North Lake/South Lake Loop – Solo! Part 2

Day 4: Sapphire Lake to Big Pete Meadow 9.5 miles, 1300 ft elevation gain

Day 4 I began with a climb up to Muir Pass. I had already camped at ~11,000 ft so it was only another 1000 ft to the top, but at this altitude there is still huffing and puffing involved. Already above the tree line, the terrain is rocky and barren, but beautiful. I walked past Wanda Lake before climbing. At the top of the pass (11,975′) also sits Muir Hut which is also pretty cool.

There are always people hanging out at Muir Hut, enjoying the sites and the fruits of their labor. It is a great place to chat with fellow backpackers and take some pictures. After Muir Pass you descend for a couple thousand feet through the barren terrain, past Helen Lake, finally back to trees and the the Middle Fork Kings River into Le Conte Canyon where I camped for the night.

Day 5: Big Pete Meadow to Dusy Basin, 6.5 miles, 2700 ft elevation gain

I started the day with a couple flat miles as I continued along Le Conte Canyon. Then I left the JMT and headed up Bishop Pass Trail. It is a beautiful hike up switchbacks along a creek cascading down on granite sheets. But dang if it isn’t a 2000 ft climb.

At the top of the climb, sits the beautiful Dusy Basin. Immediately there is water which is a great place to stop for lunch. After the hot exhausting climb, the shade and cool running water are perfect.

I continued in the basin along lake 10,742 and many beautiful places to camp. It was still early, so I headed up another 500 ft climb to the upper area. I had now left the tree line again. About this time the weather changed. Dark clouds and a cold wind were blowing in. I needed to find a place to camp, but I had a problem. Although the maps showed small tarns in this area, there were none. They are likely the first spots to dry up by August. There is another lake up there, but I couldn’t find it. Every ridge I climbed up I was certain I would see the lake only to be disappointed yet again. Finally the wind and rain forced me to camp. I came across a shallow muddy puddle and decided it would have to do. To escape the wind I set up behind a giant boulder. When the rain was light, I used my cup to carefully scoop up water from the puddle and pour it into my bag to filter. It was the worst water situation I have ever camped in, but it worked! After the storm passed the night was still and wonderful.

Day 6: Dusy Basin to South Lake, 9 miles, 1500 ft gained

My last day, I would hike over Bishop Pass shortly past where I camped and then the gradual descent back into civilization. I had seen some guys after the storm come down the pass and camp presumably by the lake I couldn’t find the night before. I needed water. So after a short climb I found the lake and it was low. It had been a below average snow year, and it makes sense that at 11,000 ft the lakes and streams dry up first. I’ll have to remember that for future hikes. With full bottles I headed towards the pass.

The hike from Bishop Pass down to South Lake is really beautiful. It passes many small lakes, from the alpine to the trees. I met a couple guys on the pass and we hiked out together. It was nice to chat with others after 5 days of not talking.

And I was out. We got a ride from a construction crew down to the guys car at the a lot several miles down the road because the south Lake parking had been closed. And then they gave me a ride to my car at the North Lake parking lot so that all worked out well. Then on to Bishop for a shower and a beer! A perfect 5-6 day trip.

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