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Five Day Loop From Mineral King, Sequoia NP

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by lambertiana, Aug 7, 2019.

  1. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    After taking the scouts on the warmup hike to Mosquito Lakes, we went on a five day loop out of Mineral King.

    All the previous week the skies had been beautifully clear...but starting the day before this trip I could see the big thunderheads over the sierra. Oh well, a little rain never hurt anyone. We drove to the ranger station at Mineral King to pick up our permit. The ranger there gave me bad info, saying that our proposed route involved a spot that had suffered a significant landslide last winter and was practically impassable, so we took option #2. We started on the trail in a drizzle and headed over Timber Gap, and went down to Cliff Creek. There we discovered that the water was still running higher than normal...I usually hop rocks across Cliff Creek, but not this year. Still a lot of snow melting above, which made the water rather cold.

    We continued up to Pinto Lake where we spent the night. And discovered that the mosquitoes that I was expecting at Mosquito Lakes finally decided to make an appearance, and were a continual plague the rest of the trip except when we were crossing high passes. We got tents set up and then it rained for a while, which would be a recurring theme on this trip. After it cleared the view toward Empire Mountain was really nice:

    The next morning we got up to clear skies and made the long slog up Black Rock Pass (Pinto Lake is at 8600', Black Rock Pass is 11,600'). Here is a shot of the view toward Spring, Cyclamen, and Columbine Lakes with Sawtooth in the background, from the Black Rock Pass trail.

    After crossing Black Rock Pass we descended to Little Five Lakes, where we camped for the night. Just after we set up camp, the rain started and we had a two hour rain. After it cleared I got some pictures. Here is the lake we camped at:

    And a five minute walk from camp is the last of the Little Five Lakes; I have always loved the view toward the Kaweahs from that lake:
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
  2. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    The next morning it was already threatening rain when we got up. We packed up and again changed our route because the ranger at Little Five Lakes warned us that a stream crossing that we planned to do was impassable, and this time I believed it because I had seen the stream draining Little Five Lakes, which we had to wade across; the previous time I did the proposed route down Big Arroyo, I was able rock hop across the stream at Little Five Lakes but had to wade across the stream in Big Arroyo. Given the significantly higher flow of the tributaries, it made sense that the Big Arroyo stream would be a raging torrent where we wanted to cross. So we just stayed on the high route, going to Big Five Lakes, across the bottom of Lost Canyon, and then up Soda Creek. It started raining when we were partway up Soda Creek, and we hastily set up camp just in time before a steady three hour rain. After it stopped, I got a picture of the canyon near camp (again, note the flow in another tributary to Big Arroyo, which reinforced the wisdom of avoiding Big Arroyo this year):

    The next morning we headed up Soda Creek:

    And then after another cold stream crossing

    up to Little Claire Lake, which has great views from the outlet. First, down Soda Creek (the Whitney group is in the right background, with the summits obscured in the clouds. On the left end is Mt Whitney, 14,508' or 4422M for those on the other side of the pond):

    And north toward Sawtooth and Needham (the picture on the second day was taken from the other side of those peaks):

    Little Claire Lake:

    From Little Claire Lake we crossed the divide to Rattlesnake Creek, here are a few views of that area:

    We went by Forester Lake:
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
    mewolf1, rswanson, 315 and 2 others like this.
  3. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    From Forester Lake we went up Rattlesnake Creek:

    And camped for the night in this bowl just below Franklin Pass:

    The next morning we got up early. We motivated the scouts to start an hour earlier by telling them that if we got out on time we would stop for burgers at the Silver City resort below Mineral King. They have outstanding burgers and pie there, and those scouts were in a hurry to get there. We ascended to Franklin Pass, here are views along the way:

    Finally we got to the pass (11,700') and had great views:

    From there we descended to Franklin Lake:

    Halfway from the Pass to the trailhead, looking at Vandever Mountain:

    And finally, getting close to the trailhead; Timber Gap, where we started the trip, is the timber-covered pass a little right of center:

    We made it in time for burgers and pie. Overall it was a great trip, despite the mosquitoes and rain. We only had one difficult snow crossing on a very steep exposed snowfield, but otherwise we didn't have much trouble with the snowfields that we crossed.
    BBW, ilten, mewolf1 and 6 others like this.
  4. Mistman68

    Mistman68 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2019
    See any wildlife?

    Awesome pics BTW, looks like a great time!

    WILLIAM.M Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2006
  6. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Beautiful images! I love all the reflection shots and the valley shots are really cool too. I want to go hiking there just once before I get too old to do it.
  7. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    Deer, grouse, one bear, various birds (stellars jay, clark's nutcracker, etc) and trout in the lakes.
    Mistman68 and B Griffin like this.
  8. 315

    315 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2017
    Great write up to what looks like a fabulous trip:thumbsup:
  9. Quiet

    Quiet "That guy" Platinum Member

    Oct 11, 2013
    An absolutely phenomenal thread, thank you for sharing all these stunning pics. Wow.
  10. vwvectors


    Feb 25, 2014
    I concur wonderful write up along with fantastic pics
  11. Melvin-Purvis

    Melvin-Purvis Not a Registered User Staff Member Super Mod

    Jan 14, 2001
    Great thread, thanks for sharing!
  12. Edm1

    Edm1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    Awesome! I'm currently training scouts for another Philmont trip next summer. I love backpacking and I love your pictures.
  13. Mikel_24


    Sep 19, 2007
    Great read! I enjoyed each and every line. The scennery is awesome. I am more of a winter guy than in-between seasons guy... don't like the rain and bugs too much if I can help it.

