Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012 | High Sierra Topix  

Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

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Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

Postby no2haven » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:15 pm

Taking advantage of a mid-week July 4th holiday, I figured I could get three days in the Eastern Sierra. Pine Creek/Granite Park/Royce Lakes had been an area of interest for me over the past two years - with the new online Inyo permit system, I saw there was a ton of availability for the area right before the 4th, so my trip was set. Initially planned as an ambitious 4-day affair with a basecamp in Granite Park and day trips to Italy Pass/Bear Lakes/Granite Bear pass and Royce Lakes/French Lake/French canyon, I ended up coming back a day early to celebrate the 4th with friends and loved ones and just exploring Granite Park and Italy Pass.

I left the Bay Area Saturday night to spend the night at Tuolumne Meadows for a little acclimatization. There were no mosquitos when I pulled into the campground at 10pm, and it stayed that way for my lazy departure ~7am. Since I usually have to leave well before dawn to score a walk-up permit, I enjoyed a more leisurely drive down to Bishop, breakfast, and stop for last minute items in town. At 11am I was at the parking lot for Pine Creek Pass under a cloudless sky. Temperatures were cool, and a light breeze helped keep me from overheating as I started up the steep canyon headwall with a heavy pack. The views of the tungsten mine and Morgan Pass trail (now THOSE are some powerful switchbacks) on the opposite side of the canyon kept me entertained as I toiled 2500' up to Pine Lake.

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Pine Lake


After a short break for water and food, I continued around the lake and climbed to Upper Pine Lake and crossed its outlet (easy rockhop). The climbing here was gentle as I reached the turnoff to Honeymoon Lake. I followed the very steep Italy Pass trail down to the outlet of the lake, up the boulder-covered, cascading inlet stream to a higher meadow. The trail was easy to follow as it climbed one steep 200' headwall after another. Somewhere around 10,800' my legs had had enough for the day. I found a nice spot on a granite embankment ~30' above the stream and watched a gorgeous sunset. Throughout the day the mosquitos had been a minor annoyance,at sunset they came out in droves but disappeared soon afterwards.

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Alpenglow and the nearly full moon


The next day dawned clear, and I quickly made my way up to Granite Park. 20 minutes from camp, after climbing the steep hill that had defeated my legs last afternoon, I emerged into a beautiful alpine meadow with numerous idyllic campsites. Oh well, live and learn. I continued up the trail into Granite Park, loosing the trail a few times in granite-y areas (this trail likes to take numerous shallow switchbacks) but always easily finding it. Granite Park met all my expectations and more.

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Granite Park


I continued upwards, meandering through the basin and admiring the towering spires and mountains. Royce, Feather, the Sierra Crest, Julius Caesar, and the tip of Bear Creek Spire (I think!) could all be seen as I made my way through the various basins and lakes. At Lake 11,800 at the base of Italy Pass I took a break for lunch, and then powered up the pass. Travel was easy up a grassy area to the headwall, and a ducked trail led up the class 1/2 ledges starting on the south side (left as you face the pass). Soon I was on top of the pass at 12,400' and could see from Mt. Humphreys and Split Mountain (according to heywhatsthat.com) to across the central valley.

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Panorama looking west from Italy Pass.

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Panorama looking east from Italy Pass


I enjoyed a long break at the pass, but was soon on the move due to clouds coming in from the SW. I headed down along the central spine of Granite Park to see the Chalfant Lakes, and then cut over to the use-trail down towards my campsite. On the way down I made friends with a toad - I had nearly stepped on him/her on the way up as I crossed a small stream. On my way down the toad had had moved a mere 5 feet to the other side of the crossing, so I was able to get a few pictures before he/she decided I was a threat.

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Yosemite Toad


The clouds continued to build into some impressive thunderheads, but by 6pm they had broken up and the mosquitos came out again. I retreated to my tent, content with an easy day in an amazing setting.

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The Sierra Crest in Granite Park


In the morning I broke camp early and started the long descent to the trailhead. Its certainly a lot faster coming down than going up! After leaving at 8.30am, I was back at the car 3 hours later and headed into Bishop for some food before the 6 hour drive back to the bay. A great trip indeed.

Lots more pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/1036036618 ... directlink



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Re: Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

Postby venturefar » Sun Jul 08, 2012 9:15 am

Thanks for the report. The French Canyon area is on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

Postby hikerchick395 » Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:50 am

Did a bit of a lollipop loop hike to Honeymoon Lake on July 2. The clouds were a surprise and made lovely conditions!

Personally I'd rather go up the Pine Creek trail than down
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Re: Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

Postby maverick » Sun Jul 08, 2012 2:01 pm

No2haven wrote:
The next day dawned clear, and I quickly made my way up to Granite Park. 20 minutes
from camp, after climbing the steep hill that had defeated my legs last afternoon, I
emerged into a beautiful alpine meadow with numerous idyllic campsites. Oh well, live
and learn.


One of the most fustrating things that occurred mainly in my ealier backpacking days
when speed, and covering as much ground as possible while trying to soak up as much
of the scenery as I could was my main objective.
Now that I time my days end 2 hours before sunset allowing me to scout the area for
potentially hidden spots that may make for a great photograph too, it happen less often.
Thank for sharing your great TR and pictures.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trip Report: Pine Creek Canyon - Italy Pass. July 1-3, 2012

Postby millertime » Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:05 pm

Awesome trip report and pictures. I made it to Granite Park from Pine Creek 2 years ago but had to turn around. Going to approach from Piute Pass late august this year, looping down to bear lakes > hutchingson meadow and back out Piute. Actually just made my reservation. Hope it doesn't dry up by then with the low snowpack this year!
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