TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug 10 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug 10

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:29 am

frozenintime -- thanks! here's some more...

...the last of my calluses sloughed off this week and I have returned to my usual tenderfoot state -- it has taken me several days to recover from the emotional trauma induced by this...

A passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which I picked up again this week: "Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just the means to an end but a unique event in itself."

July 26 — Day 14: 8.0 hrs, 12.9 miles, +3100/-3200
To the SHR’s Doorstep
Upper Thompson Canyon to Matterhorn Canyon beneath Sawtooth Ridge

I awoke to the call of some coyotes that had also sung me to sleep last night. I found myself in a significantly wet tent and quilt since the sand pad I was camped on was saturated from the meandering meltwater streams at the the top of Thompson Canyon. Campsite selection lesson learned (temporarily, it turned out). Nevertheless, I was up and on my way by 7:30, headed up to the saddle that would then take me down to Kerrick Meadow and back on the trail for the rest of the day. The saddle is a pretty broad target and the stroll through the boulder studded meadows in the upper reaches of Thompson Canyon was very pleasant in the morning sun. I ended up a little high on the saddle. This was to develop into a theme for the trip (witness yesterday’s struggles with proper contouring) and by the end I was considering giving myself the trail name Too High. On this occasion I found a pretty nifty chute that led south and down to an easily navigated wooded slope that dumped me into Kerrick Meadow.

It was then a simple matter to head east across the meadow until I picked up the trail that parallels Rancheria Creek. About 50 yards to the north on that path I encountered the trail to Peeler Lake and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon making my way on trail through the complex terrain from Peeler Lake through the Robinson Lakes area and past Slide Mountain on the way up to Mule Pass. It was a pretty hot day and I struggled with lightheadedness all day long, which did not help with my first conversation (with somebody other than myself) since the day I crossed Sonora Pass. I met a father and his two sons on the east side of Peeler Lake who were headed west, and he asked me if the campsites at Peeler Lake were occupied. When I told him it was a no camping zone and posted as such, he asked what they were supposed to do. I wanted to suggest Kerrick Meadow but my brain wasn’t up to the task of recalling its name much less putting it into a coherent sentence. After an awkward silence, we said goodbye. Oops.

The trail along the north shoreline of Peeler Lake is an impressive bit of construction, as were other sections of trail that led up to Mule Pass. I am always taken aback by how much physical labor is invested in our trail system, and I wonder what its current-dollar value is. I cannot imagine trying to secure funding for equivalent projects today. Such were my thoughts as I hiked onward and upward. Given my ongoing acclimatization issues, it took me quite some time to gain the 1000’ from Peeler Lake to Mule Pass — I just about collapsed in dismay upon reaching the high, pretty meadow beneath Slide Mountain only to see there was more climbing to be done to reach the pass. Fortunately, it was only something like another hundred vertical feet. The views from the top were, once again, simply astounding. Sawtooth Ridge leads the eye right to Matterhorn Peak and then around to the Finger Peaks with upper Slide Canyon nestled in between. I stopped for a late lunch and to soak in the views. On my way down from the pass I met the last group of people I would see for another couple days and then headed up Slide Canyon along Piute Creek. My original plan had been to cross Matterhorn Col into Spiller Creek Canyon, but it was clear to me that I could not possibly go that far so I picked a spot a fair distance off trail at the top of a set of falls with lovely views of the Finger Peaks, Sawtooth Ridge and Matterhorn Peak. After supper I did a food inventory, which conclusively proved a) I would be coming into Tuolumne Meadows in two-and-a-half days on fumes and b) I was an idiot for sending food home with Stacey eight days ago…

Day 14 -- Hawksbeak Peak.jpg
Hawksbeak Peak

Day 14 -- Peeler Lake.jpg
Peeler Lake

Day 14 -- Robinson Lakes.jpg
Robinson Lakes

Day 14 -- Robinson Creek & Kettle Peak.jpg
Robinson Creek & Kettle Peak

Day 14 -- Crown Lake & Slide Mountain.jpg
Crown Lake & Slide Mountain

Day 14 -- Slide Mountain.jpg
Slide Mountain -- on the way to Mule Pass

Day 14 -- Sawtooth Ridge & Upper Matterhorn Canyon.jpg
Sawtooth Ridge & Upper Slide Canyon from Mule Pass

Day 14 -- Sawtooth Ridge & Matterhorn Canyon.jpg
Sawtooth Ridge & Upper Slide Canyon from Mule Pass

Day 14 -- Momma & Baby.jpg
Momma & Baby on the way down from Mule Pass

Day 14 -- Sawtooth Ridge & Matterhorn Peak.jpg
Sawtooth Ridge & Matterhorn Peak

Day 14 -- Piute Creek & Finger Peaks.jpg
Piute Creek & Finger Peaks

Day 14 -- Matterhorn Peak.jpg
Matterhorn Peak at dusk

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Oct 15, 2016 4:16 pm

July 27 — Day 15: 10.0 hrs, 10.0 miles, +4050/-4100
I Did Things on that Pass For Which My Wife Would Never Forgive Me if She Found Out
Matterhorn Canyon beneath Sawtooth Ridge to Shepherd Lake Creek @ 9850'

The mosquitoes were out in force this morning, so I ate breakfast inside the tent. Then I quickly broke camp and was back on the trail at 7 AM heading up the last stretches of Slide Canyon to Burro Pass. There were some snow fields to cross, but nothing treacherous and I was feeling much better than yesterday. I had camped two nights in a row at about 10,000’ and took some extra salt pills at the end of the hot day yesterday, all of which may have helped.

