Cornwall 2020 -South West Coast Path

In April 2019 we hiked for a week along part of the 630 mile long South West Coast Path in England. We walked a section from Bude to St Ives on the west coast of Cornwall.

We returned in September 2020 for another week long section continuing from St Ives round the southern tip of Land’s End and Lizard Point to to the town and port of Falmouth.

In summary this was another great and varied hike, mostly following trails above coastal cliffs but also along beaches and through many small harbour towns. We camped all the way with a mix of commercial campsites and wild camping.

Photo gallery here

Day 1 St Ives to Pendeen 7th September 2020 We returned to where we left off last year at the Hellesveor campsite just above St Ives after a long drive south from Scotland, stopping to visit the weird and wonderful town of Glastonbury and hike up historic Glastonbury Tor.

Starting late morning, we walked a trail about 3/4 mile down to join the coastal path to the sound of booming atlantic waves. Heading south the trail was clear and undulating over granite boulders, making for slow but scenic going. It was hot and muggy and we were sharing the path with quite a few people- seemingly the stretch from St Ives down to Zennor is a popular day trip – helped by a regular bus service.

At Zennor we saw a group of rare choughs along with ravens and birds of prey. Bosigran provided a rest stop allowing us to look at the fine cliffs, scene of many past fantastic rock climbing trips for us.

At about 6pm we reached Porthmeor Cove, a wild spot with a huge swell producing crashing waves onto the beach. This provided a good spot to stop to cook up dinner on a granite boulder with a seal popping up in the breaking waves studying the beach.

After dinner we shuffled on looking for a decent water supply and wild camp site- it proved a bit tricky but just past Pendeen lighthouse we came to a road end and a very basic commercial camp site so we called it a day- and it was a fine start!

Day 2 Pendeen to east of Land’s End  It was bright as we awoke and we set off early past a huge old mining area at Boscaswell with an atmospheric misty wisp to the air. Some of the derelict tin mines are perched down steep cliffs overlooking the sea and it’s a dramatic area.

After taking a valley inland for a bit at Kenidjack we soon reached Cape Cornwall, a small spit of land reaching out into the sea with breakers crashing on the rocks. Plenty of people around here including a painting class at the shore. We chatted to the NTS attendant who said that the sea was calm at the moment – but it looked pretty wild to us! On to the huge beaches of Whitesand Bay which led to the harbour of Sennan- again familiar to us from past trips for its climbing and surfing.

From Sennan it is a short hop to the touristy Land’s End but the views are great out to various small islands and lighthouse. We left the crowds to turn south east along the cliff tops for a way and found a superb wild campsite around Carn Boel. After scrambling down to the shore, Martina had a swim in an amazingly scenic tidal pool. We watched gannets soaring by the cliffs and diving into the water in the evening- another good day.

Day 3 Carn Boel to Penzance More cliff top hiking with good views in the morning and we descended down to the shore at Nanjizal beach to explore an arch and cave with seals lolling about in the waves just offshore.

At Gwennap Head we passed a lookout station above another familiar climbing area of Chair Ladder. Mist descended though so we moved on to Porthgwarra and its small cafe was an irresistible stop. A steep drop on stairs took us into Porthcurno – home to the cliffside theatre of Minack. The mist thickened a bit with us getting a soaking from brushing through the undergrowth at the sides of the trail. The air was super sticky and muggy and a fine drizzle added to the all over wetness.

Our direction turned to the north east now towards the town and harbour of Mousehole. A scenic and popular tourist destination it was too, but we headed on in the hope that we could find accommodation in Penzance for the night to ‘de-stick’ and dry out. The way to Penzance was built up but the hiking was pleasant. During this time of Covid-19 closures, there were fewer hotels and B&Bs open and nothing was available for the night, so we hiked through to the other side of Penzance to find an ok urban campsite- at least it was next to a Tesco grocery store for food supplies!

Day 4 Penzance to Porthleven After posting my defunkt camera back home we hiked north out of Penzance alongside the beach with the distinctive island landmark of St Michael’s Mount on the horizon. Today was a mellow sort of day with wall to wall sunshine and lots of people out enjoying themselves on the beaches- including some dudes on weird motorised surfboards zipping around.

An early stop for cakes at Marazion town opposite the Mount was hard to resist- this is not a route for losing weight with so many cafes along the way! Easier hiking along a rocky low shore followed and we managed a stop for a swim in beautiful green blue waters.

We arrived in the evening at Porthleven – another busy but picturesque harbour town. After pizza at the quayside we hiked uphill for a bit to locate the spacious Treva campsite for the night.

Day 5 Porthleven to Lizard More mellow cliff walking and pretty harbours in a south easterly direction took us to Lizard Point- the southernmost point in mainland Britain. The rock is more metamorphic here (after the granite of Land’s End) exposed in twisted and contorted cliffs. Just below the lighthouse and foghorns at the point we found a superb tiny spot for the tent looking out to open water. After bathing our feet in a gurgling rock pool we settled in with the sweeping beam from the lighthouse above us and the odd light on the horizon from shipping – a superb spot!

Day 6 Lizard to near Porthallow The cloud descended about 5am with rain and this triggered the foghorn from the lighthouse right above us- so that was us very awake!

After breakfast though the cloud cleared and we set off in the sun. The downside of the early shower was that we got a bit of a soaking on the trail from bracken and other vegetation overgrowing the path. But the going on undulating cliff tops was pleasant with a flat sea below as we had now turned generally northwards and were sheltered from the winds.

We stopped at Kennack Sands cafe for the obligatory tea,coffee and cake whilst the tent and sleeping bags were drying in the sun. More pleasant walking took us to Coverack for lunch overlooking the harbour. From there the going was flatter, past a fairly ugly quarry at Dean Point, although it was nice to see the crystalline igneous gabbro rock there (famously good climbing rock occuring in the Isle of Skye in Scotland).

An excursion inland for a wee while made for a bit of a change along hedgerows and through fields before we popped out at the ‘Fat Apple’ cafe. We couldn’t resist and ended up camping here with the availability of showers sealing the deal.

Day 7 Porthallow To Falmouth A clear night with plenty of owls and woodland bird songs in the morning with our campsite being away from the coast. There was some dew early on but the trail was drier than yesterday and it was easy hiking as we headed west into the huge Helford River estuary. This was quite mellow, through woods down to the water and a few pleasant small coves.

