Thursday, September 04, 2014

A piece of the Sierra High Route: Black Bear Lake to Granite Park

We're in a campsite where morning sun is not going to happen, so we do breakfast and packing in the shade and are underway by 8:15 again. We start by heading to the foot of Black Bear Lake and then head up the slope to the sandy saddle overlooking White Bear Lake (also very attractive!). Here we turn off to the right and leave the "official" Sierra High Route to head up along a use trail to Dancing Bear Pass. There are lots, and lots, and lots of good views on the way up.
View down to White Bear Lake
From the long, narrow, flat Dancing Bear Pass we see Italy Pass for the first time. At first it seems much too close, so we're not completely convinced we've identified it correctly but once we reach the far side of the pass it's clear. From the end of the pass we have a great view of Jumble Lake, Mt. Julius Caesar, etc. We can also see the long talus slope that we'll need to traverse to get to Italy Pass. We do some route planning and then start walking. What a blast! A bit more than an hour of concentrated route finding and talus hopping, with spectacular views, we're in heaven. :-) This will be our last real "High Sierra" view for this trip, so we do plenty of short breaks for gawking.
Talus slope on the way to Italy Pass
At Italy Pass we take a short break and have a snack while sucking in the views. We convince ourselves that we do, in fact, have enough water to be able to climb up to Mt. Julius Caesar (there had been some question about this). So off we go. This is alternatingly fun talus scrambling and irritating sand/gravel slogging. There are "use trails" everywhere that don't particularly help. We quickly give up on those and pick our own route up to the saddle beside the main peak. Greg is having a blast with the boulder scrambling, so he makes the last bit way trickier than it needs to be. Andrea takes a more sensible route that can also be used to descend (Greg's route: not so much). At the peak we have views that beggar description. The mountain is both high and prominent, so nothing really gets in the way of the 360 degree views... this is why we do this kind of stuff (well... the scrambling is fun too). After loads of of gawking and photos and some snacks we bid the views adieu and make our way down.
View South from Mt. Julius Caesar
Back at the pass we have lunch and then put the packs back on and descend the other side of Italy Pass towards Granite Park. Now we're mostly on use trails, then real trails and it's almost too easy... we can do "walk and gawk" again. At the first lake we pump some water and then continue our descent. As we get lower, the vegetation changes, trees reappear, and it gets nice and green to contrast with the granite. Eventually we decide that we're both more than tired enough and it's time to stop. We pick a campsite likely to have morning sun, with great views and do all the normal end-of-the-day stuff.
Campsite in Granit Park
Dinner: chix noodle soup with chipotle and cumin. Freeze-dried chili (not too bad, maybe worth eating again). Something random with couscous, cheese, and garlic.


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