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Steve, Katherine, and Norah | profile | all galleries >> Sierra Nevada Backpack July 2020: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks >> Day 3: Off trail over Pants Pass tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Day 3: Off trail over Pants Pass

Day 3: Off trail over Pants Pass

5-6 miles (?), 1500 feet elevation gain/loss

So, the stats for Day 3 donít look like much, right? On paper this should have been a cake walk for us. But what the numbers donít tell is that this off trail pass was a tedious exercise in walking on rocks. Scree, talus, boulder rocks, shifting rock slides - whatever form it was, we spent nearly seven hours going up and down this unnamed pass (unofficially called Pants Pass because you might need to ride down the chute on the other side on the seat of your pants, although we had some other name suggestions for this pass when we were through, many not repeatable here!).

The hike started off easy enough walking through Nine Lake Basin, which is pretty, but we didnít stop long to admire the views as the mosquitoes were out. We veered to the right of the upper large lake and as the mosquitoes thinned out, the terrain became rockier and steeper. The higher we went, we were basically on a rock treadmill and progress was slow to slog up the scree and talus. It was not a favorable ratio of steps forward to steps back. After the final steep climb we were finally on the pass and rewarded with some great views. We were happy to take a break and rest after spinning our wheels on the rock treadmill.

We admired the views on the pass and assessed our path of descent down the other side. At the best we were overly optimistic and at the worst we were foolish because we thought the harder part was the steep climb up to the pass and we thought going down was going to be a lot quicker (HA HA HA HA). It deceivingly looked like a shallower grade and we thought once we got down the steeper part at the top, we would make good time. What we failed to appreciate was that it was rocks all the way down to the meadow and we would have to watch every single step and this would take us forever.

Looking down we saw the chute that had supposedly given the pass its unofficial name, but were able to avoid going down this sketchy looking area by walking briefly along the ridge and starting our descent there. It was steep for the first bit and we really had to watch for rock slides with each step. Once we descended a little ways this wasnít so much of a worry, but we still had to watch our steps and it was slow progress. Very. Slow. Progress. Did I mention it was slow going? When we finally stepped foot on grass, we were unbelievably happy and if I had had the energy, I would have done a jig. Looking back up at the pass, it looked every bit as a pain in the arse it was to hike.

So we finally were done with the pass and would have an easy stroll through the meadow, right? Wrong. Our next Jumanji level was mosquito hordes. Our original plan was to try to get to the end of the meadow, intersect the trail to Colby Pass, and hike above treeline to camp (for a real laugh, Steveís original original plan for the day was to then go over Colby Pass, descend, and camp at Colby Lake. HA HA HA HA. We quickly realized early in the day this was delusional). Not long after we set out in the meadow, the mosquitoes found us. Norah was a trooper on the pass and did a great job, but the relentless bloodsuckers plus the prospect of having to hike more elevation finally broke her. So at the expense of having to hike more miles the next day (spoiler, this would come back to haunt us), we started looking for a campsite. We found a lovely campsite, which Norah and I enjoyed from the tent as we took refuge from the mosquitoes and spent the rest of the day reading.

Our original route had another off trail day. It didnít involve a pass and on the map didnít seem as bad as this day, but after the tedium of Pants Pass, we decided to reconfigure our itinerary and keep to the trail the rest of the trip. This worked out. Mostly.
Where we were heading
Where we were heading
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Nine Lake Basin
Rock treadmill
Rock treadmill
A look up at the final ascent
A look up at the final ascent
Nine Lake Basin from Pants Pass
Nine Lake Basin from Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Pants Pass
The chute down the other side
The chute down the other side
Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Looking down the other side
Looking down the other side
Norah breaking out her book to read on Pants Pass
Norah breaking out her book to read on Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Pants Pass
Short ridge walk to our descent
Short ridge walk to our descent
The beginning of our loooong descent
The beginning of our loooong descent
A look back to our descent
A look back to our descent
Success!
Success!
Our meadow campsite. Unofficially named Mosquito Meadow.
Our meadow campsite. Unofficially named Mosquito Meadow.