We waded the muddy inlet at Gillan Harbour and just managed to get across with the tide coming in. Strangely we met another backpacker just before who had hiked past quickly saying it wasn’t possible to cross, but we have heard that many times over the years and like to look and decide ourselves- it was fine!

Further inland on the estuary we reached Helford town and set a yellow sign up at the ferry crossing to signal for the boat. After a little doubt, it did come over and gave us a lift across to the northern shore, weaving through the many sailing boats moored in this sheltered water.

The sun was out, and being Sunday, the area was mobbed with sailing boats and people enjoying the beaches. It was hot going back along the northern shore of the bay and we made it to Maenporth for late lunch. This was the busiest beach we had seen so far but we did manage at least to buy a couple of paninis and crawl away to eat them in the shade.

From there it was just some straightforward but hot and sweaty hiking into the large port town of Falmouth- and this time we had managed to get a hotel room for a good clean at the end of our hike.

This was a grand 7 days of hiking around the south tip of England with a good mix of cliffs, beaches and towns. Falmouth turned out to be a fine place for eating out and we were able in the morning to get a bus and train back the short distance to our car and start point. What to do next to relax in St Ives area? Surfing was the only option!

North Coast Scotland

This was a short backpacking trip by Brian to the north coast of Scotland during a summer of Covid-19 travel restrictions. I have seen a lot of Scotland over the years from bagging the Munro’s (almost twice now) , Corbetts and Graham hills to rock climbing, sea kayaking, cycling and general meandering. This area in the far north is somewhere where I haven’t been to too much though and I thought a coastal backpack would be a good way to explore. The downside was that August is not my favourite time to visit, mostly due to the midge, a particularly gruesome insect!

Summary This was a scenic hike with stunning coastal cliffs and expanses of sand but was tough going due to a few factors. There were very few trails on the coast in between the town and road sections and the terrain above the cliffs was heather and peat, mostly not too bad for walking but at times very wet and tussocky. The midges were pretty awful at camp as feared, even when pitched on a sandy beach at high tide level. Very little sitting outside the tent with a cup of tea gazing at the scenery here! There was a bit too much road walking in places, such as the 6 miles of busy road to get round the nuclear power station at Dounreay. Having recently been backpacking in Cornwall, the towns of the north lack the ‘cuteness’ and interesting old buildings found down there. However this was balanced by the lack of crowds- hiking on the coast away from towns, I saw virtually no-one else hiking- maybe for the reasons above!

So if I was to try another section of coast in the north I would go in March/April/May/early June- with maybe May being optimum depending on the weather.

Talmine near Tongue

Monday 17th August 2020  The weather was set fair for the next few days as I left my car near Tongue, ready to hike east following the coast as much as I could. Tongue is on the side of the ‘Kyle of Tongue’ sea inlet– which surely must rank as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland with huge expanses of white sand exposed at low tide, a jagged mountain backdrop inland and a number of islands dotting the horizon out to sea.

I headed up the east side of the inlet at first on a pebbly shore before I was forced up a steep slope above the sea by a cliff. I had to bushwack through head high bracken for a bit before popping out at some houses and taking a gravel access road back out to the main A836 road at Rhitongue.

An overgrown trail past a river valley took me to some cottages at Skullomie and then I had a really cool stretch north on sheep trails to ruins at Sletell. The views over to Rabbit Islands and Eilean nan Ron were grand. Some more bracken bashing followed before I picked up a sequence of short trails and minor roads to Skerray and on to Torrisdale Bay. I was finding that the vegetation was really high and difficult to hike through near to houses, but away from there and on the coast it tended to much better short cropped heather.

Crossing the River Borgie via a footbridge I then hiked round the sandy dunes of Torrisdale Bay to Invernaver- another lovely stretch. I road walked into Bettyhill town, arriving about 7pm to find the grocery store was closed, but I picked up water at the public toilets. So I headed on and dropped down to the smaller beach of Farr Bay. There was one surfer riding to waves at twilight as I stopped to pitch the tent on the beach at high tide level.

The wind died down and midges descended as I pitched, and I ended up eating whilst walking along the edge of the water to keep them at bay. Lovely spot though!

Tuesday 18th August 2020 Midges chased me off in the morning as I headed north to Farr Point. Wild cliff scenery around the point and past the ruined Borve Castle made for dramatic hiking. I struggled a bit zig zagging through the cluster of houses at Swordly, with some head high bushwacking to get through an overgrown path.

Near Borve Castle- Farr Point

A better jeep track over the hill eastwards down to the road at Kirtomy provided some easier walking and then I had another good jeep track up the hill north of a big antenna with lovely views back west across Swordly Bay. At this point I headed cross country north east a bit inland to the ruins and trail at Poulouriscaig over quite remote feeling ground. A stop a bit further on on top of an old concrete building allowed me to dry off and carry out some minor repairs to the tent guy lines. My feet were also suffering a bit from the continuously wet underfoot conditions and sand in everything.

Easy tracks down to Armadale road and I picked up a signposted route down to Armadale Bay- an expanse of sand with no one else on it strangely. Lunch was had above the cliffs on the east side as the sun came out and a breeze kept the midges away. I was able to relax with the stove out for a couple of cups of tea with the Bay as a beautiful backdrop.

Armadale Bay

Next up was a long hike up northwards on the west coast of the peninsula of Strathy Point. I walked through heather and grass mostly above cliffs, zawns and islands. The rock mostly seemed to be ‘gneiss’ with some cool distorted and striped rock. The final couple of miles to Strathy Point lighthouse was particularly cool – natural arches and white water dashing against the cliffs. The sun also appeared again which helped!

Near Strathy Point

I took the minor road back down the east side of the peninsula to Strathy and through some rare woods to a new trailhead toilet block area above Strathy Bay where I cooked up dinner. This is a good spot for surfing in Strathy Bay and on a warm sunny evening it made sense.

A strange sight on the way was a car driving slowly down the road with the sheep leading ahead of the car – very obediently. Normally sheep would just spread out off the road back into the fields.

The roads here are quite busy with campervans with the coastal road being part of the very popular ‘North Coast 500’ driving (and cycling) route. It would be a very scenic drive but you will be sharing it with a procession of vans, RVs and cars. One benefit I did find when road walking though is that when its cold and a campervan drives past I was getting a refreshing blast of warm air to heat me up!

I took water at the toilet bock – water availability is a slight issue as I have been a bit wary of streams at the coast flowing through the heavily farmed areas with lots of cattle. I am carrying aqua mira water purifier tablets but have opted to take water where I can from towns and public water supplies.

