14 August 2012

Sierra: Crabtree Pass

Sequoia National Park

This is part of a nine day backpacking trip that starts here.

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7 | DAY 8 | DAY 9

The day dawns with beautiful skies. Puffy clouds play their way over the sky. The optimist can claim that there will be no rain today, but the realist suspects that these clouds will have friends soon and together they'll all have a party later. I untie my line and set everything out to dry again. The wet sleeping bag hood wasn't too horrible in my synthetic bag, especially while wearing my wool hat that ties on. Today, we go over Crabtree Pass and down to one of the Crabtree Lakes where we will have trail again. Poking around the day before determined that the direct route up wasn't very accessible, so we plan on making a lazy loop to the left and back around to the higher large lake instead of climbing the outflow. Our neighbors, a group of three hidden around a bump of land, headed out before us with a more direct plan for the upper lake just over the pass.

small pond and Sky-Blue Lake
Circling around Sky-Blue Lake and the couple of ponds around it to head up Crabtree Pass.

We circled around the lake on the east side, which is fairly flat and has many shallow ponds and avoids a few cliffs on the west side, to come to the waterfall that flows into Sky-Blue Lake. Some went up one side and some up the other, but none had much trouble finding a route. From there, we left the stream and headed to some small lakes to the west, finding another stream feeding it all there too.

inflow to Sky-Blue Lake
Climbing up the waterfall to see what comes next. As it turns out, more cascade.

outflow from the small lakes above and to the west
Heading up the drainage to the left, we find that there is more water flowing from that direction as well.

Heading westward, we find a number of small lakes as we wandered upward. The lakes show high water lines far above where they are now. Even with the rain, they are simply draining away until next winter's thaw fill them again. We keep climbing until we come around to the side of the big lake below the pass where we bump into our previous neighbors again as they finished coming up the hard way.

small lake
A lake that's drained a bit over the summer leaving dark rocks where it used to be flooded.

larger lake
A larger lake on the way Crabtree Pass.

After bumping into our former neighbors again, we come upon a vast lake with cliffs around it. Looking across the lake, I can see a bit of a line along the top of the cliffs staying very flat. Our former neighbors take off on a line heading up at a diagonal getting up into steep stuff with huge boulders. Getting around the lake, it is hard to say if we are at the right level to go above the cliffs and below the bouldered steep slopes, but we find a trail which takes us over to the inflow as expected. Travel up this is easy again and we climb up to the pass. Almost to Crabtree Pass, there is a choice about spots to go through. Most of us head right, but one heads left, which turns out to be higher. Soon, our former neighbors make it to the stop on the left as well while we're munching on lunch on the pass.

vast lake
We thought the last lake might be the large one, but coming to this one we find the previous was just a pond.

the flat route to the inlet
Making our way along the easy route between cliffs that drop to the lake and large rocks up on steep slopes.

heading away
Looking back over the last, vast lake as we climb to Crabtree Pass.

Once finished with lunch, we make our way down the other side of Crabtree Pass. I think a route to the right looks best, but we end up going right down the middle along a steep route with some attempts at switchbacks that are generally no more than five feet long. Halfway down, a light rain starts, but nothing seems to be coming of it by the time we get to the lake at the bottom and it seems to be stopping, right up until the hail starts up again.

lake at the north end of Crabtree Pass
Just over Crabtree Pass on the north side, there is another large lake.

The higher pass seemed to be harder to travel down from. Our previous neighbors are about halfway down as the hail starts, but only planning on staying at this lake. We make our way along the north side of the lake, where many trails meet and diverge to mark the way. Below the lake, there is no trail again. We make our way down the drainage. As the skies open up and the rain starts to pour, I pass a nice shelter of at least 16 feet square and 4 feet high, but can't get the attention of the others ahead of me so end up passing it up for continuing to walk down the drainage. It would have been much nicer to wait out the storm, but I didn't know how long that would take. I keep trying to spot another shelter, but don't find anything nearly so nice as I make my way down.

walking the trail to the north side of the lake
We travel our choice in trails along the north side of the lake.

Crabtree Creek
Waterfalls where I expect, because it's part of Crabtree Creek, and where I don't, because it's just runoff from the storm.

