Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Twenty Lakes Basin

Saddlebag Lake
Just a few short weeks ago Susan and I were in the middle of a section of the Sierra High Route and passed right over this spot. When I say "over," that is to say we were literally looking down on the Twenty Lakes Basin from high above - at least until we dropped in at the north end just for an evening and promptly left over a very high col the next morning. The day we went over the east ridge of Mt. Conness is quickly becoming one of my favorite hiking memories ever. So it was very special to come back last Sunday and view the High Route from the basin floor, constantly looking up at the route and figuring out where we were on the airy traverses.  

Another reason to hike this area was the reported Chestnut-sided Warbler (eastern vagrant) that had been seen at least twice in the preceding few weeks.  So off we went down the length of Saddlebag Lake to Greenstone Lake where the bird had been hanging out. We scoured the area for a good long time but had no luck finding any unusual birds.

Greenstone Lake with Mt. Conness and North Peak
Giving up on the warbler allowed us to focus the rest of the morning on hiking a beautiful area.  After Greenstone Lake we passed by several other lakes including Steelhead, Mill, and Cascade which had been our night 5 camp on the High Route. This was also our closest approach to Sky Pilot Col, our first high pass on day 6 of the route. It looked WAY up there from the valley below!

Shepard Crest (left) and Sky Pilot Col (notch just right of the tallest peak in the  middle left)
North Peak over Steelhead Lake
From there the trail turns northeast and continues toward Lundy Canyon. There is a fairly abrupt change in the geology in this area going from clean gray granite to a more reddish black metamorphic rock. This stretch brought Shamrock Lake and Lake Helen right at the edge of the serious descent into Lundy Canyon.  

Helen Lake with North Peak in the far background
 After the outlet of Lake Helen the trail turns back toward the south and the finish of the hike.  Flowers in this area were still very good.

Green Gentian or Deer's Tongue
Mountain Spiraea
The last stretch of this large loop took us over Lundy Pass and along Odell and Hummingbird lakes before finishing on the east side of Saddlebag Lake. There isn't a bad view anywhere along this entire route.

Odell Lake and Lundy Canyon 
Mt. Conness and North Peak from next to Hummingbird Lake
Last look back at North Peak across Saddlebag Lake
9+ miles, 1,100 feet elevation change


Bird List

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