The hike east along the cliff tops from here in the evening with the low sun behind me was one of the highlights of the trip and I found a wild camp spot near Rubha na Cloiche. A good varied day but the feet are blistering a bit!

Evening sun near Rubha na Cloiche

Wednesday 19th August 2020 A few midges last night but not the apocalyptic swarms of the previous night! I had a soggy hike along the coast a bit then out to the A836 road to walk into Melvich. There is a campsite here so I stopped to dry the tent out and buy coffee and cake at the campsite store- the first open shop I had come across.

There was a bridge marked on the map over the Halladale River at the enigmatically named ‘Big House’. To get there I walked back up the road again then took a track down to the sand dunes to the bridge. But arrrgghh, the bridge had a locked gate with a sign saying no access. I looked at the river but it appeared to be swimming rather than wading depth. So reluctantly I retreated back round to the campsite then along the verge of the A836 to the south over the river and picked up tracks back to Big House. Maybe only a 90 minute detour but it was frustrating that the bridge was closed to the public – not sure why, maybe to preserve the fishing rights?

Looking across to Big House and the Halladale River bridge

I headed east again along the cliff tops over tussocky heather past more grand cliffs. The rock type changed to sedimentary here with tilted bands and some massive overhanging rock faces. Later on this section became a bit of trudge though over continuously peat haggy ground then heavily dug up areas as I passed Sandside House and into Reay. I had hoped for a shop here but everything seemed closed – I did at least pick up water from a hose pipe in the local cemetery.

Now I had to face up to a long road walk on the A836 to get round Dounreay nuclear power station. I hiked fast and used the rough verges when cars passed, but walked the road when it was quiet. Not my favourite hiking experience it has to be said, but the views of Dounreay were strangely fascinating, changing slowly as I passed by at hiking speed.

Dounreay

Well, all good things must pass, and I soon picked up a track heading north back to the coast across some pretty wasted cattle farming land. The coast was cool though and I had a stop and brew of tea on slabby rock strata dipping into the sea. I decided to hike on to Thurso today as I couldn’t see much in the way of decent camping up to there and my feet were blistered!

The wind farm at Hill of Lybster was fun to hike past, as was the Chapel and bridge crossing at Crosskirk. Mist and some drizzle came in as I hiked field margins past Brims Castle and then uphill to Ness of Litter. There is a Caithness Flagstone quarry there perched right at the edge of the cliff but the visibility had reduced now and it was just me and lots of sheep dodging around. I took the track down to Scrabster and by now the mist was down at sea level so I put my head down to walk into Thurso to finish. A long day of maybe 26 miles to wrap up the trip!

Useful links

Charles’ Walk A round Britain coastal hike in 2018 with informative daily blogs.

Walking Scotland’s Coast A great information source on Scotland’s coast by these hikers.

North Highland Way Aiming to organise a signposted trail/route along the north coast.

Walkhighlands Good general walking guide to Scotland

US Sierra

Our first visit to the United States in 1996 was to the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains of California- home to the iconic Yosemite valley and John Muir Trail where we did some rock climbing, backpacking and touring around. After this taster, we came back in 1998 as part of our longer Pacific Crest Trail hike between Mexico and Canada. Since then we brought the climbing gear back in 2006 and then in 2019 explored the mountains by hiking some cross country.

Listed below are our outdoor trips- with links to blog posts.

2019 AUgust-september

We visited California in 2019 and this time went out backpacking, exploring some of the Sierra mountains away from the popular John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. Our aim was max out on the scenery with some off trail and scrambling over mountain passes and ridges. We used Steve Roper’s excellent ‘Sierra High Route‘ book as a reference along with some very useful websites and blog posts. See an overview map of our 2019 hikes.

McGee Trailhead to Mammoth Lakes

Reds Meadow to Tuolumne big loop

Twin Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows

Piute Pass, Lake Italy, PCT and Lamarck Col loop

Break in southern Utah

Cottonwood Lakes, Crabtree Pass, Guitar Lake, Mount Whitney

2006 September

A month long trip to California with a mix of rock climbing and hiking. Some photos here.

Tuolumne Meadows- Lembert Dome

Tuolumne Meadows- Tanaya Peak

Tuolumne Meadows- Dozier Dome

Mount Ritter plus Iceberg Lake, Mineret Lake traverse

White Mountain

Owens River Gorge rock climbs

Crystal Crag climb, Mammoth Lakes

Yosemite Valley loop hike

Mt Connes west ridge attempt

Cathedral Peak south face climb

Tuolumne Meadows – Mount Dana

1998 PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

A 2600 mile hike for about 5 months on the PCT between Mexico and Canada through the states of California, Oregon and Washington. Sierra PCT blog here.

1996 SEPTEMBER

Backpack – Lamark Col, Evolution Valley, Muir Pass, Bishop Pass

Owens River Gorge rock climbs

Side trip to Death Valley

Mount Whitney via Iceberg Lake and the ‘Mountaineers Route’

Tuolumne – Mathes Crest rock climb

Tuolumne – Cathedral Peak south face climb

Tuolumne – Fairview Dome north face climb

Yosemite – Snake Dike climb

Yosemite – Nutcracker climb

Yosemite – Various single pitch climbs

Mono Lake and Bodie Ghost Town

Cottonwood Lakes, Crabtree Pass, Guitar Lake, Mount Whitney

Tuesday 24th September 2019 The final hike of our holiday and we chose a southern part of the Sierra mountains near and over Mt Whitney. We picked up a permit easily again and left the car near the town of Lone Pine, relying on hitching a lift to the start at Cottonwood Lakes.

Up at Cottonwood Lakes at just under 10,000 feet it was clear, cool and windy and a forest of Foxtail and Lodgepole Pines poking out of the dry soil. We hiked up for quite a few miles on good trail towards New Army Pass. The scenery was stark with dazzling white granite boulders and rock, blue sky and the odd snow patch. The pass was windy so we nestled down behind some rock ledges then headed down an easy zig-zag trail on the west side to Rock Creek.

We turned off the main trail at Rock Creek, heading up Miter Basin, initially a wide valley with steep granite walls, gradually narrowing and becoming more rugged as we reached Sky Blue Lake in the evening. The sun dipped here and it was rather a cold wind that swept the lake surface so we decided to call it a day and camp at the north end in a wild alpine scene.

