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2017 July Sierra Hike

Bishop Pass and Dusy Basin

This is a work in progress


It had been a very wet year and a large snowpack made me a bit anxious. The runoff was huge, stream crossings were dangerous. So, I got some camp shoes that would double as river shoes, and got some micro spikes for hiking through snow. Planned to explore the Shakespear-Observation Peak drainage in Simpson valley, two miles down from the junction of Palisades creek and Kings river middle fork. Searched out creek crossings on Google earth and found four possibilities: the furthest was a log jam about 2/3 the way to Adventurer creek. Pack weight 47 lb (21 kg) with two full liters of water.

5 July, 2017 Southlake to Timberline Tarns

Official Weight 170.0lb (77 kg), about as heavy as I have been for a hike.
4:45 Leaving Carlsbad. I had gone to the Library and checked out a recording of the biography of George Marshall. Listened to the CD's on the way up - - 8:15 Got tired and pulled over at Kramer Jct, I may have slept a half hour. - - 11:13 Bishop Wilderness office. - - 12:31 South Lake Parking lot. Lotsa empty spaces.

1:25 Start. I tried to pace myself; I have gone up this trail too fast before. Once I got to Long Lake the going got more difficult: there was more snow on the trail. For awhile I was doing cross-country navigation - - 4:45 Put on my crampons (micro-spikes)as the snow patches got larger.- - 6:17 Found a usable camping spot at knoll north of Timberline Tarn. It was hard making my way through the snow to fetch some water. While walking, a voice came out of some nearby trees; I could just make out a hiker stringing up a shelter. I said hi. His name was Adam. I think he was in graduate school in EE at UCSD. - - 11086 feet . - - 8:27 66.2 degrees. I nearly fell asleep before dinner. I was too tired to make some cocoa. Slept well.

6 July, 2017 Bishop Pass - Dusy basin

5:40 46.8 degrees 67 bpm 84% sat
8:01 Start hiking after breakfast. I have my crampons on. Looks like snow all the way to the pass. It was hard to tell which way were supposed to climb up to the pass. I could see tracks across the face of the snow in places. I wanted to leave early while the snow was still hard. Some route finding slowed me a bit. The switchbacks are along a big black ridge of rock. From a distance it looked like it was a route to scramble up.

When I got to the base of the steep rock I couldn't see the switchbacks. The first 100 feet were under snow. So, I went up the snow gully and turned to the right uphill. The snow got too soft so I turned around. 10:37 high point. Went back down to the base of the steep rocks. Looked up and saw a couple coming down the big black rocks: they were using switchbacks! The path was not visible from below. When they got down I quizzed them. No problems. The young girl, Meeka, had a scary tale: she had fallen in a creek and got swepped down for 100 feet before grabbing on. Recovered her pack further down. She survived with just some scrapes on her leg.

Now that I knew the way I clambered up over the rocks to get to the trail. Easy hike over mostly clear switchbacks. - - 12:10 As I turned the last corner a broad snow bank came into view the top of which was the crest of the pass. There was a small dark object on it. I thought it might be the sign, although it was a bit down from the top. Then it moved. It was a coyote! What is a coyote doing up here? Later in the day, going down the other side, I saw a small rodent hopping along the snow. Yes, I thought, a coyote could easily catch that.
12:36 Bishop Pass +800 feet from my camp. 11972 feet (3650 m). There was a broad 100 yard field of snow at the end that was not difficult to cross.

The trip down was a hop-scotch over islands of dark rock in a white sea of snow. The snow was always the hard part. Met a pair of hikers that were coming from Simpson valley, my destination. They warned me of the difficulties they encountered with snow and rushing water. They couldn't get through. I decided to turn around and try another day under better conditions.
3:28 Turned around; found a nearby campsite. There was some helicopter activity in the basin in the afternoon.
5:57 81 bpm, 85% sat, elevation 11334ft (3454m).


2017 july 003
View of mountains from trailhead.


2017 july 006
Breakfast in bed. Nested aluminum cans, Foster and Coke, use one Coghlan's hexamine fuel tablet to heat 300ml of water for coffee. No-cook grain, nut, dried fruit, and powdered milk mixture soaks in peanut butter jar (blue lid) before eating. Also: dried onion, spinach, and red bell pepper for variety. Jimmy Dean precooked sausages keep for the first day. Tent is a $20 Walmart Kid's tent with Tyvek tape on the seams: 2.69 lb (1.22 kg). Hardy tub flooring in case of snow camping.


2017 july 007
View of mountains from Bishop Lake.


2017 july 009
Stopped climbing on the soft snow at this point, about 300 feet in elevation to the pass. Eventually went up the switchbacks on the trail. They could not be seen from below but a pair of descending hikers showed that they were there.


2017 july 012
Dusy Basin: A white sea of snow bespeckled with dark islands of rock. I had to do some island hopping. It was easier than going through the snow.


2017 july helicopter
Helicopter landing 1/4 mile from signpost at Bishop Pass. Dropped someone off then flew off. Later near Bishop Lake, we saw the copter flying overhead with a large bag tethered to it. Ranger Amanda remarked that they may have found the missing hiker. Indeed they had: a hiker from Manhattan Beach, CA missing since October.

7 July, 2017 Return over Bishop Pass - Home

5:04 47.8 degrees
64 bpm 86% sat
6:52 Start. I wanted to start early so I could get home today. I knew I would be slowed somewhat by the snow. I put on sunscreen even though I was fully covered with hat and clothes. My face felt a bit stretched as if I had gotten sunburned from the reflecting snow.

9:21 Bishop Pass. Three Swiss hikers were already there; I took their picture. Just then a helicopter landed about a quarter mile away. The pass is flat in the whole area there; still the pilot seemed to balance on one ski as someone hopped off. The craft then flew away. Why? It didn't look like a rescue, perhaps testing the snowpack. Continued on down the switchbacks. - - 10:11 off switchbacks.

11:08 Met up with Park Ranger Amanda. Chatted for awhile. Her companion had forgotten dark glasses and had fashioned some ingenious cardboard eye blinds with small peepholes that blocked a lot of the snow glare. About then another helicopter flew low overhead. It was coming from the pass with a large bag tethered to it. Ranger Amanda remarked that they may have found the missing hiker. Indeed they had: a hiker from Manhattan Beach, CA missing since October.

1:48 More trail finding and marching through snow patches. Seems to be more than when I came up. I ran across a group of 4-5 hikers each of whom had his own gallon water jug. I was surprised. This was the first time in 16 years that I had seen any other hiker with a jug.

3:32 At car in parking lot. Tough downhill. Took an extra hour and a half to get down compared to last year. 10:20 Home. 168.3 poounds.

Missing Hiker

I was very much moved by news of the recovery of the missing hiker remains at Bishop Pass. My heart goes out to his family. He had completed the hard part: hike from Barrett Lakes through Knapsack or Thunderbolt Pass and up Dusy Basin. He was a few hundred feet past the crest of the pass. It was downhill the rest of the way. He was older but very experienced, was using a satellite locator. He was hiking alone through an October storm. Could I fall to the same fate? I have been in similar situations: The picture below captures me behind the Bishop Pass signpost after a similar eary fall snow. It is a lesson for me to take special care when hiking alone. Expect bad weather, and do not rely on personal locators (SPOT, InReach) for assistance.

2014 oct 0018

©2016, 2017 Tom Judd.
Carlsbad, CA