June 23rd
Horseshoe Lake(16.5)-Marion Lake(22.6)
Mileage: 9.1mi (includes 3mi side trip)
Campsite Elevation: 10,296ft

I didn’t sleep well last night. I just couldn’t get comfortable and kept waking up. The moon has been super bright so it’s like sleeping with the lights on. My stomach felt a little off after dinner and continues to feel that way today. I think it’s mainly due to elevation and exertion. I just feel groggy and lethargic, which is to be expected on a hike like this. I ate less today, which isn’t probably a good thing, but I feel like I still had enough to sustain what I’m doing. Hopefully, it will even out as I acclimate. Now that I’m in my tent, it’s getting worse, so I actually fell asleep before I could finish this entry. I awoke again at 1am and I’m wide awake and finishing this post. 

We got going at 6am and it was 40F. We had an uphill cross country through a thin forest. It took us up to Windy Ridge where we decided to do a bonus 3mi out and back to Windy Point. 

Windy Ridge in the background as we hiked up.

Rockin’ had been there many years ago and it was a pretty cool view. Once again a photo cannot do it justice. Here’s Rockin’ and Why Not on their way to the point. The cool thing to see is that in a couple days we will be hiking up that canyon on the right, LeConte Canyon. 

Hiking out to Windy Point

That side trip took longer and was more tiring than we anticipated. It was at least 2hrs by the time we got back to the Sierra High Route, and I was already tired. 

The next task was Gray Pass. Because of sketchy snow fields, we had to take a bit of a different route than described in the guidebook. We needed to do some traversing in snow and I post holed (sunk deep in the snow) awkwardly and it knocked my confidence down. I am not a fan of exposure and not super comfortable in snow, so Rockin’ was really patient and stopped so we could put on microspikes for better grip and we got the ice axes out. Rockin’ even got us to practice self rescue as bit as a refresher. 

Why Not practicing self rescuing with an ice axe.

When we got to Gray Pass and sat down for lunch, Rockin’ noticed she was missing a hiking pole. Somehow, when we were doing the lessons and switched over to ice axes, one of her hiking poles got left behind. Rockin’ even hiked back quite a bit as we ate lunch and couldn’t find it. Bummer. However, we were able to use the Delorme inReach to message her family and they have sent her a replacement pole to our next resupply location in a couple days. Each of our tents require 2 poles for setup, so Rockin’ was going to use a stick for the smaller pole and then she realized her umbrella was a good length and that worked out well as a temporary fix for the next few nights. 

Once done with lunch, we looked across at our next pass, White Pass. Man, it was quite a sight to see how far we needed to drop and then head back up. The guidebook is frustrating for me at times, but I can also appreciate it at times. The author, Steve Roper, is intentionally vague with sometimes few numbers given as to distance or elevation. With our promise not to use GPS, we are limited to just the maps to decipher. The cool thing is that there is no right or wrong way. He basically says to drop into the valley and climb up following the stream (of course with snowmelt there are many) to the cirque that White Pass is in. It seems like we dropped almost 1,000ft to the valley and I definitely know we climbed 1,500ft (seemed like 3,000ft to us) to White Pass at 11,700ft. Look at this photo and you can see the cirque. There is a line of trees leading along the stream we needed to take. 

Looking across toward the cirque White Pass is in from Gray Pass.

This task took us over 2 hrs (I lost track of time and am not sure). Much of that time was checking and rechecking our approach. Once over there, all streams seem like THE stream. 

THE stream?

We overshot a bit, but got there eventually. It really is surreal the sights at times. We do our best to capture it. 

Rockin’ checking the map before our final climb up to White Pass.

We built in a buffer for days like today. Unexpected things like the pole going missing and then guesstimating time and hit or miss with the map and compass. Yes, we did 9.1mi today, but that is what the SHR is like. Although a part of me would like to bring out the GPS, the fun of figuring out the puzzle and doing it sans electronics is pretty darn cool and something we hope to stick to. We’ve buffered time for doing this and for sure used it today. 

After White Pass came Red Pass. Much less of a climb and more technical to figure out. We could not go the way the guidebook suggests because of snow that could have been a cornice covering our route. Walking on that snow and not knowing if there is ground under it is unsafe and can lead to an avalanche. We climbed up on rocks. Again Rockin’ and Why Not are more comfortable on exposure and I am real grateful that the two of them are patient enough to discuss routes and go where we are all comfortable. A couple of times, I needed to take my pack off and pass it. Being on a ledge or climbing down something, I tend to feel much more stable without the pack pulling on me and affecting my balance. 

Looking at the cornice covering our path, where we took the rocks.

Negotiating the rocks.

Once over the rocks, we had mostly snow the rest of the day. It was good snow and with our microspikes on for traction, we think we may have moved quicker than if it was a boulder and ramp field. 

Going across snow to Red Pass. White Pass in the background.

Once on Red Pass, it was a 1,200ft drop (in snow) to our camping destination, Marion Lake. It was pretty fun to go down this and we made quite quick time. I even glissaded (slid down) one part. 

Heading down 1,200ft to Marion Lake

Why Not glissading.

Our last challenge of the day was scrambling down a chute to Marion Lake. We know from the Ranger there is one SHR hiker a day ahead of us. We saw his footprints a few times today and he even slid down the chute we chose to walk down. Other than his prints here or there, we saw no one today. 

Views of the chute down to Marion Lake from the top of the chute and below.

We have a pretty perfect campsite. There is a slight breeze that is keeping mosquitoes away. 

Marion Lake campsite.

View from inside my tent.

Tomorrow we have one of the most challenging and sketchy passes in the morning, Frozen Lake Pass. I don’t like the sound of that…

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