Foxtails at Cottonwood Lakes
Arid and windy!
Sky Blue Lake

After a very windy night we were glad to move on and upwards leaving signs of trail behind as we worked our way up over slabs and a few scrambly sections to a lake at 3697m. Here we sheltered facing the sun for a stop to take in the glorious views. A further easy climb from there and we arrived at Crabtree Pass. The descent down the other side was easier than it looked, on the east side of the gullys on broken slabs. Down at Crabtree Lake we sat watching a pika gathering grass for winter before hiking a wonderful cross country route down the valley past various Crabtree Lakes. Meadows, granite slabs, some scrambling but nothing too hard- this was great! At the final lake we spotted some golden trout as we meandered down through Foxtail Pine again on faint trails.

We picked up a more heavily used trail going back up east to Crabtree Meadows Ranger Station and saw a few people camping around here. This was us back on the JMT with big trails and people! We hiked past Crabtree on the path up to Mt Whitney with views back west gradually improving until we headed off trail to find a lovely granite slab to camp on below Guitar Lake.

In the morning
First of the Crabtree Lakes
Heading down between Crabtree Lakes
Camp below Guitar Lake

This was our last day hiking on the holiday but we aimed for a cool day by climbing over Mt Whitney and down the eastern side back to the Whitney Portal Trailhead and to hitch a lift back to our car lower down the valley.

We were flying by now, climbing steadily up the trail to Whitney Trail Crest with more than 4 weeks hiking fitness behind us. Some fantastic views higher up across the fluted mountains and lakes and we passed a few hikers coming up from the other side of the mountain. Saw some marmots and pikas on the way. After we had bagged the highest point of Whitney we then started the long, long descent east to the road- 6,500 feet roughly. The top half was particularly grand seeing into Whitney’s rocky east face and dotted lakes below.

Our final task was to get a lift which we managed quickly and were soon munching bagels in Lone Pine after another fantastic little backpack. Now back to Scotland!

Meadows low down on the east side of Whitney

More photos here

Bobway and Stevens Arch

Thursday 19th September 2019  The lower part of the Escalante River above Stevens Canyon is an area we haven’t visited before, so we put together this approx. 4 day loop hike taking in the river plus a few interesting other new places for us.

We drove for an hour down the dry and sandy Hole in the Rock road to make it to the Hurricane Wash trailhead- last seen when we hitch hiked out of here after a long, fantastic stretch of the Hayduke Trail in 2014. It was a hot, dusty and windy spot and we quickly set off from the car down Hurricane Wash at about 13:30.

Our route to the lower Escalante River

The sun and wind were at our backs keeping the temperatures down a bit and we could admire the vibrant, technicolour sandstone landscape. Soon the canyon began to close in and we were hiking on good trail down the lush lower part of Hurricane Wash with water, cottonwoods and some willow.

At the Coyote Gulch confluence we headed upstream into new territory and the steep red walls and vivid greens didn’t disappoint. We saw some pictographs high up on an alcove and soon after reached the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ canyon confluence. Not sure if we found the right route up Sleepy Hollow as we had some thrashing through vegetation before it opened out a bit. We were looking for an exit out onto the slickrock plateau above and soon found it- a steep step up assisted by standing on a pile of stones then some slabby moves before it eased off. Brian went up to have a look around for camping spots but it was windy out of the canyon and with little water around we decided to head back to the confluence with Upper Coyote Gulch. On the way back down we found an easier, less brushy route and soon settled into a fantastic camp under a huge alcove.

Friday 20th September 2019  Cool night sky with the milky way framed by the roof of the alcove. Camping is great out here! This morning we aimed to cross the plateau above the canyons before dropping into the Escalante River via a route called ‘The Bobway’. From the start the hiking was beautiful over undulating slickrock with the early morning light casting long shadows. We aimed northward for a small saddle at the top of the Sleepy Hollow drainage before trending south east for a landmark hill called ‘Rock’ on the map. We had a look for water on the way and found one pothole with water deep down- another sign that this season is a dry one as I had heard reports of more water than that in this area.

Eventually we arrived at the top of a huge sandy bay leading down to a small canyon which hopefully would take us to the Escalante River- the Bobway. The Bobway is a short but lovely canyon with a mostly slickrock floor and a little scrambling. Nothing too hard though and there are faint signs of a trail in places. Soon we were at the Escalante and, as it had got a bit hotter, we sheltered under a boulder for some lunch.

We started down the Escalante with deep wading and bushwacking but the going gradually eased as the afternoon progressed and it cooled down too. We did one shortcut over a col to cut out a huge hairpin bend. The scenery improved downriver to top notch Escalante red walls, reflected light and alcoves. We passed the confluence with Stevens Canyon and headed on to find a camp spot right under the huge Stevens Arch- another wonderful camp. We haven’t seen anyone since shortly after leaving the car.

Hiking the slickrock heading away from Upper Coyote Gulch
Descending towards The Bobway
The Escalante River
Approaching Stevens Arch on the Escalante River

Saturday 21st September 2019  In the morning we waded further down the Escalante then climbed up on a faint trail to visit Stevens Arch itself. The arch was amazing- quite hard to describe, but this is one of the most fantastic sights we have seen in canyon country. Some ravens drifted around checking us out as we spent a while scrambling around and exploring. Reluctantly we left and were soon down at the Coyote Gulch- Escalante confluence. We were heading into a more popular area here and soon met a hiker group. There are a cool succession of waterfalls in Coyote and one fairly easy scrambling section on rather sandy slabs.

We continued upstream enjoying the iconic sights including Coyote Natural Arch and Jacob Hamlin Arch and the easy hiking on trails. On reaching the Hurricane/Coyote confluence, we continued up Coyote again for a while to camp in a quiet spot under cottonwoods. Another great day!

Hiking towards Stevens Arch
Lower Coyote Gulch slabs
Coyote Gulch

Sunday 22nd September 2019  A chilled out hike back up Hurricane Wash to the car in the cool morning air. We had a huge lunch at Escalante Outfitters before deciding to start the drive back to California so that we could get another final hike in the mountains before returning to Scotland. It’s been a short trip to Utah for our ‘fix’ of canyon country hiking but its it’s been fun!

The Gulch and Boulder Creek

Saturday 14th September 2019 We had an incredible drive heading east from California to Utah across the middle of arid and barren Nevada. We had been driving into the night, and started looking for places we might camp by the side of the road, when we saw some lights on the horizon which turned out to be the tiny settlement of Rachel. At the edge of Area 51, and famed for its UFO conspiracy theories, the ‘LittleAleInn’ is an oasis and we happily spent the night here instead of camping. Delighted to see photos on the wall of the bar of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost taken here whilst they were looking at sets for the superb movie ‘Paul’ .

