Last weekend, C. and I headed up to the Sonora Pass area for an overnight backpack. The idea was to get ready for our upcoming trek in the southern Sierras, a 10-day hike through high elevation areas along the Great Western Divide. I was looking for a short trip that would help us get acclimated and test our packing lists. The Pacific Crest Trail heading south from Sonora Pass was a good fit: it starts at 9,626′ and stays high for most of the four miles to Latopie Lake, which lies about a quarter mile off the PCT.
Looking down the PCT to the south
Once you reach Latopie Lake, you can continue on the PCT for about 9 miles total to reach Leavitt Lake, then loop back through on some use trails, visiting Koenig Lake and Latopie Lake on the way. This was our initial plan, and we also wanted to climb Leavitt Peak on the way. However, this proved a bit ambitious to accomplish on a Saturday.
We left Sonora Pass at about 9:30 am and had a pleasant walk along the high, exposed crest heading south. As we walked, we watched rainfall and lightning strikes to the north and northeast. We were enjoying the day and feeling quite good when we encountered a PCT through hiker near the pass above Latopie Lake. She warned us that thunderstorms were coming. “Be careful,” she said. It was about five minutes later that we heeded her advice, and decided not to continue along the PCT or hike Leavitt Peak. We turned back to Latopie Lake instead, and continued down to Koenig Lake to find a campsite.
The use trail between Latopie Lake and Koenig Lake was steep and loose, and it took a while to find a suitable site. We set up the tent just in time, as hail began to fall and the lightning struck very close by. We had lunch in the tent and napped as the hail turned to rain. After the rain stopped, I took a walk around Koenig Lake – which is actually three separate pools, fed by a spring – and tried fishing a bit. I saw no sign of trout, but lots of bugs hatching. The sunset that night was quite colorful.
On Sunday, we headed back the way we had come. We dropped our packs just off the PCT and headed up to Leavitt Peak with our lunch, climbing the northeast ridge that connects Leavitt Peak to Latopie Peak. This route was described as a “satisfying scramble” on SummitPost, so I though we’d go up that way and come down the eastern slope, which is relatively easy. The ascent turned out to be almost too satisfying, so to speak – the pitch was steep and there was lots of loose scree along the knife-edge at the ridge line.
We made it to the top, and had lunch at 11,572′. The descent took all of about fifteen minutes. I’d definitely recommend the eastern route for most people who want to climb the peak, unless you’re comfortable with vertigo and loose rocks.
Back at Sonora Pass, we encountered a historical sign posted by E Clampus Vitus.
I remembered my mom saying they were some kind of eccentric club, so I looked them up on Wikipedia. It’s an interesting read, though completely useless – I suppose I appreciate their historical signs more than their own history.
Last Friday, W. and I drove up to the Ebbetts Pass area. We walked north for about two and a half miles on the Pacific Crest Trail to Upper Kinney Lake and stayed there for two nights. On Saturday, we day-hiked up to the unnamed peak to the north of the lake, where we had panoramas of the crest of the Sierras to both the north and south. During late spring, the snow lingers on the northern slope of the mountains. From our view, that meant that peaks to the north were mostly bare rock.
Peaks to the south showed us their snowy side
After exploring the peak, we headed down to Raymond Meadow and ate lunch by a snowmelt creek. We had a few bouts of rain throughout the weekend, which lent a dramatic misty backdrop to the scenery and highlighted the neon colors of the lichen that grow on the volcanic rock. On Sunday morning, we retraced our steps back to the car, enjoying the early morning cold as it warmed into an almost-summer day. It was a short but satisfying trip.
As usual, this post will look best on a big screen.
Last month, I led another trip starting from Indian Hollow, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The crew consisted of Chad, Ian N., Pete B., Rich, Ryan, Willie, Char and me. A few complications made this an interesting trek, but it was still a rewarding one.
We did roughly the same loop I’ve hiked twice before – see my other posts on Kanab Pt. 2 (photos) and Kanab Pt. 2 (video). The main difference this year is that we did the first two days as described in Chapter 4, Tapeats Creek / Kanab Creek Loop from the guidebook Hiking Grand Canyon Loops by George Steck. In Steck’s book, the first day’s route heads cross country almost immediately. He describes a landmark called Ghost Rock, which leads the way to upper Cranberry Canyon. From there, you walk down a flat bench to a campsite with a sublime view of the Colorado River and the inner canyon.
Last year, we tried to hike this route but couldn’t find Ghost Rock with map and compass. This time I brought an iPhone with a GPS app, so we were able to find Ghost Rock. From there, it was simple enough to walk out to the campsite, and Steck’s book held up to his promise with regard to the view point:
Looking upriver from Cranberry Canyon
But on the morning of day 2, we found the guide book to be a bit misleading, to say the least. Here’s Steck’s description:
The chute you want goes down steeply in a series of steps that unfortunately blocks the view of where you want to go, so you may think you are off route. Once this happened to me and I went on to the next chute – which looked even worse. The second time around, the correct chute looked much better . . . The chute is narrow and steep, but no rope is needed unless you want one for lowering packs.
The problem with his writing is that he’s very unclear about which chute you actually want. It’s a pretty simple situation: you approach from the overlook and encounter three chutes. The first two chutes are very steep. The third one is a non-option; it essentially runs into the vertical wall where it forms a corner, so you are choosing between the first chute and the second chute. You take the first chute.
Also, I disagree with his description of equipment needed. You should definitely have a rope for lowering packs, and for safety’s sake, you should also have equipment for a belay. We made it without belay equipment, but it was sketchy. A final recommendation for any trip in Steck’s guidebook: take a small group, 6 people or less. Any complications you encounter are harder to overcome with a big group.
Aside from grumblings amongst the group about this poor description, the hike itself was, as always, grand. Ryan had an old knee injury that flared up during our descent, so he ended up heading back up the trail on Day 3, along with Chad, Willie and Ian. They got out a few nights early and did some exploring in southern Utah, car camping and listening to metal. Ian made this video (highly recommended) showing his version of the week’s travels. Pete, Rich, Char and I continued on as planned and we all met up at the end.
Satellite map of our route
This collection has photos taken by Rich, Chad, Char and me.