Day 13: Upper Basin over Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek Canyon (≈11.5 mi.)
Aug. 9: Another long day ahead, but we don’t get started until around 9:30 a.m. For several days now, Pat and I have been doing the dishes, but today Harry does them so that we can get our tents down. It’s another beautiful day, and with the scarcity of trees around, we have great views of the mountain peaks surrounding the Upper Basin.
The trail continues to descend from 10, 840 ft. and in a couple of miles fords the main South Fork Kings River (10,098). Now we start to climb again, first on switchbacks and then more gradually. We pass several small lakes before reaching Lake Marjorie (11,160).
Now above the timberline, we continue to climb steadily before reaching the steep switchbacks among the rocks leading to the top of Pinchot Pass (12,130). After yesterday’s climb, this one doesn’t seem too bad. Of course, it’s only 2,000 ft. of elevation gain in 4.3 miles.
I reach the top around 1:30 p.m. with Pat and George. The advance party (James, Mark and Dina) had been planning to climb the peak to the east of the pass—Mt. Wynne, but we fail to get a response to our calls or find their stuff. So, we assume they’ve decided against the climb and have gone on ahead. But, while we’re eating, a lone backpacker arrives and climbs the rocks on the pass to get a better photo. Suddenly, he asks if we’ve left stuff up there; he’s found the advance parties cache. We call and call but don’t hear a response. Kris, Tony, and Andrew soon arrive, so Pat, George, and I extend our stay.
After a nice break and photo op, we start down the steep talus switchbacks that seem to characterize the south slopes of these passes. The view is breathtaking. We can see the trail far into the distance as it heads down past a series of small lakes towards Woods Creek. The basin is nearly surrounded by tall peaks of varying hues.
Once we’re off the steepest part, Tony sprints ahead. We don’t know exactly where we’re going to camp tonight, so he takes off to do some scouting. The books say that there are a “few exposed campsites” just east of the junction with the Sawmill Pass Trail at 10,347, almost 4 miles from the pass. When we catch up with him, he reports that there really isn’t room for our party at this site. It’s after 4 p.m. and we’re tired, but we have to go on.
The trail gets steeper as it descends into the canyon of Woods Creek, and the forest thickens. After a mile or so, we find a nice campsite (9850) with views down into the canyon. We’re below the fire line, so George, Andrew and I collect firewood and get a fire going.
The climbers soon arrive and James entertains us with his description of the climb. By the time the mules arrive, it’s near dark.
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