(all images are clickable for a larger version)
After breakfast with another visit of yesterday’s deer I started to Muir Pass around 8:30 am. It was nearly 8 miles and I had to walk from 8.700 ft up to 12.000 ft, so it would become an afternoon pass. I had been warned that it had more snow than Pinchot and Mather.
I crossed the Dusy Branch creek by a footbridge and was taking a photo of the bridge when two other hikers draw my attention talking about a bear. And indeed, there it was, maybe 150 ft away, looking to us out of the bushes. I had the camera in my hand and the bag open, so I grabbed the tele lens and replaced the wide angle zoom within a few seconds. But when the camera was ready the bear had dissappeared! – so again no photo, but at least I had seen it from head to tail this time.
The trail went uphill for a long time but without steep stretches, and the landscape changed from forest over meadows with flowers (Big Pete Meadow 9.500 ft) into a more alpine terrain after Starr Camp (10.300 ft). Water, rocks and snow made it sometimes difficult to walk, when the trail was covered by snow directly aside of a torrent. So I needed even more time than expected.
Helen Lake (11.600 ft) is often used as a campsite by southbound hikers after they passed over Muir Pass; but it still was icy, the smoother part of the shore covered with snow. After Helen Lake the trail also got covered by snow more and more. The “south” side of the pass is in fact the east, if not northeast side, and thus has more snow left than at the other passes of similar height.
It seemed that the uphill trail will never end – I knew the pass is easy to recognize through its stone hut but could spot nothing like a hut, and it was already close to 5 pm. At least I had found a possible tent site, in case of. But after a snow field which had to be walked “direttissima” along a deep trace I finally reached the crest. The photo above is shot less than 300 ft from Muir hut, but I could not yet see it from there.
I was completely alone up there at this late hour, and used a bit of my time to look around.
After 20 minutes I started the downhill walk, in order to reach a campsite. The “north” side of the pass – in fact, the west side – had less snow, and Wanda Lake looked quite nice to camp there, though some snow left.
I needed more than one hour to reach the lake shore, and set up my tent there in complete solitude, at 11.400 ft. Blue sky with the rising moon and “alpen glow” on the mountains ended this beautiful but tough day.