Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Friday, August 10, 2012

High Sierra Solo~ Part 1 of 3: Mono Pass Trailhead to Alger Lakes

 When planning my trip home to see the family, (always eager for a summer backpacking trip in the Sierra) I had also obtained a few hard to come by permits for the southern section of the John Muir Trail, (Kearsarge pass to Mt Whitney) hoping I could get a few friends to go along. I had hiked the JMT in it's entirety back in 2003, and I had intermittent dreams of returning to hike the last section of it. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out with friend's schedules, and being my original permits were over a particularly rugged section of trail, (and knowing that I was now going Solo,) I gave them up in lieu of a shorter solo trip beginning a bit farther north in Yosemite.

I decided on an approx 35-36 mile loop hike beginning near Mono Pass in the Yosemite High country, traveling into the Ansel Adams Wilderness & back out via Tuolumne Meadows. I had attempted this same trip several times many years ago. I was shut down on 3 separate occasions, so I though what the heck, I'll give it another go. My first shutdown was a good 13 or so years ago on my first solo backpacking trip, when I had a ridiculously heavy pack (thinking I suppose, that more weight... ie, stuff= more security... which of course just made for a ridiculously hard hike in which I bailed out on a side trail @ Gem Lake after 3 days of short mileage.) The second time, with a couple of friends, we tried this trail in reverse, starting out in Tuolumne Meadows~ also bailing out around Gem Lake due to snowfall obscuring the trail during a late September hike. The third time, a couple of years ago, with my nephew... on our first night out we had thick smoke, as well as ash falling on our tent... the fire was far away, but we had no idea of knowing this at the time, so we bailed out that time, too. Thinking that if the 3rd time was not the charm, the 4th must certainly be... off I went!

Lupine near Creek

The beginning of my hike took me through Dana Meadows, lovely & lush...

Bambi :)

 through the forest and gradually higher to expansive views.

Me & my pack... carrying everything I'd need for the next 4 days & 3 nights... and then some. While my pack weight hovered around 40 pounds which is not at all bad, I realized I could have gone without a few items, thus shedding a few more pounds, which really does make a difference when putting in decent mileage & hiking over high passes.

Trail stretching out into the distance towards Parker Pass....

and looking back over the miles I had covered.

 At 11,100 feet, Parker Pass would be the the first high pass I'd hike over, but although it seems high, the hike started at 9,700 feet, and climbed gently over several miles, making it feel almost easy. (Though coming from NM & living at 7,000 ft may have had an influence!)

Just after the pass, I left Yosemite & entered the Ansel Adams Wilderness....

hiking onward, my next big Pass loomed in the distance. Just above the lingering snow pack to the right is the actual pass (it sits between Parker & Koip Peaks) though the trail climbs through scree/talus on the left flank of the mountain. When you first look at this pass, it seems insurmountable, but as it often is with climbing mountains, it is not until you get closer, and then closer still, the way appears.

My eagle eyes (ha!) spotted these two guys coming down the trail from Parker & Koip Peaks... click to enlarge to make the two small dots in the center of the frame become actual people.

The view from about 1/3 of the way up the hill... looking back into the valley from which I had just come.

The view above was probably taken somewhere around the halfway point. Note the zig zag pattern on the slope in the distance- that's the trail!

Views from the trail down towards Mono & Grant Lakes.

Aaahhhh... after some time, I reach the top of the Pass... I had not seen another soul since talking to the 2 guys coming down the other side. That's Parker Peak in the distance... but I don't climb it as a side hike... I still have miles to go!

Trail up to the Pass- Mono Lake in the Distance

I stop for a snack break & to take in the marvelous views & breathe the fresh, clean air. The wind was gusty on the way up, but for now, all I hear is silence... and it is glorious. Far above tree line, (elevation close to 12,200 ft) I take in the otherworldly landscape. 

Trail over the Pass- soon to descend to Alger Lakes

But I don't linger long... I must still descend at least 1,500 feet & a few miles to get to my first camp.

My first view of Alger Lakes from the Pass...

and a closer view as I make my way down. If you look closely, you can see the trail in the bottom left corner. 

Trail far below the pass & approaching the lakes. Time & time again I was blown away by the beauty & detail in the landscape. My photography simply just does not do it justice.

After roughly 10 miles of hiking & with a few thousand feet elevation gain & loss, I am tired! I do camp chores, secure my bear canister and set up camp without a soul in sight.

In complete solitude I take in last bit of sunlight as it illuminates Alger Lake.


Randy said...

What a beautiful camping spot you picked out. My mom lives north of Yosemite. I only went there a few times when I was little. I can't wait to see more pics. Enjoy your trip.

Tammie Lee said...

you make me smile
how wonderful that you enjoy this journey on your own
surrounded in glorious wild beauty
thank you for sharing you trek in the wild

clairz said...

Becky, you make me ponder the nature of solitude, and I realize that I am almost never completely alone. I don't know how you do the things you do, but I will forever admire you for it. Thank you for sharing these marvelous photos. You are amazing.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that you are the only one enjoying that beautiful place. Does the park limit the number of hikers in a time?

I think your photography is just fine.

Elizabeth Karen said...

This hike looks AMAZING! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures. Can't wait to hear more about it when you get back to Santa Fe!

Barb said...

I was thinking of you a few days ago Becky, when I got your comment (ESP?). So happy that you are taking a break to enjoy Nature and Family. What a glorious landscape you hiked through. I did an 11 miler last week - was going to go solo but at the last minute my husband came along because he doesn't like me going alone. We were both really pooped when we got back home. I'm not getting any younger I guess! Have a fabulous vacation! Stay safe and well.

Pat said...

That is quite a hike! The views ARE breathtaking! I do worry about you hiking alone, though. Do you sign in anywhere so someone is aware of where you are?

Annie said...

Becky, You are so brave to do this hike alone, I would never do it. How beautiful it all is. Stunning!

marianne said...

beautiful! and you've done a wonderful job of capturing the majesty of the high country. look forward to seeing more :)

HikingMike said...

I love the shot you took of the guys coming down from Koip Peak Pass! I didn't get one like that. Great photos! This is an incredible area.

How was the trail going just above that chute of snow? When we went across that, I remember the trail was starting to fall into the chute and it was a bit hairy crossing that.

Here was my trip over much of the same trail in 2004, loved it.