A walk to the Sierra Nevada crest

In less than two weeks, to celebrate my 70th birthday, several of us are going to make a trans-Sierra hike from the east side of the Sierra to the west side. We plan on starting at Mosquito Flat at approximately  10,100 elevation, hiking over Mono Pass at 12,000 feet and then following Mono Creek down to Lake Thomas A. Edison at 7,300 feet.

The first part of the trip, from Mosquito Flat to Mono Pass is short but steep: 1900 feet in about four miles and I was a little worried that I couldn't make it. Four miles is not a big deal and 1900 feet isn't either but 12,000 feet is sort of a bitch. At 12,000 feet, airpressure is only about 40% of sea level. The sky is even darker because there is that much less air between us and space.

So, while Michele was in Canada, I decided to take a trial, trail, hike. Like every hike, it starts in a parking lot – usually crowded.

Mosquito Flat (1 of 1)

I think of 10,500 feet as being about timberline in the Sierras and, at 10,100 feet, the trees at Mosquito Flat are already stunted. The trail started wide and relatively flat and soon narrowed and got steeper. Late July is spring at 10,000 feet and the trail was surrounded with wildflowers.

Mono Pass Trail (1 of 1)
Hard to see, in photographs, wildflowers, true, but bright wildflowers everywhere. The trail soon climbed above timberline to a more alpine environment.

Mono Pass Trail (1 of 1)-2
Mono Pass Trail (1 of 1)-3

One of the things I love about hiking above timberline in the Sierras is that it is like hiking in a Japanese Zen garden – I know, I know, Japanese Zen gardens are copied from the above timberline landscape in the Japanese Alps (are they still called the Japanese Alps?) – but, still…,


Mono Pass Trail-9422
Mono Pass Trail-9417

At about the half way point, the trail got drastically steeper, switchbacking up the side of the mountain, leading to the pass.

Mono Pass Trail-9414
Mono Pass Trail-9410
Until, way below, was Ruby Lake at 11,000. 

Mono Pass Trail-9404
About this time, I was beginning to think I was not going to make it. Then the trail leveled out and makes a gradual turn to the right leading to the pass. All of a sudden, the end was in sight, so – revitalized – I headed for the pass.

Mono Pass Trail-9399
Except that it turned out not to be the pass. Once I got to the fake pass, there was another one just a couple of hundred yards ahead, and then another, and – shit – another.

Mono Pass Trail-9397
Then it flattened out, and – with very little fanfare – tilted down into the Pacific drainage.

Mono Pass Trail-9391

The crest of the Sierras. At least, on this trail, the crest of the Sierras. 

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