After some worry about the safety of anywhere water is running (which is everywhere) due to the possibility of cloudburst, and anywhere in the open due to the 2-3 second times between flashes and thunder, I find myself in view of the highest of the Crabtree Lakes and a pond high above it. I can see one of our group taking a picture in my direction by it. He is on the other side of the creek from me and the creek doesn't look very easily crossed from where I am. I neglected my rain pants again, and the downpour has filled my boots with water to help me learn for next time.

Upper Crabtree Lake
Upper Crabtree Lake and a shallow pond above it. The pond has filled with hail stones, but the lake is too large and melts any that fall in it quickly.

I see two guys playing in the water as I come down the hill. They seem to cross the stream easily and so I stop worrying about where to cross. As I get to the high pond, the rain is stopping. I saw hail on it from above, but it must have been melting fast because it is already gone. Passing the pond and coming in view of the lake again, I see there are high cliffs on either side that I will have to pass above to get to the bottom. I study it for a while, deciding on a route before deciding I've already come down too far and will have to climb a little. I turn back and see both the last two of my group and the former neighbors who have decided to come down lower after all. As I start up the hill, the guys come over to talk. They are running the rapids with their empty fuel cans for entertainment. They've been up here for 11 days, every day with hail, but today is the worst. They are climbing the rock on the south side of the valley, which has some lovely color variations, and are glad they weren't halfway up when today's storm hit. They confirm my route as the right one and go off to see if they can run the rapids all the way to the waterfall while I start up again, but now my companions are close enough that I decide to wait for them, especially since they're still going down and I can divert them to the correct route if I wait.

south wall
Cliffs abound, some of them quite vertical like these and some of them rounded like the ones that make travel around the lake difficult.

trees on the cliffside
A few trees are starting up as we make our way down to the lower lakes.

waterfall filling the upper Crabtree Lake
The rocks come to cliffs as we get to the upper Crabtree Lake and the best waterfall of the trip.

We aren't sure where the other two in our group will try to camp. One is finishing up the trip and planning for Crabtree Meadow today, then two more days to get back to his car while we go to a few more places. The other we are hoping to meet at one of the lakes. There had been discussion of staying at the upper lake, but we don't see anyone camping there. We follow a pair of footsteps in the hail as we make our way around the lake. They seem to change to larger or smaller steps as we go, but there never seems to be two sets until a sand beach at the end. I think I'd seen someone at the far end while contemplating the best route around the lake, but the lake is so large that I can't be sure of who the person was or what he was doing. Since we don't see anyone and we want trees, we keep on going down the drainage to the next lake.

Lower Crabtree Lakes
The lower Crabtree Lakes, which have a few trees beside them.

The sun comes out as we get to the lower Crabtree Lakes and we come upon a large group who are emerging and getting some dinner together. They are making some hot soup first and offer us hand warming by the stoves they have set up boiling their huge water pot and, later, a bit of the soup. We happily gobble down lentils then find a place to camp a little further down the trail and get to drying things in the little sun left in the day. I find my pack is not as waterproof as I've been hoping and it has been a long time since my stuff sack was waterproof, so my sleeping back is moist at both the foot and the head. Nothing horrible for a synthetic, but still annoying. While we think about getting dinner going, our new neighbors come offering the rest of their chicken dinner to us, but I have to plead vegetarian and leave it to others. I head down to the lake to pump water in the sunset and make dinner in the dying light instead.

sun setting over Crabtree Lakes
As the sun sets over the lower Crabtree Lakes.

While pumping water, I notice a stick on the bottom that seems to move on its own. I look closer, and it seems to have feet. It is definitely moving against currents in the water. I finish pumping and get myself fed and my shelter up, this time using the space blanket folded in fourths just under the unprotected foot of my bivy sack. I snuggle in, socks and hat protecting me from the chill of moist sleeping bag ends, for another night that will clear out into gorgeous stars even though the skies were anything but for much of the day.

something that was walking along on the bottom of the lake in the twilight
Whatever it is, it looks like a waterlogged twig with bits of moss but it sure does not move like a twig.

Continue reading: day 5

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 25 Aug 2012

1 comment:

Ape Man said...

That twig in your last picture is a caddis that I've also known as a rock roller. There is a white larva in their that trout find yummy. They usually make their shells with small pepples or sticks if that is all they have to work with. I love the crabtree area. Looks like fun.