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Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 14:11:56 MDT Print View

I'm doing 5 days, 4 nights, starting and ending at the overnight parking along the road near Parcher's Resort. I've read the treks in Backpacking California and Sierra South relating to this loop. I have about 75 miles, I believe, total, and I'm comfortable hiking 25 miles a day(3.0-3.5mph pace) but prefer to keep them around 22 max to leave some cushion for exploring or slower pace. I fly to CA from NYC on Saturday 9/15 and start the hike on Monday morning, 9/17.

My current plan is: to spend

Night one at Dusy Basin, a short 9 mile first day with plenty of time to explore.

Night two on Darwin Bench. ~20-21 miles.

Night three at either Hutchinson Meadow or push on 5-6 miles further to Upper Golden Trout or Summit Lake below Piute Pass. ~18-23 miles.

Day 4 I'll cross Piute Pass, exit at the North Lake TH, road walk 3 miles and reenter at the Sabrina Lake TH and spend my last night at one of the many lakes in the area. Right now I'm targeting Blue Lake because it's closest, but this is where I'd appreciate any input on people's favorites. ~anywhere from 13-22 miles depending on where I spending night three and where I spend night 4.

Day 5, I walk back to the car on the side of the road at Parchers.

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.

Edited by jrmacd on 09/11/2012 14:12:52 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 14:37:17 MDT Print View

How are you with hiking at elevation?

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 17:01:15 MDT Print View

Not too bad, despite living on the East Coast the last 3 years. 2 years ago, I did sections of the TRT at that 24 mile a day pace and felt fine. Last year I did a Tuolumne Meadows-Vogelsang HST-Thousand Island Lakes-Lyell Canyon loop that I did about 20 miles a day. Last year wasn't as good, and I'm not sure if it was a)the higher elevation b)not training for 6 weeks prior due to a foot injury or c)poor nutrition, having tried to substitute snickers and peanut butter pretzel bites for Perpetuem mix and finding myself not able to force myself to consume enough calories. Or a combinatin of all three.

This year, I've been running 35-40 miles per week since March, I'm going back to the Perpetuem, and I'm spending my first night in Mammoth Lakes(8600') spending Sunday dayhikng to Minaret Lake, and perhaps also Iceberg and Cecil before spending another night in Mammoth Lakes, so hopefully that will help me acclimate.

I slept okay all nights last years, every camp being over 10500, so that leads me to suspect that my feeling poorly by my third day of hiking was caused more by poor eating than altitude.

Are the ascents up the passes better or worse that the ascent up the north side of Donahue, which is what did me in more than any other part?

Edited by jrmacd on 09/11/2012 17:02:57 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 17:34:43 MDT Print View

Jim, sounds like you'll be fine. That said, I have been over Donahue heading south on the JMT, as well as Muir and Bishop but not Piute. Both Bishop and Muir are higher and I suspect you already know that. In terms of steepest? They're all about the same. You mentioned camping at Darwin Bench. I have been through there on my way up Lamarck Col, there is an amazing camp site along Darwin Creek that is amazing. The views are to die for. Once you gain the bench you will pass a huge boulder that looks like something out of Stonehenge. I have vowed to stay there someday. Have fun, sounds like you have it covered!

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Flyover country on 09/11/2012 17:49:47 MDT Print View

Summit Lake below Piute Pass is fly over country, but if push comes to shove, you can find a spot along the trail before the lake. Best to camp at the lake before or go over the pass a little and pick a spot. Envy your mileage every day. I've only done one 20+ day in my life, two years ago. Seems though that my bigger mileage days are recent with me getting close to 60 now. :) Just can not put them together on the same bp trip let alone back to back days.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 18:32:09 MDT Print View

If you're in that kind of shape, then you might consider simply heading out over Lamarck Col from Darwin bench. That would save you 1-2 days, which otherwise would mostly be spent below tree line. IOW, sort of anti-climatic after experiencing the true high Sierra.

Another time saver (to be used for add'l high Sierra time) would be to park your car @ N Lake and hitch to S lake. (The reason you do this at the beginning of a trip is because you'll still be all fresh & clean, thus more appealing for potential drivers.) Alternatively, check with some of the sporting goods stores (Culver's, Mac's, etc) in Bishop to get some leads on local 'non-official' shuttle services.

