Day 3: A Spectacular Mirror

Big Five Lakes to lower Monarch Lake
(8.1 miles, +2,600/-2,000 feet).

As beautiful as the last two days have been, there is nothing that quite prepared me for my first exposure to a Sierra reflection on a calm alpine lake.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures!  It seemed like every angle revealed something new about this wondrous symmetry between heaven and earth.

Meredith enjoys the Mirror

After breakfast we climbed up over a saddle and down into Lost Canyon.  The ranger we met yesterday told us this is his favorite area in the park, and now I can see why.  It gradually ascends along a bright red creek full of iron deposits through dark green trees with bright golden trunks that gradually give way to massive white granite boulders on the canyon walls.  It was quite psychedelic.

Lost Canyon and the climb to Columbine Lake

The ranger also said he had frequently seen a large bear in Lost Canyon, so we scanned the horizon, but to no avail.

At the end of the canyon we hit some switchbacks and gradually ascended to the most beautiful lake I had ever seen.

Columbine Lake

At nearly 11,000 feet, Columbine Lake sits just below Sawtooth Peak and brims with huge Golden Trout.  Nick caught so many fish we had to tell him to stop — we could not possibly eat any more!

Nick, Me, Meredith, and Columbine

We talked about possibly camping at Columbine Lake, but we heard there were storms coming in soon, and we worried about exposure to wind and lightning.  So we decided to carry on.

After lunch we ascended the last bit up to Sawtooth Pass at 11,600 feet through fields of medium to large boulders.

Meredith boulders up to Sawtooth Pass

The view from the pass was even better than the view from Black Rock Pass.  I was hooked on passes!

Columbine Lake from Sawtooth Pass


Sawtooth Peak

The climb down from Sawtooth Pass was quite dodgy.  It was choose your own adventure nearly the whole way, and one part was so steep and slippery that Nick had to self arrest on a 20 foot slide with his trekking pole (it broke!).

Slipping and sliding down from Sawtooth Pass

Finally, we made it down to Monarch Lake at 10,400 feet where we camped for the night.  Although it was also beautiful, the setting was somewhat anti-climactic after Columbine Lake.

The sun sets on lower Monarch Lake

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