Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 56: Pinchot Pass to Upper Palisades Lake

The climb up Pinchot Pass (12,130 ft) was gently graded.  We passed many beautiful views of crystal clear lakes ringed with grassy carpets, gentle streams meandering through deep grassy meadows dotted with wildflowers, and the deeply colored red and golden mountains that towered over the entire basin. Sierra started scrambling up the rocks the moment we reached the pass. Fortunately I stopped her before she was out of earshot, so I didn't have to wait for her to climb the neighboring peak.

We dropped past Lake Marjorie, with its white granite cliffs rising steeply from the far side. Broken granite benches dotted with sandy flats and foxtail pines circled the trail side of the lake. We passed several other lakes set in beautiful meadows with colorful wildflowers before dropping into the forest to the South Fork of the Kings River (10,050 ft).

Climbing out of the forest again, we entered the boulder strewn high alpine meadows of the upper basin. Gurgling creeks wound their way through the meadows, and colorful heather and shooting stars brightened the grassy carpet. A single buck, hefting three year old antlers, stared at me across the meadow.

The final switchbacks up to Mather Pass (12,100 ft) consisted of gentle sandy switchbacks interspersed with large chunks of rock. A large rockslide completely obscured one section of trail with a pile of boulders. The challenges of repeatedly climbing over large chunks of rock, whether rockslides or simply the tall rock steps built into the trail, significantly slowed our pace on the climb. Indeed, our scramble down the rocks on the other side was almost as slow as the climb!

We located a high camp above Upper Palisades Lake just as the sun was setting. Earlier in the day we pulled some wild green onions by one of the streams, and we now used these to supplement our dinner, adding a fresh texture and mild flavor to our food.

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