Rachel, Nevada

Sunday 15th September 2019 Anyway, we eventually arrived in Escalante, southern Utah in the late afternoon the next day. Our rough plan was to hike into The Gulch and Boulder Creek, two tributary canyons north of the Escalante River that we hadn’t visited before. For ideas we used our bible (but aging) guide book –  Steve Allen’s Loop Hikes in Escalante – plus our own knowledge of the area and many other references including Jamal Green’s superb website.

Our hike from US Highway 12 in the Escalante area of southern Utah

With a late start, we had a short evening hike from the point that Highway 12 crosses the Escalante River. We hiked trails along the river, then crossed into the dry Phipps canyon and walked up valley for a while to camp.

Monday 16th September 2019 Lovely moonlit night and we enjoyed nice cool temperatures for breakfast in the leafy but dry lower part of Phipps Canyon. Setting off back down the Escalante River, the river level was low with some faint trails, river crossings and a little bushwhacking to keep us alert! The Escalante is lined with vertical sandstone cliffs and escape points are mostly via confluence canyons. After passing Boulder Creek confluence at about 11am we arrived at a different type of exit point that makes use of a slabby break in the cliffs on the north side. A short steep hike up above the river took us to a ‘line shack’ wooden hut – this route has been used by cattlemen in the past.

From here we hiked on undulating slick rock slabs and sandy washes heading north then south east paralleling above the Escalante River. Our idea was that this would give us easier hiking to reach the canyon of The Gulch than following the meandering Escalante River itself. It was pretty hot though and involved a fair bit of up and down but with the plus of extensive views across the plateau.

Eventually we found a cool rock rib descending steeply down into the green canyon of The Gulch – another route used in the past by cattlemen. Unfortunately for us the ‘perennial stream’ at the bottom of the canyon was dry, so we decided to drop our backpacks and head down The Gulch for about 20 minutes to pick up the Escalante River again and fill up our water bags there. Heading back up canyon with heavier backpacks, The Gulch has a fair bit of vegetation so the hiking was slow but with some interesting overhanging alcove walls. It was hot and sweaty and we were glad to find a camp in the evening by scrambling out of the canyon floor onto a grand slick rock perch.

Hiking out of the Escalante to the ‘line shack’
North of the Escalante
The temps cooled a bit with some welcome cloud
The descent into The Gulch
Alcove in The Gulch

Tuesday 17th September 2019 Another lovely morning with the moon dappling the canyon walls and we set off up canyon to reach an exit scramble avoiding some dryfalls further on. Still no water in the canyon at all so were glad of diverting to the Escalante yesterday. After clambering up some rock ledges on the west side we picked up a faint trail paralleling the canyon with some great views back into The Gulch. We dropped again hoping to descend back into the canyon and reached a cairned point at the top of a slab/wall. We looked at this drop for a while and decided to give it a miss as it appeared too risky for us! Maybe would be easier in ascent…..

Instead of heading further up The Gulch as we had hoped, our new aim was to cross country over to Boulder Creek and head up that canyon. This again was nice viewful hiking in pleasant temperatures winding our way over to the ‘Bingham Tea Bench’ and actually crossing our tracks from a hike in October 2017. We reached a col and then descended very gradually in a superb slickrock valley south west towards Boulder Creek. This is gorgeous country out here and needless to say we hadn’t seen anyone else yet (nor would we til we hit the road- Highway 12- tomorrow afternoon).

We passed a few deep potholes and gratefully took some water. It appears that we are in a dry period as this year there doesn’t seem to have been the usual wet spell in late summer to replenish the water sources.

At the point where the pothole drainage drops into Boulder Creek it looks impossible to scramble into the creek. However about 300m to the north we found ‘The Crease’, a 30 foot slabby corner that provides a doable way down- maybe about Class 4 in descent? We were happy to lower the backpacks first to make the slightly slippy scrabble a bit easier.

We were now just above the Boulder Creek Narrows, a tremendous narrow canyon with the river running through a subway style rocky cleft. Leaving the backpacks behind we waded downstream for a bit. I guess it would be a lot harder if the water levels were higher, but as it was, we turned round at a pool which would have required a swim to cross.

Boulder Creek narrows

Back at the packs, we now headed up Boulder Creek. The canyon walls were not too high, but narrow, and the river itself was pretty chocked up with vegetation. At times we hiked up above on slabs, at times we hacked through the willowy brush, but often the easiest way was up the bouldery river (as per the name!). At one point Brian was suspended above the creek pinned to willow branches, with lots thrashing he managed to disentangle from the shrubbery with some scrapes and tears to show for it.

After we passed the confluence with Deer Creek the water volume went right down, but even then there were some waist deep pools to wade through. It felt tough going upstream and we were again thankful for the low water levels. An interesting sight was that the river was packed full of fish – rainbow and brown trout- plus the odd snake.

We found another great campsite above the creek bed on a superb wide slickrock bench. A great if slightly tough day.

Camp above Boulder Creek

Wednesday 18th September 2019 In the morning we had an explore of the slabs around camp before heading back into the creek again. Good to see some hummingbirds and we now came across a fair bit of beaver activity- with chopped trees and a few dams.

In late morning we made it to the middle exit point described in the Steve Allen guide and picked up a way out of the canyon and climbed fairly easily out on slabs all the way up to Highway 12. We had about 3 miles to hike south down the road to the car at the Escalante bridge and this was surprisingly pleasant with cool winds and little traffic.

All in all another great little backpack!

Boulder Creek

Sierra California- North Lake Loop

Monday 9th September 2019 Our aim was to do a loop hike starting at the North Lake trailhead, west of the town of Bishop, hiking north on a chunk of the Sierra High Route, returning via the John Muir Trail and then finishing with a cross country meander past Darwin Lakes and Lamarck Col.

Our route starting at North Lake Trailhead, west of Bishop

We started with a trip to Basin Bakery for some great bagels then the Bishop Visitor Centre and again managed to get a same day permit for the hike with no trouble. It’s a lovely drive climbing steeply out of the Bishop valley with some final dirt road to North Lake trailhead.

