Most Memorable Backpacking Moments (revised)

The first version of this page attempted to rank the places I've been in order of merit. That simply isn't possible any more: I have no sane way to evaluate two or more infinitely spectacular places. Therefore, it has evolved into a chronological list with two levels of merit. Even this small amount of ranking is a challenge!

**2004Bishop Pass
This was a straightforward climb up a short valley to a fantastic scene - no wonder it's so popular! On the week we visited it was pretty much entirely ours, so we'll take others' word that this is often crowded and ugly. While the drop into LeConte Canyon is hard on the knees, the views remain great.
***2004Knapsack Pass
From Dusy Basin this is a relatively short hop into a pretty basin. While exits are possible by three other ways, none are easy - Potluck Pass is perhaps more intimidating from above than from below - and the drop via Glacier Creek looked mighty intimidating in '99 from Cataract Creek. Funny thing is, Cataract looked miserable from this side; so much for judging by the view..
***2002x-c passes to Lone Pine Creek
Both of the passes I crossed on my way to the Elizabeth Pass trail were special and spectacular. Views of the Great Western Divide (my first close-ups of the area) with Black Kaweah behind, the scoured Tablelands, and beautiful tarns beset with golden grasses made the scene memorable.
**2002Three Lakes camp
My first solo trip, and late in the day I still had energy to spare. I navigated through spectacular country and came to the exact spot I had hoped to find a camp, by three pretty lakes. It was weird to be so totally alone, but exhilirating!
***2002the hour around Lake Catherine
I simply can't separate the two moments here. First, that view up to the summits of Ritter and Banner from intensely blue Lake Catherine and its snowfields and glaciers. Soon thereafter, the discomfort of that first view into the North Fork San Joaquin valley. Heaven and Gehenna, so close together - but the struggle down to Twin Island Lakes easily compensated for that initial burst of despair.
***2002Kuna Crest
Only when I was within a few hours of the top did I realize what a great view of Mt. Lyell I was about to see. The climb was rough, but the reward beyond description.
***2001Valor Pass
Martha Lake and plenty of the north-central High Sierra was revealed from here - even Mt. Humphreys, to my surprise! Goddard and its attendants blocked all views south and east, but looking north down Goddard Canyon and all the way to Seven Gables was sublime.
**2001Blue Canyon pass
Which was more amazing: the view due north at Mt Goddard, or the view nearly straight down to unspeakably beautiful tarns, emerald and inky blue among the white granite? And the view back to upper Blue Canyon wasn't bad either.
**2001Blackcap Basin panorama
After three rainy days of travel, the sun came out just before sunset, so I climbed a small ridge just west of Portal Lake to see the basin. The spectacle was undoubtedly enhanced by our endurance of the bad weather - but what a view! And only two of the peaks (Blackcap and Reinstein) had names.
**2000Fishing?!? at Evolution Lake
Merely to be fly-fishing again after many years off was entertaining, but to be practicing again at the base of Mt. Darwin was just amazing. The golden trout were pretty too, as was the short break during which I climbed the minor summit that attempts to split the lake in two.
**1999Darwin Bench camp
Amazing scenery, and a lovely camp at well over 11000 feet. I passed this spot a year later and never saw it; perhaps it was a mirage!
***1999Dumbbell Lakes
This was an incredible spot for several reasons. At the top of the list was its access - none of the three routes into this basin are easy. We entered from the south and were near exhaustion when we found a campsite, and our exit the next day over Cataract Pass was equally difficult. As a result of this, our camp was truly pristine - no clue could be found to show that anyone had visited here. In fact, no life other than a few birds were seen in the entire time we were here. The weather was threatening but never bothered us beyond a chill breeze from down the valley. It was the true essence of wilderness.
***1998Grave Lake
You read about a place, you see a photo or two, and you think you're prepared for it. It simply isn't possible to anticipate the view of Mt. Hooker towering over Grave Lake. Remember the apes and the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey? I'm slightly ahead of them (I think), but this monolith is several thousand feet taller...
**1997 Hopkins Pass
This route had everything - cross-country travel, complete isolation (alone from Big McGee Lake to the Pioneer Basin jct - over a dozen plus dogs hung out in that valley), major-league talus, a few narrow crevasses, and a 50-degree-plus ice/snow slope with a cornice on top. We turned back after a bit of reconnaisance, then found a better route with about a sixty-foot snowpack to cross before traversing under the cornice up to the pass. I would not have made that second attempt without my brother's enthusiasm and optimism, and I'm proud that we made it.
***1997McGee Pass views east
A beautiful climb, with views back to Mt. Isaak Walton and the Silver Divide and the upper meadows of Fish Creek. The few wildflowers added a nice splash of color to the rust-colored slate of Red Slate Mt.
**1997 Little Lakes Valley
This hike shows so much beauty only two miles from the trailhead, it's hard to keep moving up the Mono Pass trail. This image is an 11x14 on the wall and wallpaper on my computer screen.
**1996upper French Canyon
A beautiful walk from our camp near the base of 500' Royce Creek Falls to the top of Pine Creek Pass - sound, scenery, and a last-quarter moon over the high peaks. A true parkland.
**1996Selden Pass / Marie Lake
The view north, east and south from Marie Lake is over 180° of sheer wonder, from the peaks of Silver Pass through the high peaks of Gabb/Mills/Abbot to Seven Gables and Senger Peak. The hailstorm at sunset provided amazing color!
**1993Pine Creek
It's a mean hike, but the Pine Creek trail relaxes after 3.5 miles and provides two pretty lakes to relax by. The waterfalls along the way almost make you forget the tungsten mine.
**1989Forester Pass
That first view south was staggering - a vertical drop to tundra, with the Kaweahs and the Great Western Divide framing the scene. Traveling south to north would not have the same dramatic effect.
**1989Rae Lakes
It's understandable that this is a popular destination! Beautiful lakes, multicolored peaks, and just enough trees for character!
***1989first view west from Taboose Pass
The deep trench of the South Fork Kings, the fringe of trees around Bench Lake, and Arrow Peak behind the lake.. what a beautiful intro to the High Sierra!
***1979/98Lizard Head Trail
Pictures didn't do this region justice. It's a hike on top of the world [over 11500'], looking down on beautiful glacial valleys of lakes and trees, with tall peaks reaching just barely above the trail's elevation. Amazing, and weird - and just to keep things interesting, stormy in 1998!
***1979/98Cirque of the Towers
I had seen the pictures, but the spectacle of being there was indescribable [but I'm trying anyway]. I shot an entire roll of 36 exposures in about fifty feet of trail. The 24mm lens was a great improvement on the 1998 trip!