Kearsarge Pass

If I look back at all of the hiking I’ve done in my life, there are a just a few moments that stay on the surface of my memory. Moments where I’ve turned a bend in the trail or come up over a ridge and gained a view of such amazing beauty, I’m forever changed. They are of a time and place that I hope will never leave me. They become a part of me in a way I have trouble explaining. These moments have added an important piece to my view of the world and the beauty it holds. One of these moments occurred on Kearsarge Pass in the Eastern Sierras of California.

Below you will find videos and photos from the 2009 hike, and for more information on the whos, wheres, and whatsits, check out my other site, 100hikes.com.

Video:

Photos:

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Camping at Onion Valley (9,200 ft). The altitude kicked my ass on the first day, but I acclimated faster than expected. (I actually didn't think I'd acclimate much at all.)

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Sisters Sam (left) and Nikki. Now entering the world-famous John Muir Wilderness, hiker's Disneyland!

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A curious Clark's Nutcracker. A moment before this photo was taken, it was using it's long beak to crack open the nearby pine cones to get to the seeds.

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Onion Valley looking southwest. Kearsarge Pass is in the distance, just behind the branches of the tree on the right.

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Gilbert Lake with University Peak (13,632 ft elev.) in the background.

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A good-sized trout in Gilbert Lake. The water was crystal clear.

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We stopped at Gilbert Lake for lunch, a few miles into our hike and a little less than half-way to Kearsarge. (Flower Lake is the half way point between Onion Valley Campgrounds and Kearsarge Pass.)

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A big freakin' rock!

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Huffing it up the trail. We're at about 10,000 feet in elevation now and the pine trees are thinning out and being replaced by bristlecone pines.

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Beautiful foliage.

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Looking down on Flower Lake. It looks small only because I am high above it. The large granite boulder just below the lake in this photo is just as big as the boulder pictured earlier in this post.

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Two backpackers head down into Onion Valley.

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I'm hot, tired, and the altitude is making it very slow going. Some of our party have already turned around with symptoms of altitude sickness. At this point, I'm at about 11,000 feet in elevation.

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Heart Lake. To give you an idea of the size of the lake, I've circled in orange a hiker along the shoreline.

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Big Pothole Lake with a nameless peak in the background. I read that some climbers call it "The Finger of God."

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At Kearsarge Pass (11,760 ft) looking down into the back side of Kings Canyon National Park. Seeing this view for the first time is a moment I'll never forget.

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We headed back down as the sun was setting. This was taken at Gilbert Lake, where we took a brief break. Faster members of our party filtered some water and hid some bottles for us in the brush.

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The last of the sunlight highlighted the jagged profile of University Peak.

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We celebrated our fantastic day of hiking around a cozy campfire. Steak, macaroni & cheese, s'mores, and friends. It doesn't get any better than that.

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