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Day 12: South Wanda Lake to Bishop Pass Trailhead

2010 August 8

Sooooo…. Yeah it got cold last night. Camping above 11,000 ft secured our fate. We woke up this morning to ice flakes (more than just frost) on both the outside AND the inside of our tent. The thermometer on my pack read 28, so it’s not the coldest we’ve ever camped, but certainly the coldest we’ve ever camped with the small amount of gear we brought. I think Liz wore everything she brought and was still cold!

Needless to say we had to tear ourselves out of our bags to get rolling. We mashed everything into our packs and hustled to the nearest rock with sun shining on it to dry our tent and heat water for a HOT breakfast.

Luckily we did go as far as Wanda Lake so we were halfway up Muir Pass already. The top was amazing. We ‘saddled’ for a while, walking on a flat rocky area between several peaks, before finding the temporary shelter at the top. The Sierra Club constructed an emergency rock shelter capable of holding 12-15 hikers in the event of a storm while they were on top (above 12,000 ft). We’ve got pictures, but can’t post them at the moment.

On the way down the south side of the pass, we lost the trail several times through the snow. We followed other footprints through, then you just kind of walk around until you pick up the trail again. That was a new experience! As a result we got the chance to see lots of snow bridges, where streams had cut a path under the snow but the top had not yet melted. Since the snow seemed to be melting pretty fast (hikers the other way had told us Muir Pass was completely covered in snow just weeks before), Liz talked me out of getting a picture out on one. :) 

After Muir Pass we descended into LeConte Canyon toward Bishop Pass and the first of our viable escape routes off the trail. It was a great descent, marked by waterfalls and boulder gardens. About halfway down the rain came again but after yesterday, we were prepared! We found a great ‘shelter’ under a small rock overhang that kept us dry (under our Tyvek footprint) for the short duration of the rain.

We have been leap-frogging a couple guys that look very … worn. And disgruntled. I’m not sure they enjoy being out here, but like most of us, they need to ‘see this through’ – they’re moving faster than us so we probably won’t see them much after today.

So tonight we’re camping in Little Pete Meadow – there was a bunch of great camping along the entire canyon, but this gets us within a quarter mile of the Bishop Pass trail head if that’s where we decide to exit. Right now we’re leaning strongly toward heading out over Bishop Pass even though it looks pretty steep – we’re at around 8,000 ft coming down from Muir Pass at 12,000 and Bishop is back up around 12,000 again. But it gives us a few days of grace to catch our plane and still muck up some transportation.

We have until tomorrow morning to decide. More tomorrow!

Happy trails! 

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