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First group to hike Rae Lakes this year
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Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/06/2013 22:51:09 MDT Print View

Completed the Rae Lakes Loop for the 9th time last weekend. This time was the slowest and most fun with 2 good friends from work.
We ended up being the first "hikers" to complete the loop this season. There was still a ton of snow on the north side all the way down to the lake. Not that deep, but covered 100% of the trail all the way down to the lakes. We didn't get on the trail early enough the first day and only got 4 miles in at Avalanche Jct. The next day we didn't quite make it to Glen Pass in time to get down to Rae Lakes by dark.
We stayed at 11,500' at the flat spot just bellow the pass. There were 2 guys there that told us that Glen was inpassible.

It hasn't snowed enough to be able to cover tracks in over 3 weeks and there wasn't a single foot or kick print to be had.
3 weeks ago someone may have used crampons and an ax to get over, but we were definitely the first hikers.
There were three other groups attempting the loop and none made it while we were out there. Well there was a guy in flip flops we saw when coming down. He would just walk barefoot on the snow. He was heading clockwise, so it was highly unlikely. It was nice to see Jim (forgot your last name) from the GGG at Coe.l
Yes that is someone sliding down the pass.
We only had 3 1/4 days to complete the hike, so we had to boggy. We went from just shy of Glenn to Upper Paradise on day in order to get back to the bay area the next day at a reasonable time.
The trip and being the first ones over just made the hardness of a few miles of the trail well worth it.

Edited by awsorensen on 05/06/2013 23:01:34 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/06/2013 23:08:07 MDT Print View

Great stuff! Thanks for posting your trip-this bad snow year is going to open up the Sierras much earlier.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/07/2013 06:55:33 MDT Print View

Hmmm! Looks like you only made it to the top. Mo pics?

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Rae Lakes on 05/07/2013 08:16:37 MDT Print View

Nice job Aaron. I was thinking about doing the loop too but the website says that overnight parking is not allowed until May 22. How did you guys get to and from Roads End?

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Rae Lakes on 05/07/2013 08:35:18 MDT Print View

I did not have the camera this trip, just my phone. The 3rd pic is on the N. side though. The other guy took a good 200 pics.

Roads end is for day use only (for people). The overnight parking lot is open, "you" just can't be in the area at night. The nearset camping is Avalanche or Lower Paradise, so as long as you get there the first day, you are good to go.

You pretty much have to go c/clockwise right now, unless you have crampons.
It is very easy to just slide down the N. side on your bum.
The hardest part is that the trail is covered all the way to the lake so you have to know the way or have done it before.

James Castleberry
Thanks Aaron on 05/07/2013 09:08:32 MDT Print View

Great to meet you at Rae Lakes Aaron and thanks for posting the photos. When I met you at Rae Lakes just as you descended, I could see in your faces that was quite an adventure getting over the pass. As for my hike, I was blown away by the early season beauty of King's Canyon and the hike to Rae Lakes (I took the Woods Creek trail).
Here are a couple of photos I took from my hike.Which lake? I forgot?

At Rae Lakes, there were some clouds and snow flurries.Painted Lady

The scenery was fantastic the whole way.Scenery on Hike to Rae Lakes

I was especially loving the beauty of the many rivers and creeks.Woods Creek

I can't wait to get back to Road's End in King's Canyon!

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/07/2013 09:21:10 MDT Print View

Great photos; looks like a real treat to be out there in the early season.

I passed through that area for the first time late last September. Looking forward to getting back and spending some more time out there one of these days.

Crampons/axe necessary it looks like?

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/07/2013 19:16:39 MDT Print View

Thank you for the pics. I need to do a early season trip sometime, just Spring is when I have to get my garden going and cut firewood. When I retire maybe. I do do trips close to home for a o/n, leaving from my door.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"First group to hike Rae Lakes this year" on 05/07/2013 19:34:36 MDT Print View

James: can you write about snow levels on the Woods Creek trail? was it ever technical getting into Rae Lakes?

James Castleberry
Snow on Wood's Creek Trail to Rae Lakes on 05/07/2013 22:13:37 MDT Print View

No significant snow until you hit the lower Rae Lakes. Even then, not bad. Maybe yesterday and today a little more snow fell. Aaron didn't mention it, but there was one significant snow traverse to get to the upper lake. I actually went off trail to go around it on my way to Rae Lakes. On the way back, I was about 30 minutes behind Aaron and his friends, and I saw that they stayed on trail and did the snow traverse. I haven't been so scared in a long time. I followed their posthole footsteps precisely. About a 30 or 40 foot drop into freezing lake if you slip. Seemed a lot steeper than it looks in this photo. But until that, nothing major at all in terms of snow. Until you start ascending the pass

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
First group to hike Rae Lakes this year on 05/08/2013 10:35:45 MDT Print View

No real snow until you hit lower Rae Lake...very good news. And it sounds like you can route around that steep section going to/from Upper RL...? Because I'd rather not do that without an axe. Is it a pretty straight-forward route around? Thanks for all your info.

James Castleberry
@Jeffrey route around snow traverse on 05/08/2013 13:18:41 MDT Print View

Yes Jeffrey, you can get around it.
That area with the snow traverse is particularly well-shielded from the sun so there is a lot more snow there than areas around it. This snow traverse is next to a lake before the upper Rae lake. When you come to where the trail meets the snow traverse section, there is a big rock wall to the right, and if you look back, you can see some areas where the rock is broken up more and where the slope is less steep. I tried to find a spot where I could scramble up and get to the top. Then it wasn't that hard to find the trail again.
When I was returning from Rae Lakes, I was just following the postholes that one of Aaron's friends had made. Before I knew it, I was right there at the traverse and it looked frightening, but I knew Aaron and his two friends had gotten through safely, so I continued on with extreme trepidation.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: @Jeffrey route around snow traverse on 05/08/2013 17:31:16 MDT Print View

Yes, that drop was a little scary.
Not because of the angle or drop, it was because if you slipped and slid to the lake and happened to go in, you would be sliding strait into 15 feet deep ice cold water with a pack on. The drop off was sheer for that 150 foot section.
The pass is twice as steep but if you slid, you would have a spot to stop within 50 yards and wouldn't drown.

The biggest problem with this, is that we were the first ones through because we went counter clockwise. When going c/c it is almost impossible to find the gap mentioned above, on the way down.
I've tried it once and was climbing down several 8' cliffs at a 60% angle.

Everybody else that was going clockwise (in the snow) would need at least microspikes and an ice ax or you won't make it.
By the time you wouldn't need the extra equipment to reach Glen, the snow along the lake would be melted.

So unless you have crampons and an ax, don't even bother going clockwise when there's snow all the way to the lake. it seemed as if most people didn't know this since they just hear people say that the best route is clockwise.

I'll post some more pics when i get a chance. it may be early next week, but I have a lot more to share now.

Edited by awsorensen on 05/08/2013 17:32:20 MDT.