The view east from Burro Pass just stopped me in my tracks. I now had my first close look at Matterhorn Col a little more than half a mile away and 700’ up and it was daunting for a novice cross country traveler. The final bits at the top looked quite vertical from that vantage, and I found myself thinking “Helllllloooooo, Tuolumne Meadows!” I hemmed and hawed up there for quite a while, trying to visualize an approach and get my courage up. In the back of my mind (and stored on my phone) I had RoguePhotonic’s cross country pass description, which made it clear the *other* side of the col was even more difficult. I finally decided I hadn’t come all this distance just to walk away without at least going up to the damn thing and looking it right in the eye, as it were. Unfortunately, there were some strategically placed steep granite ramps between me and the pass, so I had to drop down several hundred feet to skirt them at their base and make my way back up. The expansive views of upper Matterhorn Canyon and the Finger Peaks from this area were quite nice, and the climb up to an obvious staging area a hundred feet or so below the pass was steep but doable. It was good to walk in the shadow of Matterhorn Peak and look out into the brightness downward and across the canyon to the south. Several times I picked up and lost a use trail that approaches the col on the southwest slope of Matterhorn Peak.

The final scramble was sharp and short and a surprise to me — welcome, Dennis, to the granularity of the pass rating scale. My main grump about the subjective ratings given to the cross country passes I was to encounter these first few days on the SHR is that you can pretty much drive a truck through the difference between a Class 2 and a Class 3 pass. Of course, this issue has come up before: By the end of the trip, I had come to a fuller understanding of the great variability in Class 2 designations, and in my own little world I decided the difficulty scale with a 25-30 lb pack on my back goes Class 2 Hiking (with poles), Class 2 Bouldering (must put poles away, but no exposure/possibility of injury), Class 3 Hiking/Bouldering (must put poles away, with exposure/possibility of injury). Thus, the west side of Matterhorn Col in my book is Class 2 Bouldering. The views from the top were just beautiful and breathtaking — the view across Spiller Creek Canyon to Virginia and Stanton Peaks justified the climb for sure.

But how to get down? The guides mention a Class 2 chute south of the pass, and when I looked that way I saw something that looked like death on a stick. I found out later I had not gone far enough south to find the actual chute, but in the mean time I relied on RoguePhotonic’s description of a Class 3 route a little further north upslope on the ridge leading to Matterhorn Peak. I dropped my pack and went on a reconnaissance mission. I found what I am pretty sure is his route down — there is a boundary marker at the top of the pass and if you scramble over two small ridges of rock you come upon a steep ramp with a reassuring wall on the left hand (north) side — photo below. I went back up, had my second breakfast for courage and endurance, and started down. There were two spots where I had to leave my pack, down climb and pull my pack after me (butt sliding down a short very steep ramp once and a vertical, tight step down between boulders of three or four feet). On the way down, I spotted what looked like the so-called Class 2 chute, and I have to concur with RoguePhotonic’s judgment of “screw that!” . I am not quite sure what I would have done if I had been going the other away across this pass.

Once down, I enjoyed moseying across the top of Spiller Creek Canyon and finally joining up with the Sierra High Route. I briefly considered contouring around the head of the canyon to avoid losing elevation, but the far side on the slopes of Virginia Peak had some long sections of talus at unpleasant angles. Besides, walking on turf for a while can be quite restorative, especially for the high country traveler approaching the next challenge of the day — Stanton Pass. Lovely views back across the canyon to Whorl Mountain, Matterhorn Peak and Horse Creek Pass with expanses of blue sky kept me from dwelling overmuch on the more formidable looking wall below Stanton Pass. I followed the recommendations of Roper and others on this forum to approach from the south to avoid cliffs to the north on the Virginia Peak side. Nevertheless, I found myself in one spot where I was pretty sure I could not go back down and was having a heck of a time finding a decent handhold to help pull myself up with. On the third attempt, chanting “Don’t Panic” a la The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and finding strength in the fact that I remembered to bring my towel, I gave it my all, swung my center of gravity ever so briefly over nothing but air, and made it up to the next ledge. Class 3 Bouldering, indeed.

