over Piute Pass, off-trail into Humphreys Basin, over the ridge into the head of French Canyon (with a summit of Four Gables along the way – easy walk-up and fabulous views), a little exploration of the lakes in French Canyon or Royce Lakes, then back by trail down canyon to Hutchinson Meadow and back up to Piute Pass and out might be a good option for you. You'd have some off-trail stuff, but not be quite so deep into the range and not be as far off the beaten path in case of trouble, plus I think Piute Pass is an easier first day and a nicer hike IMHO. And I think this is less talus and more slabby granite than going the Italy Pass/Bear Lakes way, which translates into more fun. Or you can do the same loop in the opposite direction, which may be better in terms of acclimatization.
I'll also suggest an idea I put forward on the other thread – Blackcap Basin, coming in from Wishon Reservoir on the west.Feb 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm #1846328
Thanks for the note Paul. I don't plan on taking the boys on the Sierra High Route. Your comments are valid. My version is that the combination of multiple remote passes with difficult bouldering and scree has too much potential for a bad experience.
I agree with your comments regarding North Lake versus Pine Creek, since the trail head is 2000 ft higher reducing the elevation gain necessary to clear the passes. I'm not familiar with Four Gables and will need to look at the technical difficulty some more. The contours heading toward the French Lake basin look steep.
I am not familiar with Blackcap Basin and will research that as well.
I appreciate the Mineral King/Five Lakes suggestion and have checked that our as well.Feb 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm #1846558
Four gables is a total walk-up (well, actually for me it was a ski-up since I did it on a ski trip) There may be some talus but it's not steep at all.
Going over the ridge from Humphreys to French (or vice versa) is steep but very do-able, and it would be the only tricky part of the route. Seems to me like an appropriate challenge. Puppet pass seems to be the best documented. I came over Steelhead col, but it was all snow in early May, so not indicative of the summer difficulty.
You can avoid the ridge crossing by just going around via the trail, but then it's not a loop and less of an adventure.Feb 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm #1846559
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Piute Pass is an easier first day and a nicer hike IMHO"
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