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North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

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North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby Tamarack » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:55 pm

My first post on HST, though I have followed the mosquito topic previously.

I am planning a 4-5 day trip from Rush Creek trailhead over North Glacier Pass into the Bench Canyon-Blue Lakes environs starting Thursday Aug 17. I have read other threads and trip reports on this topic and am comfortable with the cross country, class 3, and navigation aspects of the area. My last few trips have included Kaweah Basin out of Mineral King, a loop up the Muro Blanco and over Cartridge Pass into Lakes Basin, and North Fork Cherry Creek canyon during moderately high water, all solo. My last trip was from Tuolumne Meadows to the beautiful valley of the Lyell Fork below Mt. Ansel Adams. The flow in the Lyell Fork was so low in fact that I was able to walk/scramble directly down the steep, polished granite ramps and ledges all the way to the Merced, stepping across the “creek” as needed to avoid the steepest parts on either side. No way to do that in a year like this!

Looking at the map as I was camped there at the Lyell Fork, I was intrigued by the idea of visiting the area on the other side of Mt. Ansel Adams sometime. Coincidentally, my daughter has recently asked me to check out the Eagle Lakes Resort in June Lake as a potential wedding venue. I figure that, coming all the way from the Bay Area, I might as well take the opportunity to hike from the Rush Creek trailhead since I will be right there. I have hiked from most trailheads on both the east and west sides over the past 30 years, but never from Silver Lake.

My main question is regarding any potential challenges from remaining snow/ice and from high water crossings anywhere along the route starting late next week. I have read about the crossing at the outlet of the northern Twin Island Lake. Any other possible problems? Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby Hobbes » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:25 pm

We've stayed at the Eagle resort before; I think you'll find it very nice.

I didn't encounter any snow when I traveled that route last year in late July. If there is any left, I would imagine it would be N Glacier pass and maybe Blue lakes pass. Both are standard class 2 talus hops, so I'm not sure any remaining, residual snow would create significant obstacles.

The entire traverse from N Glacier to Blue lakes faces south, so I would expect it to be dry. The lake ford does present an interesting challenge. I'm pretty good in water, so fords don't bother me that much. When I crossed, it was calm but around waist deep. There's not really any volume flow at the ford per se, but it is deep. If you took a garbage bag as a back-up liner, you could put all your gear in there and float the pack while you dog paddled if it came to that. The alternative is to traverse around the talus, but unless the crossing looks sketch for some reason, I wouldn't use that option unless absolutely necessary.

When you come down the Isberg trail, you will cross the Lyell fork of the upper Merced flowing from below Mt Lyell. It was a standard, nothingburger ford when I crossed, but you never know with the melting snow pack. If it looks too strong, you can either bivy and wait until the morning, or head upstream around 100 yards. The area is flat, so the water might spread out; also, you might get a fallen tree.

As for Lewis creek, it really gets moving with good volume/force where you first encounter it, but the trail stays next to it until you are much higher. Again, I thought the crossing was pretty standard. In your case, you can continue further up to do a 'double crossing'. That is, first cross the Bernice outflow, then Gallison.

Last, when you get over N Glacier, make sure you're on the N side of the waterfall. Keep going for at least 50-75 yards where it become more manageable to down climb. You should be able to see the miniature 10.k meadow Roper describes that will be your focus point to reach.

Have fun; it's a great hike. When you get to Vogelsang, it should be empty since the HSCs didn't open this year. We even cancelled our annual TM trip because, even though the campground just opened, they don't have any potable water. Without water (other than hauling it up from Lee Vining) and the store being closed, we figured we'd wait until next year.

PS You might want to check with the forest service to see if the Rush creek trail is still closed:
http://www.mammothtimes.com/content/rus ... ail-closed

If it is, the hike from Agnew meadows is basically identical mileage to TI lake.
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby cgundersen » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:29 pm

Tamarack,
For recent conditions, see the Aug.4 post by commonloon. Given your experience, I don't think you'll have too much trouble getting to the Blue Lakes area, but it's not clear how you were planning to come out. Are you aiming to head back into the Lyell Fork area again and come out Rogers Pass or loop back around Iron Mountain? If it's Rogers, I've gone that way from Marie a couple times and it's a challenging route, possibly made more interesting if there's as much snow as I'd guess there will be. I'm also guessing Maverick will chime in soon with a HST welcome and he may have more insight (including whether the Rush trail has re-opened).
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby Tamarack » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:16 pm

Thanks for those helpful suggestions. The Rush Creek trail is open to Clark lakes, but not the trail up Spooky valley or whatever it's called. I already have a permit. It will just be an out and back trip. Not planning an epic this time, for a change!
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby maverick » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:29 pm

That Rush Creek info is old news, 7/25 update:
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby Hobbes » Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:30 am

Tamarack wrote:Thanks for those helpful suggestions. The Rush Creek trail is open to Clark lakes, but not the trail up Spooky valley or whatever it's called. I already have a permit. It will just be an out and back trip. Not planning an epic this time, for a change!


So you can now hike around Gem to the Clark lakes, but not direct via Spooky meadow? (As indicated in the updated map Mav posted.) That sort of kills the mileage comparison of Rush creek vis-a-vis Agnew meadow. I've done all of those hikes - the route through Spooky is the direct shot to TI lake.

Rather than in & back, if YARTS is running, you might consider just taking the shuttle back. It stops in Lee Vining, June Lake & Mammoth, so even if you took the long way around Gem from Rush creek, you could still get dropped off after hiking through to Tuolumne meadows.

Yet another option, if you're committed to Rush creek (both permit and Eagle creek), is to just head up to the Alger lakes via Gem pass. I've never been, but have talked to the packers at the pack station who really like it, especially if you fish. You could either come back down the way you came, or continue on over Koip, Parker and Mono passes to create a nice loop.
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby Pietro257 » Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:02 pm

I've done the North Glacier Pass - Twin Island Lakes - Bench Canyon - Blue Lake Pass route twice. (Both times I did it, we dropped into Lyle Canyon after Blue Lake Pass and walked down 25 miles on trail to Yosemite Valley.)

You will definitely encounter snow on both those passes. When I did the route in 2005, also a wet year, Lake Catherine and its environs were iced over on July 31, and they will likely be iced over this year too. You will have to cross some snow bridges to get over the little creeks in that area -- always a difficult proposition.

Crossing the Twin Island Lakes outlet stream is not as dangerous as it looks because the water flow is sluggish.

The route finding is kind of difficult, but the rewards are great. I think Bench Canyon is the most beautiful place in the Sierra. Be sure to write a trip report. I'd love to know your route-finding experiences and what you made of the area.
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby druid » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:26 pm

My daughter and I are just back from an Aug 8-14 trip to Twin Island Lakes and Blue Lake (TR coming soon). There was occasional snow at Twin Island Lakes and in the basin above them but nothing that presented much of an obstacle. The North Lake outlet ford was waist deep on my daughter but calm and straightforward. We didn't go over either Blue Lake Pass or North Glacier Pass but from Blue Lake we could see only spotty snow on the east side of the pass above the lake.
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Re: North Glacier Pass, Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon, etc

Postby druid » Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:42 pm

Here's what blue lake and pass looked like on Aug 13:
blue_lake_and_pass.jpg
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