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.
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.
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