Author Topic: Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?  (Read 2472 times)

Big Ed

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Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?
« on: January 26, 2015, 01:14:19 AM »
Looking at doing a trip across the Sierra, starting at Roads End near Cedar Grove (HWY 180). Wanted to know which of the passes I mentioned was best maintained, I've read some reports/descriptions saying Baxter and Sawmill are something only a crazy person would attempt. I've done 31 passes in the Sierra, but only two were East/West, Piute and Italy.

Edit: I will be going up through Paradise Valley, not Bubbs Creek. I did Bubbs Creek in 03, and again in 05. Haven't done Paradise Valley yet.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 01:17:25 AM by Big Ed »

wshawkins

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Re: Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2015, 02:07:43 PM »
Of the three passes you mentioned, only Kearsarge Pass is maintained regularly that I'm aware of.  Iím assuming your ending your backpacking trip on one of these east-side trailheads.

Sawmill Pass Trail doesn't get much use and is hard to follow in places - especially in areas on the west side of the pass. The burn area above Sawmill Meadows is filling in nicely. The trail is generally easy to follow, but it is obvious it doesn't get traveled much.  Sawmill is the lowest of the east-side trailheads at about 4500 ft., so donít end your hike in the middle of the day when the desert temps can be over 100*F.  The last few miles on that exposed hillside before the trailhead can be unbearably hot and dry so, carry plenty of water.

Baxter Pass is a monster in either direction, but one of the few places Iíve seen bighorns. Trail can be difficult to follow, especially from the JMT to Baxter Pass, but doable for most folks.  The creek crossings can be interesting and scary at times.

I was at Kearsarge Pass about three summers ago and the trail crews are continually redesigning the trail and adding more switchbacks, which makes it easier for hiking but adding more total miles to your hike.

For overall scenery, I'd take Sawmill first as Woods Lake basin is gorgeous! Cedric Wright and Colosseum are pretty easy walks from that side, as well.  Fishing at Sawmill Lake is very good!  Rate Kearsarge Pass second as it gives you the option to visit Sixty Lake Basin and Gardiner Basin and many other good fishing lakes in the area.  Baxter Pass trail is last for me and is the least maintained trail of all.  There is a rock slide area detour that adds another difficult mile to your trip down to the trailhead.   
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

Big Ed

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Re: Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2015, 06:29:43 PM »
Thanks for the response, really good info. It doesn't matter which trailhead I end at, I'll just pick one and coordinate transportation. I already figured the mileage, Sawmill and Baxter are about 38 miles, Kearsarge only a couple more. I like to do trips where I haven't been before, so I can see as much as possible. That's the reason for wanting to go in this area. 

saudust

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Re: Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2015, 06:32:58 PM »
Big Ed, need a water boy? Just funnin', but it sounds awesome.  Wow, over the top, really.
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Big Ed

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Re: Which pass, Sawmill, Baxter, or Kearsarge?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2015, 11:14:16 PM »
Wow, over the top, really.

I've done 31 passes, some of them more than once. There was one trip I went over ten passes, so one pass doesn't seem big at all. Might "need" a water boy, as dry as it sounds down there. Ha ha.