From the trailhead we had an easy gradual on-trail ascent past multiple lakes to Piute Pass at 11,423 feet. There were a few other hikers around and we met a nice guy with a donkey! The west side of the pass is gentle going over a plateau like area but we soon split from the trail to head north cross country to Puppet Pass. The area is flattish, dotted with boulders and lakes with mountains on the horizon all around. The descent from Puppet Pass was to the north of the lowest point – bouldery and slow going but the Puppet Lakes below were beautiful. We made it northwards to Elba Lake to camp in a lovely spot with sun and some shelter in amongst krummholz whitebark pine.

Mesa Lake looking back south to the Glacier Divide
Puppet Pass and Lakes

Pretty cold overnight with our water bottles freezing- I guess we are quite high at about 11,000 feet. Our start was a relaxed cross country descent down to French Canyon to boulder hop across the frost fringed river. We were both glad no wading was required as it was still frigidly cold! After a relaxed 1 mile hike west on trail we split again with some faint trails and xc up to Merriam Lake sitting in stark alpine surroundings. Easy going from there up a remote feeling valley across meadows and slabs to La Salle lake before a steep granite boulder and slab push to Feather Pass at about 12,300 feet. We met 2 guys here (first since Piute Pass yesterday) who are out for 10 days.

The descent was on better rock this time with some fun scrambling on grippy granite then onto a snow slope to easier ground. We then wound round various lakes with bear related names and all in a grand wild setting before reaching White Bear Pass with its beautiful lake near the top. The descent from this one though was a bit of a pain with endless willow scrub, gravel and loose rock! We were both glad to make it to flatter terrain and past two more lakes to reach the Hilgard valley where we would split west from the Sierra High Route.

A trail was marked in the valley but we found some rough going initially before a rugged trail gradually became a bit clearer. Cool valley though with granite slabs and green meadows. We made it to about 1/2 mile short of the John Muir Trail and pitched the tent fairly tired after a long rough but excellent day.

Leaving camp at Elba Lake
Above La Salle Lake
Hilgard Valley

Boy was it cold in the morning- our shoes had frozen as well as our water. We soon hit the JMT and headed south on a long gradual ascent to Seldon Pass – drying the tent out in the sun on some granite slabs. The lakes below Seldon were scenic and on the other side the trail was easy as it descended 3,000 feet down to Muir Ranch. This is a place where JMT hikers are able to resupply and stay the night. There is lots of spare food here, left behind by JMT hikers and we were able to stock up on bonus nuts and raisins and a few bars – superb!

Suitably replenished, we headed on south following the steep sided San Joaquin River on a grand trail camping just below Evolution Meadow after a fine day of JMT trail walking.

Nearing Seldon Pass
At Muir Ranch
Above the San Joaquin River

We started the next day with more chilled out JMT trail walking through Evolution Valley before striking steeply uphill off trail to Darwin Bench. Actually there was a pretty good ‘use trail’ much of the way but with some boulder hopping round the fine turquoise Darwin Lakes. After Lake 4 we stopped at its small beach before hitting the 1,000 foot climb up to Lamarck Col. The views opened out as we followed various sandy trails with the odd scramble to pop out at the col in late afternoon at 12,800 feet. A grand spot.

The descent involved crossing a snow slope which was in the shade and had hardened so we got out the micro spikes and ice axes to cross to the boulders below. From there it was easier arid slopes with a trail forming lower down. We stopped at a trickling water source then looked around a bit for a good viewful camping spot, eventually finding a wonderful place on the ridge above. What a view east over to Owens Valley and the White Mountain range. Even better was a full moon popping out over the jagged ridge to the south and no wind to rattle the tent even on this exposed spot.

After taking a few pictures over breakfast in the morning, we headed down steadily on trail in the morning back to the North Lakes trailhead. Another great loop !

Darwin Lakes
Lamarck Col
Snowfield descent from Lamarck Col
Camp below Lamarck Col

Twin Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows

5th September 2019 This three day backpacking trip had us roughly following the northern section of the ‘Sierra High Route‘ in the Sierra mountains of California with another mix of cross country hiking, scrambling and trails. We drove north from Mammoth Lakes to the town of Bridgeport on the east side of the Sierra mountains and arranged a hiking permit for the trip at the ranger station. Like the rest of of our hikes on this holiday, we were able to get a permit for the same day which was a pleasant surprise. A short drive west took us to the Twin Lakes RV resort (via Buckeye Hot Springs to drop off a hitchhiker!) where we paid a small fee to leave the car for a few days.

Our 3 day backpack from Twin lakes in the north down to Tuolumne Meadows

Scott the friendly campground host gave us good directions on how to navigate through the myriad of local trails to reach Horse creek and the wilderness area to the south. The weather looked a bit dodgy with foreboding cloud build up and on and off rain but the views ahead southwards to Matterhorn Peak were encouraging. The trail was pretty clear but one section by the creek through thick willow bush soaked us from the waist down. Gradually the terrain got wilder and more barren with scree sided metamorphic peaks and faint trail leading to a wonderful little snow bowl just before the pass.

We had decided to deviate from the Sierra High Route by following Spiller Canyon on the other side of the pass all the way down to meet the Pacific Crest Trail and then climb back over McCabe Pass back to the SHR itself. Spiller Canyon is a broad open glaciated canyon surrounded now by sweeping granite peaks. There was no trail but the hiking was easy down grassy meadows and lower down weaving through a thin forest cover. In the evening, rain built up and it got rather unpleasantly wet and we searched around a bit to find a flat spot to camp near the river.

Looking up Horse Creek
Nearing the pass

We heard the crashing of branches in the night and assumed a bear may have wandered past heading up or down canyon. Anyway if it was a bear it didn’t bother us thankfully. The rain was still coming down in the morning as we packed the tent up but there were patches of blue sky poking through giving us some optimism. Continuing down the broad U-shaped canyon, the forest thickened a little but there was always a clear way to hike through with a few river crossings to find the easiest ground. We scrabbled over old avalanche paths with lines of felled trees from the higher hillside down into the river. By mid morning we met the obvious Pacific Crest Trail and found some granite slabs to lay out the wet gear in the sun that had managed to break through. Spiller Canyon had provided an excellent hike with no trails or people.

Following the PCT southbound for a few miles was a chance to chill out and enjoy the sunshine. We left the PCT to head east climbing up on the smaller McCabe Lakes trail, firstly through woodland before we split to head cross country again to pick up McCabe Creek. After crossing some meadows and lodgepole pine the climb got a bit steeper and we had to pick a line between willow scrub and steeper slabs before we popped out near to Upper McCabe Lake. We stopped for a rest to take in the more mountainous scene and look at the route up to the pass.

