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Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

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Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby rhyang » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:29 am

Thinking about heading up to Diamond Peak again, to do that pesky NE couloir. Just curious about snow level and the creek crossings this year.

Oh yeah -- yer gonna die :)
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Deb » Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:03 am

I have scars from the last stream crossing to Summit Meadows!! :P
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Teresa Gergen » Fri Jun 10, 2011 1:59 am

Deb - when were you there? Do you have pictures of Summit Meadows and the views of the peaks surrounding the basin (and/or the creeks :) )? I'd greatly appreciate seeing them if you do.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby KathyW » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:05 am

I'm heading up Sawmill Pass Trail this weekend. If I get high enough to see Diamond, I'll post some pics when I get back. It's my first backpacking trip of season and the heavy pack is going to kill me; so I'm not sure how far I'll get. Maybe to Mount Baxter, but maybe only to Sawmill Lake.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Deb » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:45 am

Teresa Gergen wrote:Deb - when were you there? Do you have pictures of Summit Meadows and the views of the peaks surrounding the basin (and/or the creeks :) )? I'd greatly appreciate seeing them if you do.


Holy cow, it was like June 2006....low snow year but Mary Austin's couloir was still in fine shape. Let me check for photos of Summit Meadow.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Deb » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:54 am

Image

Actually it was May 2005, got confused with a June trip to Diamond Peak. This is a shot of Dave humping it to Summit Meadows on the upper right in those trees.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby rhyang » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:20 pm

The last time I went up Diamond was in May 2006. In July 2007 the Oak fire burned the lower Baxter Pass trail, and in July 2008 a flash flood roared down the canyon, obliterating the Oak Creek campground; the ensuing mudslide closed 395 for a time (there are probably still videos on youtube). I was curious to see how things were.

I headed in on Friday / Saturday. The creek crossings were the crux of the approach -- the rangers said with the delayed melt this spring, creeks would be running high and all three crossings were deep and fast. The first one had a decent log across a bit upstream. The second had some slightly more sketchy logs upstream. The last one before the switchbacks was borderline hazardous .. I don't think I've ever seen it that deep before. I hiked a ways upstream to find an even sketchier log, but it worked out. They are saying the next couple weeks snowmelt could bring some creeks to flood stage, so be careful out there :)

Snow level was about where the rangers said it might be ... ~9500. There were patches down to 8500-ish, but easy to kick steps into. Summit Meadow was pretty rocky and brushy on the north (trail) side of the creek. I remember camping with a group on the south side of the creek in May 2004, but I guess being north facing those were mostly still snow covered this year and crossing the creek without getting wet seemed unlikely :) Instead I headed up some mellow snow to the more established campsites above the falls. Here I found dry sites and running water nearby, much like May 2006.

Approaching from Summit Meadow
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Camping above the falls
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The approach to the peak was pretty mellow early in the morning. I headed to the base of the East Couloir, which I'd mistaken for the NE Couloir in 2006.

Image

but instead of climbing it I continued on to the moraine on the north side of the peak and the base of the NE Couloir.

Image

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The exit of the NE Couloir is just a few hundred feet below the true summit.

Image

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Gotta love Diamond Peak in the springtime !
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Looking down Oak Creek canyon from the summit
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Enjoyed a nice glissade down the SE face
Image

Full set here.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Teresa Gergen » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:02 am

Thanks! I've got 3.5 weeks before my trip there. Think the creeks will be down/past peak flow by then?

Your snow is different than ours. Did you use snowshoes/skis for any of this? Likely no need for them by July? Just crampons?
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby KathyW » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:25 pm

Great job Rob!

I tried going up George Creek on Friday, but turned back at the creek crossing at about 7500' - really high water and you have to fight the bushed at that crossing; so the combination of the two gave me a bad feeling and I headed down. Another group fought their way across, but I was solo and I'm really scared of high water.

I picked a dry canyon to head up Saturday - Armstrong Canyon. Tons of snow out there. I couldn't see Diamond, but I could see Baxter:

Image
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Teresa Gergen » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:48 pm

Does anyone have more current info on:

- The state of the creek crossings on the Baxter Pass trail. Are log crossings reasonable yet? Is it past peak runoff yet? If I go in one week from today, should I expect that the crossings might be even worse 6 days later coming out, or that things would be easier or at least no worse?

- I've never been on this trail. If I can't manage one or both of the main creek crossings safely, how nuts is it to consider bushwhacking up above the creek to skip the crossings? I.e. staying on the north side of the creek between the 2nd and 3rd crossing, or on the south side to skip the 3rd crossing if I make it that far, then working my way to a campsite above the Falls from the south side?

- I'm planning to bring crampons and an axe. I will not be moving at a fast pace. Should I expect afternoon postholing, or has there been enough thaw/freeze that the snow stays solid enough to hold 125 lbs plus a pack? Would snowshoes provide enough flotation to avoid postholing, or is it just so soft in your afternoon heat that postholing is inevitable?

- Will there be a cornice on the north side of Baxter Pass, and if so, it is likely to be one you can detour around easily? Or does the trail get enough traffic that someone probably will have broken through it already? The contours there look gentle, but I always get thrown by meter topo maps.

Thanks for any help, and for the earlier photos and information!
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby rhyang » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:14 pm

I don't know what the creek is doing right now, but a short hike upstream and you will probably find reasonable logs. A trekking pole or two really helps with balance on these things (my balance is compromised as a result of my injury).

Another thing to consider is that the trailhead is ~6000-ish', so it's going to be HOT -- it's basically high desert. The trail is at a fairly steep grade, and basically shadeless until 8000-ish'. So I would advise a really early morning start. Plus, the creeks will be higher in the afternoon.

I wouldn't bother with snowshoes. In the morning the snow will probably be firm, in the afternoon a bit slushy. It's pretty consolidated this time of year. A lot more will be gone by the time you go. No idea about a cornice on the other side of the pass. Know how to kick steps.

If nobody pipes up with more recent conditions, call up the Inyo National Forest ranger station in Bishop (google it). You never know, they might actually have a clue :)
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions ?

Postby Teresa Gergen » Sun Jul 10, 2011 11:56 am

Thanks, rhyang. I couldn't manage the 2nd and 3rd crossings - guessing water levels were higher now than when you were there. Although I met someone in there who said they waded across thigh deep. I bushwhacked on the north side between the two to avoid them, which was, in fact, nuts. Learned you have nettles out here.

The rangers knew nothing, and snowshoes would have been a waste, so I'm glad I didn't bring them. Thanks.

There is no snow until near the "Campsite," at which point the trail goes under snow occasionally. I camped near 3300m/10,800 in the upper basin, in a patch that was snow-free. Had snow going up the north slopes of Black, although I left it for rock half way up. Descended the NE ridge; it's beyond me how Secor could call that Class 2. Hoped to do Mary Austin but the ridge took so long and the weather was coming in that I just descended the gully between them. You can stay on good snow almost the whole way down from the saddle. Snowbridges looked like a serious issue near the junction of all the drainages coming down between Black/Mary Austin/Baxter Pass in the upper valley, and I went out of my way to avoid them. Had hoped to stay in longer for more peaks, but I was worried about getting out with the bushwhack and the heat and was afraid it might take me two days with 2 early starts. Just ended up dealing with the heat; 95 degrees at the TH by the time I fought my way out. The creeks looked like they were running higher on the way out, so I'm not sure things have peaked yet.
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