My wife Laura and I – along with our friends Sarah and Anton – spent the last two days in a very beautiful subalpine wonderland.
We drove west of Bishop about half an hour to the South Lake (Bishop Pass) Trailhead. As we pulled up, we were excited for two days of fishing, friendship, and hiking. However, we saw a small squall popping up in the not-so-distant landscape directly west of us. A couple rumbles of thunder were enough to convince us to spend 90 minutes at South Lake acclimating to the 9700′ elevation air. Anton also decided to spend some of that time fishing with a metal flyrod over a large body of water. Fortunately there was no lightning 🙂
The squall eventually began to dissapate and we figured it’d be a good time to begin our small trek up to Long Lake. Immediately the trail begins ascending at a 500’/mile gradient through pine forest. This is a well-traveled trail and we were far from alone. However, the Sierra landscapes make that not matter as much. It is absolutely beautiful.
When we approached the Treasure Lakes fork, about a mile in, we noticed mosquitos coming out in droves. There are a whole bunch of ’em up here – so beware! However, a little Natrapel and Deet goes a long way, and it was really no big detriment to our adventure. We continued on past the Mary Louise Lake splinter, Hurd Lake, and Bull Lake, all while being overseen by the very weird looking Chocolate Peak. Finally, after 90 minutes and 2.5 miles of hiking, we’d arrived at our temporary home for the next night – Long Lake.
Long Lake is an extremely beautiful area. It includes a small island on its northern end, breathtaking views of Mount Goode and Hurd Peak, and a whole bunch of cool fishing opportunities. We found some amazing campsites about a third of the way down the path along the lake and set up camp. It was after we set up camp that Anton unveiled a bit of a surprise to us; he had brought with him a 5 pound steak! No joke. Our only stove was my Snowpeak GigaPower and I had my doubts about whether he could cook this raw red meat on it. However, he built some weird and pretty dangerous stove thing (see pics) and made us all eat our words about 40 minutes afterward. Pure magic, I tell you. Steak at 10,800′ is a blessing.
As the sun fell below the horizon, our campsite was overtaken by an extremely aggressive swarm of gnats and small flies. By turning off our headlamps, we were able to dodge this attack well enough, but just beware of these intruders if you are planning on taking this trip any time soon. We went to sleep around 10 or 11pm and woke up the following morning at dawn. Anton did some fishing and caught a couple small trout and then we packed up and went home, all without a hitch.
Long Lake is an absolutely incredible High Sierra paradise. It sits right atop the limits of the treeline and features a multitude of campsites and scrambling opportunities. A couple of notes:
-Even on Diamox, Gingko Biloba, and Stinging Nettles supplements, I felt the elevation. Everyone else in the group endured this as well. Be prepared to deal with this challenge and be smart enough to not overexert yourself until about a day at high elevation. The following morning, most symptoms of AMS had diminished.
-Make sure to stop into one of the ranger stations to get your (free) wilderness permit before hitting the trails. They also sell maps and have a lot of helpful info to make your trip successful.
-One thing I am happy I did not bring: a backpacking chair. There are a lot of great rock chairs around Long Lake. A chair is not needed here. I am also happy I carried only a liter of water because there are tons of opportunities to filter.
-One thing I wish I had brought more of: electrolyte candies and drinks. Your body needs a lot more electrolytes at altitude.
Time: 90 minutes up to Long Lake, maybe 60 minutes down.
Distance: 2.5 miles each way
Weather: Typical Sierra showers in the afternoon (very light). 80 degree high, 50 degree low.
Pack weight: Between wife and I, probably 70 pounds.