8/1/2015 Muir Pass and LeConte Canyon
We made it over Muir Pass today at 11,955′! The climb honestly started all the way back at Muir Trail Ranch two days prior. One could even claim it is 18 miles of “up”.
I think we broke camp at 7:17 am, the earliest ever! Yet Steve and Emma were still out on the trail before us. They are so quick! I think they get to camp by 3 or 4 pm while we come rolling in closer to 6. Oh well!
Kings Canyon may be more beautiful than Yosemite. It is certainly more remote and hard to get to than Yosemite. There are no shuttles, ice rinks, lodges with 3 star dining, gift shops to buy fridge magnets . . .
We climbed the last 1,000′ over about 6 miles to Muir pass and passed Sapphire Lake and Wanda lake (named for Muir’s daughter). Both were just jewels of icy blue water in a sea of giant granite cliffs. Dylan claimed that there was still frozen glaciers at the bottom of the lake. Everyone had told us that the later half of the John Muir Trail was more spectacularly beautiful than the first half. This is a big statement as the first half of the trail is Yosemite National Park, but they are right. The second half is filled with 14,000′ peaks, glaciers, alpine lakes and inspiring vistas. Just check out these pictures of our 6 miles climb up to Muir Pass.
The Muir Hut was built by the Sierra Club (of which we are members) in honor of John Muir. It is pretty sweet. Basically a stone igloo. Manuela and Dick weren’t too far behind us and we shared the summit with them. We took their picture in front of the hut and they took our picture. Their kids had hiked portions of PCT and they wanted the JMT experience. We probably spent a total of 20 minutes up on top of Muir Pass, checking our maps, drinking up on water, and eating a snickers bar before headed down over 7 miles to LeConte canyon. We went down for hours and it felt much more treacherous than the up. It was rocky with large steps and switch backs. At times it was hard to discern the trail from just straight up rock fields.
Then of course a thunderstorm started up. Clouds had been forming all morning. Kevin and I got into a fight as I was so desperate to wash my hair (we are six days no shower at this point) I walked out into an open meadow to get water. Kevin was right to stop me and insist we get to lower ground and amongst the trees. Everyone was hustling to get down off the exposed granite out cropping and into the trees. We were nearly running at certain points. ANNND we ran right past whale rock. Didn’t even stop to take a picture. Sad face.
The whole methodology of the later half of the John Muir Trail is to get over the pass in the morning, descend, find camp, and set up to summit the next pass again in the morning before thunderstorms have a chance to get you. There are 5 pass in in increasing height leading towards Mt. Whitney: Muir 11,955′, Mather 12,080′, Pinchot 12,100′, Glen 11,978 and lastly the highest Forester 13,153′. One does not want to be going over a pass late in the afternoon as thunderstorms typically roll through after building up in the afternoon heat and moisture in the San Joaquin valley.
Some folks set up temporary shelters along side the trail to wait out the rain. We just kept heading down the trail. The trail descended through LeConte Canyon, through Big Pete Meadow, into Little Pete Meadow, and then on to Grouse Meadow. Honestly we really trucked it getting down off of Muir pass and didn’t stop for much sight seeing.
That night at camp I dunked myself in the Middle Fork of the Kings River and had Kevin pour soup on my head to try and get clean. It worked a bit. We did a bunch of laundry and hung up a line between trees to let it dry. A deer came sneaking into our camp and wouldn’t leave. We scared it off three times and it just kept hovering around. Very funny.
Tomorrow we climb up Palisade Creek, up the Golden Staircase to Palisade Lakes setting ourselves up for Mather Pass.