Silver Pass ... next chapter

Silver Pass view of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak three days away

August 13, 2000
Mono Creek to Cascade Valley via Silver Pass
Climb to a view forever ... descend to a short detour

0600-0715 — Mono Creek (54°F; dry, clear & breezy)

          We get an early start in hopes of reaching Silver Pass before the day gets hot. First thing this morning the air is downright chilly hiking in the shade, so we charge up the steep switchbacks just across North Fork Creek. All the way to the pass we have trouble with pacing since it is one of those "just a little further" kind of trails which never seems to end. Once atop the switchbacks there are fine views of Red and White Mountain in the east before the path meanders around the west side of a high meadow. The naked rock ledges are just perfect with trees hanging on to the tiniest real estate.

          A German father and adult son wearing funny fold up hats pass by. The father in broken English inquires about rental cars in Bishop. Seems they catch a plane back to Germany in a few days and hope to exit the trail at Piute Pass and rent a car in Bishop. "Yeah, Bishop is a good sized town; they should have car rentals ... I think? Sure, why not?" (Of course, I'd be more concerned about the climb up out of Mono Creek, first) I don't share that with him; I don't want to ruin their joy of discovery.

0900-0915 — Silver Pass Creek 37°26.274 / 118°54.803 (67°F)

          We stop briefly by a picturesque water cascade at the top end of the meadow before setting out on the wide open flats just below Silver Pass. A couple lakes accentuate the wide open dry and hot run up to the pass. We keep going although our water is running a bit low.

0945-1045 — Silver Pass 37°26.541 / 118°55.274 - 9,759K' (70°F)

          Even when you reach the top of this pass, you haven't reached the top. We drop our bags at the marker and climb a ridge for the view (see above painting Silver Pass). I shoot a nine panel 300° panorama of the view to the north. Way off in the distance are Ritter and Banner. They will be in and out of our view for the next five days as we pass just below them on our way north. I also catch a photo of a marmot flaked out and sunning himself atop a big rock. We linger a while and enjoy the view before returning to our packs.

          Back at the pass, a British couple headed north on the JMT are cooking up some lunch. We chat a while and I leave them with a card although they expect to be traveling for the next six months and won't be emailing anyone. They are warming up with the JMT and then headed for South America. We don't think they can do better than the Sierra; like eating desert first. The rest of their "time out" from career vacation may not be worth the "chew" (two years later we haven't yet heard from them, perhaps they are still on holiday).

1300-1400 — Squaw Lake 37°28.197 / 118°55.380 (76°F)

          We head down toward a small lake we have identified from the pass as a place to get a private bath. It is about a mile off trail. Unfortunately, when we finally reach this lake it is about a foot deep with no other redeeming value. We retreat to the trail and continue on to Squaw Lake which is right on the trail (not private). No matter, it is still a fine place to wash up, lunch and rest. Irene cleans up. I stay dirty and nap.

          As we descend the steep forest trail toward Fish Creek, we must decide whether to stay on the JMT or take the detour through Cascade Valley to visit the Iva Bell Hot Springs on our way to Reds Meadow. At the bottom we veer west on a rather ambiguous trail headed for Cascade Valley.

1630-1830 — Cascade Valley 37°30.534 / 118°57.922 - 8,475K'

          Somewhere short of the Purple Lake Trail junction we quit for the day and make camp by the river in Cascade Valley. It is an old "junky" horse camp with an obnoxiously large fire pit, soot stained rock everywhere, very dirty (some camps are more dusty and dirty than others), no good seating and buggy. I'm too tired to care or to go any further so we endure probably the ugliest camp of our trip. Never mind ... I will be asleep soon enough. We have gone a respectable eleven miles today (probably our average).

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