Climbing the northern side of Hopkins Pass - 50' below the crest.

 

2012-2014: Recesses, Basins and Passes


2012: Passes and Circuits

For me, this year was the beginning of something new, exciting and challenging in the Sierra Nevada: In February, my left knee was replaced with titanium and chromium alloy, so the initial challenge was to be back hiking the mountains as soon as possible ... despite some pain and restricted flex. In August I planned to walk the JMT for the 11th year, only six months after the knee surgery ... would I be able to do it?

So as a warm up for the full length JMT, I decided to attempt a number of circuits on and off the JMT, utilizing various lateral trail crossings from the eastern Sierra: McGee, Mono, Pine Creek, Hopkins and Morgan Passes. Most of these hikes took place in July, all solo events. Not only did my new knee handle the many days of backpacking, but I found myself on trails that were delightfully fresh to the eye, and mostly sparse of fellow hikers.

Hiking uphill with the new knee required no additional effort and downhill was now painless, but needed some caution in not slipping or stubbing my left foot on even minor projections. Each of these events was an "Ouch", often followed by a fall. Oddly, the most significant problem with the new knee was around camp: Getting in and out of the tent and sitting on rocks or logs that were too low for the available flex in the implant and its remaining scar tissue.

  • Looking down to Little McGee Lake from the eastern side of McGee Pass Looking down to Little McGee Lake from the eastern side of McGee Pass
  • On the summit of the 12,000' McGee Pass, looking up the southest ridge of Red Slate Mtn. On the summit of the 12,000' McGee Pass, looking up the southest ridge of Red Slate Mtn.
  • The rare beauty of Sky Pilot blooms on the summit of McGee Pass. The rare beauty of Sky Pilot blooms on the summit of McGee Pass.
  • The southern approach to the 12,000' Mono Pass. The southern approach to the 12,000' Mono Pass.
  • With fellow backpackers next to Summit Lake on Mono Pass. With fellow backpackers next to Summit Lake on Mono Pass.
  • My camp at the entrance to the Third Recess. My camp at the entrance to the Third Recess.
  • Looking northwest over Upper Morgan Lake to the 11,200' Morgan Pass. Looking northwest over Upper Morgan Lake to the 11,200' Morgan Pass.
  • It's a long way down the road to the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine It's a long way down the road to the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine
  • Pine Creek Tungsten Mine buildings with the Pine Creek Pass trail behind. Pine Creek Tungsten Mine buildings with the Pine Creek Pass trail behind.
  • Looking southeast over Upper Hopkins Lakes from Hopkins Pass. Looking southeast over Upper Hopkins Lakes from Hopkins Pass.
  • The southeast rim of Hopkins Pass. The southeast rim of Hopkins Pass.
  • Looking directly up to Hopkins Pass from the outlet of Big McGee Lake. Looking directly up to Hopkins Pass from the outlet of Big McGee Lake.
  • The route down the northwest side of Hopkins Pass. The route down the northwest side of Hopkins Pass.
  • Looking down from Hopkins Pass to Big McGee Lake and McGee Creek drainage. Looking down from Hopkins Pass to Big McGee Lake and McGee Creek drainage.
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  • Chief Lake, as seen from the climb on the northern side of Silver Pass. Chief Lake, as seen from the climb on the northern side of Silver Pass.
  • Looking north from Silver Pass to the Minarets, Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak. Looking north from Silver Pass to the Minarets, Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak.
  • Bill and Heidi on lunch break at Vermilion Resort [VVR] Bill and Heidi on lunch break at Vermilion Resort [VVR]
  • Peter and Bill by "Big Red" ... a very large Red Fir on the Mono Creek Trail Peter and Bill by "Big Red" ... a very large Red Fir on the Mono Creek Trail
  • Heidi and Bill at our campsite on Mono Creek Trail. Heidi and Bill at our campsite on Mono Creek Trail.
  • In Pioneer Basin, near our camp on the large Upper Pioneer Lake. In Pioneer Basin, near our camp on the large Upper Pioneer Lake.
  • Peter standing on Pioneer Pass. Peter standing on Pioneer Pass.
  • Looking down the northern side of Pioneer Pass towards Steelhead Lake. Looking down the northern side of Pioneer Pass towards Steelhead Lake.
  • A Pika briefly showing itself in the early morning sun. A Pika briefly showing itself in the early morning sun.
  • Hiking down Pioneer Basin from the highest Pioneer Lake. Hiking down Pioneer Basin from the highest Pioneer Lake.
  • Looking south into the most impressive Fourth Recess. Looking south into the most impressive Fourth Recess.
  • Peter and Heidi relaxing on the high point of Mono Pass. Peter and Heidi relaxing on the high point of Mono Pass.
  • Bill, Heidi and Peter standing by Summit Lake near Mono Pass. Bill, Heidi and Peter standing by Summit Lake near Mono Pass.
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2013: Passes and Basins

In January of this year, my right knee was replaced with titanium and chromium alloy, thereby completing my transformation from "Kiwiyellowshirt" into the "Tinman" [Titanium Man] . Once again, I had every intention of walking the full JMT in August and planned warm up trips as soon as my new knee would allow.

