Sierra High Route Day 9: Darwin Bench to Bishop, CA -Miles and Miles of Talus Piles

Day 9
Total Miles: 13.0
Cumulative Miles: 103.2
Elevation Gain: 1001 ft
Elevation Loss: 3618 ft
Camp: hotel in Bishop
Map of our hike off trail from Darwin Bench for about six miles, and then 5.5 miles along the Paiute Pass trail to the trailhead, and 1.5 miles down the dirt road from North Lake to Lake Sabrina to catch the Bishop Creek Shuttle
Daily Neet Beat
It is really hard for me to let go of a goal and I have having a hard time with being sick. But I am worried about having giardia or some other food or waterborn illness that will not get better by itself. Ray and I discussed options last night. We are close enough to the Puite Pass Trail (six miles) which we can then hike out to the trailhead at North Lake. The Bishop Creek shuttle goes to Lake Sabrina which is another 1.5 miles down a dirt road. We can then take a shuttle into Bishop, CA which is a large enough town to have an urgent care center where I can be treated.
Hiking from the Darwin Bench up toward’s Alpine Col.
I am bummed to affect our trip but maybe they can give me medication and I can get back on the trail shortly. I have never been sick like this on a hike. I have thru-hiked the John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, Hayduke Trail, hiked over 2,000 miles in the Grand Canyon, worked as a ranger with backcountry duties in Katmai National Park, AK and Yellowstone National Park, WY and grew up backpacking every summer when I was a kid from eight years old to twenty years old. But I have never had watery stools and stomach cramps for nine days.  Ray and I are always careful with filtering and treating our water as well as personal hygiene. I keep thinking to myself – how did I get sick and is it giardia which may not go away by itself?
We have a fairly long day a head of us to get out to Bishop, CA. The first challenge of the day is getting over Alpine Col. Roper in his Sierra High Route book describes Alpine Col as ascending and descending hundreds of feet of tedious talus but with no particularly traumatic sections. For some reason, I translate this in my head as “easy”.  It is not easy! Up we go climbing and clawing our way over car-sized talus. 
Climbing up Alpine Col. This is an incredibly beautiful area but an arduous climb over large boulders

Most of the time, the talus feels stable but every once in a while, a huge boulder moves. This is not easy traveling but I am learning to understand Roper-speak. When he says “no particularly traumatic sections” he means you don’t need to use a rope and you aren’t on the edge of a cliff where one misstep sends you into a free fall. Ok. Got it.

The view from the top of the “Col” is outstanding and I think one of the best views we have seen on the route so far. Ray and I enjoy the view and armwave about the geology for a few minutes like we always do. 
Then down we go for it seems like miles and miles of boulder hopping. Down the drainage and around Goethe Lake. It is all talus.
Going down the north side of Alpine Col towards Goethe Lake. OMG – there are miles and miles of talus piles!

Eventually we work our way through Humphrey’s basin with it’s lakes, meadows and rounded granitic ridges. 

Ray hiking toward Muriel Lake in Humphrey’s Basin

Then down the Piute Pass trail to North Lake. Pretty soon we are on the bus to Bishop.

And I am feeling better. Go figure. After nine days of the runs and stomach cramps it seems to have gone away. Ray is very patiently putting up with all this. Guess we will just pretend we came out to stay for a night in Bishop. Never mind that we dropped over 3600 feet in elevation and went 8.5 miles off route. We eat big calzones at Pizza Factory  and salads and I seem to be ok. Maybe I should do a commercial for the Pizza Factory in Bishop, CA. We decide to take the shuttle back up tomorrow to North Lake where we will climb back up the Piute Pass Trail and back on the Sierra High Route once again.
Video Clip of the Day: Alpine Col


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