More spectacular views from the top, especially across Virginia Canyon and up along Shepherd Crest. It was pretty straightforward to plot a route down the other side that did not involve any tricky down climbing. In short order, I was approaching the saddle west of Grey Butte and descending the ramps above Soldier Lake. Following my clambers over the two passes earlier in the day, ramp travel seemed positively luxurious. I especially liked being on the slabs that were hollowed out underneath, which gave a percussive accompaniment to my boots and poles. Alas, it did not last long, and I was unceremoniously shunted onto forested slopes with fairly dense undergrowth. I pressed on downslope, stepped across the Virginia Canyon Trail, and headed up the other side. Here the forest opened up quite a bit and the spaces between the trees were often filled with lupine in full bloom. My original plan had been to camp this night at Shepherd Lake, and it was clear I would not reach that goal, but I was quite happy to have crossed two major passes — I would gladly trade a couple miles and some hundreds of feet of elevation for that. I followed a use trail for a while and left it when it veered away from the stream running down from Shepherd Lake. I found a mostly flat spot well above the stream and made camp. For supper, I stumbled upon a most delicious recipe: Trader Joe’s Mac & Cheese with olive oil and all the leftover spice dust from a package of Trader Joe’s Thai Lime & Chile Almonds. I did my best to practice Mindful Eating and savor each bite in an attempt to tamp down my hunger, but I could easily have eaten another box or so of the stuff…

Day 15 -- Matterhorn Col & Whorl Mountain from Burro Pass.jpg
Matterhorn Col (far left) & Whorl Mountain from Burro Pass -- note steep ramps in foreground

Day 15 -- Matterhorn Col.jpg
Matterhorn Col

Day 15 -- Virginia Peak from Matterhorn Col.jpg
Virginia Peak & Stanton Pass from Matterhorn Col

Day 15 -- Class 3 descent from Matterhorn Col.jpg
Class 3 descent from Matterhorn Col with Horse Creek Pass in the distance

Day 15 -- Class 2 chute Matterhorn Col.jpg
Class 2 chute (left) on east side of Matterhorn Col with death-on-a-stick (right)

Day 15 -- Spiller Creek Canyon.jpg
Spiller Creek Canyon and Virginia & Stanton Peaks

Day 15 -- Whorl Mountain.jpg
Whorl Mountain & Spiller Creek Canyon

Day 15 -- Stanton Pass.jpg
Stanton Pass

Day 15 -- Virginia Canyon & Soldier Lake.jpg
Virginia Canyon & Soldier Lake

Day 15 -- Virginia Canyon.jpg
Virginia Canyon from ramps above Soldier Lake

Day 15 -- Shepherd Crest.jpg
Shepherd Crest

I must confess at this point that I have not been traveling entirely alone. Meet Boone (as in my boon companion). He ostensibly belongs to my teenage daughter, but I bearnapped him a few years ago on my first solo trip so I could send her photos of him in exotic locales. I enjoy his company because he does not question my decisions, he listens when I need someone to talk to, and he doesn’t mind serving as a pillow at night. On the other hand, he weighs 6.6 ounces, and he doesn’t do the supper dishes or pitch the tent when I ask. Mostly, I rely on him for a sort of probability insurance: after all, what are the chances of encountering two bears at the same point in space at the same point in time?

Day 15 -- camp beside Shepherd Lake outlet stream.jpg
Boone and his HST bling

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby rlown » Sat Oct 15, 2016 5:23 pm

and Boone is small if I remember correctly the size of the patch.

Nice report. Thanks for sharing..
User avatar
Topix Junkie
Posts: 5396
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby WarrenFork » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:11 pm


I was over the same passes last week but took few photos due to wind, cold, and snow so I'm especially grateful to you for sharing. Many thanks. Turns out we share the same probability strategy regarding bears. Here is Delbert taking a rest stop in Spiller Creek Canyon just as the first flakes started to fall.

User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:55 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:45 pm

rlown -- Yes, he is small, but fiercely protective of me when cornered. Or so I hope... Thanks.
WarrenFork -- Delbert is a cutie! And appropriately dressed for the weather, too. I would love to take some autumn hikes in the Sierra someday. I hope you enjoyed your hike. Had you been over the passes before? In the immediate aftermath I vowed never to return, but my opinions have mellowed with time.