    How did you guys managed the stream crossings? Barefoot? Sandals with primary footwear strapped to the pack? Getting the footwear wet is one of my main worries when wandering arround the water. Gore Tex does not help if you are getting water inside the boot from the top!

    You didn't mention cooking or fires, did you rely on isobutane or liquid fuel stoves? How did you organize the groups to carry the gear? I understand you had groups of 3-4 scouts each carrying a fully independent set of camping gear (tent and cooking implements).

    We want to know mooooooooooooore!!!! :D:D:D:D:D:D
  14. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    I always bring a pair of Merrell Trail Glove shoes for water crossings and to wear in camp when I want to take my boots off. They are quite comfortable and very light and have very good grip. The other adult on the trip wore sandals for the stream crossings. The two scouts went barefoot, which is not very comfortable on rocks in water that cold.

    We had two stoves - one for me and the other adult, one for the two scouts. One person carried the stove and the other carried the isobutane fuel. I used my MSR Windburner, it is an exceptionally efficient stove (a few years ago I took it on a nine day backpacking trip and only used it to heat water for dinner, and I didn't even finish one 4oz/110g canister). I had my own solo tent (Marmot EOS) and the other adult had his one man tent. The two scouts shared a tent, with one carrying the body and ground cloth while the other carried the fly and poles.

    We only had one fire, on the third night. There are campfire restrictions in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. The first night we camped in a place where fires are not allowed. The second and fourth night we were above 10,000' elevation, and campfires are not allowed above 10,000' because they want to protect the thinner forest growth at higher elevation.
  15. Mikel_24


    Sep 19, 2007
    Great explanation Lambertiana. Somehow I thought you were leading a bigger troup (even though I didn't see many people in the pictures, I thought it was just a matter of privacy). Being only 4 people this was more a family outing than a scout troop event!

    I am glad you can (an the parents allow!) to take scouts to these areas. I did my share of pseudo.scout outings when I was a kid at school (we were not Scouts per se, but did pretty much the same things) and the handicap was always that being such a big heterogeneous group, the leaders didn't feel comfortable taking us to places they couldn't insure the safety of all of us. And there were some kids among us which were totally unreliable (talking about outdoor stuff).

    Regarding the fire, I too think that it is not needed at all. Besides the risk of setting the forrest on fire, you also risk ruining your gear. If you try to pack light and smart, chances are most of your garments and gear is going to be synthetic and they don't get along well with sparks. I don't want a penny sized hole in a $250 down jacket/hardshell/sleeping bag, etc...

    I checked the MSR Windburner and seems to be the MSR version of the JetBoil... the general reviews for these stoves is that they are ok for freeze-dried and heating water, but not so much for cooking. I never tried one. I started with a remote canister isobutane stove, then bought a MSR Pocket Rocket, then a Primus Omnifuel (for group cooking or melting lots of snow) and recently I bought the chineese BSR titanium micro stove (works great, cheeeeeeeeeeap but not so stable, to small of footpring for the pot). I will probably buy one of those sooner or later... will try to fetch a used one (new ones are not exaclty cheap).

    I am soooooooooo jealous!
  16. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    I have done similar (and longer) trips with up to nine scouts and several leaders. We did hard hikes ahead of time to evaluate the abilities of the boys. We will not allow one to come if he will be a liability to the group.

    Lately I have mostly done simple meals that only need hot water, so the Windburner works well for me. And in real world use it is better (faster and more efficient) than the equivalent Jetboil. On the nine day trip in 2016, some of the guys had a Jetboil, and I was able to evaluate them side-by-side, and we even had a water boiling competition at 10,600' in breezy conditions and the Windburner was significantly faster than the Jetboil. If I want to do any actual cooking I use an MSR Windpro with a Jetboil GCS pot,and it is also a very efficient combination. With that stove and pot I can go from a full boil down to a gentle simmer. I also have an Optimus Nova (the original high quality version before the brand was sold to Katadyn, to be cheapened to the point of being a very poor stove) and a Primus Omnifuel. I use the Nova and Omnifuel for winter campouts but do not usually take them backpacking.

    I rarely have fires when backpacking. It only happens when I am with scouts and they want one, and even then I discourage it. On this trip I didn't mind so much because it was after a three hour rain and everything was wet, so there was little danger of causing a forest fire. And we were in a place that has little traffic and there was plenty of available fuel.
  17. Mikel_24


    Sep 19, 2007
    I must say you just convinced me on the Windburner... I will have a look at it next time I am into a new-stove-crisis...

  18. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Very well put together photo set and descriptions of your outing. I am not an expert on back packing stoves and looked up the MSR Windburner. Might put it on my list for future acquisitions. I just don't back pack very often, so I don't own a stove.
  19. ilten


    Feb 10, 2002
    I just love your threads. Such wonderful pictures!
    Thank you.

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