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End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations
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Nicholas Pappas
(njpca)
End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations on 06/18/2013 20:03:37 MDT Print View

Hi BPL Tripmasters and Wilderness Sages,
I am planning a multiday solo trip in the high Sierras for 9-11 days beginning at the end of July. I have come up with a couple of different routes and would greatly appreciate your recommendations on what's worth seeing and what's worth skipping. The three routes I am toying with are (roughly):

1. "Deadman Canyon-Williamson Bowl-Cloud Canyon" Road's End --> Roaring River --> Cloud Canyon --> HST to JMT --> Shepherds Pass --> Williamson & Tyndall --> JMT to HST --> Bearpaw Meadow --> Deadman Canyon --> Road's End (option to bail via Vidette Meadows if I get delayed)

2. "HST Loop +Williamson Bowl" Moro Rock --> HST --> Shepherds Pass --> Williamson & Tyndall --> Lake South America Spur --> Cloud Canyon North --> Deadman Canyon South --> HST to Moro Rock (no option to bail if behind schedule)

3. "Vidette-Williamson-Cloud Canyon" Road's End --> Vidette Meadow --> Shepherds Pass --> Williamson & Tyndall --> Lake South America Spur --> Cloud Canyon --> Roaring River --> Road's End (Shortest trip, no need for bail option)

These are adaptations of the HST and the Big SEKI Loop so graciously described by Amy Lauterbach, who has also been the inspiration for some of my MYOG projects (lovebird quilt is next if I ever convince myself that down is worth the hassle again). Any recommendations for other loops or "lollipop" loops? I am seeking a mix of high alpine meadow, granite, canyon, and ideally tagging 1-2 fourteeners. Based on BPL discussions on 14ers from the JMT it sounds like Williamson and Tyndall are the best bet. I would like to hit 100mi for personal gratification but that's certainly not necessary.

Questions:
-I have heard that some of these trails are not maintained -- particularly in the Tyndall Creek area. Is that an issue there, or in Cloud or Deadman Canyons? I assume HST and JMT are both fully maintained and easy to follow.
-Any issues with water availability this July? Snow banks? Mosquitos? Other hazards?
-I am planning on bringing either my recently constructed Shires tarptent-for-two or a to-be-constructed catenary tarp. Based on afternoon thunderstorm exposure or other issues do you recommend I instead bring my freestanding tent? Several pound weight penalty I would rather avoid.
-Based on the SEKI website it seems I could avoid a bearcan and use the PCT hang method. Any reason to opt for can over hang?
-This will be my longest trip and by far my most remote and adventurous solo trip. I am comfortable on Class 3 terrain and have no doubts in my ability to do Williamson, but is doing it solo (mid-week) a smart idea? I understand that Tyndall does not present the same level of risk. I have only previously done Shasta (winter ascent via Avalanche Gulch), Tahoe-area scrambles, and a few SEKI scrambles like the talus below Thunderbolt Pass. Is my boldness in attempting Williamson justified? Are my fears?

Thanks for what I am sure will be excellent advice. I am linking below an excel spreadsheet with trail distances and rough elevation estimates -- there may be some missing / incorrect information as it's gone through several revisions. "Day" of segment is subject to change based on input, only desire is that I would like to camp at increasing altitudes to prepare for Williamson Bowl camping (12200) while I attempt the two 14ers.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hujk09zkp04a8qk/Summer%20SEKI%20Loop%20Itinerary.xlsx

Edited by njpca on 06/18/2013 20:07:51 MDT.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations on 07/05/2013 21:47:00 MDT Print View

Nicholas,

To answer a portion of your query. Both Cloud and Deadman Canyons are straightforward walking. Although the trails do disappear in a few places, it is simple to figure where to go and there are no places with particularly difficult travel as long as you are comfortable being off of a well trodden path. We haven't walked Tyndell Creek in some time, but the trail was signed at its junction in Kern Canyon so I assume that there is at least something still on the ground. Keep in mind that the trails in the high Sierra can last a long time even without maintenance except in places where they become overgrown (mostly at lower elevations) or where they are subject to sliding such as on loose talus slopes.