So, in June I headed down the Yosemite Grand Canyon from Glen Aulin to White Wolf, followed in early July with a Benson Lake Circuit from Twin Lakes. Then in late July, shortly before the start of my annual JMT trip, accompanied by my nephew Bill and his wife Heidi, we hiked a McGee - Mono Pass circuit that included a visit into the Pioneer Basin.

 

 

 

2014: Passes and Recesses

This year, with both knees free of flexion pain, life was good on the trails of the Sierra Nevada. So confident was I with my improved physical ability, I even entertained the idea of returning to some cross-country routes, in particular short sections of Roper's Sierra High Route. But as a lead up to this rather extreme activity, I completed another McGee - Mono Pass circuit in mid July, with Bob Williams, Rob Anderson and David Dowd.

In early August, Bob and I set off up the Lakes Valley Trail from Mosquito Flat, with the intent to climb Cox Col to Italy Lake, then over Gabbot Pass and down the Second Recess to Mono Creek. We revised this plan after the first day ... raining and getting off route across extensive talus. We spent the night at Gem Lakes and returned to Mosquito Flat the next morning to head over Mono Pass into the Mono Creek drainage. Once there, we first entered the Fourth Recess for one night and then down Mono Creek to the Second Recess to setup a base camp at the end of the maintained trail.

What followed was a challenging day trying to follow the High Route south in the Recess to the Mills Creek Lakes and Gabbot Pass. We managed to get lost on the initial steep climb from our camp, but finally found a route to Lower Mills Creek Lake [our high point], then returned to our camp on track. Next year we'll complete this High Route section in much better style!

 

©2014 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

 

  • Peter, David and Rob on the lower sections of the McGee Creek Trail Peter, David and Rob on the lower sections of the McGee Creek Trail
  • Camp near Big McGee Lake. My ultralight, but useless Big Agnes Platinum Fly Creek 2 in front. Camp near Big McGee Lake. My ultralight, but useless Big Agnes Platinum Fly Creek 2 in front.
  • Back on McGee Pass just in time to catch the Sky Pilot in bloom. Back on McGee Pass just in time to catch the Sky Pilot in bloom.
  • Peter and Rob at Squaw Lake. Peter and Rob at Squaw Lake.
  • Bob and Rob at Squaw Lake. Bob and Rob at Squaw Lake.
  • David, Peter and Rob enjoying happy-hour at VVR. David, Peter and Rob enjoying happy-hour at VVR.
  • Peter and Rob boating back to the Mono Creek Trail, with a low tide in Edison Lake. Peter and Rob boating back to the Mono Creek Trail, with a low tide in Edison Lake.
  • Peter and Rob at the camp near Trail Lakes ... below Mono Pass. Peter and Rob at the camp near Trail Lakes ... below Mono Pass.
  • Bob and Rob camped near Trail Lakes. Bob and Rob camped near Trail Lakes.
  • Rob and Peter on the remaining snow at Mono Pass. Rob and Peter on the remaining snow at Mono Pass.
  • Peter and Bob with fellow hikers: Don and Lars, met on the Lakes Valley Trail. Peter and Bob with fellow hikers: Don and Lars, met on the Lakes Valley Trail.
  • The largest of the Gem Lakes ... at the southern end of the Lakes Valley Trail. The largest of the Gem Lakes ... at the southern end of the Lakes Valley Trail.
  • Bob on the tedious talus above, and south of Gem Lakes. Bob on the tedious talus above, and south of Gem Lakes.
  • The camp near Gem Lakes that Bob and I established for a failed attempt  to cross Cox Col. The camp near Gem Lakes that Bob and I established for a failed attempt to cross Cox Col.
  • The splendid Fourth Recess Lake in the Recess of the same name. The splendid Fourth Recess Lake in the Recess of the same name.
  • The outlet of Fourth Recess Lake, looking north into Pioneer Basin. The outlet of Fourth Recess Lake, looking north into Pioneer Basin.
  • Peter at the outlet of Fourth Recess Lake. Peter at the outlet of Fourth Recess Lake.
  • Bob along the western shore of the Fourth Recess Lake. Bob along the western shore of the Fourth Recess Lake.
  • Bob at the outlet of Fourth Recess Lake. Bob at the outlet of Fourth Recess Lake.
  • Peter crossing Mono Creek [deep and fast] on the trail into the Second Recess Peter crossing Mono Creek [deep and fast] on the trail into the Second Recess
  • Our base camp in the Second Recess ... there for two nights. Our base camp in the Second Recess ... there for two nights.
  • Moving south on the High Sierra Route in the Second Recess ... too high at this point! Moving south on the High Sierra Route in the Second Recess ... too high at this point!
  • Bob resting by Lower Mills Creek Lake on the High Sierra Route ... in the Second Recess. Bob resting by Lower Mills Creek Lake on the High Sierra Route ... in the Second Recess.
  • Looking west over Lower Mills Creek Lake in the Second Recess. Looking west over Lower Mills Creek Lake in the Second Recess.
  • Our last camp at Trail Lakes after a thunderstorm that deposited hail on the background hills. Our last camp at Trail Lakes after a thunderstorm that deposited hail on the background hills.
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