24 July 2020
North Fork Mono Creek over Silver Pass to Fish Creek
(10 miles, +3,500/-1,900 feet).
Today was all about the weather. The main goal was to get up and over Silver Pass before the monsoon thunderstorms, but it was a little tough to leave our warm and cozy campsite.
But eventually we got going. The first few miles up to Pocket Meadow were slow and steady.
But then we hit some serious switchbacks that took us through a pretty steep cliff band.
At the top we took a break to appreciate the view.
We then had pretty easy terrain through meadows and up granite slabs.
Clouds were already building at 11am as we approached the turnoff on the old JMT to Silver Pass Lake.
We had a nice swim and lunch break at the lake below the pass.
Then we packed up and headed up the last few hundred feet to Silver Pass. Interestingly, the high point for the day would actually be *above* the pass as the trail avoided a sheer cliff above Chief Lake on the other side.
We ate lunch at the high point, but increasingly we worried about the weather. More so than other days on the trip, the puffy white cumulus were growing dark and heavy. Vergas started to form on nearby peaks and the wind grew stronger and colder. We decided to descend after just a brief break.
We grabbed water at Squaw Lake, which was spectacular, but the darkening sky once again kept us from lingering. Soon we saw lightning and heard thunder.
Remarkably, we passed a single woman who was on her way to camp at the pass. I worried about her the rest of the afternoon as the storm above the Silver Divide grew more intense. But I worried less about our own situation as we dropped below tree line into a series of pretty woods and meadows.
We targeted a camp site right next to the Fish Creek bridge, but when we got there we found about a dozen people quickly setting up tents to beat the weather. Every last one of them was wearing a head net, so it didn’t seem like the most comfortable place to stay, so we pressed on to the next available site about a mile and a half away.
And then the sky opened up!
For maybe 20 minutes we hiked quickly through hail, scanning the steep slope for any flat spots along the trail where we could set up our tents. Marble sized hail bounced off my hat, and I paused for about 5 minutes under a tree to wait for everyone to catch up.
We finally found a place which was not perfect but doable. Ultrashuffle and I quickly checked out another site about a tenth of a mile further along but there was a couple hanging out there guarding the site. I asked them “Are you camping here tonight?” And they said defensively “Maybe!” They clearly were not interested in sharing, even though there was plenty of room for about 6 tents. So unfriendly!
On our way back to our first site we encountered a couple of middle-aged men who were also trying to decide what to do. We offered for them to squeeze in with us, but they were southbound and they decided to press on.
So we threw up our tents and waited out the storm. The hail turned to rain and kept up on and off for about 3 hours. I had to pee the whole time! So did Half Cookie, but she took care of it in our vestibule (Finder called it “Indoor Plumbing”!).
But we got in our sleeping bags to stay warm and the tents kept us dry. Soon enough the rain was over, the sky started clearing, and UltraShuffle built a wonderful fire.