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Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 18:34:11 MST Print View

I am working on planning an ultralight cross country trip in the high Sierras with my buddy for this upcoming summer. We have it all worked out except one part. We are unsure if we will be able to get down from one of the passes. It is only 0.2miles and we would be going down about 400ft. If I did my math right that is about a 2000ft elevation change in 1M. So the question is...is that doable? How do you determine something like that?
Thanks!

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: 10T 524631m E 5034446m N
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 19:00:09 MST Print View

Plugging in the numbers that's a 22 degree slope. Do you know which pass it is? In most cases, slope is not entirely (or at all) indicative of difficulty when it comes to passes.

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 12/11/2009 19:01:13 MST.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
pass on 12/11/2009 19:05:59 MST Print View

Well it is a cross country route. It is between Rose lake and crazy lake. Rose lake is just South West of Rosemarie Meadow in the JMT...which is near Selden Pass if that helps at all.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 19:21:54 MST Print View

" It is only 0.2miles and we would be going down about 400ft. If I did my math right that is about a 2000ft elevation change in 1M. So the question is...is that doable? How do you determine something like that?"

As the second poster indicated, slope is often not indicative of passability. Much depends on the nature of the terrain; perhaps the rock is wet and lichen covered or there are short vertical cliff bands to be negotiated, or loose talus. The time of year has a huge bearing on conditions, especially on north facing slopes. Your level of fitness, comfort with exposure and technical capabilities should also enter into your decision. Almost every pass in the Sierra is described in one guide book or another. Look for the pass in question in Secor's Rocks and Routes guide to the Sierra. You should be able to find what you need there. Also look for trip reports as your departure date approaches and be prepared to use an alternate route if necessary.

Case in point up here in the Cascades. Mailbox Peak gains 4000' in 2.5 miles and yet is considered merely a strenuous day hike. OTOH, coming off the summit of Mt Stuart there is an innocuous looking slope of about 20 degrees that, when ice covered in spring-early summer, can, and has, taken unwary, though highly experienced, climbers on life threatening rides(including two with I am personally acquainted) due to underestimating it in a mood of elation coming off much more difficult technical climbing.

A final observation: Plan a bypass to any section of your hike that is even slightly questionable and your chances of having a great trip will be greatly enhanced.

Best of luck!

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
pass on 12/11/2009 19:35:56 MST Print View

I have been doing a lot of research and have not been able to find out anything about this area, let alone the specific pass. I would consider us very well experienced backpackers; however we are less experienced on technical routes (if this would be considered a technical route, i dont know). We are going in mid August and the slope is facing the West, so I dont think snow or ice will be a problem. In any case we do have an alternative route planned if needed. Any other tips or recommendations as how to assess a pass while planning a trip?

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: 10T 524631m E 5034446m N
Resources on 12/11/2009 19:45:03 MST Print View

This book is handy and might have some info on your pass:

http://www.amazon.com/High-Sierra-Peaks-Passes-Trails/dp/0898869714/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

While snow is limited in August, you'll likely find it in some passes in the Sierras.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Resources on 12/11/2009 20:16:20 MST Print View

Thanks for the book recommendation Christopher! I actually just got that book a little while ago, unfortunately it didnt have anything on this section.

Your right, there is def still a chance of snow, but I think it will be minimal, the face gets alot of sun exposure which I a hoping will melt most of the snow by mid august. ANything left should be passable...i hope haha

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 22:05:25 MST Print View

A few ideas:

First, talk to the guys over at highsierratopix.com They're very knowledgeable.

Look for pictures taken at either lake, they may show the pass. Searching webshots, flickr, google images helps.

Look at the pass in Google Earth. Use the tilt feature. Input the UTM or Lat/Long of the pass. You can find this on topozone. Or, use TOPO! it's great.

EDIT: looks like topozone.com sucks nowadays.

Edited by Found on 12/11/2009 22:07:53 MST.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 22:18:55 MST Print View

OK, I did the google earth work.

I think the pass that you're talking about it at:
37.300982°
-118.893836°


It doesn't look "passable" to me. Looks really steep. Seems like one of those ridges that someone might cross successfully, but not me. Google Earth is just one tool, i recommend looking for photos.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 22:19:31 MST Print View

Thanks for the reply Jack!
Ill definitely go check out highsierratopix.com.

Ive searched for photos of both lakes. I was able to see the pass from the Rose lake side, which I am sure is doable. It is the Crazy lake side I cant seem to find much about. Its a very tucked away hidden lake, I dont think many people ever go there.

