When I’m backpacking, I usually enjoy doing little-to-no work once I’ve reached and set up camp. Because of this, there were times during my once-in-a-lifetime High Sierra trip where I didn’t even go out and shoot during the golden hours, usually using the excuse of being too tired to wander around.
Hiking under the moonlight, I knew we had made quick work of the 3-miles of switchbacks traversing up the west side of Mount Whitney, but I was in serious disbelief as we topped out at Trail Crest well before sunrise.
Standing only 84.6 miles from Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, which is the lowest point in North America (-282 feet), Mt Whitney is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet – a whopping 14,787 foot difference!
The High Sierra Trail continued for a bit through the same, dried up forest we encountered the previous day, but as we approached treeline, the landscape gave way to familiar soaring alpine habitats with trickling creeks, grassy tussocks, soggy meadows, and occasional tarns.
Waking up on our fifth morning, we were already a day ahead of schedule and still technically had that Guitar Lake rest day built-in, so we decided to break up that section with a night at Crabtree Ranger Station before continuing on the Guitar Lake.
Leaving camp at Moraine Lake, the trail meandered east, south of Funston Creek and after a quick mile or so, we crossed the creek and rejoined the official High Sierra Trail at Sky Parlor Meadow.
From Kaweah Gap, the High Sierra Trail began a long, gradual descent through drastically different terrain going from the the barren alpine zone to a flourishing tundra.
Right from camp, the trail crossed Hamilton Creek and quickly started switch-backing along the side of the northern wall of Hamilton Lake’s basin.
In under a quarter mile, we quickly found ourselves at the Bearpaw High Sierra Camp, a wilderness lodge (glamping) perched on a cliffside high atop a 7,800′ granite saddle overlooking the Great Western Divide.