The North Lake/South Lake loop is a really perfect slice of the Sierras. At 55 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain its a nice 5-6 day hike with easy logistics out of Bishop, CA. More than that, it covers some of the prettiest sections of the Sierra such as Piute Pass, Muir Pass, Bishop Pass, Evolution Basin and Dusy Basin.
I had wanted to do this loop as part of a 200 mile hike with my son in the summer of 2019. But an injury cut the trip short and we only did half our planned route. With the craziness of 2020 I realized mid summer that I didn’t have a hike planned, so on a whim I flew out to California to do this loop by myself.
In the summer of 2017 my 17 year old son and I backpacked the John Muir Trail over 20 days. The trip was extraordinary…I can’t wait until I can do it again!
I spent a lot of time researching gear, and buying gear, and ended up pretty happy with my set up. My base weight was about 20 pounds, which was light enough to not be a burden but included everything I wanted.
Day 19: 11.2 miles, 207.4 cumulative, Guitar Lake to Outpost Camp (10,370′)
This was the day. We would summit Mt. Whitney and complete the John Muir Trail. The culmination of months of planning and weeks of hiking. In the end we would climb 3000′ and descend 4000′ in one long and glorious day. I was elated to have made it this far, nervous about the climb to come, ready to have real food and a shower, and sad to be at the end of an incredible journey. Wow! Lots of emotions there…
Day 17: 10.5 miles, 184.5 cumulative, Center Basin to Tyndall Frog Ponds (11,030′)
I woke early and crawled out of my tent. I was surprised to see many of the backpackers already moving around – everyone was so quiet. We all knew what was ahead I guess. And that would be Forester Pass. At 13,110′ Forester was our highest pass, and 1000′ feet higher than we had even been so far. I knew the climb would be super hard…2700′ feet up with less than optimal oxygen. But out there on the trail, no matter how hard the climb or how much I wanted to quit in the moment (and there were plenty of those moments), quitting literally wasn’t an option. My only choice was to keep hiking. And so…
Day 15: 13.7 miles, 162.1 cumulative, Lake Marjorie to Dollar Lake (10,220′)
Today’s pass – Pinchot Pass (12,050′). It wasn’t a terribly hard pass (although all climbs over 11,000′ still made me miss oxygen greatly). Nathan and I had camped at 11,000 feet so we had just 1000′ to climb in 2 miles. The snow wasn’t tricky or scary this time. 🙂 After our usual break on top of the world, we began our 3500′ descent to Woods Creek.