Lake Vernon cross-country

posted Aug 4, 2013, 9:06 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Aug 4, 2013, 9:07 AM ]
We've had some people ask us what our route was to get from Jack Main Canyon to Lake Vernon on this last trip.  First of all, we have to say that every single one of the CCC trail crew that we asked about it gave us different advice---and they all recommended that we not attempt it.  But we also knew people who had done it without major difficulty.
And so we noticed a few cairns, that led to this view of Lake Vernong from above. Note the steep slope to the right. ©http://backpackthesierra.com
 
So we proceeded with great caution, and always keeping in mind that we didn't need to keep going--we could just climb back out and go around this cliff, along the Moraine Ridge trail.  With all that said...
 

Here’s the route we took to get down the granite. 

The route doesn’t leave right next to the top of the falls, but about 300 yards past them.  We started at the cairns that leave the trail above the first long climb out of Jack Main Canyon to the south.  As you climb out of that gorge, the view opens up to the left, and you will see the cairns.  Those lead you almost due South…to a nice overlook where you can see part of the meadows and Lake Vernon…and towards a series of long granite ledges below you.  That's the view, above left.

M at the top of one of the ledges. This was pretty exciting work. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

And we could see some granite ramps that would take us down, and towards the manzanita covered slope you see in the photo above.  We followed these ramps as they sloped down and to the right, almost reaching the Manzanita a couple of times. 

That's M at right, at the top of one of these ledges, and easing her way down and away from Falls Creek towards the Manzanita.

M easing down on of the ledges...but staying clear of that manzanita, which is impenetrable. ©http://backpackthesierra.comAt the end of each ramp, we would find a short route down to the next ledge, which would lead back away from the Manzanita toward the creek….and we did this four or five times.  At that point, we were almost at the end of the steepest granite, and all the way over to the right by the Manzanita. 

That's where she is in the photo at left. Once on the next ledge down, we walked back towards the creek again.

And it was a fairly large ledge.  But this was the hardest part.  We worked our way back along this ledge toward the creek, and saw two or three short but difficult stretches that might get us to the next ledge.  We finally picked one and down-climbed a Class III set of boulders to get to an even larger ledge below.  We only attempted this little climb because we could see that it was the last ledge before the more gradual granite of the lower slopes.
 

At this point, things got a lot easier.  The granite isn’t as steep, and we worked our way both down and back to the left, to get closer to the creek.  Once we could see the creek, we stayed above it on a series of granite ramps that led right down into the woods.  This part was quite easy.

That's what we came down...and now we have to get over to the creek. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

You can get a sense of the topography from the photo on the right.  The creek is down in the canyon, and you can see the ledges we navigated on the slopes here on the left.  At this point we were pretty far from the creek.

Walking along the ledges wasn't too bad--the key to the route is finding good places to negotiate the drop from one ledge to the next.  And we were able to find places where that was not too hard.

Once you are down, the use trail to the Snow Survey cabin starts and stays right up against the granite, and follows it southwest on the edge of the forest.  Once you find the cabin, it’s a clear trail to the lake.  That's the snow survey cabin below.The Snow Survey Cabin. Now we know right where we are--Lake Vernon is just around the corner! ©http://backpackthesierra.com
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