Nepal wrote:So from Bishop pass south, which section(s) of the trails are considered to be most difficult? Do you have any pictures from your last trip? Are these pictures you showed here are the most difficult (with my fingers crossed!) one?
"most difficult" is relative. Danger of falling? For 2009, this section north of Mather gave my son some pause, because there's about 500 feet of elevation to the bottom where you'd hit rocks if you should go sliding down:
coming up to Glen you will definitely have to cross this one, just much bigger, although the perspective here makes it look worse than it is. He had no issues walking this thing up on his slippery trail runners that year
about half a mile below Forester, solid snow started in late july 2010 (north side). I broke through a hole at one point up there and needed the kids to help me out. It was one of those darn boulders that gets warm in the sun and then melts the snow around its edges from the bottom up.
and this one just south of the top of Forester will be your biggest challenge this year, as it will not be as easy to pass as on this photo. Just imagine this snow field to extend another 500 feet down at the same incline...
As for most difficult location - are you entering over Bishop Pass or Lamarc Col? Through Dusy Basin or via High Route to Potluck Pass and then down to the JMT? Easiest entry will be Bishop Pass to Dusy Basin and down to Le Conte Canyon. You are bypassing Muir Pass that way, which even in July 2010 was called "freaking Antarctica" by a PCT hiker who met us on Selden Pass. The Muir Pass region isn't difficult, but it certainly holds the most snow, given it is the largest contiguous alpine region south of Alaska (no joke). This is heading south from the pass July 22, 2010
Lamarc Col is heavily used so finding the route across should be easy, and you get the Muir Pass ice box as a warmup. If you go in via Bishop Pass and then head southeast via Knapsack and Potluck Pass, be prepared for some serious difficulties. Do not go there alone or without rope and crampons (Potluck Pass descent is climbing in good conditions)
Mather Pass is much steeper, so snow travel is limited to a steep climb and a steep descent. Most of the years, the south side is dry by mid July, but this year I'd expect a few switchbacks to be snow covered even on the south side. North, well, it's 35-40 degree snow slopes in some sections, and it was clearly the place where my son had his reality check - tough teens suddenly faced with real danger quickly become very cautious...
Pinchot pass rarely is a problem - nothing steep on the north slope, possibly a few snowed-in switchbacks just below the pass on the south side, but not very exposed. Glen Pass is a little steeper, and you will find snow on some of the short switchbacks that climb a small ridge. Higher up there will be one snow field before the top, bit not very steep.
Forester - more snow, probably starting at about 11,500 feet for real. The trail is usually buried in once you get up to the last flank of the mountain below the pass, but it's really nothing you will be bothered by after having done the other passes. On the south side of Forester, there's one snow field that will already have a trail on it, but it's a "pucker" moment to cross. 20 careful steps, crampons and ice axe highly recommended if it's still frozen in the morning.
On Trail Crest usually nothing much on the west side, but going down to the Portal, there'll be plenty of snow on the switchbacks, but given the high traffic there, it should be alright.