With your new found 'free' days, you could grab a Whitney permit (solo walk-ins are easy - especially after Labor day) and do a quick summit. If you're still feeling good, you could try a day hike (21 miles round-trip), or spend the night @ Trail camp, summit, and then walk out.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 09/11/2012 18:39:45 MDT.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
side trips? on 09/11/2012 21:23:36 MDT Print View

Hmmm. Night 1 at Dusy Basin; night 2 at Darwin Bench. I'm hard-pressed to think of a more magnificent 20-mile section of trail in all of the Sierra.

If I rushed through that all in one day, I'd be kicking myself at trip's end for not turning it into at least 2 days. Why rush back out to Sabrina Basin when you have something even better in Day 2? Your entire trip could revolve around that 20-mile section and it would be all the more scenic.

I get it that you like to hike long miles. So do some side trips. You don't mention your interest/comfort level in x-country hiking. Between Dusy and Darwin there are so many great and famous day-hikes, it makes the head spin. People hike over Bishop Pass just to access one or more of these famous basins:

1. Day exploration of Dusy Basin (maybe done in a half-day). A photographer's dream.
2. Dayhike over Knapsack Pass into Barrett Lakes/Palisade Basin.
3. Dayhike, or overnight with full pack, into Ionian Basin via the pass just before Muir Pass (I think this is Black Giant Pass).
4. Dayhike to Davis or McGee basins from upper/middle Evolution Valley.
5. Dayhike around Darwin Basin and to the top of Alpine Col to the north of the basin, to see the view northbound towards Mt. Humphreys.
6. Ascent of any number of mountains along the way including Agassiz,
Columbine, Black Giant, Mt. Spencer, Mt. Darwin, all of which (excepting the tippy-top of Darwin) are no harder than Class 2 I believe.

On the topic of elevation: You will be slowed down a little compared to the somewhat lower and much more gentle terrain in the Donohue Pass area. Kings Canyon National Park and the southern Sierra in general are just more vertical. Who knows, you may be just fine going over a 12k pass on your first day. (My personal experience with that varies from trip to trip.) If not, there is excellent off-trail camping along the numerous gorgeous lakes between South Lake trailhead and Bishop Pass, as long as you walk at least 10 min. off-trail to find a less-abused site.

Lamarck Col is a great exit, yes, if you have basic off-trail skills (there is a use-trail covering most of the route) and if you are adapted enough to go over 13k. Indeed that route will keep you in the true alpine, compared to a Pauite Pass exit.

Great trip whichever way you slice it. You are constantly going to be picking your jaw off the ground; it is insanely more scenic than Vogelsang in Yosemite. Do you have an extra camera battery to carry?

- Elizabeth

Steven Thompson
(stevet) - M

Locale: Northeast
Re: Bishop Pass South-North Lake Loop ideas on 09/11/2012 23:46:54 MDT Print View

Some ideas on your route...

Buy a hikers cabin at Parchers (about $70). And then get Christina (who works their) to give you a car shuttle to North Lake trail head before they open in the morning. (my hiking buddy and I paid her $40 for the lift).

Hike your first day over Lamarck Col and camp at one of the Darwin Lakes (the lowest two have awesome view camps). Hike around Darwin Bench, visit the lakes up toward Alpine Col/The Keyhole, and then down to spend a 2nd night at Evolution, Sapphire, or Wanda Lakes. Day 3 can make it all the way into Dusy Basin, stay at one of the lower lakes. Day 4 head over Knapsack Pass into the Palisades Lake basin. Camping at either of the Barrett Lakes is sublime. Day 5, back over Knapsack Pass and up over Bishop Pass and down to South Lake and your car. The folk at Parchers will sell you a shower.

If doing reverse. Start at South Lake and make it all the way to LeConte Canyon for day 1. Day 2 head up to Helen Lake and then over Black Giant Pass into Ionian Basin. If you can get close to Chasm Lake there are a few places to camp above that lake and close to the waterfall. Day 3 hike over Wanda Pass and up to Darwin Bench. There is a beautiful tarn right as to enter Darwin Bench that makes for a perfect night 3. Day 4 can either hike down through Evolution Valley and up to Hutchison Meadown, or hike up past the Darwin Lakes and over Lamarck Col camping at upper or lower Lamarck Lake. Day 5 you exit. (if you do it this direction, still stay at a Parchers Hikers Cabin and have Christina help you get your car to North Lake the night before you start).

