ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

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ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by pirate » Fri Jul 16, 2021 5:46 pm

[Someone requested I cross-post this from General; thanks for allowing.]

I'm looking for a backpacking loop in the Palisades. I came across this old article in Backpacker magazine: ... palisades/

The route given goes over 5 passes, and includes quite specific waypoints:

Location: 37.171055, -118.566041
Location: 37.084074, -118.54321
Knapsack Pass
Location: 37.095269, -118.525074
Thunderbolt Pass
Location: 37.087614, -118.491978
Scimitar Pass
Location: 37.120388, -118.534222
Jigsaw Pass

So, I started making maps and HOLY LEVITATION BATMAN, the contours on these passes are Squished. I mean, really squished! According to my own look at caltopo, a moderate one of these has like 2.6:1 slopes, or 53-74 deg. Is this completely insane for anyone wearing a pack unroped, except for maybe Honnold? Or am I being a wimp and not considering the micro-terrain? Or maybe I mis-measured?

***Anyone who has any experience with any of these passes - any beta would be much appreciated.

I recall the "gray wall" near Tahoe to be improbable looking, but very doable with sections with a slope of 0.55. Four times this slope just seems nuts.

At the end of the Backpacker article it says: "Editor’s Note: Our author hasn’t hiked this trip. "

Anyone who knows of a nice loop that could be done in only 4-5 days, well, that would also be much appreciated.

Since I posted this in General, user myles responded,

I've been over Knapsack, Thunderbolt and Potluck on various trips carrying full pack with climbing gear, thought T-bolt the hardest of those. Haven't done them, but having seen them, I don't think at this point (older, softer) I'd like to carry a load for several days out over Scimitar or Jigsaw.

He then suggested that I cross-post this here - again thanks for putting up with this.



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Re: ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by Romain » Sat Jul 17, 2021 12:18 am

Sounds like a good idea for a hard x-country trip.
You don't need to do all of these 5 passes because you can pick either Thunderbolt or Knapsack to cross the Columbine-Isosceles-Thunderbolt ridge. Knapsack is a bit easier but makes you drop about 1000 feet, which you then have to regain somehow. If you choose that option I would go counterclockwise starting with Jigsaw, because you can regain the 1000 feet along the Dusy trail back to Bishop Pass.
On the other hand to connect Elinore Lake to 5th Lake you will need to go over Contact Pass (class 2). That does not seem to be part of the waypoints or route description, but would very much be part of the trip.
Of the 5 passes Scimitar and Jigsaw are the hardest at class 3. Knapsack is very easy. Thunderbolt is more blocky but short to hop over if you stay level at 12,000 feet from Bishop Pass.
Given that the distances are quite short you can probably do this with a relatively light pack and avoid carrying too much weight over the class 3 passes. It would most definitely not clock in at 33 miles. More like 20.
Here are pictures of a recent trip to that area; the captions will allow you to identify some of the passes:
The last picture shows Jigsaw Pass quite clearly if you zoom in.

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Re: ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by Scott M. » Sun Jul 18, 2021 9:55 pm

I think Romain is pretty much on target with his observations and recommendations. I would caution that if you use Caltopo it shows a trail over Jigsaw to 5th Lake. That isn't really the case. Although not difficult navigation it is pretty much a rock hoppin' journey between 5th Lake and Jigsaw.

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Re: ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by pirate » Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:20 am

Thank you for your replies!

OK, time to re-think. I do think those passes are crazy. Also, I've been to Dusy basin before, so how about a whole new concept: a "Palisades NE Loop" out of Big Pine Creek (Glacier Rd).

This is, the highly private and copyright protected "Proposed Palisades NE Loop". Look for "B Plan B" and red arrows. (The purple is the E part of the aforementioned Backpacker mag route. Sorry, I had to really crop the image; you enter from trail at upper right or NE.)

1. Glacier Lodge red. Parking to second lk 4.2 mi. trail 2300' (7800' to 10,100)

------Day 1 short acclimation day. 4.2 mi, 2300'

2. Second Lk. to base of mt. Galey 3.5 mi trail 1600' (10,800 to 12,400)

3. Back along trail to N base of Temple Crag ~ 1.7 mi xc -2000' (12,400 to 10,400)

------Day 2 5.2 mi 1600' of up.

4. Base Temple Crag to Contact pass ~ 1.9 mi xc 1400' (10,400' to 11,800')

5. Contact Pass to Lk. Elinor ~ 1.75 mi xc -800' (11,800' to 11000')

-----Day 3 / 3.65 mi 1400' of steep up.

6. Lk Elinore E to foot of N ridge of Peak3862 ~ 1 mi -1000' (11000 to 10000')

7. to 12000' contour below disappointment peak ~ 1.5 mi 2000' (10000 to 12000')

8. Onto trail, back to junction, back to lodge Parking ~ 1+3.6 mi+.6=5.2 mi. -4200' (12000' to 7800')

-----Day 4+ early Day 5. 7.5 mi 2000' up; -5200'

Total miles = 20.75

It looks like the hardest pass is Contact Pass, class 2... right?

I haven't looked at water, but the only place that looks questionable is camping near N base of Temple Crag. Unless you know something different...?

What do people think?


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Re: ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by Deb » Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:29 pm

Contact Pass isn't difficult, but it will be a pain in the butt with heavy packs. Slight possibility of rotten snow/ice, although it seems that most "permanent" snow has disappeared. Water will be available as you head down towards the South Fork trail...once through a pretty respectable boulder field. Be careful with your ankles.

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Re: ISO Palisades Backpack Loop: Is this insane?

by seano » Tue Aug 03, 2021 3:58 am

Plan B will work, but it misses IMHO the nicest part of the original loop, instead spending a lot of time in woods and/or boulder fields. You can use Thunderbolt/Knapsack, Potluck, and Chimney/Cirque passes in combination with the JMT to make a loop.

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