Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Piute Pass - North Lake - Bishop, California - 9/7/18

Summit Lake from Piute Pass

Reflective Lake

Loch Leven & Piute Lake from Above

3/4 Mile from Day Use Parking to Trailhead
 On the last day of the club's Bishop excursion 2018, there were only four hikers to attend Piute Pass. This is a strenuous hike of 11 miles and many of the club members did not wish to do this one at the end of the week. Nevertheless, four die hards drove up to North Lake and found the Day Use parking lot. We grabbed the very last parking spot and still had to hike 3/4 of a mile to reach the trailhead found inside a campground. Whew! Finally there, we used the facilities then started up the trail. It began in the forest winding its way up beside a lovely sounding brook.

Into the Forest next to North Fork Lamarck Creek
We climbed steps up to where we got to cross the creek twice. David, our coordinator, said that the water was much lower than it was last year so the first crossing was made on rocks even though a log was offered upstream.

Creek Crossing Fun!
 The second crossing had a flattened single log that we all balanced across successfully.

The Steps Begin

Through Aspens
 We passed through a beautiful grove of aspens then headed up (steps) out of the trees and into a very large rock slide area. The trail switchbacked up through the obvious slide that appeared to have been many years old. This is also a very colorful area with a red peak high above called the Piute Crags and multi-color rocks strewn down the hill. Most of the hike's elevation gain is done between the trailhead and Loch Leven which lies on the plateau above where we were climbing. The red rocks turned to gray granite below Mt. Emerson (on the north side of the canyon) and we climbed more steps.

Climbing up through the Rock Slide Area
Leveling out a little, we passed a wall that had a big white stripe. I assume it was some sort of quartz or something similar. It was just a bit unusual for the surrounding terrain.

 Turning a corner, we arrived at Loch Leven. Not sure why the Scottish inflection to the name. Maybe the guy that named it was Scottish.

White Stripe on Granite

Loch Leven
Loch Leven is a long and seemingly deep lake. The trail led along the water from beginning to end. There were several other hikers sitting here and there at this lake. There were also many campsites around. We enjoyed the lake, climbed to the next level and came to another lake. This is a smaller lake whose name does not appear on any of our maps. In fact, the lake, itself, does not appear on the map. For now, we'll call it Nameless Lake! Actually, I found that this lake was perhaps the most photogenic. See the second photo of this entry and the two photos below.

Nameless Lake
 We climbed up to the next level of terrain and came to Piute Lake. It is the largest of the lakes in this wide canyon.

Nameless Lake
 The trail headed away from the water's edge as we climbed up steps and hiked through meadows.


View Back to Piute Lake
The meadows were covered in brown grasses and granite rocks. There were a few small flowers that David enjoyed photographing. It was easy to imagine this whole area being covered by snow during the winter months. Up ahead, we saw the pass. It seemed very near but there were a lot of steps between it and us. We continued climbing at our slow but steady pace; passing several other hikers on the way. As we neared the pass, there were also several hikers coming down from the pass that they had just climbed over. Everyone had big smiles!

View Forward to Piute Pass
 Just a few more steps and the terrain flattened out. The last tenth of a mile to the pass was easy.

Hiking through the Meadow
 The pass consisted of a granite shelf that laid from one side of the canyon to the other. There was a slight saddle in the middle.

Small Reflective Lake in Meadow

 Wandering around on the shelf, we found a benchmark as seen in a photo down below. While we sat, two hikers came up with two large dogs. The dogs were just as happy as could be! I think they've been here before! We took our break and several photos, then spoke to the dogs as they came by to check us out. The weather was perfect at the 11,400 foot mark, but we needed to get started on the descent since it was such a long hike. So, down we went.

Approach to Piute Pass
 As we dropped off the pass, we passed some of the hikers that we had passed on the way up.

View over Pass to Summit Lake
One seemingly experienced hiker lady asked us when we had started the hike. When we told her 8am, she commented that we "smoked it!" Hmmm.

Taking our Break on Piute Pass

Experiencing Piute Pass
 Well, it didn't seem like we were going very fast but we did keep a steady pace. Anyway, that was nice to hear. So, we started descending ... the steps ... down through the meadow and beside the lakes. We took a lot more photos and shared ideas on angles. (You might have seen David's or Anne's rendition of the same photo found a few photos below here.) Over 5 miles up meant over 5 miles down! (That's a lot of steps!) The different light presented different photos so we were able to break up the descent that way.

Winding down from the Pass

 When we reached the Piute Crags area, there were a lot of photos that we didn't see on the way up.

A Little Bit of Fall Color
 The North Fork of the Lamarck Creek has gouged out a narrow canyon of its own here.

Reflections in Midday Light

Framing the lower end of Loch Leven
Out of the rock slide area, we entered the forested section of the hike and made the creek crossings again. One last photo at the wilderness sign then we hiked into the trailhead. Only 3/4 mile left on the flat dirt road. To add a little bit of excitement, we saw a little garter snake on the side of the road on the way! This is a very beautiful hike with a lot of steps. Be ready for them! We had a lot of fun.

11 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 7.25 hours

Color above North Lake and the North Fork of the Lamarck Creek

Hiking back through the Colorful Rock Slide Area below the Piute Crags

The End!

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