July 28 — Day 16: 9.25 hrs, 10.3 miles, +3800/-3750
Angle of Repose
Shepherd Lake Creek @ 9850' to Mine Creek just outside Monroe Hall Research Area

Up and on the trail by 7:15 AM. I made relatively good time up to Shepherd Lake, but the talus-o-rama from there to Sky Pilot Col took me a good long while. I tried to be clever and go high around some of it to no avail — just more up and down in the end. I spent three hours hiking about two miles from my camp site to the pass despite using some lingering snow fields, which in my altitude-fueled cleverness I thought of as the Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System (YARTS). Just yuckin’ it up out there. On the scramble up the gravel and scree of the final pitch, which was at the angle of repose and indeed “offensive” as Roper puts it in his description of the other side, I encountered a few beautiful clumps of sky pilot but could not stop to get my camera out for fear of sliding back down from whence I came. There was one pretty sorry looking plant right at the top that somebody had built a little shrine around. Photos and second breakfast at the top were followed by a rapid, non-offensive gravel-glissade down the other side. Down past Secret Lake and Cascade Lake, contouring around the east ridge of North Peak and up the east ridge of Mt Conness. Here I took only a cursory look at the map without benefit of a compass reading, decided I knew where I was, and started climbing. And climbing. And climbing. By the time I decided to get over on top of the ridge I discovered I was I-don’t-know-how-many-hundred feet higher than necessary, which afforded some nice views south to Green Treble Lake and made planning the next stage straightforward. I had just sat down for lunch and enjoy the views when I heard rumbles of thunder coming from the south near Mt Dana where clouds were gathered, so I packed right back up and scampered down to the meadowy area around Green Treble Lake. From there it was straightforward to find Spuller Lake and follow the trail around Fantail Lake and out of the Hoover Wilderness. I camped about fifty feet from the boundary not far from Mine Creek, doing my best to make sure I was legally camped. As I was setting up camp, I saw my first people in a couple days — they were flyfishing Mine Creek (and making some strange hooting sounds -- does this draw the fish or were they just happy?). I did some laundry and then it rained for a couple hours. Wet clothes for me in the morning. Oh, and somewhere on the way up to Sky Pilot Col I snapped the carbide tip off one of my poles, leaving only slippery plastic. Nice. My sorry attempt to fashion a new faux rubber tip with duct tape lasted less than a quarter mile. Over the next days the plastic eventually wore down to the metal beneath. Problem solved.

Day 16 -- Shepherd Lake & Shepherd Crest.jpg
Shepherd Lake & Shepherd Crest -- Sky Pilot Col is second low spot from left edge of photo

Day 16 -- view back to Virginia Canyon.jpg
Shepherd Lake & Virginia Canyon

Day 16 -- Sky Pilot Col to right of block.jpg
Sky Pilot Col -- to right of squarish block

Day 16 -- Sky Pilot Col.jpg
Sky Pilot Col -- I went to the right side

Day 16 -- Saddlebag, Steelhead & Cascade Lakes.jpg
Saddlebag, Steelhead & Cascade Lakes from Sky Pilot Col

Day 16 -- contact zone at Sky Pilot Col.jpg
Contact Zone! -- wicked cool to the geologically inclined (no pun intended)

Day 16 -- North Peak.jpg
North Peak

Day 16 -- Shepherd Crest, Cascade Lake & Steelhead Lake.jpg
Shepherd Crest, Cascade & Steelhead Lakes with Sky Pilot Col in the distance (from Mt Conness ridge)

Day 16 -- Conness Lakes & North Peak.jpg
Conness Lakes & North Peak (from Mt Conness ridge)

Day 16 -- Mt Dana, Maul Lake & Green Treble Lake.jpg
Mt Dana, Maul Lake & Green Treble Lake (from Mt Conness ridge)

Day 16 -- White Mountain & Mt Conness.jpg
White Mountain & Mt Conness

Day 16 -- wildflower meadow.jpg
wildflower meadow near Fantail Lake

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:44 pm

...okay, semester is over and grades are in, time to finish this trip report

July 29 — Day 17: 5.0 hrs, 9.5 miles, +1350/-2575
The Permit Issue Resolved
Mine Creek just outside Monroe Hall Research Area to Tuolumne Meadows

Up and on the trail by 6:30 AM — I wanted an early start to ensure I had time to do all that needed doing in Tuolumne Meadows. Resupply, real food, permit clarifications, and of course a beer or two. The climb up to Mine Shaft Pass with the morning sun shining on the rock face was nice and I soon warmed up as my clothes dried. I found the little hidden valley that takes you a good way to the top, and the short scrambles between ledges the rest of the way to the top were straightforward. I spent a little time around the ruins and then picked up the trail down to the uppermost Gaylor Lake where I met the first of several parties headed up to the pass. Leaving that trail I struck out across wide open meadows led forward by the chirping of the ground squirrels whose morning routine I had disturbed. In the distance the Cathedral Range was laid out long and low in the distance beneath spacious blue skies. Very nice. With nothing but fumes in my bear canister, I opened up my stride and kicked on the afterburners. In short order, I was in the forest on Moraine Flat above Tuolumne Meadows and met quite a few people on their way to Granite Lakes. Fording the Dana Fork was chilly but easy. After crossing I noticed two things: lots of birdsong and a pervasive smell of horse manure. Welcome back to civilization and hiking on trail in a very popular national park. My resupply package was waiting for me at the location I expected (sweet!) with some extra surprises and notes from home. My much anticipated burger from the grill was a total let-down, but the salad and beer more than compensated. Off to the backcountry office to resolve my permit conundrum, which I have already written about. In addition to the positive outcome with regard to the permit, I should also relate the following: There were no fresh isobutane canisters to be had in the entire park at that time, according to the people at the store. I mentioned it in passing to the ranger who issued my permit, making a joke about learning to like al dente pasta for the next week, and she took me out back to their flammables locker and gave me a spare canister from their supply. How nice. Armed with my new YNP-issued permit I paid for a night at the backpacker camp and set up my tent. I spent a pleasant couple hours making phone calls back home and sipping beer. Then the PCTers came home. For their third festive night at the campground, as I overheard them discussing with the campground supervisor. I had read about these rolling parties but never experienced one as a participant or an observer. It went on and on. And on. And on. Until 1:30 AM to be precise.

