I promised a trip report here: and I'm late on following through. I'm sure the mosquito conditions have changed and what little snow was there has melted, but I'll offer this trip report for the archive.
Not too many people at all. McClure Meadow and Evolution Valley we saw several, but not too many. PCT hikers were rolling through. From Bishop Pass to the JMT and from the JMT to Piute Pass we saw almost noone.
We were a group of three, early 30s, good shape, 40-50 pound packs fully loaded, two of the guys coming from sea level.
We did this classic loop in four nights, five days, with the first day being short. The mosquitos were bad only in a few spots (South Lake TH to just above Long Lake, Dusy Basin, North Lake), but otherwise were no problem at all. I slept out every night. Snow was very low, we barely walked over any and only on the passes. The trail is likely totally snow-free by now.
Day one- five (ish) miles (all distances from map-scale interpretations so approximate) South Lake TH to Spearhead Lake. We started at 4 or 5 PM. The terrain was steady up, but not bad. The mosquitos kept us from stopping. They weren't so bad once we got to Long Lake. There were several people camped at Long Lake so we pushed just past to Spearhead Lake and found a nice camp at dusk.
Day two- 12 (ish) miles. Spearhead Lake to well above Big Pete Meadow. This day was tough. Heavy packs laden with food, steady climb to Bishop Pass followed by a steady 7 mile downhill pounding all the way down to the JMT. We were beat when we got there, but plodded up above the meadows at about 1.5 mph until finding an excellent camp, about 4 miles shy of Muir Pass.
Day three- 15 (ish) miles. Above Big Pete Meadow to McLure Meadow area. Muir Pass and the Evolution Valley is just consistently jaw dropping, plus from Muir pass it's more than 15 miles of gradual downhill, so we were happy on this day. Camped near McLure and there were many other people here, but not too many, we still got a fine site which was so serene in the morning with deer grazing...
Day four- 14(ish) miles. McClure Meadow to above Hutchinson Meadow. A continued downhill cruise for four miles to Evolution Creek, which was an easy ford, then four more steady downhill to the junction with the Piute Trail. All scenery excellent. Lots of swimming holes. Turning up the Piute trail it was evident we were on a trail maintained to a much lower standard, which was actually refreshing. I've worked trail crew in Yosemite and I know they literally rake the trail for a lot of the JMT. The Piute trail was not raked! Lots of softball sized rocks, steep sandy pitches, etc... and it was fun. Our packs were lighter and we felt good on this steady ascent. We made it past Hutchinson Meadow and that whole area is rife with awesome camping. Much lower usage, lovely meadows, etc...
Day five- 12 (ish) miles. Hutchinson Meadow to North Lake. Great, steady but gradual climb up to Piute Pass. The west side of the pass, our approach, was spectacular. The glacial bowl is really wide here, with Emerson Peak craggy and presiding, and glacial erratics all strewn about the alpine meadow. Though Evolution Valley was knock your socks off, this was our favorite because it seemed less well-traveled. The decent wasn't bad, after a few alpine pools and lakes we were more forested and plodding down switchbacks to the car. In between Piute Lake and Loch Leven we found an amazing swimming hole below a double waterfall with a rock ledge you could jump off of (just a foot or two above the water) and sun on. It was idyllic. At North Lake the mosquitos returned, and in force. Just waiting 10 minutes at the junction in the campground I was jumping around like yosemite sam trying to get these rootin tootin skeeters off my durn legs!
Anyway, we hit it at a great time for crowds, snow, temperature, bugs... Thanks so much to those who helped us decide on this route, it was perfect.
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Thanks Milo. I think I may know the pool you are talking about, although there are a number of those spectacular pools below falls in that vicinity. Sounds like a wonderful trip, and certainly one of my favorites.
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