[pct-l] [John Muir Trail] Piute/Bishop in June

ned at mountaineducation.org ned at mountaineducation.org
Fri Jan 20 13:39:32 CST 2017



Thanks for asking. I try to always be here to help anyone wanting to visit
our incredible mountain wilderness, the Sierra Nevada!


As a former backcountry ranger in Humphreys basin and having just been over
Piute last June, I think I can shed some light on your questions.


1.	Early Season trail condition reports:

Starting about mid-April, Mountain Education begins teaching its Snow
Advanced Courses in the southern Sierra, between Cottonwood and Kearsarge
Passes. These are offered to July. If snow and weather conditions allow, we
will be posting exactly such Trail/Snow Conditions Reports on our wilderness
school's home page. For the most part, I would say that what we see
regarding trail conditions, snow locations, snowline, creek volumes, and
other such early season joys as postholing and suncups, will apply to the
Muir-Piute area as well. 


2.	How much use do Piute and Bishop Passes receive during May-July:

There sierra access routes begin to see use, even if still snow-impacted,
with the arrival of the PCT herd going north in April-June. Last year the
North Lake parking lot wasn't full in June, but almost so! The backpackers I
met along the trail to Piute were mainly day hikers and once across the
pass, I didn't see another person for several days nor footprints on the
snow or in the mud of the trailbed. Yet, the skilled are there, exploring
upper cols, earning their turns on skis down the steep snow, and heading
down to the JMT ranch to make the loop you talk of. Snowline in mid-June
last year was just above Loch Leven, at about 10,900 feet, but was only
patchy up to the upper bowl at 11,200 where it became solid over the pass.
Because that approach trail is largely on a south facing exposure as you go
up the canyon, snow melts off quickly after the thaw starts. Who knows what
we will see, though, this June! (I'll let everyone know, though). Humphreys
Basin had large fields of snow covering the trail, but over-snow navigation
was easy on the descent toward Golden Trout because you are above treeline
and can see where you want to be in an hour. Snowline on this northside
descent was at about 10,800.


3.	North-South Passes and early season snow (Bishop and Muir Passes):

Southerly exposures will melt out faster once the thaw begins, so if you see
that your trail ahead is going across these sunny slopes, they will probably
be dry, especially if we have a less than normal winter. If not, plan to be
kicking and edging on snow. Since storm winds blow from the South-west, the
deepest snow will be on the North-east sides of things due to wind
transport, if the topography allows. 


Muir Pass is sheltered by Mt. Solomons and Black Giant, so the whole route
from Starr's Camp on the south to Sapphire Lake on the north side hold its
snow quite late into every season, thus miles of glorious and beautiful


Bishop Pass looks like it should be an E-W pass, but it isn't, if you look
at the topo map. The route up to Dusy Basin is largely in trees, so if the
snowline is low, expect snow. If the thaw is in full swing, the wooden
bridge at 10,200 could be pretty wet with spray! The basin itself holds snow
(I've been in there in early July where we hit flooding and solid snow from
the first lake all the way to the pass) because it is the deposition basin
for Giraud and Columbine Peaks to its south. The pass can be very
wind-blown, so snow often thins out on its southern aspect fairly early
while the same wind loads the northern side with potentially deep snow
covering the switchbacks. Know how to glissade, heel-plunge, and self-arrest
in this area. If you pick the right route down, this glissade could be the
most fun one of your trip! The continued walk out to South Lake can have
solid snow all the way to Long Lake, depending on conditions at the time, of
course because it is a northern aspect drainage. (The backcountry skiers
love it, though!).


4.	East-West Passes and early season snow (Piute):

Piute's trail is pretty exposed, so the snow should melt off of it pretty
early. Note wherever it is on N, NE, and NW aspects and expect snow above
the current snowline. Humphrey's basin is pretty flat, but every trail will
have its short, steep, shaded areas where snow will linger longer than out
in the sun, so be prepared to know how to traverse and descend on
potentially consolidated snow amidst trees.


5.	No matter where you are in the Sierra, your route will go up, down,
or across all aspects and slopes. That's one of the beauties of Sierra
travel, you get to experience all it has to offer. So, at least in my
opinion, the NL-SL loop will present you with the same joys and challenges
as a JMT thru hike, just shorter!


I hope this description helped everyone who desires to do such a route
during the early season (mid-April to July) and will serve to encourage them
to become better prepared for a safe hike!



Ned Tibbits, Director

Mountain Education, Inc.

 <mailto:ned at mountaineducation.org> ned at mountaineducation.org 


From: johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com [mailto:johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com] 
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2017 7:33 AM
To: johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [John Muir Trail] Piute/Bishop in June



Hello to all and particularly Ned Tibbets!

I have a permit for the North Lake South Lake Loop in mid June. I know I can
rely on the Yahoo JMT Group for trail condition reports in the weeks leading
up to my trip but if you (or anyone else here) has an opinion about how much
use Piute and Bishop Pass see in the early season? I see far fewer reports
on their condition here (and on High Sierra Topix). 

I would imagine that Piute and Bishop see quite a bit of travel early
season. I can expect similar conditions to what I'm reading about at Muir on
Bishop, because it faces north/south. 

I'm not sure what an happens on east/west pass like Piute. Any thoughts on

Here's another, perhaps simpler, question: is hiking the North Lake South
Lake Loop much different in June much different than hiking the JMT in June?



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