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Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 3:24 pm
by janky
Hi. A few years ago I posted here looking for a back-up trip to Dinkey Lakes because the snow was insane. We ended up going to Grouse Lakes area off 80 in the Tahoe National Forest. Perfect because permits weren't needed and we found a camping spot just fine. I'm wondering if anyone can recommend some alternative backup trips in the Tahoe area that might be at a similar elevation (around 6K to 7K)? I'm thinking anything above that will be tough even if the snow has melted (stream crossings, etc). Thanks!

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Mon May 20, 2019 8:16 pm
by Lumbergh21
How soon, when?

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 3:01 pm
by giantbrookie
Although the Tahoe area is lower than the Dinkey Lakes the snow line is lower than at the Dinkey Lakes owing to it being a lot further north. Generally speaking the lowest wilderness areas of the Tahoe Sierra do thaw earlier than the Dinkey Lakes but, depending on where you plan to go and when snow may be fairly deep even in the Tahoe Sierra well into June. This includes the Grouse Ridge area.

I will give you a few examples: In 2017 I visited the Lakes Basin area (north of Yuba Pass) and lakes in that area that are lower in elevation than those at Grouse Ridge. As of June 3, 2017 Grass Lake (elev 5842) and Smith L (elev 6097) were thawed but everything higher was frozen. Needless to say there was snow piled high across the trails.
On May 27, 1989, which followed a winter much lighter than this one (1989 was a comparatively dry year), I found most of the Grouse Ridge Lakes barely thawed or frozen and they were surrounded by deep snowbanks that covered the trails (Island Lake, elev 6875) had just thawed and higher or smaller ones were frozen). Oddly, however, on May 31, 1997, following a fairly heavy winter, Penner Lake (elev 6895) was thawed. Late June 1993 still found snow on the approaches to Lower Lola Montez L. at 7120+ feet; the lake had been thawed for awhile.

In my experience the earliest place to thaw in the northern Sierra (Tahoe area, Donner summit area, Lakes Basin) is the region NW of Desolation Wilderness, reached from Loon Lake. This is the area that includes Spider, Winifred, Buck Island, and Rockbound Lakes (Rockbound is in Desolation).

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 7:02 pm
by kpeter
giantbrookie, which trailhead do you use for going up Rockbound from Loon Lake? Do you leave from the campground at the SE end of Loon Lake, or from the spillway on the W side? The various maps all show radically different trails and roads around Loon lake so it is hard to figure out....

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 10:45 am
by janky
Yes, sorry. We are looking to go 4th of July weekend :eek:
Lumbergh21 wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 8:16 pm
How soon, when?

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 10:47 am
by janky
Thanks giantbrookie (love that name by the way, we always bring fly rods with us backpacking). We have reservations for Desolation Wilderness. I was assuming there'd by way too much snow but maybe not. I have to check with my buddy (who's going with us) to see which trail head he made the permit for...will update.

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 12:48 pm
by c9h13no3
janky wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 10:45 am
Yes, sorry. We are looking to go 4th of July weekend :eek:
4th of July, most places will be tolerable. There will be dry ground, and you won't have to post hole a ton. I wouldn't waylay your trip.

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 1:25 pm
by giantbrookie
janky wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 10:47 am
Thanks giantbrookie (love that name by the way, we always bring fly rods with us backpacking). We have reservations for Desolation Wilderness. I was assuming there'd by way too much snow but maybe not. I have to check with my buddy (who's going with us) to see which trail head he made the permit for...will update.
Desolation should be fine by 4th of July weekend but some of the higher places will have lots of snow. In early July 2005 I was in western Desolation and some trailed areas were more or less off trail owing to the large amount of snow covering the trails (areas around the 4Qs, Schmidell, etc.). This wasn't a big deal to me because most of my planned route was off trail, but you should be prepared for quite a bit of snow covering the higher elevation reaches of trails where there are north and east-facing exposures.

I think Desolation will be enjoyable for you from a fishing standpoint. Although the lakes with the most storied fishing reputation receive more visitation than any comparable area in the Sierra wilderness, the top end size of fish in said lakes is hard to beat. In addition there are enough places where there is quantity (but smaller fish) so that you can salvage a day that might otherwise been a skunk at one or more of the often-finicky premium spots.

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 4:45 pm
by janky
Thanks again. When you say "higher elevation" what elevation are you talking about? I think we're targeting 8000 feet in terms of a camping site.

Right now fishing is secondary, gotta find a place we can backpack to/from!
giantbrookie wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 1:25 pm
janky wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 10:47 am
Thanks giantbrookie (love that name by the way, we always bring fly rods with us backpacking). We have reservations for Desolation Wilderness. I was assuming there'd by way too much snow but maybe not. I have to check with my buddy (who's going with us) to see which trail head he made the permit for...will update.
Desolation should be fine by 4th of July weekend but some of the higher places will have lots of snow. In early July 2005 I was in western Desolation and some trailed areas were more or less off trail owing to the large amount of snow covering the trails (areas around the 4Qs, Schmidell, etc.). This wasn't a big deal to me because most of my planned route was off trail, but you should be prepared for quite a bit of snow covering the higher elevation reaches of trails where there are north and east-facing exposures.

I think Desolation will be enjoyable for you from a fishing standpoint. Although the lakes with the most storied fishing reputation receive more visitation than any comparable area in the Sierra wilderness, the top end size of fish in said lakes is hard to beat. In addition there are enough places where there is quantity (but smaller fish) so that you can salvage a day that might otherwise been a skunk at one or more of the often-finicky premium spots.

Re: Backup Trip Due to Snow

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 10:21 pm
by SSSdave
I'd guess by July 4 people ought not be seeing much snow in sun exposed areas above 8k and that opens many more possibilities versus 7k. So the holiday when permits are going to be or already scarce. Twin Lakes out of Wrights Lake or northwest end of Grass Lake out of Fallen Leaf.