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Camping In The High Sierras © 1997 -


This year the Mountain Sabbatical went up from North Lake over Piute Pass, through Humphries Basin and over Dwyer's Lakes Pass into Granite Park with a leisurely return including a round circuit of Humphries Basin.

Here is a topo of the outgoing trip portion.

"Piute Crack" as the trailworkers refer to the five mile gut in the hills up to the Pass at 11,400 bears no repetition. Its repetitious enough. Except spring was still in full swing in the High Sierra, with bluebells, wild irises, alpine gold, purple daisies, and scads of other flowers carpeting the meadows.

The heavy snowfall of the pass winter made itself manifest in the full presences of many lakes this late in the season. Summit Lake finally looked the part after many meagre years.

And for a litte human perspective . . . .

First camp was at Lower Desolation Lake, which well earns its name beneath the awesome bulk of Mount Humphries,. Temps at night hovered inside the tent around 41 degrees.

Far acoss the Basin to the south, ranges the imposing glacial divide, which no camera lens can capture in its entirety. The big block there on the left is Mount Muriel, followed by Mount Goethe to the right.

Descending to Hutchinson Meadow one experiences the comforts of arranged seating, carefully laid fireplace and neo-petroglyphs for entertainment. Alas this campsite experiences some 12 visitors per night.

French Canyon begins in a mediocre way, climbing through pines that gradually give way to more stony high ground and more interesting terrain above 10,500 feet.

Cutting away from the Pine Creek Pass with its disappointing descent to 10,200 feet, one ascends a Spartan ridge to arrive at the first of the Dwyer's lakes.

Here we move to the next stage of the journey, with map #2.

This place is not a place for softees. Camp is hard and stony with no shade for miles.

Still, the environment is what we came for here. No Young Republicans or Bushcant here. There are, however, trout.

From here, we skirt the lakes with a bit of artfull boulder hopping. The pass itself is embarrassingly simple and provides a pleasant view from 11,800 feet to Granite Park.

The intrepid who cross the basin below the pass to ascend further to the last lake before Italy pass will be gratified by extraordinary views from Granite Park, dominiated by Mt. Julius Ceasar.

First, a look backwards from the top, at 12,600 feet:

Then we look forward over Jumble Lake, which cannot be actually approached due to the immense piles of talus that surround the shore. The broad saddle to the immediate left leads to the Bear lakes complex.

One could spend days exploring Lake Italy and its environs but most chose not to do so, perfering to pit muscle and sinew in the old Yo-dee-ho against the elements. The discerning traveller will notice delicate appearances among the harsh terrain and unexpected delights of great subtlty.

Soon enough, however, comes the time to wend the way home. After a vigorous grunt up past Jumble Lake, the pass presents itself anew.

The trail picks up eventually with delightful prospects along the way until one finds a spot at 11,500 feet beside a tarn overlooking Granite Park.

As much as one can do, there remain the few dedicated to yet more. Here is a fellow preparing to ascend Mt. Feather from Dwyer Lakes Pass.

Once again we experience the pleasures of remote Dwyer's lakes.

That day, due to technical considerations, our camp was fated to lie well below the treeline in French Canyon.

With a mighty fine prospect down the way.

After a long hike and circling the Humphries Basin we find ourselves once again after nine days in the wilderness settlled beneath Mount Humphries on the shores of Lower Desolation Lake. Tomahawk lake proved to be beautiful but far too crowded and accessible to strangers at this time of year.

From here, it was an easy hike to the Pass and down to Bishop by two pm.