06 January 2017

Sierra High Route/Mt Whitney - Days 10-16

Having gone north along the Sierra High Route from Mammoth to Mono Village (the SHR's northern terminus), largely following the spine of the Sierras, we now changed direction and headed south from Mammoth to follow the SHR as far as Mather Pass. Our plans then took us directly south to Mt Whitney and slightly beyond, rather than to Kings Canyon, which is the SHR's southern terminus.
This much longer section required two food drops so that we could stay up high and save two days each time, not to mention big climbs back up with big packs. This came with the cost of having to be at the drops at particular times, but we made good use of our time when we got ahead of schedule.

Crystal Crag from Mammoth Crest
Our first section was from Mammoth Ridge and heading south, rejoining the SHR at the top of the Crystal Lake Trail, about 5km south along the route from the Devil's Postpile. Our campsites were Deer Lakes (on Mammoth Ridge), Cotton Lake, Second Recess, Brown Bear Lake, Merriam Lake (well, just south of it), and Humphreys Basin, near the Piute Pass Trail. The weather had at last cooled a little, though climbing up 550m/1800ft in the afternoon was still warming, but at least we climbed in some shade (mainly our hats').

Sunset over Deer Lakes

The sun set rather beautifully on our Deer Lakes campsite (we think that's Iron Mountain next to the sun, there). That night we had our first cool night, a relief! This first day was short, only taking 4 hours from Crystal Lake Trailhead to Deer Lakes.

Lake Izaak Walton
The next day (Day 11), we descended onto Duck Pass, joined the Duck Lake Trail and then the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail passing Purple Lake and Virginia Lake before taking a left turn at Fish Creek and heading up to Izaak Walton Lake (left), one of the prettiest places we had seen so far. We then temporarily geographically embarrassed ourselves as the route went from one map edge to another. However we soon found ourselves back on route to make Cotton Lake. Whilst we were feeling tired by the end of the day, we were surprised to have climbed (and descended) 1235m/4050ft in the day. It was a big-down/big-up day.
Tully Lake
The following morning (Day 12), we passed Tully Lake (pictured right) before again heading off in a slightly different direction, exploring some beautiful meadows before correcting and heading over "Shout of Relief" Pass and Bighorn Pass and dropping down to Laurel Lake for lunch. This was to be our campsite for the day, but we decided to push on and see what we could find on Mono Creek or beyond, finding a small patch of level ground in the lower parts of Second Recess. This extra time we saved helped even out the next few days.

We started early the following morning (Day 13) to get up and over Gabbott Pass (3728m/12230ft, our highest point so far) before it got too hot, as it's over a 1000m/3300ft ascent. There were the odd patches of nearly impenetrable willow, which were good exercise, otherwise it was a beautiful morning walk. Lower Mills Creek Lake is so beautiful, it would have made a stunning camp site, though it might be a choice between rock and wet feet! Gabbott Pass is through the obvious gap, still 400m/1300ft climbing to go. We stopped there for lunch. Fortunately, the afternoon was pretty well downhill to Lake Italy, then on to Teddy Bear Lake and Brown Bear Lake.
Day 14 dawned to yet another morning climb, as we scrambled up to White Bear Pass and then over the other side to Black Bear Lake. It was then a climb down to Ursa Lake before heading up over Feather Pass. We wandered over towards Vee Lake, at the foot of Seven Gables, and thought we'd try traversing to Feather Pass, a bit of a mistake, as the climbing became too athletic for people carrying packs. So we dropped back down to the valley floor and crossed Feather Pass (3769m/12365ft, a new high point) in a more conventional manner. We camped at the tarn just below Merriam Lake, at an obvious empty pack mule camp.

Day 15 took us 280m/900ft downhill to French Canyon, past Royce Falls and then up over Puppet Pass and past the appropriately named Desolation Lake. We camped north of the Piute Pass Trail (pictured right with Mt Humphreys, the highest peak in the Bishop area), about an hour from where we were to meet our food drop at 10am the following day.

This section saw us climb 5626m/18460ft, descend 4909m/16100ft, and cover 71km/44miles. Whilst it had started a little cooler, it was warming up substantially by the time we got to Humphrey Basin, and every lunch time was largely dictated by where we could find a scrap of shade.

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.
Disclaimer: The information given is of a general nature only and whilst all care has been taken, no responsibility can be assumed by the author.Conditions change, regulations change. Any reader doing these hikes after reading these notes must show due diligence and be experienced enough to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

No comments:

Post a Comment