Day 17 -- Fantail Lake.jpg
Fantail Lake

Day 17 -- Gaylor Peak.jpg
Gaylor Peak from Mine Shaft Pass

Day 17 -- Great Sierra Mine ruins.jpg
Great Sierra Mine ruins

Day 17 -- Gaylor Peak & Gaylor Lakes.jpg
Gaylor Peak & Gaylor Lakes

Day 17 -- Cathedral Range.jpg
Cathedral Range

Day 17 -- Cathedral Peak.jpg
Cathedral Peak

Day 17 -- water will win out eventually.jpg
water will win out eventually

Day 17 -- Unicorn Peak & Cathedral Peak.jpg
Unicorn Peak & Cathedral Peak

Day 17 -- refreshment.jpg

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:57 pm

July 30 — Day 18: 9.5 hrs, 18.4 miles, +3725/-3050
Filling in Some JMT Gaps Day 1
Tuolumne Meadows to Sunrise High Sierra Camp

Up late. I wonder why. My plan had been to rise early and hike to the top of Lembert Dome before starting south on the JMT. I didn’t want to give it up, so after a none-too-quiet breakfast I tidied camp and left for the dome. A pleasant walk in the woods and a short climb up nice, solid rock with nary a bit of talus to contend with and voila, views. A couple hours later I was packed up and on the JMT. My goal for this part of the trip was to hike the part of the JMT I did not do last year — in particular, I wanted to see Cathedral Peak and take in the views from Clouds Rest. It was pretty warm, and at one point I stopped to give some salt pills to a young couple who had driven up from the Bay Area the day before and who were obviously having trouble with the heat and altitude. For the next couple days I felt like a cross between a traveling doctor and a drug dealer passing those things out to vomiting and wobbling hikers. Pssst! Experiencing a little hyponatremia? Here, take these…

I found the use trail to Budd Lake without trouble and left my trailmates behind at that point. Budd Lake is very pretty, nestled between Unicorn Peak, the Cockscomb, Echo Peaks and Cathedral Peak. Unfortunately, I only had the low-res Harrison map of the area with me, which didn’t give me enough detail to choose a route to Matthes Lake. I tried having Stacey look some things up for me in Secor’s book yesterday when we talked on the phone, but I couldn’t reconcile what she was reading with my map. Discretion. Valor. Another day and all that. Guess where I am starting next year’s hike? Anyway, I walked around Budd Lake and picked up the JMT just above the Cathedral Lakes. I am not entirely sure I satisfied the conditions of the permit I had by doing this, but I camped just outside the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. I did not realize until the next day that there was a designated hikers campground, and there was no reason for me to go sneaking into camp after dark to use the throne room. I had purposefully avoided that area thinking it was part of the formal camp — the nearby handwritten signs for backpackers seemed to be directing me all the way to Sunrise Lakes another mile or so down the trail. Given my less than satisfying experience at a group campsite the night before, I wasn’t really upset at having to camp alone.

Day 18 -- Lembert Dome.jpg
Lembert Dome

Day 18 -- view NE from Lembert Dome.jpg
view NE from Lembert Dome

Day 18 -- Cathedral Peak & Tuolumne Meadows.jpg
Cathedral Peak & Tuolumne Meadows from Lembert Dome

Day 18 -- Cathedral Range.jpg
Cathedral Range from Lembert Dome

Day 18 -- Cockscomb.jpg
Budd Lake & Cockscomb

Day 18 -- Budd Lake & Cathedral Peak.jpg
Budd Lake & Cathedral Peak

Day 18 -- Cathedral Peak.jpg
Cathedral Peak

Day 18 -- Crazy People.jpg
crazy people on Cathedral Peak

Day 18 -- Cathedral Peak & Echo Peaks.jpg
Cathedral Peak & Echo Peaks

Day 18 -- Echo Peaks & Matthes Crest.jpg
Echo Peaks & Matthes Crest

Day 18 -- Echo Peaks & Matthes Crest (1).jpg
Echo Peaks & Matthes Crest

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:12 pm

July 31 — Day 19: 10.25 hrs, 18.5 miles, +2800/-6000
Filling in Some JMT Gaps Day 2
Sunrise High Sierra Camp to Moraine Dome

