After taking a few winter trips in the local San Jacinto mountains this winter I was excited to take a real Sierra winter trip. For my first real winter experience in the Sierras I decided to start from familiar ground, the North Lake trailhead near Bishop. The plan was to cross the Sierra Crest at Piute Pass, then cross the Glacier Divide at Alpine Col and finally back over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col. I had four days and three nights to make the loop on snowshoes.
|Driving out of Bishop for some big mountain adventure.|
The roads were closed just outside of Aspendell so I parked and walked the three miles to the actual North Lake/Piute Pass trailhead.
|Piute Pass trailhead.|
By the time I got started it was already 1:30 pm so I camped on a ridge just below Piute Lake (only a few miles from the trailhead).
|Camp on a ledge just below Piute Lake.|
All of the lakes and streams are frozen at this altitude so I had to melt snow for water during the rest of the trip. I used some Toasty Feet inserts to insulate the fuel from the snow.
|Homemade titanium windscreen.|
The next day I got another late start and after a long breakfast, coffee and chill time I headed up to Piute Pass.
|Piute Lake was frozen and there were tracks directly across the middle.|
There is a small cabin on the opposite side of the lake I had heard about from the ranger. He had used it as a shelter during a recent snowhoe trip.
|Small cabin on the opposite side of Piute Lake.|
Soon the pass was in sight, but there was a large cornice right at the top.
|Piute Pass in the distance.|
Fortunately the cornice was stable and I walked right by with no problem.
|Snow wave at the top of Piute Pass.|
This was a solo trip. When I got my permit the ranger said, "you probably won't see anybody out there this time of year". I wouldn't see another person for five days. It's always strange talking to people after a long solo trip. For now I was just enjoying the complete absence of anything except big mountain scenery and solitude.
The view of Mount Humphreys dominates the area.
Since the lakes are frozen I just walked over frozen Muriel Lake.
|Snowshoe route from Piute Pass over frozen Muriel Lake.|
|Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid.|
|Camping on a ridge overlooking frozen Goethe Lake.|
|The route up to Alpine Col.|
|Climbing to Alpine Col.|
|The view west from the top of Alpine Col (12,500 feet).|
|The view to the east from Alpine Col. Mt. Mendel and Lake 11,910.|
|Snowshoeing across Lake 11,910. Alpine Col is the low spot on the left.|
|This is the first living thing I had seen in days.|
That night I camped in Darwin Canyon, surrounded by frozen lakes and huge peaks (Mt. Darwin and Mt. Mendell, both over 13,000 feet).
|Camping in Darwin Basin.|
|There was a sandy beach here last October.|
|Here is the same lake last October.|
I crossed back over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col (12,880 feet).
|Lamarck Col (12,880 feet).|
|The view back to the east of Darwin Canyon.|
|The view to the east from Lamarck Col.|
|Glissading down from Lamarck Col.|
Camping under a tree next to Lower Lamarck Lake I fell asleep listening to the winds howl through the canyon. I watched the stars flickering through the branches above me as the melting creek flowed nearby. It was one of the most amazing nights I have spent in the wilderness.
|The last night I just slept under this tree by Lower Lamark Lake. It was a peacefull night.|
|The Glacier Divide Winter Loop.|
For a detailed gear list check out my:
For a groovy short video from the trip check out:
Short video of Darwin Canyon.