05 August 2017

North to South: Bishop Pass and South Lake

Kings Canyon National Park

Inyo National Forest


Click for map.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7

Two more days in the plan, but probably only one more day for the execution. I expect to stare at one more mountain that would be a perfectly reasonable climb, and then not go up it. The climb would make it late for getting out, so staying one more night would be nice, and the extra day would make time to go up one more little peak on the way out. Or I can just hike out today. I have minor, but unfounded, worries about leaving the cats with a first time carer for a week. The one needing pills can be a nuisance. So I may bail on the plan. Meanwhile, out in the Dusy Basin, it is looking like a very nice morning indeed.

little lake with a long shoreline as it wanders in and out
Surrounded by mountains, it is time to find the pass. I guess the bit at the left.

water roaming through the basin
Climbing higher, but still a few trees.

There are lots of lakes, creeks, ponds, and even an automatic snow sensor along the way. There is only a little bit of snow to deal with on the way up the pass.

Dusy Basin
Looking back over Dusy Basin. My camp was in the slightly lower level.


The pass has a constant backdrop of peaks as I climb it, so the top comes as a surprise. There is a PCT through hiker telling stories with one group at the top as I arrive. When they leave, she comes over to me, so I tell her about Mount Agassiz to the east. It rises about 2k feet from the pass to top out at nearly 13.9k feet to be California's 21st highest. The approach from here is considered class 2, but I am not climbing it today. Upon telling, her body language seems to say I would have a climbing partner if I chose to go for it. The weather is uncertain, but looks like it will hold for long enough and when it breaks, it will be a long way from here. She says she is just poking around and resting while getting over a cold, but she definitely has energy to spare. Nearly everything is falling into place for a reasonable try, but I stick to my previous decision. I am not climbing the mountain today. If I had taken her up on the unspoken offer to accompany me up, it may have turned out to be an illusion anyway.

Mount Agassiz
There is Mount Agassiz. From here, it is not such a big climb.

She heads down, back to her camp by Chocolate Peak, taking an unexpected direction. Snow to the right looks more likely to have the trail as it seems to slide down a rounded valley. Snow to the left looks like it goes out to a ledge for a lookout. Many have gone to the right, but there are some trails to the left too. I figure she just came up this and probably knows better where the trail is and follow to the left. Sure enough, there is trail over there. Also lookouts. Surprisingly, there is not much snow on the trail on this side, either.

snow field to space
It looks like this will be walking out to a cliff on snow, but the trail is actually this way.

Bishop Lake, really about three
From Bishop Pass to Bishop Lake. It sure looks a long way down.

It is a really good thing this trail has no snow on it. The route down off the north side of the pass hugs into rocks so steep, the switchbacks seem stacked up on top of each other rather than offset a little.

stacked switch backs
Can you see it? The trail below, below, below, below, and below.

Once down off the steep pass and into the benches and lakes, things start to get a little soggy. I watch a pair head off trail to pop over the first puddle on a thin bit of snow, but figure through makes more sense. Surely, feet are just not meant to be dry. I find the same pair fiddling with their shoes not too much further. It seems like far too much trouble and the water is feeling practically warm now as I splash through.

water across the trail
Back to trees and meadows and ponds. This one may be held in by an ice dam.

Mount Agassiz
Another look at Mount Agassiz, but certainly not the last seen of it.

lake with a couple islands and a peak behind
Saddlerock Lake with Hurd Peak rising behind.

Chocolate Peak stands out in its off color. It would have been the little peak to fill out the day tomorrow. Some day, it will probably become a delightful little start to another trip.

near snow bridge and far red-brown peak
A delicate snow bridge crosses the creek above the Timberline Tarns. Chocolate Peak rises on the far side.

I had expected maybe a little fewer people on the way down, but there are still plenty and soon I am in the range of day hikers on reasonable hikes. They try to confuse me by asking if they are nearly to "the lake" while standing next to a perfectly nice lake. Closer to the trailhead also comes with nice little bridges crossing some of the waterways.

spire pieaks beyond hills and lake
Mounts Johnson and Gilbert behind Spearhead Lake.

Long Lake from the edge of the shore with the covered trail
Long Lake may be a little high right now as it seems to be covering over the trail as it follows the shore.

around chocolate peak
The swirls of color around the edges of Chocolate Peak.

Long Lake with the mountains behind it
Finally to the far end of Long Lake and looking back.

The day hikers get really thick below Long Lake. There are even big family groups with lots of kids that look more like half a family reunion than a hiking group.

multicolored magnifigance
The flowers get quite numerous in the meadows lower down.

view from the edge of a bench
Dropping down another bench with a view over Hurd Lake and Table Mountain.

South Lake comes with a few boats out on the water and a few motors pushing them along. The trail still has a lot to drop as it passes by, so there are some good views back into the wilderness.

inflow to South Lake
Waterfalls fill South Lake.

South Lake
South Lake under stormy clouds.

The end of South Lake marks the possible start of road hiking, or hitchhiking, to get back to the car down at the Tyee Lakes Trailhead. I have noticed the line of trail that parallels at least half of that distance, though, so as the trail dumps out in the parking lot, I keep right to something a bit overgrown. It is getting slightly overgrown, but it is with bright flowers. A woman with a large camera taking pictures of them looks at me with accusing eyes as I invade what was her private space along it. This comes to a road from the other side of the parking lot, but it turns into trail quickly enough. There is only evidence of horses passing as I climb upward. Why upward? I should be going down. But this connects to the trail to Green Lake and then drops down. To say it parallels the road is not exactly accurate.

canyon views
A break in the trees allows a little view.

looking back
Looking back on some rainy mountains.

It rains a bit as the trail turns downward to connect with the resort below. I followed this trail when we climbed Cloudripper and remember some of it. Mostly, I remember that it was full of flowers. There are not quite as many as then, but still lots to look at. I also sort of remember that I should try to go up near the start of the resort to have easy access to the last bit of road hike for which there are no options. A track by the store looks steep and unofficial, so I wander looking for something better. Maybe I remember incorrectly.

horses huddled below a striped cliff
The horses of Parchers Resort.

The trail comes to the stables at the end where the horses are huddled under the trees. I was right the first time, I needed to grab that trail up past the store to access the road. Here there are a bunch of brochures for trail rides and a long way back. There is also a well established trail down to an old road following the creek below. All I have to lose is time and the horses have clearly been using this route, so I try it out. Sometimes the pavement is completely overgrown with trees and sometimes it has vanished altogether, but there are plenty of horse prints about about three sets of footprints that follow trail along the route when this happens. One section is under a foot of water for over 100 feet, but it is slow moving and the trail below is obvious. It comes out at a gate marked "road closed" at the end of Willow Campground across the street from my car.

aspen lined road
This was the main road to South Lake 100 years ago and it still goes through to the resort.

Busy road walk avoided by old road walk, and now I can finally be out of my wet shoes and socks.




©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 August 2017

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