We had fallen in love with the moonscape of Muir Pass and the improbable hut there while hiking the John Muir Trail in 1966. No vegetation besides hardy buckwheats and lichen can be seen in any direction from this 11,955′ pass that divides the San Joaquin and Kings rivers. We resolved then and there that we simply must see this surreal place in the winter and made three attempts to ski in during the early 70’s college Christmas vacations that were thwarted by inadequate equipment and planning, bad weather, and deep snow with companions unequal to the raw wild in roughly that order.
We set up this camp in Humphries Basin in December, 1974 with a notion to follow the “Bishop Loop” route to Muir Pass.
Scott Lambert and I were bad assed Orinda kids and we planned another try in December, 1976, but this was the apex of the drought and there was little snow. We carried our skis over Lamarc Col, stayed several days at the Muir Hut and climbed Mt. Solomons, Charybdis, and Mt. Goddard before carrying our skis out over Echo Col. It would have been very foolish to venture out there without skis.
The first night we camped high on Bishop Creek.
We reached Muir Pass mid-day our second day and I climbed Mt. Solomons behind the hut the first evening we were there.
I was rewarded with this view to the south and Charybdis.
And this view to the north of Wanda Lake and the upper San Joaquin drainage we had followed up.
Back down at the hut…
The moonscape, Wanda Lake, and Mt. McGee were very much the experience we had first imagined a decade earlier. The next morning we set out across the Ionian Basin to climb Mt. Goddard.
The ice was two feet thick but it boomed like cannon under our weight.
South from Mt. Goddard.
The next day I climbed Charybdis and found this view of Mt. Goddard to the north.
Approaching the metamorphic weakness that allows Echo Col on the way out.
Ultimately this trip was about the ice, the lessons of cold with little snow.
The culmination of a decade long dream nearly forty years ago, and an unforgettable lesson in the beauty and complexity of the planet we live on.