Sierra High Route Day 5: Veins of the Earth/Masses of Passes

Day 5
Total Miles: 13.2
Cumulative Miles: 70.4
Elevation Gain: 2503 ft
Elevation Loss: 4650 ft
Camp: At Parcher’s Resort
Sierra High Route Day 5 included five passes

We have a big day today with at least seven miles off trail over four passes. Then we connect to and hike out the Bishop Pass trail to Parcher’s Resort for another 5 miles for our resupply and zero day. Parcher’s Resort is 1.2 miles down the road from the Bishop Pass trailhead so it is convenient for us to resupply there and get back on the trail after a zero day. We dropped off resupply buckets before the trip at Parcher’s Resort but could have resupplied in Bishop as there is a shuttle service that takes people from Bishop to both the Bishop Pass trail at South Lake and the Piute Pass trail at North Lake. We need to get to Parcher’s Resort by 6pm if we want to get our resupply buckets tonight.

So we are off to another early start. Both Ray and I prefer hiking the hours from 6am to 9am as it is cool and the lighting is usually phenomenal, especially in the Sierras. We are only 400 feet below Cirque Pass at —- feet so work our way up granite ramps and get to the top of Cirque Pass well before 7am.
Alpine Shooting Star
Heading up to Cirque Pass

We find the narrow chute off to the left of Cirque Pass that drops us down 100 feet to granite ramps and a small lake below.

Finding the narrow chute to the left going down from Cirque Pass

It is a nice little route. I think we are getting the hang of what to look for and how to maneuver over these high passes.

The lake between Cirque and Potluck Pass is unnamed but leaves its mark on us as the reflection glows with the reality of another world. I feel like I have entered an alternate space, caught on the sharp edge between light and dark. Ray takes a few amazing pictures in this area.
Sierra Reflections…
My favorite Ray photo from the trip. I am the silohuette in the water but you cannot see me on shore…So surreal.

Soon we are working our way up the second pass of the day, Potluck Pass. Up a talus slope to the left and than across granitic ramps to the right to gain the top. Roper gives pretty good general instruction for these passes.

Working our way up granite ramps to the top of Potluck Pass
Ray and I at the top of Inconspicuous Pass

The next pass is only 1/2 mile away and we don’t lose or gain much elevation to get there. It is an easy one: Inconspicuous Pass. Then we drop down into Barrett Lake and leave the Sierra High Route as we head toward Thunderbolt Pass, our fourth pass of the day. This is an alternate route that will take us to the Bishop Pass Trail so we can hike out to Parcher’s Resort.

A pika sunning itself on a rock

Thunderbolt Pass is easy to hike up from the south side and is well named. Dark magnesium-rich igneous rock is criss-crossed with dikes of lighter, more granite-like material. These “white streaks” look like lightning has been frozen into the rocks. The violent story of another time.

Thunderbolt Pass with aplite and quartz veins (white streaks through the rocks)

On the other side of Thunderbolt Pass is a massive boulder field. Ray and I slow down through this part – boulder hopping doesn’t happen fast.

Yikes! Lots of talus hiking on the north side of Thunderbolt Pass

Eventually we are on Bishop Pass, our fifth and last pass of the day. Here we are back on the “hiker’s highway” and down we drop in elevation, passing Bishop Lakes.

A view of Bishop Lakes from the Bishop

We make it to Parcher’s Resort by 4:30pm and are able to get our resupply buckets before the office closes at 6pm.


  1. What spectacular photography! It is once again a joy to follow your footsteps from the armchair…and keep those geo-shots coming.

  2. Aplitely put! I love the geo-shots too. But it’s also true that Ray’s creative photography is fantastically reflective of you and your trip. I’m just so jealous and happy for you two.

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