The final push to the pass was about 700ft but on a gravelly trail with some grippy granite scrambling. The views at the top of McCabe Pass were cool particularly to the east and south where we were heading to lakes, snow and rocky peaks. We headed south for a bit along the ridge before zig zagging down ledges between slabs to get reach Secret Lake and then followed easier meadows and a trail down to the beautiful Cascade Lake to camp. Great day and great alpine feeling camp!

Spiller Canyon
Drying out on the PCT
Near Upper McCabe Lake
Looking south from McCabe Pass
Cascade Lake camp evening

A cold night but the sun soon hit the tent in the morning and we warmed up over breakfast. We started with an excellent walk south round the east ridge of North Peak to Connes Lakes where we chatted to some hikers heading up one of the peaks. We then scrambled up lovely granite slabs onto the east ridge of Mt Connes in grand terrain with extensive views. More meadows, streams, slabs, pools and waterfalls as we rounded some more ridges before the push up to Mine Shaft Pass where we had a look around at the namesake old mine workings and could now see south to the Tuolumne meadows area.

We hit trail for the first time today as we descended gradually down past Gaylor Lakes and meadows dotted with white granite boulders. Surprisingly a whole bunch of tiny frogs hopped across the path through the meadow at one point – we found out later that these were tree frogs – cool!

Later on we saw some other hikers before we finally hit the Tuolumne Meadows park road and ended a fantastic final day to the hike. The only thing remaining for us after some calories at the Tuolumne Meadows grill was to hitch all the way round to the car at Twin Lakes. This worked out incredibly well- a lift down to the road junction before Lee Vining – a walk into Lee Vining- a kind person then gave us a lift all the way up to Bridgeport where he was staying then out of his way all the way west to the car at the end of the road Twin Lakes. Another great trip.

Cascade Lake camp in the morning
Up Mt Conness east ridge
Near Mine Shaft Pass

More photos here

Reds Meadow to Tuolumne loop

On this 6 day hike we took the bus from Mammoth Lakes ski area to Reds Meadows then followed the ‘Sierra High Route’ for 4 days to the road at Tuolumne Meadows. This was a mix of cross country and trail over some beautiful mountainous terrain past Ritter and Banner Peaks. We returned back south for 2 days via Koip Peak Pass on quiet trails, way east of the busier John Muir Trail and lovely in a more sparse arid way with wide expansive views.

This was a section of the Sierra High Route we had wanted to do since climbing Ritter in 2006 and returning to the trailhead past the stunning Iceberg, Cecile and Minaret Lakes on the SHR. With the opportunity to hike into Tuolumne Meadows via remote cross country territory, camp and then return to the start on lesser used trails it had all the makings of a great trip for us.

Thursday 29th August 2019 After a bus trip from Mammoth Lakes ski area to near Reds Meadow resort we hiked off on good trails past some of the basalt columns of Devils Postpile National Monument, over the creek and briefly joined the John Muir Trail.

We turned west and uphill following Minaret Creek in mellow woods with views slowly opening up to the Minarets range and all their spikey magnificence ahead. It gradually got better and better as we climbed past a tumbling waterfall over rockslabs. Minaret Lake has one of the greatest views of any and we skirted round before an easy scramble up to the next Lake – Cecile (banner pic). The Minarets tower above with Clyde Minaret dominating- it has a very classic rock climb up the face via a set of clean corners. The rock is not granite like much of the Sierra range but a slightly more brittle looking metamorphic. One for another day!

The air felt clear and alpine as we scrabbled round the lake over boulders and a few snow patches (microspikes came in handy). At the far north end we had a wee look around before Martina spotted the exit descent starting right at the lakes outlet stream. This was a bit loose and gravelly but quickly took us down to the next wonderful lake – Iceberg – well named!

From there we cross countried over grassy meadows round ridges to find a camp above Ediza Lake.

Minaret Creek
Minaret Lake
Cecile Lake
Hiking down to Iceberg Lake
First camp above Ediza Lake

Continuing the next day cross country on the Sierra High Route involved fairly easily, but still beautiful, travel over some small ridges past Nydiver, Garnet and Thousand Island Lakes. The drop down to Garnet from Whitebark Col was a bit loose and gnarly and we were glad to get to the bottom and onto easier meadows. We turned direction from northwards to south west to follow the drainage up to North Glacier Pass- a splendid, windy and wild feeling place covered in boulders and with the snowy col between Ritter and Banner lending an alpine atmosphere.

The next section of hiking was not particularly hard but felt quite ‘out there’ without any trails through complex terrain – well described by the Steve Roper guidebook though. We found a welcome patch of trees just below an old mine working to stop for a rest before descending steeply past vibrant colourful flower gardens. After lots of winding between outcrops we arrived at the northern of Twin Island Lakes and found a way round the eastern shore on grippy, slabby granite. The outlet from the lake can provide a very deep wade but today it was about mid thigh and fairly gentle so turned out to be a pleasant, refreshing dip. Easy granite slabs gave a good route up to the southern Twin Island Lake and round the east side and we called it a day in the meadows to the south. A brilliant backpacking day! (Brian nipped up the hill to the south east after dinner but the views were limited in the dimming light).

Nydiver Lake
To the Ritter Banner col from the north

Turning westward we contoured round some hillsides and down into the idyllic Bench Canyon with flat white granite slabs, meadows and water rivulets. More mellow hiking up to Blue Lakes where we went for a swim – jumping off some granite boulders into the still, frigid water. Our climb up to Blue Lake Pass was a bit eventful as we took a ‘sporting’ granite corner line (probably to the right of the easiest route) and ended up hauling the backpacks up with our cord to get over a tricky 30 foot section. From there it was easy scrambling to the pass and new vistas out west towards the domes around Yosemite valley.

The 400 foot descent looked steep, bouldery and unattractive so we traversed hard right along boulders to reach a prominent pure white quartz outcrop looking like a giant ‘Kendal Mint Cake‘ bar. From there the descent was easy down grass and slabby slopes before traversing benches north west and descending into the forest.

This was the point where we should have picked up a good trail to zig zag steeply down to the Lyell Fork creek. However we couldn’t find it despite us separating and sweep searching across the small forested valley. Brian even switched on the gps for help. We decided to keep descending in the general line of the trail in the hope that we would find it again and eventually after about 20 minutes Martina did! Looks like the top of the trail is positioned a bit to the west compared to our gps and as drawn on the map. Funny that after a couple of days of mostly cross country hiking, we lose our way when we were supposed to be on trail!

