Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day Hike To Robinson Lake From Onion Valley Trailhead

Dale Matson

Robinson Lake (10,551’)

36°45’48” N 118° 20’ 24” W (approximate Google Earth places this below Robinson Lake)

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
 Independence Creek Outlet From Robinson Lake

 Trailhead Is Near Here

 Onion Valley Trailhead Parking Below

 Robinson Lake

Independence Creek Inlet to Robinson Lake
 Above Robinson Lake
 If Only I Had Climbed To That Ledge!
 Owens Valley

Telephoto Looking West

Robinson Lake is to the southeast of Kearsarge Pass in Inyo County and is about 1.5 miles from the trailhead in Onion Valley Campground near campsite 8. There is about 1,220’ of elevation gain outbound to Robinson Lake on a trail that is sometimes sketchy. Outbound, I mistakenly found myself going around the lake on a trail that led along the eastside above the lake and had to descend through a boulder field to get back down to the south end of the lake. On the return, I found that there was a better trail around the west side of the lake.

There are probably two main reasons folks go to Robinson Lake. It is a short hike with not too much ascent even though it is steep. The second reason is that Robinson Lake is a stop along the way to a shortcut to Center Basin over University Pass. I ran into some young day hikers that were headed that way the morning I set out to Center Basin going the long way over Kearsarge Pass. If only, if only I was younger, I would have tagged along and could have done an overnight loop hike coming out via the JMT.

I did the Robinson Lake hike in the afternoon after picking up my wilderness permit for the Center Basin overnight that would begin the following morning. I was partly interested in at least seeing where the University Pass gap would appear above me. All I knew was that it was southeast of University Peak. Even though University Pass is named, it is not noted on the map. I had intended to climb high enough on my hike to see it but it would require climbing off trail above Robinson Lake following Independence Creek. I ascended the creek on the northwest side and climbed up to another ledge. I was running out of time and didn’t climb to the next ledge, which would have given me a full view.

I didn’t want to tire myself for the next two days so reluctantly; I headed back down to the trailhead. My entire hike was about 5 miles round trip with about 2,000’ of gain. Round trip, it was about 3.5 hours (2 hours up and 1.5 hours down). Had someone been willing to hike over University Pass with me, I would have given it a try but alone at my age was too much of a risk. A young experienced solo backpacker Gregory Muck had gone missing and his photograph was in the permit station at Lone Pine when I picked up my permit. I later learned that he had fallen to his death in the Gardiner Basin area north of me.

I do not believe this hike by itself is worth the four plus hour drive over Tehachapi from Fresno but in conjunction with other hikes including Kearsarge Pass, it would be an excellent “add on”. Additionally, the Onion Valley Campground (9,000’ plus) would be a great base camp for additional hikes.    

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