9/25/14 Day four was the big day, up and over Glen Pass. 1,500' up to the pass, which was incredibly windy, and then down almost 4,500' the other side with jaw dropping views of Kings Canyon.
1 Morning view from the tent. The rainfly definitely kept things warmer, but it's still a cold morning. There were crazy gusts of wind throughout the night that went instantly from almost dead calm to tent flapping strength.
2 Morning video from our tent site with Painted Lady and Mt Rixford behind. The video is an attempt to show just how fast the clouds are moving in the wind. I was getting a little worried about a storm coming in just as we were about to attempt Glen Pass.
For best performance, you can view the video on YouTube.
3 Heading up the trail out of Rae Lakes basin.
4 Looking down at the upper Rae Lake. We're gaining elevation quick and the wind is howling.
5 Dustin making his way up the rocky terrain. Our plan to get over the pass first thing in the morning seems to be paying off as our energy is high and we're making good time.
6 An amazing contrast to the lush forest trails and lakes below. But beautiful in its own way.
7 Now at around 11,000', well above the tree line, it feels like we're walking on the moon.
8 The trail hits a basin about halfway up to the pass. There's yet another amazing patchwork of lakes here. You can imagine this being a complete bowl of snow earlier in the year.
9 Panorama of the basin.
10 A look at Glen Pass, still almost 800' above us. You can see the trail switchbacking up the face to the left.
11 Looking down at the lakes in the basin below. One of the craziest elevation defying pictures I've ever taken. It looks like Dustin is standing next to a little pond. That lake is actually about 700' below us!
12 Another beautiful turquoise lake below.
13 Rae Lakes far below with the clouds blowing across the ridge. The highest peaks are Black Mtn and Diamond Peak, both over 13,000'.
14 Almost up to the pass, and the lakes are endless below. You can also see snow glistening off the farthest peaks. Undoubtedly some of the small glaciers that still dot the highest peaks in the park.
15 The last few feet to Glen Pass.
16 Made it! Glen Pass at 11,978' above sea level. As soon as you hit the pass, there's a gap in the rocks with an incredible view down the other side. The wind is also howling through the gap. According to my trusty Kestrel meter, the gusts are around 40mph. They're enough to blow off anything not firmly attached to your body and enough to knock you off your feet if you're not bracing yourself. And the temperature is about 35 degrees.
17 Dustin looking cool on Glen Pass.
18 Dustin's picture of me on the pass, fully bracing myself in the wind, pack straps flapping and hair on end.
19 There was noone on the pass to take a picture for us (one of the few times I would have loved to see someone on the trail). So we had to settle for a selfie.
20 Looking down the North side of the pass all the way back to Rae Lakes. Hard to believe we were down there just a little while ago.
21 360 video from Glen Pass complete with howling wind.
For best performance, you can view the video on YouTube.
22 It was so cold and windy, we couldn't spend too much time on the pass, despite the amazing views. So we start heading down the other side. You can see the swtchbacks winding all the way down to the lake.
23 Looking back up at the pass from the South side.
24 Lots of great, craggy peaks on the way down, and starting to get back into some vegetation. Somewhere around here, we came across probably my favorite person I have ever met on the trails. Looked like he was in his 60s, big beard, with a huge pack on. There was stuff hanging off his pack everywhere, including an extra pair of hiking boots and a big solar panel on top. He looked like a backpacking Santa Claus. He was moving at a snail's pace but was happy as could be. He was doing the entire JMT solo starting from Yosemite Valley and was on his 25th day. According to him, his pack was somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds, and he said "I don't know what I'm carrying that everyone else doesn't carry??". We could have chatted with him for hours, but we pressed on.
25 We hiked past one amazing valley after another for the next few hours. I believe that is Charlotte Dome at the end of this valley.
26 Hiking past Charlotte Lake at 10,370'.
27 Another jaw-dropping valley. I'm not sure what this one is called.
28 A huge bowl and jagged peaks with specks of snow pack in the distance.
29 We hadn't seen much wildlife at the higher elevations, but now we came across a deer standing right in the trail.
30 It turned out to be an entire family of 6 or 7 deer, including mom, kids, and grandma.
31 The picture just doesn't do it justice. I believe this is East Vidette. Awe inspiring in person.
32 Panorama of East Vidette and the surrounding canyons. Unquestionably one of the best views on the entire loop, and one of my all-time favorites.
33 It looks like the Matterhorn.
34 Made it to the next major trail junction. Here we leave the John Muir Trail and head West back towards Kings Canyon. The JMT continues South to Forrester Pass, at 13,153', the highest point on both the JMT and PCT.
35 Back down to the canyon floor below the tree line with meadows and forest again.
36 Approaching the tail end of Kings Canyon. The head waters of Bubbs Creek start up here.
37 Another jaw dropping view that just isn't done justice by the picture.
38 Dustin heading down the canyon alongside Bubbs Creek.
39 There are lots of cascades along Bubbs Creek as it quickly drops elevation. Like the first day, we spend much of this day wondering what these scenes would be like earlier in a wet year.
40 I'm not sure what peak this is, but I can't get enough of it.
41 Bubb's creek still roaring at the end of September in a dry year.
42 The Fall colors are a great contrast to the green.
43 Almost to Junction Meadow, and it's time to start thinking about a campsite for the night.
44 The sites at Junction Meadow. It's an amazing campsite, but it's still really early in the day. We decide we'd rather keep going and make tomorrow a shorter hike.
45 Before long, we come across another campsite right on Bubbs Creek. The tent would be right here! It would be a perfect site, but it's still pretty early. We made much better time coming down from Glen Pass than we anticipated. We decide to take the gamble, continue on, and hope for another good site further down the trail.
46 Hiking through the boulders. We're moving fast at this point trying to get to the next campsite before dark.
47 We make it to the site with time to spare. Not quite as nice as the previous sites, but that's the risk you take when you keep pressing on. At least we will have fewer miles tomorrow. Still a great site though, nestled admist a sea of ferns. We also had a deer walk right into the site.
48 Just below the site is Bubbs Creek, our water source for the night.
49 A look at our elevation profile for the day. 1,500' up to Glen Pass and then 4,500' straight down to where we are now. I can't imagine doing the loop counter-clockwise with that climb on the second day.
50 Tonight we're within the legal fire range between 6,000 and 10,000' and have the luxury of an existing fire ring. Dustin tries out a homemade fire starter his uncle made (which works great), and throws in a pine cone for good measure.
51 After the fire dies down, we stare at the stars for a while. Here's an attempt to capture the starry sky on a moonless night. It definitely doesn't get them all, but the fact that it got this many shows just how bright they were. End of our fourth, and best, day on the trail.