Set up the tent as it got dark in a well used large wooded camping area near to the creek- a nice spot all the same.

Bench Canyon
We used our cord to haul backpacks above Blue Lakes

Today was a day of trail hiking northwards to the campsite and store of Tuolumne Meadows – a place we know and love being in the centre of some beautiful climbing and hiking areas. We enjoyed the relaxing hiking through open forest with the standout being the first Sierra Juniper trees we had noticed this holiday- incredible looking trees. Here is a quote from John Muir himself…

The Sierra juniper is one of the hardiest of all mountaineers. Growing mostly on ridges and rocks, these brave highlanders live for over twenty centuries on sunshine and snow. Thick and sturdy, junipers easily survive mountain storms. A truly wonderful fellow, he seems to last about as long as the granite he stands on. Surely he is the most enduring of all tree mountaineers—never seeming to die a natural death. If protected from accidents, he would perhaps be immortal. I wish I could live like these junipers, on sunshine and snow, and stand beside them for a thousand years. How much I should see, and how delightful it would be!

The river of Lewis Fork had a pleasant slabby trail up beside granite slabs and the gushing stream. We continued climbing easily to Vogelsang Pass and saw a few hikers again at Vogelsang Lake. From here to Tuolumne was another 7 or 8 miles of fairly hot and dusty hiking and we sped up in the hope that we would be able to get a camping spot at the Tuolumne Meadows campsite – and before the grill closed!

Made it into the backpackers campsite (I think there was no need to worry here as we could just squeeze into any flat spot remaining) and just in time before the grill closed at 6pm to gorge on veggie burgers and chips! Finished the day off with a fascinating campfire talk on woodpeckers -didn’t realise they have such long tongues.

Martina first in the queue for breakfast pancakes

Chatted to other hikers in the morning then hitched a lift for the 5 or 6 miles of road to the start of our 2 day return hike at the Mono Pass trailhead back to Reds Meadows- we didn’t see the point of walking along the busy road!

Chilled out hiking on trail up to the huge saddle of Parker Pass at 11,100 feet- it reminded us of hiking in the San Juan Rockies on the Continental Divide Trail in southern Colorado- we liked the wide open spaces and big sky views. From there we zig zagged forever upwards on a steady gradient to Koip Peak Pass at 12,270 feet. Great views east to Mono Lake and otherwise drier countryside down below in the valley. The terrain here is volcanic, red and scree covered and quite a contrast to the granite mountains to the west. A shower came through and we hunkered down at the summit cairn then dropped down quickly through some further showers to Alger Lakes. Gem Lake was our intended camp spot but it looked a bit overused by horse packers so we climbed south and pitched on a great little outcrop before Agnew Pass and looking back down to Gem Lake.

Our final day was another mellow one following the Pacific Crest Trail as it traversed south east along a valley side with splendid views back over to Ritter and Banner. We were soon at the horse stables of Agnew Meadows and picked up a bus ride back to Mammoth Lakes. This truly was a great 6 days out there in the Sierra…

Zig zagging up to Koip Peak Pass
Mono Lake in the distance
Camp above Gem Lake
Final day on the PCT

More photos here

McGee Trailhead to Mammoth Lakes

Sunday 25th August 2019 We flew into LA from Scotland yesterday and drove up the east side of the Sierra mountains, stopping to pick up our hiking permit and bear canister on the way to the McGee Creek trailhead. It was a blistering 30C here as we packed our gear in the shade and emptying spare food into the trailhead bear box to hopefully prevent bears taking an interest in the rental car.

For this our first backpack of the holiday we aimed to warm up for 4 days following mostly trails, some cross country and to reach a high point on McGee Pass at about 11,800 feet for acclimatization.

Once we started hiking up McGee Creek through sage and past some aspen, the air cooled down a little and it was a very pleasant gradual ascent up to Big McGee Lake at 10,500 feet. We saw a few other campers here but found a cool spot above and away from the lake. A few mozzies around on the way up but tolerable at the campsite – phew!

After a beautiful sunrise over the lake with some snow patched mountains behind, we set off uphill on trail on a grand hike past lakes and some frozen snow patches. We had brought mini crampons- ‘micro spikes’ to fit over our trail shoes and these worked perfectly for moving quickly up the snow. The pass was fairly gentle and scree covered but had good views out west to the jagged ridge of the Silver Divide and the green meadows of Tully Hole below- our descent line.

This was an idyllic valley with lush green meadows and wildflowers, marmots, pika, chipmunks. We eventually connected lower down with the John Muir Trail at a river crossing at Tully Hole – mozzy central!- and followed the JMT northward for a wee while. It was obvious this was a heavy used trail, as well as seeing lots of people, the trail was wide and dusty from many foot and hoof marks. Still it was pleasant hiking and soon we reached Lake Virginia where we cut off cross country northwards up a shallow drainage over a small pass to the the Rams Lake area to camp. Man this was nice up here above the treeline, amongst the small lakes and rough hills around!

Crossing McGee Creek
Columbine
Morning above Big McGee Lake
Back down to Upper McGee Lake
Heading down to Tully Hole
Tent just visible at far side of the Lake (Rams Lake area)

We set off on a rather beautiful cross country rambling descent down through meadows, past dotted lakes and streams. We soon picked up a trail below Rams lakes that took us down to Purple Lake. Saw a white owl in the trees and an osprey catch fish on the lake. Back on the wide PCT we headed northwards and turned off soon again to climb up on another trail to the large Duck Lake. Someone kindly offered us some DEET mozzy repellent which Brian gratefully accepted! From Duck Pass we headed north west following notes for the Sierra High route on the broad ridge of the Mammoth Crest. We decided to haul water to camp on the plateau like ridge with panoramic views all round. Particularly north to Banner and Ritter mountains and south to south impressive swelling thunderclouds which we were thankfully able to watch from a distance.

Next morning we had an easy saunter down to Lake Mary on the outskirts of Mammoth Lakes town to end a rather scenic and wonderful ‘warm up’ backpack. We only had the small problem of getting back to our rental car at McGee Lake trailhead. Though yo!- we lucked out and we hitched a lift from a very kind gentleman who took us back to the car in one go along three different roads including the final few miles on gravel dirt road. Thanks!

Mammoth Crest camp

More photos here