Up and on the trail by 8:00 AM. The hike to the top of Clouds Rest was uneventful. Lots of haze, which was a little disappointing but the views were still amazing. Kind of fun to be looking down on Half Dome. I started down just after noon and basically tumbled all the way to Nevada Fall. On the way, just before the Half Dome Trail Junction I passed a group of four dudes with their music player blaring and about five minutes later encountered a ranger on his way up checking permits as he went. As I produced mine for inspection, the dudes come along and the ranger asks them for their permit. “We need a permit?” “Yes, you do. Like his. Where did you camp last night?” “Oh, we were up on Clouds Rest.” “Did you notice any bear activity up there?” “Oh, no, but it was okay anyway because we hung our food in the trees.” “Okay, I am going to need to see some IDs…” I left as he was explaining his enforcement role. I wonder what is involved in writing out tickets and escorting violators out of the park. Gravity and water put on a powerful show at Nevada Fall. I was pretty sure I would not be allowed to stay at the LYV campground on my permit, so I walked through the burned area and set up camp beneath Moraine Dome near the Merced River. I would like to have seen LYV before the fire — I’ll bet it was just beautiful. All in all, I am glad to have come this way. Tomorrow I have to make up for it, though.

Day 19 -- Paintbrush.jpg

Day 19 -- Leopard Lily.jpg
Leopard Lily

Day 19 -- Half Dome & Yosemite Valley.jpg
Half Dome & Yosemite Valley

Day 19 -- Tenaya Canyon.jpg
Tenaya Canyon

Day 19 -- Lizard at Clouds Rest.jpg
Lizard at Clouds Rest

Day 19 -- Crow at Clouds Rest.jpg
Crow at Clouds Rest

Day 19 -- Half Dome.jpg
Half Dome

Day 19 -- Mt Starr King.jpg
Mt Starr King

Day 19 -- Nevada Fall.jpg
Nevada Fall

Day 19 -- LYV.jpg
Little Yosemite Valley

Day 19 -- LYV Cascade Cliffs.jpg
Cascade Cliffs in Little Yosemite Valley

Day 19 -- Moraine Dome.jpg
Moraine Dome

Last edited by Stanley Otter on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Lumbergh21 » Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:21 pm

Nice trip report. Anticipating the rest of it. I had a similar experience in 2016 to yours with the mind numbed idiots playing their music. I was hiking up Forester Pass, having decided I wasn't ready for Shepherds Pass (I believe that's the name) above Lake South America (as it turns out, I really enjoyed the hike from the Lake over to the JMT anyway). I had enjoyed the JMT so much the prior year, but this short segment of it had me pushing to get back off it and into some more solitary hiking. A couple decided they needed to turn on their music just as the trail started switchbacking up to Forester Pass. It was all I could do to make myself just hike away from them and not go back and ask them why they thought everyone wanted to hear that noise while they were out hiking miles from anywhere. Most hikers are nice and respectful of others, but those few jerks really do stand out at times.
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 23
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:11 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:44 pm

Lumbergh21 — Yeah, it was kind of a zoo around those trails leading to Clouds Rest and Half Dome. When we met each other, the ranger asked how I was doing. Taking note of the shovel he had slung over his shoulder, I said something about enjoying the views and being glad I wasn't schlepping a shovel uphill in the heat and at this altitude. It wasn't until a couple days later that I realized why he had a shovel. In my innocence at the time I assumed he was doing trail maintenance, but I bet it served another purpose having to do with overuse at the nearby campsites and careless potty practices. Anyway, glad you were able to find some solitude.

August 1 — Day 20: 9.25 hrs, 18.5 miles, +4800/-1300
Making Up for Filling in Some JMT Gaps
Moraine Dome to meadow along Foerster Creek @ 9800'

Back on the trail at 7:15 AM. I spent most of today hiking along the Merced River and the Triple Peak Fork to regain precious elevation. I left the trail where Foerster Creek joins Triple Peak Fork after cascading down a fairly steep slope. It was straightforward to follow the course of the creek to the “high trail” above and cut off a several-mile loop of trail. After a few steps along the high trail I left it and followed Foerster Creek up to a meadowy area where I set up camp. Flowers and deer were on display.

