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JMT '14 - Day 12 - Big Pass, Bighorn

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JMT '14 - Day 12 - Big Pass, Bighorn
September 08, 2014 08:24PM
Day 12: July 26, 2014

Another unusually warm night's sleep, another early wake-up call... We were getting to be quite good at the whole wake up, make breakfast, pack, and hit the trail routine.

Not far from where we had camped, we passed the unmarked junction with the old Center Basin trail, the former JMT route, and the campsite with the bear locker we'd stayed at on a few previous trips. A bit upriver from our campsite, we could see the peaks surrounding Forester Pass, including the northern spur and "tower" that the trail climbs from the north.

Past the Center Basin junction campsite, we saw one of Sierra's kind collecting grasses for the (hopefully) long winter ahead.

Below the highest campsites at treeline, we smelled smoke. At first we thought some idiot had had a campfire well above the "no fires" elevation, and we even look at a few nearby campsites for signs of a smoldering fire, but found nothing. A sign a bit farther up indicated a nearby natural fire.

The trail carried us slowly but steadily towards the pass.

We stopped for a snack and a final water-bottle fill-up at the highest large lake north of the pass.

After this brief rest, we resumed the climb.

Near the top we saw several bunches of Sky Pilot.

We eventually reached the top where we posed for the obligatory summit group photo and hung out for awhile enjoying the views.

Forester Pass is where E and A met back in 2008. They've returned to this pass several times (and JWK and I have been lucky enough to be with them for many of these)--not a bad tradition to have.

Eventually we had to move on, so we started the descent down the south wall-like side of Forester.

I'm always still amazed that Forester Pass was named for the US Forest Service people who discovered this pass, replacing the convoluted Shepherd/Junction Pass route. From the south, it doesn't seem to have been as much "discovered" than "blasted" or "hewn" out of the rock.

In any case, the well-built trail carried us safely down to the Tyndall Creek headwaters, with the rugged Kaweah Peaks looming tall in the distance.

I don't remember anyone mentioning the clouds, but the air did have a familiar calm to it.

Looking back at Forester we could see the cleft that is the pass; much like the east side of Frozen Lake Pass, the location of the true pass does not appear to be the obvious easiest route.

We soon got our first view of Mt. Whitney's summit and could even make out the "emergency" shelter on top.

The Tyndall headwaters is unlike anything else on the JMT. Perhaps its superficially similar to Upper Basin, but the foxtail pines and different vegetation give it a drier, high-desert feel that is not common north of the Kern drainage.

After stopping at Tyndall Creek--the last cold water before camp--for a soak, we climbed towards our destination: Bighorn Plateau. The final part of this climb is through a particularly picturesque stand of dead and alive foxtail pines.

Eventually we reached the top of the plateau and it's large, warm tarn. Unlike our previous visits where we had had Bighorn Plateau to ourselves, there were a few other parties camped on Bighorn--far enough away that none were visible to us.

The clouds were by this time dark enough that we pitched our shelters for the first time since before the resupply at MTR.

From our camp with its panoramic vista, we could see tomorrow's destination: Mt. Whitney.

Although we would not have another clear, starry night, we were greeted with a wonderful sunset.

Re: JMT '14 - Day 12 - Big Pass, Bighorn
September 08, 2014 09:42PM
I love this stretch. The whole day. I love cruising up to Forester Pass. It's so well-graded, you just pick your speed and go. I had my food dialed in, and took our time and this was the most pleasant journey up. I had my appetite the whole time and had a good snack at the top. We'd leapfrogged with a solo lady near the top and at the top I started up a conversation. She'd done a good bit of the Appalachian Trail in big sections and had decided to do the entire JMT on her first visit to the Sierra! Wow! I'd only had a section of the JMT solo in 2010, and have to say, I actually remember that time most fondly... it was before the really long days.. In four years, though, I've dialed in my food breaks and cold-water therapy breaks and all. Quite the difference. And this time, I was having a lot of fun with the group. Going my own pace instead of trying to fit other people's paces... that works out much better for me.

M was in pig heaven. A and the H sisters were doing headstands at the Forester Pass sign while E was taking pics of them. We were all having a blast. I just love Forester Pass, both sides are great. I've gone up both ways, like them both. We have been lucky every time at this pass - great weather - could hang out and soak in the views... but after a while, you have to keep trucking... We started down from the pass and this time my target was most definitely Tyndall Creek for a soak. M, Basilbop and I stopped at the little creek after the first big drop, but I just made my shake and wanted to keep scooting, we had a good grade and I was making good time... The others had gone down before us and had stopped at a lake and taken a swim. Sadly, we could see the clouds were building up again, so that kept me moving.

At Tyndall, I took a good soak and came out refreshed. It wasn't sunny, but I didn't care, I needed to get as clean as possible, since I knew the others wanted to stay at Big Horn Plateau. In 2010, I had skipped Tyndall because I had been told the tarn at Big Horn was a great place to take a bath. Grrr. I hadn't quite fully grasped that we had VERY DIFFERENT definitions of what constituted a good bath. I had been extremely unhappy with the warm, muddy water. I hadn't been able to cool my foot and I hadn't been able to clean up. I despised that tarn. 2 miles to go uphill and I was taking it very easy so as not to bust a sweat, having gotten so nice and clean... smiling smiley

The clouds were definitely threatening, and though we ate under the TrailStar, Basilbop and I slept out under the open sky and though we got dewed up a bit, I was warm and happy. Definitely a lovely night at Big Horn. Again, same gorgeous spot as in 2010, totally different feeling.
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