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Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

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Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby doggler » Wed May 23, 2012 11:20 am

Hey guys,

Tentatively planning on Beartown to Jagged on June 19th. Based on what I can tell, I have a few concerns. Hoping to get some feedback from those familiar with the area.

My two specific questions:
Is there still a stupid amount of deadfall once in the Sunlight Creek basin?
On snow year as low as this one, will the crossing of Vallecito Creek still be problematic in late June?

Mad Mike obviously had no deadfall or creek-crossing issues, as he approached Jagged from the east in middle of freaking winter.

Warg's TR from September 2011 doesn't mention the crossing of Vallecito, assumedly because it was September. He does talk about how he was prepared to bushwhack, however there was a trail and it had been cleared by hunters.

This thread talked about conditions from a bunch of the nearby basins, etc. Mentions how there is(was) still tons of avy debris.

These two guys mentioned the nightmare of crossing a half mile of avy debris in their TR's from back in 2006.

Based off of this information, it's my hope that A)crossing Vallecito Creek just a tad south of where it meets Sunlight Creek may be sketchy but doable in late June THIS year and B)the deadfall mess that occurred back in the winter of 05-06 (I believe) has since been totally cleared and C)there's actually a decent trail for the majority of the way up Sunlight Creek.

Feasible? Anything else I need to know? Thanks guys.

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby climbing_rob » Wed May 23, 2012 11:37 am

Tough question on all this, and I'll find out first hand soon myself, but first let me say crossing that deadfall wasn't a "nightmare" for three of us back in 2008, it was actually kind of amusing. Added an hour or two to the approach is all.

We were much later (August) so crossing the creeks was a zero issue, so no help there, sorry.

But, here's the thing: On the way back out, D-Dog managed to find a way around the deadfall on the south side of Sunlight creek, saving us some time and energy. If that deadfall is still there, and I would bet it is, I plan on finding that same route here in early July (climbing Jagged again with some pals).

D-Dog: do you still have a GPS track of that detour to share? I might have it at home, I'll look tonight.

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby Vincopotamus » Wed May 23, 2012 11:50 am

There was still a good pile of avy debris blocking the trail down low when I hiked it in 2010. About 1/2 mile of downed aspen trees, maybe a 1/2 or 1 miles up from Vallecito Creek if I remember right. Some folks had tried to mark a route through with cairns, but I'd guess that by now the new aspens growing in there have obscured them. It would be a pain to do with full packs, but is still doable with a little gumption. We only had daypacks, but just looked up past the debris and picked a rough point of where we were trying to go and looked for the path of least resistance. I think the old trail might still be on the USGS quad for that area...maybe Stormy Gulch?

Sunlight Basin used to have a FS System Trail running up it, so in many places there is still good tread and even blazes cut into the trees. At some point in time the FS 'disowned' the trail though so there hasn't been and won't be any maintenance done by the FS on that trail indefinitely. The upside is that one of the most beautiful basins in the Weminuche now has a natural barrier against the gomers, and once you get past the debris, you have a pretty nice system trail with much shallower grades than, oh say, Vestal Basin.

I'm not sure about crossing Vallecito Creek mid-June....probably manageable this year, but it depends on how fast and when the snow comes off. We crossed it in late July and had knee-ish deep water.
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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby Vincopotamus » Wed May 23, 2012 12:04 pm

Dug around a little bit and found a picture I took of a couple MOOSE of all things climbing the scree above Sunlight Lake at 12,500ft...

They are hard to spot but are the two black spots to the left of the snowfield in the lower right.
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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby MtHurd » Wed May 23, 2012 12:47 pm

I have crossed the Vallecito in early August (couple of miles north of where you would cross. It did require wading up to the middle thigh. Rocks are slippery too. Just ask my partner that took a drink.

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby Presto » Wed May 23, 2012 1:42 pm

Photo from early August of 2008 (for perspective, our friend is about 6'2" tall) ... the "hand-line" was put in by a guiding group (cannot guarantee that it would be there). Footing was interesting with very large slippery boulders interspersed with small rocks in between (and the aid of the line was useful). Current was very strong ... I'm 5' tall and the water was easily at my crotch. Bring some type of footwear ... I had teva's which worked fine.
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As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby doggler » Thu May 24, 2012 6:13 am

Good stuff, guys. Still seems like guessing the level of Vallecito Creek is a crapshoot. I'll be armed with trail runners(they dry out quickly and have some pretty aggressive tread) and a light daypack.

Rob et al - would love to see that detour.

I grew up in Anchorage. Moose were more plentiful (and annoying) than deer up there. In the winter, though, their droppings provided for quick snowball substitutions to chuck at your friends.

Presto, thanks for the pic. Seems like the volume of water I'd expect. Obviously the pic doesn't show the force of the flow, but if you say it's moving, it's moving! I think of a few of the creeks whose crossings have sketched me out - Snowmass over Memorial Day comes to mind.

If for some reason I end up convincing myself that a late June crossing is just too much, I may switch gears and go Beartown to the Vestal Group.

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby Steve Gio » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:07 pm

Any recent info for hiking Vallecito Creek. Curious about creek crossings conditions.

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Re: Sunlight Creek deadfall, fording Vallecito Creek

Postby Papillon » Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:10 pm

Image

This photo was taken on 7/28. Sarah is 5'5". This is the crossing where the bridge was destroyed by an avy back in '04 or '05. I forgot how many miles up it is (maybe seven?). The bridge is in pieces on the other side of the crossing.

My team accidentally went up the drainage directly across from Roell Creek. Crossing the Vallecito here was below knee deep and maybe 25 feet across (almost too easy). Once we realized our mistake (800 vert later), we stayed on the west side of the Vallecito and camped in an open meadow.

The next morning we remained on the west side of the Vallecito and followed game trails all the way to Sunlight Creek. We all forded Sunlight Creek (10 feet, calf deep) and got on the north side of it. There was a trail right there and we did not deviate from it. It was cairned and took us all the way through the deadfall area to Sunlight Basin.

In places it would fade and we would backtrack five or ten feet and look. We always found it again. I can't speak of the south side of the creek that climbing_rob mentions but I will say if you don't find the trail on the north side, it was nice knowing you. We all figured a pace of 0.25 mph navigating the 6 foot high willows and deadfall sans trail.

There was another crossing further up (maybe ten feet wide) where we had to put the river sandals on again.

The willows are quite thick gaining the headwall to 11,000+ feet. If it has rained recently, you will get wet. The trail is faint through here and starts with what looks like a dry stream bed.

If you cross the Vallecito in the correct spot, just stick to the right (north) side of Sunlight Creek and you will find the path taking you up to the basin. We camped four nights in an open area across from a waterfall. You can actually take a shower up there.

Awesome place.
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