Road’s End to Cirque Pass

These are quick notes from the route.  Pictures will be posted on the photos page of this section of the blog.

July 1, 2014

Flew into Fresno and met up with new found Facebook friends Eric and Jesse from Los Angeles.  Eric is a nurse and had just gotten off his overnight shift.  Jesse owns an Etsy-based sweets-making enterprise called Crazy Brain Chocolates. The two of them drive out of Los Angeles to take in the outdoors whenever they can.  They’ve logged road trips to Glacier National Park in Montana, the Olympics in Washington, and more than a few trips to the Sierra.  They dropped me off at Moraine Campground near Road’s End in King’s Canyon; Eric gave me a spoon when I realized I had forgot mine.  Since it was too late to hike up to the ranger station to pick up my permit, I walked around, stopping at the store at the next campground over to pick up some salt and pepper packets.  Had a quiet night by myself.

July 2

Big day!  Tromped out of Moraine Campground and hit the road at 5AM–5 miles to Road’s End and the start of the High Route. Walked for about an hour and was passed up by 3 cars:  Audi, Versa, Yaris.  Not sure why no-one picked me up.  We’re all going to the same place Road’s End and I can squeeze into a seat with my pack on my lap.  But I got regretful faces and shrugged shoulders.  Oh well.  Was finally picked up by the ranger herself on her way into work!  Arrived at ranger station to find it mobbed by an Outward Bound group of 18-22 year-olds finishing up a few weeks in the woods.  And what were they getting ready to do?  Go running!  No thanks.

Picked up my permit and realized I had lost the spoon Eric so kindly gave me.  What’s wrong with me??!  Ranger had a spare spoon handy and I gave her an instant coffee in exchange.  After a quick breakfast, I set my altimeter and made for the trail head.  A man was getting chatty with the ranger.  It was a few days before his 60th birthday and he was celebrating (by himself?) by walking the Rae Lakes loop.  Not a bad way to celebrate.

Long, slow, hot grind up to The Lip took me all day.  Climbed straight from 5,035ft to 10,347ft for a total elevation gain of 5,312ft.  This was exhausting.  I needed to take lots of stops due partly to the new elevation and partly to being out of shape.  Nice views of the South Fork of the King’s, Grand Sentinel, and, towards the end Mt. Cotter and Mt. Clarence King.

First cross country foray took me from The Lip to Grouse Lake.  Wasn’t too hard at all.  Evening at Grouse Lake.

July 3

First full day of mostly cross country travel.  Still not quite recovered from yesterday.  Climbed up to Grouse Lake Pass and was rewarded with a grand view of the peaks and ranges to the south with Grouse Lake in the foreground.  Carefully descended and made my way up to my next target, Goat Crest Saddle.  Here, I caught views of the Black Divide and the Palisade group as well as a look down towards Glacier Valley.  Had an easy walk down Glacier Valley past Glacier Lakes and picked up the State Lakes Trail, a dusty, seldom-used path leading to a few small lakes tucked in a cirque below Dougherty and State Peaks.  Caught a side trail over to Horseshoe Lake before starting the grind up Windy Ridge.  General route finding here as I was in a thin forest without a good look at a landmark.  Made it out to Windy ridge and made a 90 degree turn to the right to ascend the ridge.  Jaw-dropping view of Windy Canyon, Enchanted Gorge, and other Black Divide features diving down towards Middle Fork of the King’s.  Spent my night at a small unnamed lake at 10,700ft.  Exhausted.  Ended the day at 4pm to get some extra rest and recovery.  Thermarest has a hole in it.  Not fun for sleeping.

July 4

Big day ahead with ascents up to White Pass and Frozen Lake Pass.  Started the morning with an easy walk over to Gray Pass and descent to South Fork of Cartridge Creek.  Had breakfast by the creek.   Not getting as much food down as I should.  I seem to be averse to anything sweet and can only eat in small quantities.  Does not bode well for my energy stores with a big day like this!  Made the seemingly long climb up to White Pass, then contoured around talus to Red Pass, keeping mostly level.  Dropped way down to Marion Lake, losing nearly all the elevation gained to get to White Pass.  Marion has several scree slides to access from my side.  Had to choose one.  Whee!  Picked my way around the seldom-visited stunningly scenic lake.

Started to make my way up beautiful Lakes Basin to get to Frozen Lake Pass.  Had lunch next to a lovely L-shaped lake.  Tried to repair my Thermarest.  I located the leak and patched with athletic tape.  Climb to Frozen Lake felt more like a long siege.  Every uphill is now quite tiring.  I am not taking in enough calories and perhaps the altitude is causing problems too, though I don’t feel nauseous or headachy.  Can’t seem to find the drive to eat enough of my food!  Route finding challenging here as Frozen Lake Pass is not readily evident.  Scaled a 400ft headwall and located the chain of lakes that signify the entrance to the pass.  Walked around tiny lake just below the pass and then climbed the final 4-500 nearly vertical feet over talus (mostly stable) to the pass.  What a rush!  Probably the highlight of the trip.  Views behind me of Lakes Basin, Cartridge Pass.  Views ahead to Spilt Mountain, Upper Basin, and Mather Pass.  Picked my way down scree and talus to camp in the basin.  Thermarest still leaking, but slower leak.  Still need to get up and re0inflate at night.  Beautiful night sky.  Clear and full of stars.  And quiet.  Saw only one person over the past several days.

July 5

Connected with the Muir Trail and climbed up to Mather Pass in the morning.  Still getting gassed on the uphills.  Body just doesn’t seem to want to get stronger.  Descended north side of Mather Pass with gorgeous views of the Upper and Lower Palisade Lakes.  Right underneath Palisades now.  Started meeting lots of hikers!  One fella named “Hippo” when asked if he was enjoying himself remarked “not really” and signaled that he was from the South where they preferred their tree-lined tunnels and all this going up over one pile of rock after the other was not for him.  Tough dude.  Everyone else seemed to be having a good time.  PCT hikers, folks out on the Muir Trail for a week or so, all sorts.  Funny going from cross-country to trail.  With cross country, I’m always thinking about the route, planning the approach to the pass.  Once on trail, I go straight to brain-dead day dreaming and thinking about other stuff since there’s no route finding to do.

Plan was to leave the trail at the Lower Palisade lake and head cross-country up to Cirque Pass, hopping a few smaller passes after that to meet Bishop Pass to get out and resupply.  Got partway up a 300ft headwall and called cross country quits.  My legs couldn’t sustain.  They burned with every uphill step.  I blame diet.  I couldn’t stomach the sweet/more complex food in my pack and therefore couldn’t sustain the energy demand.  I returned to the Muir Trail and walked a flat/downhill 11 miles to the Bishop Pass Trailhead in LeConte Canyon.  Camped with a cheery group of four.  It was nice to camp with people.  Brought my spirits up!

July 6th

Long slow grind up the Bishop Pass trail.  3,200ft gain, but it was gentle and I took the full day to do it.  Camped on the other side of the pass at Bishop Lake.  Got rained on overnight!

July 7th

Hiked out to a trail head and took 3 hitches to get into Bishop.  End of trip.  Not because of legs.  Those could heal in town for a few days and I’d be good to go.  Really miss home.  Baby coming soon.  Will hopefully pick off another section of high route next year….




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