Bishop Pass ~ March 2016

Mt. Agassiz from the outlet of Long Lake.

Bishop Pass ~ March 2016

After reading a recent article about weekend warriors called The Ultimate 64 Hour Weekend I decided to create my own quick weekend adventure. To make the most of the weekend I left home right after work on Friday, drove all night to Bishop then slept under the stars in the Buttermilk area.

The next morning I sped up South Lake Road until the snow was too deep to drive and parked by the Tyee Lakes trailhead. Following a 3 mile road-walk to the Bishop Pass trailhead I snowshoed over uneven ground on a partially covered trail up to about 10,100'.

From there it was all cross country with the trail usually buried under a few feet of snow. For the rest of the weekend I had the entire wilderness to myself with no sign of tracks from cross country skiers or other snowshoers.

Cowboy camping in the Buttermilk area.

The Bishop Pass trailhead. 

Cross country travel through mostly wooded terrain below 10,000 feet.

Although I have been over Bishop Pass in the summer a few times this was the first time I had seen it in the snow. The snow creates an entirely new environment and with no visible trails the winter route follows the path of least resistance, usually directly up snow covered creeks and waterfalls.

Cross country route finding in the snow. . . 

After a few hours of breaking trail through pristine snow I was relieved to make it Long Lake for sunset.

Sunset on Chocolate Peak and Mt. Agassiz from frozen Long Lake. 

The outlet of Long Lake was starting to melt creating a pleasant place to resupply on water each day.

The outlet of Long Lake. 

Soon the forecasted 20 mph winds arrived and it started to get cold. I found a spot above the potential cold sink down by the lake and settled in for the night. Night temperatures were relatively mild for high altitude winter camping with the lowest in the mid 20's.

View from camp above Long Lake. 

Cowboy camping in the snow. 

I created a simple winter stove setup that is used mainly to melt snow for water and make a few hot meals. This year I have been using a Trail Designs Fissure Ti-Tri titanium windscreen/pot holder with an Evernew 750 ml titanium mug/potRuta Locura carbon fiber lid and a remote canister stove made up of parts from two different Fire Maple stoves. The stove is made so it is possible to invert the canister for use in very cold temperatures. Total weight for the winter kitchen setup is about 6 ozs and everything fits neatly inside the mug.

Winter kitchen. 

The next morning I headed toward Bishop Pass and planned on exploring Dusy Basin. The forecast was for 20 mph winds on the east side and 40 mph winds on the opposite/west side, but it was calm and clear.

Morning over Long Lake. 

The view back toward frozen Long Lake. 

Mt. Agassiz from frozen Bishop Lake.

Snow survey signs on the way to Bishop Pass.

Finally getting close to the pass. 

As I reached Bishop Lake at 11,250 feet the winds picked up and I could see giant sheets of snow blowing along the sides of the surrounding 13'ers. From the approach to the winter route at 11,400 feet I struggled to stay upright in the 40 mph wind gusts. When I heard the winds howling over the ridges I got ready for the impending blasts of blowing snow.

I decided to turn back and save the pass for another day. I slowed down and explored some of the other lakes in the basin. Once I got farther back I could see the large windblown cornices hanging over the winter route to Bishop Pass. I wouldn't want to be under one of them when they let go!

Winter Route to Bishop Pass.

Distant view with large cornices visible above the winter route to Bishop Pass.

Ledge Lake and Hurd Peak. 

Picture Puzzle, Aperture Peak and Mt. Agassiz from Saddlerock Lake. 

The easy downhill route back to civilization.

By the time I approached treeline a storm started blowing in and the first few snowflakes fell as I reached the car. It was a fun weekend with just enough adventure to keep things interesting. . . 

Thanks for reading. 


  1. Wow! Adventure for sure! And great kitchen!!

    1. Thanks Tommy! Sorry for my crazy slow response, I gotta start checking my blog more often:)