Miter Basin - Cottonwood Lakes 08/10/2012 - 08/12/2012

Storms in the distance along the PCT. 
This was a relaxing trip with lots of scenery and some good lighting thanks to the daily storms.

I took off last Friday morning at 4:30 am and by 7:30 am I was at the permit office in Lone Pine. No problem getting a walk-in permit for the Cottonwood Pass trail.

Cottonwood Pass seemed much easier than NAP and within two hours I was chasing the incoming storms to Soldier Lake.

Entering Miter Basin. 
After a nap at Soldier I followed the use trail over the ridge into Miter Basin. There are some ducks leading to the use trail with some switchbacks to the top. The typical Sierra afternoon storm dumped for about an hour as I meandered up through the basin.

I camped that night in the trees just below Sky Blue Lake. It rained on and off through the night.

Camping under the trees just below Sky Blue Lake in Miter Basin. 
Saturday I compressed my pack into a day pack and headed up to explore the rest of the basin. I had been reading about Miter Basin all winter and it was beautiful. The afternoon storm arrived early and helped to refresh the remaining flowers as the waterfalls came to life.

Waterfalls below Sky Blue Lake.

Waterfall in upper Miter Basin.

Waterfalls in Miter Basin.

Waterfalls in Miter Basin.

I stopped for lunch at 12,200 feet and collected rain water from the new puddles along the way. No need to filter out the taste of Sierra rain water.

Drinking from granite puddles. 

Sky Blue Lake from 12,200

Miter Basin Video. 

Tarn in upper Miter Basin.
Sky Blue Lake.

When I got back to camp I ran into a group of guys taking a rest day before hiking over Crabtree Pass. They wanted to know what was up with my UL gear. We talked cuben fiber, caldera cones and everybody wanted to know about the new SMD Skyscape X tent I was trying out. It's a one man hybrid double wall tent from Six Moon Designs. At 14.5 ozs it's the lightest one man double wall tent available.

That evening the sunset was amazing.

Sunset on The Miter.

Sunset on Mt. Perkins.
Miter Reflection.

I made it back to the ridge above Soldier Lake and found a small flat place to camp. I made dinner after dark and read John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra, "How soothingly, restfully cool it is beneath that leafy, translucent ceiling, and how delightful the water music. . . precious night, precious day to abide in me forever. Thanks be to God for this immortal gift". I fell asleep to the sounds of another storm raining down outside my little tent.

Six Moon Designs Skyscape X at 11,000 feet in Miter Basin.

The next morning I followed the ridge back down to Soldier Lake and followed the familiar trail towards Old Army Pass. On the way up the Rock Creek trail an unusual morning storm turned into a full fledged hail storm with the sound of thunder echoing off of the canyon walls. I had read about a man who got caught on top of Mt. Langley during a bad storm a few weeks earlier and somehow fell while trying to get down Old Army Pass. They found his body somewhere below Old Army Pass. Unfortunately that's exactly where I was headed. After I passed above the treeline I found some cover next to a large boulder and decided to wait it out before heading over the pass.

It was strange to see the canyon covered with hail in the summer. Eventually I saw a group coming down from the pass. They said it was safe. . . so I headed up. The storm was blowing away from me and the rain soon subsided.

Hail Storm on the way to Army Pass.

When I got to the top of Old Army Pass there were a few groups coming down from Mt. Langley. The got caught on top when the storm hit. I overheard someone mention that they felt the electricity in the air from the lightening while on top. I figured these people were crazy.

Cottonwood Lake #5 from the top of Old Army Pass.

The trail down Old Army Pass is not maintained but there is a decent use trail down to Cottonwood Lake #5. There is a small portion at the top that is obstructed by some large boulders from a recent slide, but other than that it is an easy hike down.

Hikers heading down Old Army Pass. This is an old trail that is no longer maintained. You can see people climbing over a recent rock slide that covers part of the trail.
Old Army Pass is at the low point in the middle, way above the lake. 

I made good time on the well maintained trails through the Cottonwood Lakes and by 4:00 I was driving back down the winding road to Lone Pine.

Miter Basin exceeded my expectations. I'm looking forward to heading back for some peak bagging and exploring more of the lakes.

Here is a map of my route:

Miter Basin Loop Route. 


  1. I was 1 of those guys camping nearby below Sky Blue...your setup it awesome! Inspired me to get more serious about dropping some lbs from my pack

    1. Right on Jonathan! I remember you guys, thanks for being so welcoming. BTW, I was just there last Saturday and the smoke and ash from the Fish fire completely filled Miter Basin. It was supposed to be a seven day trip in the area, but I booked out of there. See you on the trail.