Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Questions and reports related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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RAMuldoon
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Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by RAMuldoon » Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:27 pm

Hi there, been lurking for awhile, but I think this is my first post. I'm looking for any info on the Baxter Pass Trail. I know the basics as far as its a long, steep, hot climb. My concern is more with the conditions following the winter we've had.

I've never done any of the "4 nasties" and I'd really like to tackle one. A little about myself and what trip I'd like to do. Based on the scale provided I'd rate myself a 3.5. As an example I've summited Langley on day 1 and then dropped down to Soldier Lake for the night. Then continued on through Miter Basin and over Crabtree Pass. Passed Crabtree Lakes and then exited back out Cottonwood Lakes the following day. My buddy on this trip I'd rate as a very fit 2. He has no snow experience and I have some, but plenty to learn. Neither of us have experience crossing raging rivers either. We'd like to make it up to Summit Meadow on day 1, over the pass and down to the JMT on day 2, explore around Sixty Lakes Basin on day 3, and exit day 4. We've both hiked at elevation without issue and we will have no dog with us. I tried to cover all the details! Anyway, any and all advice as well current conditions would be greatly appreciated.

Ryan








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cgundersen
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by cgundersen » Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:09 am

Ryan,
Of any of the "Big nasties", I'd tackle Baxter last. Even without snow, the trail is sketchy, and there is a creek crossing that will probably be horrific. Progress once you hit snow will slow to a crawl, unless you're exceptionally good on that surface. Even though the top of Shepherd pass can be a challenge in early season, the fact that the one early creek crossing will probably be tolerable (and if it's not, you've not sacrificed much), and the fact that even if the Shepherd ridge looks dicey, you can notch Junction pass as a plan b is a plus. For my money, assuming you get over Shepherd, getting into Wright Lakes basin is pretty straightforward and you'll have the place to yourselves. You can jam around Wright for days and not get bored!
Cameron

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orbitor
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by orbitor » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:10 am

I'm heading that way the upcoming weekend July 15-16 - though not all the way to the pass since the goal of the trip is to climb Black Mountain. We'll look to camp at Summit Meadow or higher. Will report on trail condition, stream crossings and snow level upon return. Depending on how we move on the first day, we may hike up to the pass to check it out after we set up camp, since this will be my first time in the area.
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RAMuldoon
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by RAMuldoon » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:17 pm

cgundersen wrote:Ryan,
Of any of the "Big nasties", I'd tackle Baxter last. Even without snow, the trail is sketchy, and there is a creek crossing that will probably be horrific. Progress once you hit snow will slow to a crawl, unless you're exceptionally good on that surface. Even though the top of Shepherd pass can be a challenge in early season, the fact that the one early creek crossing will probably be tolerable (and if it's not, you've not sacrificed much), and the fact that even if the Shepherd ridge looks dicey, you can notch Junction pass as a plan b is a plus. For my money, assuming you get over Shepherd, getting into Wright Lakes basin is pretty straightforward and you'll have the place to yourselves. You can jam around Wright for days and not get bored!
Cameron
Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it.

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RAMuldoon
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by RAMuldoon » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:18 pm

orbitor wrote:I'm heading that way the upcoming weekend July 15-16 - though not all the way to the pass since the goal of the trip is to climb Black Mountain. We'll look to camp at Summit Meadow or higher. Will report on trail condition, stream crossings and snow level upon return. Depending on how we move on the first day, we may hike up to the pass to check it out after we set up camp, since this will be my first time in the area.

I look forward to reading your TR. Thanks!

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Summer
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by Summer » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:28 pm

I have a trip planned over Baxter and out Kearsarge on July 29, and am likewise concerned about river crossings/snow levels/ route-finding difficulty. I'm really interested to hear the recent conditions reports. RAM- when is your trip scheduled?

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jokismo
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by jokismo » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:34 pm

Hi orbitor, I believe we met you on the way down 7/15, hope you guys had a good trip.

My girlfriend and I, both who I would rate a 2 on the forum went up to the pass on a trip 7/14 to 7/16.
We planned on getting as close to the pass as possible on day 1, going over and down to dollar lake or further time permitting, and then camping near baxter lakes and coming out day 3.
We ended up making it on to the highest point on the ridge a bit west of the pass on day 2 and then heading back down to lower elevation, exiting early morning on day 3.

Conditions:

Trail: Brushy in sections, fallen stuff but easy to follow except when obscured by snow higher up.

Creeks: Creek crossings 2 and 3 were swift, searched a bit for better crossings but could not find and settled for going through in knee-thigh deep swift water. Time of day did not matter, we crossed crossing 3 at 7AM heading out day 3 and it was equally swift. As a bonus there is stinging nettle everywhere on the shores.

Snow: Snow patches above 10k directly obscuring trail made trail difficult to follow, getting even more difficult past 10,800. Had no ice axe so went off trail up rock and loose crap avoiding the snow and getting back to the trail where possible. No snow as the trail turns north up to the pass for the switchbacks section until it gets close to the top, where it is blocked by the corner of a snow patch but can be regained again by scrambling around. Was an unavoidable snow patch (~100ft?) at the ridge near the top, we dropped our packs and settled for going off trail to the highest point on the ridge where there was only about 30 feet of snow in which we kicked steps and scrambled over to the ridge. The north side surprisingly looked clear going down towards Baxter lakes.

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maverick
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by maverick » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:53 am

Hi Jokisiom,

Welcome to HST! Thank you for your report. :thumbsup:
Would you have any photos to share of your trip?
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jokismo
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by jokismo » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:30 am

Sure here are some photos / videos. Haven't gotten the images off camera but here is some stuff i took on my phone with comments added:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/7rfLakal3GUjHAVf2

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cgundersen
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Re: Baxter Pass Trail Conditions

Post by cgundersen » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:14 am

Hi jokismo,
Great update with the photos; I've been a "non-fan" of the stinging nettle patch on that trail, and that's another of the Baxter bonuses. It was a tacit reason why I encouraged Ryan to think about one of the other beasties, but heck, now that you guys blazed a path, who knows?
Cameron

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