I have done thorough research on Google Earth and it has helped alot, and I own TOPO, its an awesome program, thats where I figured out the elevation change and distance and all that.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/11/2009 22:24:19 MST Print View

I guess that one of the fantastic things about the wilderness is that there remains an unknown. Only a few years ago, we would have never dreamed it possible to determine whether a pass was passable. Likely it's still not possible to find out this info. To me it's too bad that before too long there will be trip reports covering virtually every square inch of the Sierra.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 03:10:00 MST Print View

Very simple: you go and look at it.

Of course, what is passable to one person may not be passable to another. Which is why YOU have to look at it.

Cheers

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 08:39:46 MST Print View

And the most fun part is...

It ends up looking passable. With much effort you get to the top. You even get part way down the other side. Then you reach the impassible cliff band. Back up and over.

This is what makes a good adventure. Go for it.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 12:48:05 MST Print View

Looked at it on google earth. Looks pretty steep, but doesn't look cliffy - which is important, as it's often those 35 foot vertical drops that don't show up on the contour maps that getcha. The Rose lake side doesn't look to badd, so go up and take a look - and if that side seems too steep for you taste, then the other side is steeper.
Yeah, I bet you don't find any info on the Crazy lake side. No trail up there and I'd bet nobody goes there.
Here's an option if that way looks too gnarly when you get there:
go north from Rose, up to the top of the peak 12146 and right over the top of it, north along the wide ridgetop to the saddle, drop down the slope - steep but not as steep as the one you've been looking at - and then contour into the creek, follow it up to foolish and crazy.
Looks like a lot of work to get there, though.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 13:25:01 MST Print View

> Then you reach the impassible cliff band

Oh yes, been there. Very rugged country and the track along the ridge which was on the topo was not on the ground any more. Totally and utterly overgrown, in remote and very wild country. Identified good looking side spur which would take us down to river, and set off along it - late afternoon, dry country and limited water left.

Topo showed a gentle roll-off and descent from the end of the spur. When we got there we found a complete ring of vertical cliffs, maybe 50 m high. Ahem! Doubt anyone else had ever been there.

Cheers

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 13:37:00 MST Print View

Roger said it best, you might just have to go look at it and have a back up plan.

Usually I am pretty good at figuring it out from studying a topo map. Had an iritating experience last year though. Planned a last minute trip in Nevada and bought a couple 7.5 minute topo maps for part of the trip, and quickly developed a cross country route. Didn't study the maps too closely. The end of the first day required going over a pass. Going up it was much steeper and more difficult than I thought it would be. When I got to the top, the other side was impossible. Perplexed, I got the map out, tripled checked my position, and yes I was where I wanted to be.

Then... I noticed the contour lines were 20 meters, not 40 feet. I had never seen or even knew that the USGS did metric. So I had to take another route. Had two other instances on this trip where the route was steeper than anticipated, per my metric map. But I finished the trip as planned.

BTW, I hate the metric system even more :)

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 13:54:52 MST Print View

Thanks for all the great advice and research everyone, I really appreciate it! Paul, that alternative route you said looks like it could work. I have been up to Gordon and harvey lakes but not the others...it is pretty rugges country up there....but I guess thats what I love about it...probably only a small handful of people have ever been there...to me thats sweeeeet!

I was also looking at an alternative route, and going from the southern tip of seven gables south past Aweatasal and Pooha lakes down to Piute Canyon. Once you are out of the 7 gables canyon it looks like a smooth route, but its getting out of the canyon that looks tricky...any tips on an approach from there?

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
out of seven gables on 12/12/2009 14:45:56 MST Print View

I have only been in the seven gables lakes valley on skis - came in over Ruskie pass from Merriam Lake.
According to info I have seen, both Stough pass (the obvious saddle due north of Aweetasal Lake) and Gemini Lake pass (comes through by the little lake that's almost on the ridge just east of Gemini) are both class 2. Looking back at my photos of that ridge, I'd say Gemini lakes looks easier, but they are right next to each other so you'd be able to see both from the lakes and make the call then. It looks quite doable.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/12/2009 22:49:51 MST Print View

Hi Nick

> BTW, I hate the metric system even more :)
I wonder ... was it (otherwise) a pretty good trip?
(Betcha.)

Cheers

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: Re: Re: How to determine if a pass is passable on 12/17/2009 12:59:41 MST Print View

I just looked at the USGS topo. The west side is no problem, outside of being a big climb. The east side is definitely problematic, and I would plan a different route. The 200 feet just below the pass concerns me most -- I think you'd be okay if you were able to get through that section. There might be a Class 3 scree gully to get you up/down, but I wouldn't count on it.