Day 20 -- Moraine Dome.jpg
Moraine Dome

Day 20 -- trail along Merced River.jpg
impressive trail work along the Merced River

Day 20 -- along the Merced River.jpg
shallow canyon along the Merced River

Day 20 -- Washburn Lake.jpg
Washburn Lake

Day 20 -- Foerster Creek.jpg
Foerster Creek on slopes between "high trail" and Triple Peak Fork trail

Day 20 -- Foerster Creek meadow.jpg
Foerster Creek meadow

User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Jan 07, 2017 2:02 pm

August 2 — Day 21: 10.25 hrs, 11.0 miles, +3775, -3126
Rock Hopping & Route Finding
Foerster Creek @ 9800’ to Lake Catherine outlet stream @ 10500’

Significant condensation inside the tent starting almost immediately as the sun went down last night. Managed to keep most stuff dry. Some lessons take repetition before they stick — don’t camp in low areas next to the water, don’t camp in low areas next to the water… On my way at 7:15 AM. Striding. Following the stream and feeling good. Striding. Looking at the low wall I need to climb to get on the plateau beneath Foerster Peak. Striding. Wait, low wall?! Turns out I am heading toward Harriet Lake along its outlet stream. <grumble> Look what three days trail-walking has done to you. </grumble> Course correction. Up on the plateau. Striding. Admiring the Clark Range in the distance. Striding. Enjoying the sun and utter silence. Striding. Hop over a creek. Striding. Wait, stream?! This can’t be Mt Ansel Adams and that can’t be Foerster Peak; rather, this must be Foerster Peak and that must be Peak 11535. It went on like that pretty much all day as I made my way over Blue Lake Pass and on toward North Glacier Pass. My sense of scale/distance was just off enough to make route finding a challenge.

The climb up to Blue Lake pass was mostly boulder hopping with just a couple places where I needed to use my hands for balance. Views from the top were terrific, and I was happy to see the Ritter Range backlit by bright sun. The descent to Bench Canyon was similar in difficulty to the climb up, and I stayed north as recommended by some on this forum. At one point, though, I headed down too early along a nice grassy valley only to have it end in a cliff. I climbed back up the way I had come and continued contouring until I found a steep chute right above the western edge of the companion to Blue Lake. Looked like plenty of traffic goes through there.

Second breakfast. Striding through Bench Canyon. Striding. Nice. Cannot get lost. Striding. Lots of photos. Striding. Resisting the urge to cavort like a child amid the splendor. Then the climbing and contouring around Peak 11537 started and no more striding. Lots of rock hopping. An unfortunate encounter with Old Man Willow ensued. Lots of corrections, but generally following the course sketched out by Roper. I think others have reported, and I would agree, that the challenge here is that you don’t have a readily identifiable feature to guide you. Anyway, after several hours I made it to Twin Island Lakes and forded the outlet stream. Chilly and just above my knees but uneventful. I then watched a group of three leap right across a little further downstream. Hmph.

The much-discussed group of trees next to the roaring outlet stream from Lake Catherine and the Ritter Lakes is easy to spot. Getting there involved quite a bit of scrambling and multiple course corrections. Complex ledge systems, indeed. Took me about an hour and a half to cover that three-quarter mile stretch. I slowly climbed up another 500 feet to the confluence of the outlet streams from Lake Catherine and the Ritter Lakes and found a moderately flat spot to make camp.

Since leaving Bench Canyon I would occasionally walk on some grass or herb that, when crushed, gave off a lovely aroma that smelled like a combination of sage, basil and hops. It was driving me mad by inducing visions of cold bottles of Mammoth Brewing Co. IPA 395. Bombers, of course. I would have stopped to make my own infusion with cold stream water, but I could never identify what it was. Anybody know? I fell asleep secure in the knowledge I was only a day and a half away from as much IPA 395 as I desired at Red’s Meadow Resort where I had a hiker cabin reserved.

Day 21 -- Foerster Pk tarn & Clark Range.jpg
Foerster Peak tarn & Clark Range – on the way up Blue Lake Pass

Day 21 -- view from Blue Lake Pass.jpg
Ritter Range & Blue Lake – view from Blue Lake Pass

Day 21 -- view back to Blue Lake Pass (right).jpg
view back to Blue Lake Pass (right)

Day 21 -- chute leading down to Blue Lake.jpg
chute leading down to Blue Lake

Day 21 -- Bench Canyon & Minarets.jpg
Bench Canyon & Minarets

Day 21 -- Upper Bench Canyon from S slope of Pk 11537.jpg
upper Bench Canyon from south slope of Peak 11537

Day 21 -- flowers on S slope of Pk 11537.jpg
on the south slope of Peak 11537

Day 21 -- NFSJ River to Foerster Pk panorama.jpg
North Fork San Joaquin River to Foerster Peak panorama

Day 21 -- Electra Pk tarn & Ritter Range.jpg
Electra Peak tarn & Ritter Range

Day 21 -- South Twin Island Lake.jpg
southern Twin Island Lake

Day 21 -- Ritter Lakes stream.jpg
combined Lake Catherine & Ritter Lakes outlet stream – goal is group of trees left of center

Day 21 -- NFSJ River.jpg
North Fork San Joaquin River

User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: PCT-SHR, Donner Summit to Piute Pass, July 13 to Aug

Postby Stanley Otter » Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:22 pm

August 3 — Day 22: 10.0 hrs, 9.9 miles, +3400/-3500
Best. Day. Hiking. Ever.
Lake Catherine outlet stream @ 10500’ to saddle between Cecile & Minaret Lakes

