Unfinished Business ~ Bishop Pass
I cut my teeth backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I fell in love with the grand scale of the mountains, exposed trials, granite and all it's spectacular variations. Most notably the massive domes, granite fields and yummy glacial polish. The Sierra is such a special place to me and I hold all other mountain ranges up against it. It's no secret that I am particularly smitten with the Eastern Sierra.
In the summer of 2018 I hiked the John Muir Trail. For those not familiar, the John Muir Trail is a long distance trail journeying almost entirely through the High Sierra in California's Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. It is 213 miles with the northern terminus located in Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley and the southern terminus Mount Whitney. For 160 miles both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail follow the same path. Many thru-hikers will hike the JMT before attempting longer trails such as the PCT.
The JMT was my first thru hike. I’d never been in the back country for so long, climbed so high or lived in the mountains. Trekking though the Sierra that summer changed my life forever. I walked away from that experience feeling strong, capable and confident. I am forever hooked on mountains and thru-hiking.
Photo taken by a friend upon completion of JMT August 2018 at Whitney terminal
So what does all this have to do with Bishop Pass?
Entertainment at night on the JMT mostly consisted of cooking dinner, star gazing, chatting with my two companions and studying maps. I would study the path ahead, all the surrounding peaks and side hikes, taking note of the places I wanted to further explore.
I have spent my lifetime studying maps and dreaming up adventures.
Bishop Pass was one I did not want to walk by. I saw all the high peaks on the map that were just out of sight from my vantage point in Le Conte Canyon. I was so curious! Alas I trekked on by, since our resupply would be at Kersage Pass instead. I promised myself I would return and hike it someday.
Early June 2022 I finally made that dream reality. Yes Yes Yes! I have really been enjoying early season snowy conditions. Years past I had let snow intimidate me. Silly. Snow in the mountains is beautiful, dramatic and makes for far more interesting hiking. Route finding can be a bit trickier.. but an added challenge I enjoy. You could say, after this Spring season, I'm definitely snow curious.
Mount Agassiz straight ahead, Bishop Pass and all it's snowy fun
Hiking companion West of the pass avoiding snow in the path
Mount Agassiz in the background West of the pass
What I'm learning is that Spring snow conditions are quite fun! The weather is hot and sunny but the temps aren't too hot yet, the snow is soft, not icy, yet micro spikes are still helpful.
If your not familiar with the Sierra, there is the Eastern and Western Sierra and only a few places that are hiking entry points into the range. South Lake Trail head is where you start the journey over Bishop Pass and it is traveled by thru-hikers, backpackers and day hikers alike. The trail head is about 40 minutes from Bishop and about 15 minutes from the Buttermilks. That's the brilliant thing about Bishop, the access to nature is mind bending.
Me and a few companions spent 5 days backpacking an out and back route. The first night we acclimated at Willow Camp near the trail head. We camped just over the pass on the West side the second night, Dusy Basin for 2 nights, had a fabulous day hike down into Le Conte Canyon and on the last night camped at Long Lake.
We crossed the pass late in the day both entering and exit. The snow was softer, some post holing did occur. Never fun to have one leg fall up to your crotch in snow, I was grateful to have a companion nearby to help me out. For the most part I floated on top of the packed snow and avoided area's where snow melt river's were underfoot. The weather was perfect, fantastic hiking weather, daily high temps around 55-60 degree's fahrenheit. The snow is melting rapidly up in the High Sierra and there is water, streams, rivers and waterfalls everywhere. Just lovely.
I got a little emotional getting back onto the JMT. We hiked on my old path about a mile and ate lunch at the base of Langille Peak. It felt good to be on trail again, deep in the High Sierra and all it's majesty, chatting with PCT thru-hikers and hearing the trail reports. I feel my most genuine out there.. so free and at peace.
I would be amiss to not mention the marmots at Dusy Basin. I am not a fan of these creatures. It doesn't matter how many trips I've been on, I learn something every time. I left my trekking poles and jetboil out on the ground during our day hike. A BIG mistake. Marmots chewed the handles of my beloved trekking poles all the way to the metal. AND the lid to my stove. I knew better, how frustrating! I didn't use either for the remainder of the trip, lucky we had multiple stoves and I could still cook.
A lesson and reminder to always hang your gear when away from camp.
Rest in peace dear trekking poles. You journeyed with me near, far and everywhere in between.
Marmots are not your friends