Mt. Wynne ... next chapter
Twin Lakes south of Pinchot Pass to top of Mather Pass
A two pass day with plenty to spare ...
0530-0600 Twin Lakes (58°F; calm, cool & clear)
It is a beautiful morning to get up and on the trail before sunrise. I pump water while Irene finishes loading her pack. We want to really cover some ground today and get close to Mather Pass. The moderately easy terrain between Pinchot and Mather should allow us to make good time.
We head straight for Mt. Wynne thinking the pass is east of the mountain. Then the trail winds west and we get a view of the wide open plateau below Crater Mt. which we will cross to climb the pass now evident on the west side of Mt. Wynne. The sun is just beginning to shine brightly and drape the landscape in gold. The sky is clear and gone are all remnants of the previous storms. Life is good.
We catch up and pass Bob Dunlap, the fellow who was in such a hurry to get to Vermillion. Woods Creek had slowed him down as well so he is behind schedule; but, he is determined to get over Mather Pass today.
0800-0830 Pinchot Pass 36°56.169 / 118°24.755 - 12.147' (63°F)
We reach the top of Pinchot Pass just as the sun does so our climb is relatively easy and cool (see above painting Pinchot Pass). There is a slight breeze. We put on our silk shirts which we brought as wind breakers. They work remarkably well for this purpose. Bob joins us shortly. He too is GPSing. He is a computer engineer and has down loaded each day's route way points into his GPS from computer software. Basically, that is what my itinerary represents, daily routes. He does not dally long, not even remove his pack, and off he goes; because, like I said, he has a schedule to keep.
Our schedule, on the other hand, is real loose. Although, at times I may seem unnecessarily determined to get to a particular stop (and many days we coincidently keep up with our itinerary) we need not push ourselves. Many folks on the JMT are in a great hurry because their vacation is only so long or they are rushing to meet someone who has their food or they are low on food and dreaming of pizza & beer or they are trying for a record or they just want to stay ahead of everybody else on the trail. As Irene points out to me, it kind of misses the point. There are flowers to smell out here albeit tiny alpine flowers.
A backwoodsman once challenged Muir, "You look like a strongminded man, and surely you are able to do something better than wander over the country and look at weeds and blossoms." Muir asks him, "You are a believer in the Bible, are you not?" "Oh, yes." the man replies. Muir continues, "And ... do you not remember that Christ told his disciples to 'consider the lilies how they grow' ... Now, whose advice am I to take, yours or Christ's?" JM
Eventually we too head down toward Lake Marjorie. We pass five more JMTers, and a couple loaded like pack animals who are pass hopping and cross country trekking. We also pass an all-smiles family of four (mom, dad and two pre-teen daughters) who have come all the way from Sonora Pass. I think they said they were on their twenty-fourth day. So there are some people who are taking their time and soaking it all up. Another single backpacker from the Bay Area didn't have much vacation time so he is just in on a couple day loop from Taboose Pass. Sometimes just a couple days up here can so invigorate one that you head back to the "everyday" with renewed purpose.
We see our first jack rabbit in between people sightings. And I hear more marmots. Not their chirping rather their galumphing. Yes, I swear, this fellow was so big and fat I heard him "thundering" across the path before I actually saw him.
This is a beautiful spacious basin surrounding Lake Marjorie north of Pinchot Pass. A place we could revisit, perhaps from Taboose Pass. Bench Lake is not too far away and the Lake Basin over Cartridge Pass below Mt. Ruskin looks like a great place to explore on a shorter excursion. We won't take the time this trip.
1000-1100 Ranger Station 36°57.676 / 118°26.340 - 10.8K' (70°F in shade)
We break for water, feet, wash and snack. Another Ranger passes but doesn't ask for our permit. There is a Ranger Station here which is not indicated on my Harrison map. A couple more single travelers pass headed south. Soon we pack up and head on north down into the forest of the South Fork Kings River which we cross and then follow north toward Mather Pass.
The Kings River water cross is uneventful and we pass through the bulk of the forest fairly quickly. We like to gain altitude where we can enjoy vistas. Despite some downed trees, this is beautiful alpine country hiking along the head waters of the Kings River.
1330-1345 upper Kings River basin 37°00.567 / 118°27.398 - 11.1K' (77°F in shade)
We head west off trail to find a small lake in this wide open basin where we might take a private bath. Instead, we settle down by a slow moving stream to soak our feet and have brief rest. Although, we are now above the trees and there is no shade, a nice breeze blows cool enough for us to put on our fleece. The day is young and we are only a couple miles short of Mather Pass. The climb so far has been quite easy. We decide to move on closer to the Pass and stop for a bath and dinner at one of the many lakes just below the pass.
1500-1700 below Mather Pass 37°01.333 / 118°27.548 - 11.6K' (87°F; breezy)
Trying to set up the tarp using the hiking poles and rocks in a every-which-way wind is exactly that ... TRYING. Finally, I am able to create a little shade next to a pleasant yet shallow lake where we have dinner, sort of a bath and not quite a nap. This spot is less than exciting as a camp site and since there is still plenty of daylight, we decide to pick up and move on.
From our dinner location the trail winds way out to the east and then starts a few switchbacks up the face of the Pass, followed by a long traverse back to the west and ends with steep switchbacks straight to the top of Mather Pass. A couple gals we pass coming down are all bundled up in coats. Irene asks if they aren't hot (even though by now we are in total shade). "Actually, no!", is the response. It seems they perspired so much from the climb on the north side that they caught a chill at the top. Mather is one of those I-wouldn't-want-to-climb- it-from-the-north passes. From the south it is a bit arduous and then you're there.
1815-2030 Mather Pass 37°01.876 / 118°27.606 - 12,132' (68°F)
Reaching the top with water to spare we seek out a camping opportunity. Wouldn't it be nice to spend the night at altitude and get sunset, as well as, sunrise photos? As Fate would have it there is one and only one 6'x8' flat spot up here and perfectly protected behind rocks. There is a view to the north. I regret I did not photograph the spot because the sunset/sunrise photos I did shoot were not all that interesting in retrospect. When the sky is perfectly clear and there are no clouds then sunset/sunrise pictures tend to be less dramatic.
When the sunset is a dud that usually means the air is calm. Indeed it is. The night is very pleasant with little wind. A gust or two roars over our bivies to keep things exciting. Otherwise it is incredibly delightful and warm here at 12,000'. We "own" the pass for a night and have it all to ourselves. If we had been trying to find the pass in the dark with the aid of the GPS, my calculations were off by a mere 0.034' latitude and 0.053' longitude and 32' altitude. More likely if it was dark we would simply use our flash light and follow the established path.
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