A stunning trip in the northeastern part of the park, starting from the Virginia Lakes Trailhead. This is a steep hike up over 11,000 feet to get started, and then you go right back down again on the far side of the pass. This part of the Sierra is volcanic, not granitic, and the slopes are incredibly steep. The trail is a real piece of work!
Once over the pass, we hiked past Summit Lake (10,250) and down into Virginia Canyon for the night. The weather was a bit iffy, with clouds and a strong wind, so we wanted to get lower. Still nice views of Shepherd's Crest, though, once the sun broke through the clouds.
The next day we hiked down Virginia Canyon to the PCT, then took a left for a mile, before we left it for McCabe Lakes, sitting underneath Sheep Peak.
The next day we re-traced out route back up the canyon all the way past the trail to Virginia Pass (which is NOT the trail over the pass to Virginia Lakes...go figure!). For the first time in many years, we ran into a bear in the backcountry---but he was moving so fast we never got a photo. I would hate to try to outrun one of those animals!
And eventually we took a cross-country route to Return Lake, at the foot of Virginia Peak.
Day four found us hiking up the slopes to the saddle between Return Lake and Soldier Lake. We were prepared to see Soldier Lake
What we weren't prepared for was the view of so much of Yosemite, from Shepherd's Crest and Mt. Conness to the whole Cathedral Range, Cloud's Rest, the Clark Range behind that, and even a tiny slice of Half Dome on the far right! That's the right hand side of the panorama below.
Later that afternoon we worked our way back to Summit Lake, which was still cold and windy, but not cloudy, for the night.
And the last day we hiked back up over the pass, and back to the car.
The rest of the photos are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/BackpackingInTheSierraVirginiaCanyon#