And speaking of Christina...make over Samson (her very friendly dog), and ask her about the mural she is painting and any canvas she has underway.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
South-North Lake Loop on 09/12/2012 08:52:56 MDT Print View

Two excellent comments above. The bottom line is, don't waste your time hiking down to Hutchinson meadow, and don't waste your time in the Sabrina basin. Hitch or shuttle between the lakes, and seriously consider Lamarck as your entry/exit route.

I prefer Lamarck on the way out, because it both allows you to fully acclimate, and the mileage/logistics tend to work better (at least for me). That is, you can spend the night @ one of the Darwin lakes and head out the next day, as opposed to leaving the trail head and confronting your trip's highest point (a 13k pass) not 6 miles from the start.

The other point I made above bears repeating, in that if you're coming from out-of-state, you should consider Whitney if you have any extra time. It tends to get some abuse since the trail is so popular (especially in summer), but what seems to be lost is it might be the most spectacular part of the Sierra.

Note that Whitney is not only the tallest, but the **newest**. That means practically pure white granite rising higher, and almost more vertically than Yosemite valley, along the the entire 9 miles of canyon from Portal to crest. Because people are so focused on getting to the top, and for the most part aren't in that great of shape, they don't allow themselves to look around and take it all in.

If you're in the kind of shape you seem to be in, it's something you should seriously consider.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 09/12/2012 08:55:19 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
All very helpful on 09/12/2012 10:24:56 MDT Print View

All great suggestions and I’m printing out this thread to take on my lunch hour with my Harrison map to see what’s doable. I should have asked this question two weeks ago so I’d have more than two evenings to plan.

I don’t shoot for high mileage days, they just end up happening. Partly because I’m just more comfortable moving than I am sitting still. Also because until I get back to California(lived in SF from 2005-2009) from NYC, I have 8-10 days a year walk the Sierra and so I have to balance seeing as much as possible with doing too much and never relaxing. Side-trips and getting to know a particular area is quite appealing though, vs. just making forward progress. I do have a thing for loops though, and finishing them on foot.

As tempting as a Whitney summit is, which is something I hadn’t even considered(hadn’t looked at a map to see how close it was, or known I could get a permit outside the lottery), I think that’ll have to wait till next years trip. At this last minute, I think it would feel too squeezed in to my existing itinerary. I’d definitely want to do an overnight, and I wouldn’t have time on this trip, even with the day saved by skipping the Sabrina Basin.

I’m definitely set on exiting via Lamarck Col now. Paul Richins covers this as an alternative route in Backpacking California, but for some reason, I had it in my head that it was too difficult. But researching online, it seems that it falls within my modest xc skillset.

Right now, I’m thinking of Dusy Basin on Day One, with about 5 hours to explore, and then perhaps Ionian Basin on Day Two, via Black Giant Pass. Then I’d backtrack via Black Giant on Day Three, hit Muir Pass and spend the night on Darwin Bench. Day Four over Lamarck Col and to North Lake, where I’d pick up with my original itinerary, spending the night at one of the lakes south of Sabrina, before hiking out on Day Five. I If I end up intimidated by the xc route via Lamarck Col, or I just decide I want to spend an extra day in Dusy, Ionian or on Darwin bench, I have time to make it an out-and-back. It’s good to have a lot of ideas in my head as I tend to change my mind by the moment.

Thanks for all the input, and I certainly welcome more.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: All very helpful on 09/12/2012 14:32:13 MDT Print View


Have a great trip. The link below has some photos of Ionian Basin via Black Giant Pass.

edited to add link

Edited by clbowden on 09/12/2012 15:40:35 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: All very helpful on 09/12/2012 15:18:57 MDT Print View

Jim, Lamarck Col is pretty straightforward and not too dufficult. If you have questions fire away

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: All very helpful on 09/13/2012 07:26:56 MDT Print View

Casey, those pictures are great. On one hand they make me really want to go into Ionian Basin, on the other, they bring home the reality of the cross-country travel, which I understood in my head, but was still kind of lying to myself about. Based on that reality, I think I'm going to skip an overnight in Ionian Basin and focus on bagging peaks (Solomon, Black Giant, Warlow). I'll probably spend night two at Wanda Lake and then day hike up to Wanda Pass and peak down into Ionian Basin before heading to Darwin Bench for night three. That should leave time to also explore Darwin, maybe head up Alpine Col, as Elizabeth suggested.