Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

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Chip Down
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Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by Chip Down » October 15th, 2018, 7:41 pm

Goal: From the PCT crossing, follow the Sandy River upstream to the terminus of Reid Glacier (that's right, Reid, not Sandy Glacier), then up to the crest of Yocum ridge, and take the standard Yocum route back to Ramona TH. This is an extremely aggressive goal. More realistically, I hoped to ascend the Sandy Canyon as far as possible, then descend to the highest opportunity to climb out of the canyon up to Yocum.

Many years ago, I tried something similar, but I didn't remember much of it. All I remembered was that I turned back in a narrow canyon when the snow over the creek didn't seem sturdy enough, so I wasn't willing to risk it, but I also couldn't climb the canyon walls. So yeah, my only chance today was if I could ascend right up the bare snow-free canyon, or if I was more aggressive about climbing out to the side.

There were several anxieties looming over me on this hike. The first was the lower Sandy crossing, in the dark. I've failed there before, when there was no suitable log, and the rocks on either side were icy. But today I walked right up to the river, took a few seconds to identify the right log, a few seconds to cross, and on my way up the trail on the other side.

Timing was perfect; I hit the PCT/Sandy crossing just a few minutes after headlamp-off time, and started upstream. I thought I saw some easier terrain a little further from the river, so veered left and was surprised to find a trail of sorts. Followed it quite a ways, but it ended when the canyon bottom became more narrow and rocky. I was surprised at how many campsites I passed in the lower broad sandy/mossy stretch.

As expected, I reached a waterfall. Figured I'd be able to get by on the right, and indeed it worked out fine. Dropped back into the canyon and continued to a pinch point where the canyon narrows, and past that it opened into a broad basin, where the Paradise branch joined. More accurately, Sandy joined. If you ignore volume, Sandy is the interloper, tumbling down cascades into the straight relatively-straight-level Paradise branch. Between Sandy and Paradise was the broad forested base of Illumination ridge.

Nice falls up the Paradise branch, but I didn't want to risk success with a time-consuming side trip. Besides, that would be a consolation prize in case of failure (i.e. if I ended up returning the same way).

Continued up Sandy. Must have crossed the creek 20 times, when the bank on one side or the other was too steep to continue. Finally, at 5570, Sandy passed through a spot that was too steep on both sides, and following straight up the creek was impossible due a pair of falls. End of the road.

I backtracked just a bit, until I could climb out of the canyon towards the Yocum cliffs, on a steep brushy crumbly slope. I hated the brush, but it gave me something to hold onto periodically. On my ascent, I was able to see Sandy above my failure point, and I realized it opens into a beautiful flat-bottomed slot that would have been a joy to explore.

Reached the cliffs and traversed at the base, past a few gullies running towards Sandy, until finally one was just too daunting. Chance of loosing my footing was almost negligible, but the consequences of an uncontrolled slide were substantial. I knew subsequent gullies might be even worse. Nearly under the official "end" of the Yocum Ridge trail, I gave up. Consolation: From here I could see there were many spots where Sandy tumbled though steep terrain. If I'd gotten past my failure point, I would still be doomed.

The brushy loose return to Sandy was miserable. I had been dreading the possibility that I might have to retrace my steps down that canyon, but when I finished descending the miserable slope below the Yocum cliffs, I was happy to be back at the river.

The side trip up Paradise creek to the falls was a success. Not as interesting as I had hoped for, but worth the time.

One benefit to my failure was that I actually got back to the trailhead by dark. I was expecting to hike the last couple hours by headlamp.

As failures go, it was okay. Somewhat interesting and fun. It was only disappointing if I compare it to the other things I could have done with my day.
Attachments
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Notice how close my "cliff fail" is to the Yocum Ridge overlook (official end of trail). Only later did I realize it was just above me. For perspective/scale, notice the PCT/Sandy crossing at left edge. That's the upper crossing, not the one on the Ramona Falls trail.
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First challenge of the day. Easy bypass to the right.
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Just a random fun spot in the canyon.
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Yocum cliffs to left, Sandy canyon in center, Illumination Ridge at right, across the canyon.
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Illumination Rock in the distance.
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That's about as far as I got.
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Paradise falls
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Paradise falls
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mjirving
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Joined: July 5th, 2011, 10:40 am

Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by mjirving » October 15th, 2018, 10:12 pm

Dang! Thanks for scouting that Chip! Any other ideas to safely get across that any higher than the trail? Doesn’t sound like it. I’m certain I would not have gone further than you, or even as far as you did. What a day! Great report.

Mike

Webfoot
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Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by Webfoot » October 15th, 2018, 11:14 pm

It takes some nerve to set out for a route like that! This leads me to wonder: have you attempted to get to McNeil/Muddy Fork falls?

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Chip Down
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Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by Chip Down » October 16th, 2018, 4:51 am

Mike:
Almost, but nothing really convincing yet. At this point, my biggest question is how to drop into the canyon below Reid Glacier. When I was exploring Illumination Ridge a couple months ago, I didn't see any appealing descent routes.

Webfoot:
Umm...no? I'm getting old :lol:
I guess I went up the next canyon over, following Muddy up to the glacier. Lots of fun, but I don't recall seeing any big falls.

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retired jerry
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Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by retired jerry » October 16th, 2018, 5:08 am

that looks like fun

looking down from the official end of Yocum Ridge trail viewpoint, that is impossibly steep and loose, makes my stomach turn just looking down it

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mjirving
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Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by mjirving » October 16th, 2018, 5:17 am

Agreed Jerry.

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Water
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Re: Sandy River Canyon (upstream from PCT)

Post by Water » October 16th, 2018, 10:59 am

bravo. Chip, we need to do a 'hike' at some point to explore something that looks interesting on the map. The brews at the end of your TRs are always the capstone.

-water
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