On my way at the customary 7:15 AM. Glorious, clear skies, which is what I had been hoping for since last year when I encountered the Ritter Range shrouded in rain, snow and clouds on my JMT hike. The 600 foot climb to Lake Catherine and North Glacier Pass involved just a few short, steep scrambles on the route I took. Small birds flitted about pecking insects off the rocks as I boulder-hopped my way along the shoreline and up to the pass. From there it was more of the same on the way down. The “massive snowfield” at the top of the pass as described by Roper is of course much-diminished these days, but it provided some welcome relief for a short stretch. I stopped to take some photos of Thousand Island Lake from a rock outcropping about 300’ above the lake and noticed I could contour around at this elevation for some distance rather than dropping down to the lake. In the spirit of the Guidebook Writer, please allow me to write an addendum to Roper’s section entitled “Whitebark Pass to Glacier Lake Pass” pp. 167-169 (also, please ignore the fact that I am traveling the wrong way…):

From the snowfield, follow a brook — the chief inlet stream of Thousand Island lake — as it descends terrain speckled with small groves of whitebark pine and flanked by towering peaks. This increasingly lush and verdant valley eventually debouches onto a broad basin containing Thousand Island Lake and its satellites, which are manifest both internally as its namesake islands and externally as unnamed tarns. The High Route traveler feels something akin to a gravitational tug, urging one to take up orbit in frolicsome peregrinations along the isthmus, and, for the truly adventurous hiker, out to the islands themselves. Nevertheless, several hundred feet above the lake at an elevation of 10,150’, the route turns right (south) to follow a meadow covered bench at the very feet of looming Banner Peak. In mid-season veritable carpets of paintbrush and mountain heather splash bright color onto the rocky palette and bring the contrast between the organic and inorganic realms into sharp relief. Amid such resplendence, it is well nigh imperative to caper about like a popcorning guinea pig. After an all too brief span of perhaps one half mile, the blissful High Route traveler is forced down to the level of the lake by steep ramps. The climb on talus to the low saddle separating Thousand Island Lake from Garnet Lake that immediately follows is made joyful by recollection of what has just recently transpired.

All right, got that out of my system. The only other variation I added to this section was an inadvertent one — rather than descend to Ediza Lake I contoured around the basin below Ritter Pass and above the lake with the result of emerging on top of a 275’ cliff above Iceberg Lake, which made me laugh out loud. Clever boy. Otherwise, most of the hiking follows use trails and other easy terrain. By late afternoon I was atop the saddle between Cecile Lake and Minaret Lake contemplating the best route down that 300’ wall. Earlier in the day I had consulted with a pair of High Route hikers who told me they had spent the previous night at Minaret Lake and that it was pretty crowded. Sure enough, I can hear people howling like wolves down there. Fortunately, there was the barest trickle of water coming down from some residual snowfield on Volcanic Ridge, so I decided to stay high. I channeled my inner Wandering Daisy and spent a good half hour scouting for just the right spot up there — unusual behavior on my part. The area was like a vertical/linear Japanese garden with flowers and grasses in little boggy areas with gravel and rock adjacent. I didn’t go to the trouble to rake patterns into the gravel — it was sublime just the way it was. All my poking around paid dividends later that night, because I went to take photos of the Minarets at sunset and forgot my light. I had to make my way back to the tent in the dark and would have been lost without the mental map I made. Boone cussed me out something fierce for scaring him.

Day 22 -- Banner Peak, North Glacier Pass & Mt Davis.jpg
Banner Peak, North Glacier Pass & Mt Davis

Day 22 -- Banner Peak.jpg
Banner Peak from meadows above Thousand Island Lake

Day 22 -- Thousand Island Lake.jpg
Thousand Island Lake

Day 22 -- Garnet Lake from Whitebark Pass.jpg
Garnet Lake from Whitebark Pass

Day 22 -- Nydiver Lake & Volcanic Ridge from Whitebark Pass.jpg
Nydiver Lake & Volcanic Ridge from Whitebark Pass

Day 22 -- Mt Ritter & Banner Peak.jpg
Mt Ritter & Banner Peak

Day 22 -- Volcanic Ridge.jpg
Volcanic Ridge

Day 22 -- Mt Ritter & Banner Peak from ridge above Iceberg Lake.jpg
Mt Ritter and Banner Peak from ridge above Iceberg Lake

Day 22 -- Iceberg Lake outlet stream.jpg
Iceberg Lake outlet stream -- I am supposed to be down there...

Day 22 -- Minaret Lake & Riegelhuth Minaret.jpg
Minaret Lake & Riegelhuth Minaret

Day 22 -- sunset behind Minarets.jpg
sunset behind the Minarets

Day 22 -- Minarets at dusk.jpg
Minarets at dusk

User avatar
Stanley Otter
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:44 pm
Location: Flat Land (a.k.a. Northeast Wisconsin)
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], MSNbot Media [Bot] and 7 guests