My personal bias on tents would be to test a new shelter on a shorter trip with easier bail out options instead of one where you will be stuck with whatever you have deep in the mountains. Others will undoubtably disagree. The weather will most likely be dry and relatively calm, but we've had plenty of very strong storms in the high Sierra, and we continue to carry a storm worthy tent.

I have climbed both Williamson and Tyndall via non-technical routes. The NW ridge on Tyndall is quite a nice route and you feel like you are climbing something big. Williamson I did via the W face so many years ago that I can't remember details other than it wasn't technically too difficult, but much more of a commitment that Tyndall. In any case, Secor's The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails should be your go-to source of reliable information.

If you are in the Lake South America area, both Caltech Peak and Mt. Genevra are reasonable peaks to try.

Of course the debate about climbing back-country peaks solo is never going to be settled. The risks are obvious, but the rewards are compelling. Anything can and does happen in the mountains and you have to decide whether you can live with the consequences of a dumb or chance mistake. Only you know your skill level and tolerance for risk. As for us, Jim does solo ascents, but Amy doesn't, so we're split on that issue :)

Have a great trip.

James Yurchenco

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations on 07/06/2013 08:30:24 MDT Print View

I like climbing a chimney more than a loose ridge, so Williamson seemed easy when I climbed it... 30 years ago. For peak bagging route finding is usually more important than technical climbing skill- stay on route for class 3, drift off route and suddenly it's 5+.

Road's End to Roaring River is hot and climbs 6,000' in the first 10 miles, when you probably aren't acclimated yet. I like a more gradual warmup.

Many of the lesser trails are unmaintained and will require careful route finding.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
re: End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations on 07/06/2013 08:41:50 MDT Print View

-Based on the SEKI website it seems I could avoid a bearcan and use the PCT hang method. Any reason to opt for can over hang?

Nicholas,

Bear Cans are required along the Bubbs Creek Trail, Vidette Meadow, and up to Forester Pass. So if you take your option #3 you'd need a can in order to be legally and ethically in compliance. Bubbs Creek and Vidette are extremely popular with the not-so-skilled backpackers (part of the "Rae Lakes Loop" hike), and therefore bears are a perennial problem.

For your option #1, you pass through a short area where cans are required, from the Bubbs Creek Trail to Avalanche Pass. If it were me, I'd consider risking that short section without a can, assuming you pass through it on the first day and don't camp in the bear-can zone.

Cans are not required on the second loop you described, which you could do from either Wolverton or Moro Rock. And that's a very nice loop. I might mix that loop a little by starting/ending at Wolverton and Moro Rock, and hitching back to your car. Hitching there will likely be easy.

For what it's worth, we do carry a bear can when we're hiking in areas where they are required.

JIm already commented on several peaks near your route. There are a couple more I'll mention, even though they aren't 14K which you said was a target. You pass very near Eagle Scout Peak, which is near the HST near Kaweah Gap. Seems a shame not to climb it when you're in the area. Also, Kern Point is a stellar peak with a terrific view and doesn't see many visitors.

Have a great trip, Amy

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
re: End of July HST/Big SEKI Loop Hybrid - Seeking Feedback and Recommendations on 07/06/2013 09:25:40 MDT Print View

oh, one more thing... JimW mentioned Many of the lesser trails are unmaintained and will require careful route finding.

That's generally true and good advice to keep in mind. In 2012 Jim and I walked the all of the trails on your various itineraries except for the Tyndall Creek cutoff (we hiked the northern loop to Lake South America and the upper Kern Basin instead of following the Tyndall Creek Trail. And we can report that they are all in good shape. As Jim mentioned there might be one or two places where the tread is faint or branched, but if you have any backcountry sense they won't be a problem. (As opposed, for example, to the Kennedy Canyon Trail between Kennedy Pass and Dead Pine Ridge, which gets quite obscure in many places.) - Amy