North Lake, Piute Pass and beyond

Mountain Moments

August 13, 2009 

Today we'll start our adventure hiking on another high route across a remote section of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.

The trailhead to introduce us into the mountains is located at North Lake just outside of Bishop California. Hopefully after six days our final destination will be Rock Creek Lake at Mosquito Flat Trail Camp also on the eastern Sierra mountain range.

Joining me again this year will be my hiking buddies Clem Bingham and Fred Cochran.

Last year in one of my previous articles I introduced you to a similar hike which started at the South Lake trailhead on the eastern mountain range and continued for almost sixty miles into Kings Canyon and terminated at Roads End trailhead south of Fresno. Only 48 miles are displayed on our map route for this new adventure.

Once again we could feel the excitement as the ground beneath our feet began to increase in elevation. North Lake trailhead starts at 9,360 feet.

We'll start following Bishop Creek as it flows from the higher elevations. Today's destination is to hike to one of the lakes beyond Piute Pass. At this altitude the landscaping is still covered with trees and offers breathtaking pathways before reaching the tree line around 10,000 feet.

The first major lake we'll pass is Loch Leven Lake at 10,740 feet. With its lack of trees indicates Piute Lake at 10,958 feet will reflect the same landscaping.

This is another long mountain lake with ideal campsites or just a resting place for those day hikers.

Piute Pass at 11,423 feet will be our first of several mountain passes we'll experience during this six day adventure.

The trail leading over Piute Pass is very popular and offers ideal camping along the lakes on both sides of this pass. We even had to give the right-a-way to a mule packer taking supplies into one of the Golden Trout Lakes.

I have to comment that this cowboy was riding one of the largest red mules I've ever seen working these mountains. This mule had to be sixteen to eighteen hands high.

When we reached the saddle of Piute Pass we met the same packer on his return heading back to the corral. Maybe for future hikes we should consider traveling by horse or mule; one can cover twice the distance in the same allotted time.

Next we hiked around Summit Lake that was hosting a group of excited boy scouts. We later were informed they were an inner city troup and this was their first adventure into the mountains.

Hiking cross country we had a difficult time trying to locate Tomahawk Lake for a reference, but finally we worked out that problem through our maps and after an hour we decided that our first campsite will be at Lower Desolation Lake at 11,120 feet. The name was appropriate for its description, the landscaping consisted of rocks and boulders scattered throughout the area with the lack of any vegetation.

Looking up at the dark clouds forming over the western mountains, could it be possible we may get a thunder shower before dark?

Twenty minutes after setting up camp we had our first mountain shower.

It lasted only an hour and it sure was surprising how quickly our tents and equipment dried.

Could it be the high elevation or the cool breeze blowing across these mountain lakes?

Soon the sky cleared introducing millions of stars resembling diamonds spread over a black velvet cloth.

This is the end of our first day. Now during the next few editions I'll share with you my adventures relating to this six day hike and climb across the top of the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California.

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