Hopkins Pass

Member descriptions, photos, and map locations of Cross Country Passes in the High Sierra. This forum is for information only - discussions should be kept in the appropriate categories.
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Hopkins Pass

Post by shtinkypuppie » Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:20 am

GENERAL OVERVIEW: Hopkins Pass leads from Big McGee Lake near McGee Pass to the Hopkins Creek drainage north of Mono Creek.

CLASS/DIFFICULTY: Secor calls this class 2, but I would really call it Class 1. With trekking poles we never had to use our hands.

LOCATION: Inyo National Forest (North side), Sierra National Forest (south side). HST Map

ELEVATION: 11,400ft

USGS TOPO MAP (7.5'): USGS Mount Abbott

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: From the McGee Creek trail, split off to the south on a good use trail near the northwest corner of Big McGee Lake (1 on map). Coming up, you will have already passed the outlet of the lake and will be climbing above it. From McGee Pass, the use trail splits off above Big McGee lake just past a nice creekbed with lots of wild onions.
Follow this use trail down to the west shore of the lake, where there are a few campsites (alternatively, you can stay west and cut through a large meadow above Big McGee). From these campsites, look southwest toward Red and White Mountain. You will see a big gravelly slope with a very obvious use trail angling across it (3). This is your goal. Hike southwest from the campsites across a large meadow and stay a bit left of a low, timbered ridge (2). On the left (south) side of this ridge you'll find a good use trail running upstream between the ridge and the creek that drains from Red and White Mountain. Follow this trail up along the creek through some dense willows. It switchbacks in a few places, so make sure you don't miss a turn in the dense willows. Above the willows the trail traverses along the big gravel slope you saw earlier, then takes you up the creek to the small tarn right below Red and White Peak. Turn left (south) and head around the east side of a little granite knob to the outlet of the tarn. Cross the outlet, looking for a very well-built set of tight switchbacks on the facing slope (4).
Climb about six switchbacks, then follow the trail east onto a big granite ledge (5). There is a vague use trail on the granite, but it's well cairned. The cairns will take you east WAY farther than you think you should go, almost on the level. Finally you'll climb up a bit to another ledge and tack all the way back to the west until you're just above where you started. Here the path will lead you into another set of switchbacks, somewhat steeper and less well built than the first set (6). Follow them up the slope until they bring you up onto a small rock ledge. The rock ledge will bring you west to a very steep spot which is the only halfway sketchy part of the pass. Step carefully along a badly outsloped trail - trekking poles help, but we didn't need to crawl or use hands - for about 8 feet until it switches back and takes you east into more level terrain. Another 20 feet brings you to the summit area. The HST map has the Hopkins Pass marker about 50 feet east of where it actually gains the ridgetop, but the switchbacks mentioned (and part of the trail down lower) can be seen in the satellite view.
From the summit, one can either bear left (southeast) into the drainage or right (southwest) to drop down on Upper Hopkins Lake. If you go left, there's no use trail, so just follow the drainage until you pick up the remnants of the Hopkins Lake Trail down lower. This is flat, easy terrain.
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Last edited by maverick on Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: bolden subject matter

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Re: Hopkins Pass

Post by RoguePhotonic » Sun Sep 20, 2015 2:15 pm


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Re: Hopkins Pass

Post by cgundersen » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:42 pm

In this big snow year and for anyone contemplating this route in early season, here's what Hopkins looks like when the use trail is under LOTS of snow. It raises the ante quite a bit, and definitely pushes this into the class 2 category. I'll attach shots to expand on what the two previous posts provided. The first one includes the massive cairn that helps folks who are coming up from the Hopkins side to locate the route down (otherwise, it's a long, innocuous ridge punctuated with several possible ways down, but most of them will work only if you rope up or are happy with class 3).
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Re: Hopkins Pass

Post by Flamingo » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:35 am

Hi @cgundersen, can you say more about your experience descending Hopkins Pass in those 2017 conditions? How did you make it around the cornice? Did you use an ice axe? (I'm looking at a route with Hopkins Pass for next week, and satellite imagery is showing some lingering snow). -thanks.

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