Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

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Harlen
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Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by Harlen » Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:33 pm

I went in from Pine Creek TH on July the 2nd with my usual partner Bearzy the dog, and a young Argentine surfer who had hardly ever been in the snow. Our goal was to get in and out Bear Lakes Basin via two new passes- La Salle Col and Granite-Bear Pass, and to find some solitude during the 4th of July.

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It was summery for the first forested mile, complete with ferns, flowers, and a few mosquitos.


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Pine Creek Lake is beautiful. The whole area seemed empty till we met 2 other hikers with 2 small dogs at the Upper Pine Lake. We shot past at a creek crossing, and saw no one else till leaving Granite Park 4 days later.


We had a great trip, mostly because of the crampons we decided to take along. However, on the first day, we carried on over Pine Creek Pass, (8.2 miles in) and a couple miles further down French Canyon, and it was "sun-cup hell" in the late afternoon.

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This is Bearzy perched on the broad Pine Creek Pass, looking to the southeast into French Canyon. We had heavy-ish packs, and really suffered for 1.5 miles on either side of that pass. I think Bearzy had it the worst. It was painful to watch him slipping in and out of the steep, deep sun-cups. The last trip we took (about a month ago), the melt-out wasn't half as bad- it makes a huge difference if the sun-cups are are melted out to an average depth of 5-7", compared to 12-14" "sun-buckets!" On this trip, we learned it was well worth the extra distance to seek out the slightly shallower sun-cups, rather than just plowing through in the most direct line. But best of all- and actually fun, was to wake up pre-dawn, and get off early in crampons while the snow was still hard.

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Camp 1- The view is down French Canyon and our route headed right beneath the mountains in the distance. Fires are okay below 10,000.' Bruno with his ever-present cup of mate- "El bebida de los gauchos!"


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Early mornings were so nice!

From Pine Creek Pass we dropped 3 miles down valley, and crossed on the south side of the drainage that descends from La Salle and Merriam Lakes, and then followed a nice use trail up to Merriam Lake. We stopped early in fear of more sun-cup hell, as from that point on (~10,800' at Merriam Lk.), it was all snow.

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Here is the bit of open water at the outlet end of Merriam Lk. We also stopped early here to try our luck with some spinning lures, but not a bite. Why?! Aren't the fish starving at this point? Blanked out again- happens every time. I'll never attempt spring icy lake fishing again. However, in the open water lakes of Pine Creek we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams! See below:

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It's hard to tell, but this small seeming giant rainbow trout is floating next to a Jeffrey Pinecone of ~ 6" diameter. (Some of you apparently think the cone is a wee lodgepole cone, eh? Why would I lie?)

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And these 3 are bursting out of my 16" pan. (*Always provide incontrovertible photographic evidence to allay suspicion.) My Argentine friend Bruno had never experienced this sort of dangerous big fishing, where it took two of us to haul the fish out of the water.

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The third day we got a very early start, and crossed into Bear Lakes Basin via La Salle Col. That is the south side of the col above frozen La Salle Lake.


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Nearing the top- it was quite an easy crossing on both sides.

I had planned to stay awhile in Bearzy and my favorite "Bear Basin," but since the lakes were all still frozen, and we wanted to fish, we decided to carry on over Granite Bear Pass, and down into Granite Park. Also, cowboy camping with my 32º bag, used as a quilt over Bear and me, was a pretty chilly business. Judging by the ice in the water bottles, it was getting down to the low 30's. La Salle Col was easy- apparently easier than in summer when the north side of the saddle leads to some small cliffy bits. However, we found the first hundred meters on the east side of Granite- Bear to be steep enough to put the crampons back on, and descend with ice axe and whippet. No real trouble, and after that first 100 meters we were enjoying a rapid glissade the rest of the way down. My new surfing friend picked up the techniques easily, and had the time of his young life!

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Bear Paw Lake- which does look like a big bear paw. I think that's giant Mt. Hilgard center frame, beyond Dancing Bear Pass. Our route to Granite-Bear Pass winds through the brilliant frozen lakeland below, and hidden between the ridge above Bearpaw Lk., and the higher ridge in the upper right.
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:35 pm, edited 8 times in total.








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KathyW
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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by KathyW » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:54 pm

Thanks for the report - beautiful photos.

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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by papercup » Fri Jul 12, 2019 3:31 pm

Beautiful landscape. I love the photo of the south side of the col.

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Harlen
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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report 2

Post by Harlen » Fri Jul 12, 2019 3:59 pm

A few more photos from La Salle Col into Bear Lakes Basin, Granite Park and back down Pine Creek.

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That turquoise melt zone!


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Bearzy was afraid of breaking ice, and floating chunks- he will bark at it!


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Hiking up toward Black Bear Lake. Vee Lake below, and the great Seven Gables.


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Looking west, back down on Black Bear lake.


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The top of Granite-Bear Pass, dead easy on the west side, but pretty steep on the east. I tried to sneak up the backside of this impressive peak, but ran into huge, shattered blocks... so I climbed a "married man's peak" just to the north.


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Looking back up at the pass from the east.


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Granite-Bear Pass is beautiful from the east. That's the peak I hoped to get up on; I've always liked the look of it from Granite Park.

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Bruno thought he needed a wash in 40º water- I am self-cleaning, and blame any bad smells on my sleeping partner Bearzy. Merriam Peak behind.

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Heading down through Granite Park we again began early and used the crampons. The eastern slopes of course softened up first, and we had balled-up spikes to deal with around 9:30.

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Where's that Bearzy? He was ecstatic to be in real water again. We were often baking on this trip.


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This is the size lake you need to find those huge-sized fish.


I'll add just a few more images from our magical re-entry into summer.
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Last edited by Harlen on Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:37 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report 3

Post by Harlen » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:33 pm

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There's Pine Creek's small forest belt below.


I realized the difference between these late spring and early summer trips, and the winter- early spring trips. Instead of starting out in a dingy, dirty-snow parking lot and returning to the same- as we often do on winter and early spring trips, on these later trips we start and end in miraculous greenery and flowers. It is a recommendation for heading in later- it's also warmer, and if timed right- still mossie-free.



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All of a sudden you're in amongst giant Jeffrey pines, Red fir trees, and aspen groves!



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Thimbleberry.

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Lower Pine Creek also has amazing geology, as seen in the big block to the left of Bear. I'm guessing quartz and pegmatite dikes, shooting through what? granodiorite, or gabbro, or? I have never seen the geologic maps of it.

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Not only columbine, but leopard lilies and larkspur coming on, ferns, birds everywhere,... and all the mossies awakening... Good luck out there!
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Last edited by Harlen on Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by windknot » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:49 pm

Great report and photos! I'm jealous of how often you're able to get out there (and diligently report on it).
You can read a few backcountry reports here: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/

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davidsheridan
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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by davidsheridan » Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:18 pm

Great report! You are on a roll with awesome trips. My favorite was your North Lake South Lake loop winter ski. But there all great. Any more trips planned? It's only July!

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Re: Pine Creek to Bear Basin-Granite Park Trip Report

Post by tlsharb » Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:12 am

Truly great trip. thanks for sharing. It is so nice to go into the high country when you kind of have it to yourself.

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