Here is the long overdue report on the Bishop Pass Trailhead:
We planned a trip from Bishop Pass to Whitney Portal, so the first day of our vacation was logistical. We drove first to Parcher's Resort at South Lake, near Bishop. There we checked in and left Dennis and Mary to enjoy the afternoon. The other 4 of us took two cars south to Whitney Portal Trailhead, left the larger vehicle there (the hikemobile, our old Suburban) and then drove back in Ann's Jeep Liberty to Parcher's Resort.
By the time we returned we didn't have much daylight to see the Resort, but it was a series of small cabins, and a little cafe and store, with very nice staff. We were in hiker's cabins, so we were expected to bring our own linens (sleeping bags, of course) Early the next morning we squished 4 packs and 5 people into the little Liberty, and Ann gave us a ride to the end of the road, to the trailhead at South Lake, elevation 9,768 ft.
This is an amazingly beautiful lake, and a worthy area to explore in its own right. We put our extra toiletries in a bear-proof locker with a note when we would return. Ann went back to pick up Rich and their gear, while we started out on the hike. This would be a pattern for the journey, as Ann and Rich liked to start later, but they always caught up with us.
The hike begins along the eastern side of the lake, and climbs surely and steadily toward Long Lake, elevation 10, 753. The climb continues toward Saddlebag Lake, elevation 11,128 ft. After this you leave the accessible lakes, and head into the rocky Bishop Pass. There is a sign that indicated an active rock slide area, don't stop or loiter, just keep going. We saw a pika as we were getting closer to the pass itself, which is just shy of 12,000ft, and 6 miles from the South Lake trailhead. The pass is wide, open and rocky. We stopped for lunch, and Rich decided to hike up Mt. Agassiz. Ann waited for him, and the 4 of us proceeded down into Dusy Basin.
Dusy Basin is a broad glacial area with sharp, high peaks all around, and lakes and streams running through. We went into it another couple of miles, going slowly to take it all in. We found a great campsite with views of the mountains on the other side of LeConte Canyon. Some people would keep going to intersect the JMT at the LeConte Ranger Station, but we were wanted to enjoy our first night in the high country. This is yet another place that would be worthy of many days of exploration.
The next morning the trail took us down, down down into the canyon. There are lots of switchbacks, and the trail winds its way back and forth with tremendous views all around. The water flows down with waterfalls and cascades. From 11,000ft down to 8700ft in approx 4 miles. We were glad to rest in the canyon.
This is a good entry into the John Muir Trail. It could be done in one long, strenuous day if necessary, IF you were used to those kind of distances, and were acclimated to the elevation. To get a resupply it would be pretty far to walk it, but there are horse packers who contract to do that.
In August 2010 we will give a report on what it feels like to climb out of LeConte Canyon up to Bishop Pass and out, and a further report on Piute Pass as a way to hook up to the JMT.