Day 2: Storm on Muir Pass

20 July 2020 
JMT Bishop Pass Trail to Evolution Lake 
(12.1 miles, +3,500/-1,400 feet).

Even though we were at lower elevation and in a nice campsite last night, most of us had trouble sleeping.  I was especially worried about this because today was quite possibly the most challenging day of the trip. 

With monsoon conditions promising thunderstorms by mid-afternoon, we needed to climb over 3,000 feet over about 8 miles to get over Muir Pass.  And once on the other side we would still be above 11,000 feet even at our planned campsite at Wanda Lake, so the elevation was sure to take a toll as well.

But everyone was very much up for the challenge, and we got an early start on our long steady climb up LeConte Canyon.

It helped to have some bucolic meadows, beautiful lakes, and very cute companions.

Little Pete Meadow
2019.07.20 08.23.09
Up to Big Pete Meadow
2019.07.20 11.16.24
This is fun!
Lovely waterfall
Heading toward Black Giant

We climbed nearly 2,000 feet by 10am and took a nice break in a meadow there.  I found a nearby unnamed lake to jump in.

Swimming hole at Lake 10330

We then kept plugging away.  The miles got harder and the scenery more stark as we ascended well above tree line.

Lake 10800+
Almost frogs!
Getting closer
Outlet of Lake 11280+
Black Giant in Lake 11280+

Months ago when I was planning the trip I worried about snow in this section of trail, but there has been much-lower-than-average precipitation in the Sierra this year.

Our only trail snow today

Clouds started building well in advance of our approach to Muir Pass, and I worried it would rain before we arrived at the Muir Hut.  But we arrived around 1pm and found it empty.  We decided to wait there for the rain to pass.

Helen Lake
2019.07.20 12.29.25
Mount Solomons and Muir Pass
Almost there!
First glimpse of the Muir Hut
Made it!

We had a very nice lunch protected from the elements. 

And then: two very stoned young men also arrived at the hut. 

They weren’t mean or aggressive, but they were very loud and were oblivious to Flower Power’s desire to avoid COVID in order to protect her at-risk husband at home. 

As time passed, rain started to fall, the wind blew harder, and the two young men grew louder and louder.  The hut grew colder.  And Flower Power sat in the doorway straining her neck outdoors to keep from breathing the indoor air.

Finally something had to give.

As the two young men pulled out paraphernalia to ingest even more cannabis (henceforth we called them “Cheech and Chong”) we made a silent group decision: better to endure the storm.

Half Cookie, Flower Power, and I were the first to race out, and for 15 minutes I regretted my decision.  The wind was quite stiff and it was blowing drops icy hard on our faces.

2019.07.20 15.13.55
Into the storm

But eventually we hiked low enough that the wind abated.  And then the rain miraculously dissipated as well.

I stopped to vent with the others about how mad I was about the situation.

And then, as we started hiking again, I hiked alone.  And I cried.  I’m not exactly sure why.  I think I felt responsible (silly!) but mostly I think I was just relieved to be out of the situation.

After that I felt better and I was able to enjoy the incredibly dramatic scenery of the high sierra.

Evolution Basin
Rounding Wanda Lake

We originally planned to camp at Wanda Lake but it was not only cold but also swarming with mosquitoes!  I think I killed close to 100 in my hat as I frantically waved it around.  At one point I actually broke into a run for a few minutes trying to escape.

Escaping the swarms

But then we got away from the lake and back into a breeze and they were gone.

We pressed on.

Lake 11293
Mount Huxley
Sapphire Lake
2019.07.20 17.15.09
Looking back on Mount Huxley
Mount Mendel and Mount Darwin

By 5pm we were back below 11,000 feet and nearly at Evolution Lake where we found a spectacular campsite on a ridge above the lake.

Evolution Lake inlet
View from camp above Evolution Lake
2019.07.20 19.28.12
View of our camp

And then, just when we most needed some comic relief, Half Cookie had a fashion show.

Ultrashuffle meets the Michelin Man

She stayed warm and we watched the sun fade as we ate dinner.

All was right with the world.


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