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Kearsarge Pass July 15-18
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Kiel Senninger
(Kiel.S.) - F

Locale: San Diego
Kearsarge Pass July 15-18 on 07/20/2013 21:29:27 MDT Print View

I had been planning a trip into the Gardiner Basin area via Gardiner Pass and out through Rae Lakes, but my wife wouldn't let me go unless I found a buddy. So I put out on facebook that I was planning an East Sierra trip to see if anyone else was interested. A friend from work was super into it. He told me he used to do 2 week long trips with his dad in Colorado. I thought, this is great, someone with experience, this will be fun. I asked how he felt about going off trail and doing around 10 miles in a day. He said all of that would be fine. I ran the route by him, sent him some links to trip reports I found of similar trips. I got all okays. Well, fast forward to us going up Kearsarge Pass and I could tell the original plan was not going to work. It took us about 4 hours to get to the top and I could tell he was uneasy with the rocks in the trail. When it took us another 4 hours or so to make it to Charlotte Lake I knew for sure this wasn't going to work. I suggested we adjust the trip to make each day less than 8 miles, giving us ample time to rest and take breaks. I wasn't quite sure what we should do since this was my first time in the area. We settled on going to Rae Lakes the next day, then Kearsarge Lakes, then back to Onion Valley. It added more climbing, going over Glenn Pass twice in 24 hours was tedious, but at least we still saw some good stuff and made it a do able trip. Weather was great. Clear skies. Warm nights. Not too hot days.

University Peak, I believe

obligitory pass sign photo


Most of my hiking has been between Tahoe and Yosemite. I was struck by how huge and vertical everything was. When we got to Charlotte Lake my buddy passed out and I went to explore past the lake to the creek to scope out the route I originally planned on.

Charlotte creek

We set out for Rae Lakes the next morning. I know it was a toughy for my friend but at least he could appreciate the scenery.

cool blue... puddle

South from Glenn Pass

The bugs were not bad at all at Rae Lakes. A little worse than Charlotte Lake, but only a couple buzzing by now and then. We both enjoyed watching the fish jump.
The camp sites south of the ranger station were mostly full. We ventured on further north and found a nice spot and didn't see anyone else until the next morning.

Rae Lakes

Rae Lakes Sunset


We set off again over Glenn Pass and on to Kearsarge Lakes. It was pretty slow going the whole way and it was pretty hot on that upper trail back toward Kearsarge Pass east of the JMT.

Above Bullfrog Lake

Kearsarge Lakes were crowded and loud, but at least it was pretty. I went exploring for some good pictures and made my way to the upper most lake below University Peak. It was great to get away from all the people and explore the little meadows on the way up there. Next time I will definitely camp up here.

Guy Fishing

split rock



uppermost lake

I found a big, not-so-horse-like poo up here. Maybe someone can identify it. I should have put something next to it for scale. It was pretty big.


The next morning my friend said he had been throwing up all night. And proceeded to be sick even on the drive back to San Diego. He thinks it was his packaged freeze dried food, but I have my doubts. On our first day he drank untreated water out of the spring on the way up the pass below Heart Lake. I pleaded with him not to because I didn't want to carry him out, but he insisted. So that's one theory. I know he didn't drink as much water through the whole trip as me. I don't know if dehydration will make one sick like that. Also, not sure of his hand sanitation habits throughout the trip. So that made our last day pretty slow. And I felt really bad for him as he was throwing up water at the top of Kearsarge Pass.

Overall, I was disappointed we had to adjust the trip I had been obsessing over for the last 3 weeks and felt like I was leading someone who was a bit under prepared, but I still had a pretty good time seeing the highlights of the area and got me thinking about other places to explore.

Some things that worked great:
Black Diamond trekking poles - my friend used them the most, helped keep our 1 mph pace, but when I did use them I could tell it made me a bit faster and eased the strain on downhills. Also helped with the pitch of my Lunar Solo

Full length Z-Rest Pad - fold up a couple top sections for a pillow and a couple middle sections for a hip pillow as I sleep on my side a lot

Bearvault 450 - fit everything for the 4 days. Would have had more space if I didn't bring 2 mountain house meals.

MSR pocket rocket and fuel - I brought what felt like a half empty small fuel bottle and a brand new fuel bottle thinking the used one wouldn't last long. Well, I didn't even touch the new one. So that's awesome.

Not as awesome:
Lunar solo - I don't like how much space it takes up, for the amount of livable space you get. Kept the bugs out though and has gotten easier to pitch the more I've done it.

Sawyer Squeeze - This was my bad because I didn't bring the syringe and thought I could backflush through my mouth. The flow slowed considerably even though I had clear water and pre filtered it with a paint filter fabric.

Trip planning - I need to push harder before the trip to get an accurate idea of a new partner's abilities and comfort level.

Edited by Kiel.S. on 07/20/2013 21:33:50 MDT.

francis siracusa
(fsiracusa) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Plan B on 07/23/2013 13:02:58 MDT Print View

Your plan B looks like it was pretty nice...I'll be out there in September.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Re: Kearsarge Pass July 15-18 on 07/23/2013 14:12:00 MDT Print View

Ahh, the joys of group dynamics :) Sounds like you handled it very graciously and still made a nice trip of it for yourself, vommiting companion aside. Nice photos too! I'd like to get back out to the eastern side again... all these great reports are only making the itch worse.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
nice area on 07/24/2013 18:26:04 MDT Print View

"Huge and vertical" - yep - welcome to Kings Canyon National Park! If I could only have one national park to backpack in, this would be it. And Kearsarge Pass is a favorite because it spits you right in to some of the big stuff without requiring you to hike uphill 6000+ feet like some of the other passes. Go back in there some day and exit via Baxter Pass. Good times.

I have found out the hard way that most people's self-assessments are off the mark. Just last year, I was very surprised at the difficulty some friends had with Bishop Pass - fear of rocks and fear of heights. This was on a wide, graded, well-maintained, not-exposed trail, with light packs. And most of these friends are trail runners, accustomed to navigating what I would call modestly rugged stuff in the Bay Area. We had to cancel the idea of tackling an easy cross-country route I had wanted to show them. I'm convinced a lot of it is mental: New things intimidate people just because they are new things; not because they present any objective danger.

It is also possible that your friend is among the small percentage of people who never adjust well to altitude above 10k.

- Elizabeth

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: nice area on 07/24/2013 18:31:41 MDT Print View

"It is also possible that your friend is among the small percentage of people who never adjust well to altitude above 10k."

That is why they invented Diamox.


Jani Kikuts
(Enginerd) - M

Locale: Southern California
Going there 8/20 from San Diego on 08/05/2013 10:12:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for the TR, there will be three of us from San Diego attempting your original plan from 8/20-8/26 at a semi relaxed pace to do some fishing and exploring (might come home a day early but we will see). The only thing were planning a little different is to go form sixty lakes basin to Rae via the notch at the north-eastern end of sixty lakes. If you are interested in a retry let me know (got 2 extra permits), were not quiet UL status (working on it) but have been going on backpacking trips together in the Sierras for the last 3 years, pack totals for this trip will be 28-31 pounds. Two of us are in early 30's, and one of us is in mid 60's.

Kiel Senninger
(Kiel.S.) - F

Locale: San Diego
Re: Aug trip on 08/06/2013 18:16:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for the invite Jani. Unfortunately, I'll be busy at work during your trip. I hope you guys have fun and look forward to a trip report. I read somewhere that the lakes in 60 Lakes and maybe Gardiner basin were being gill netted to help save some indigenous frogs. Could be old info though.