Ski Mountaineering

Fourth Recess and Pioneers Basin

Aug 5-7, 2011

Reiner Stenzel



This is a short report of a mid-summer trip to the High Sierra. I had such fine memories of an earlier trip to Pioneers Basin that I decided to return to it. This time I had no rush to climb the Pioneers peaks but wanted to enjoy the beautiful lakes, streams and sceneries.

I left Friday, 8/5, got a wilderness permit in Bishop for the Mono Pass trail out of Rock Creek, where I started at 4pm. The trail offers fine views over Little Lakes Valley where we have often skied. Years ago we also skied over Mono Pass on a Sierra Crest tour from Rock Creek to Mammoth.

There were large snow fields on the top of Mono Pass. Summit Lake was pretty but not an inviting campsite since it is windy and cold on the 12,040' pass. So I continued down to Trail Lake where I found a nice campsite for the first night. It was a clear night with a spectacular display of stars.

On Sat, 8/6, I planned to visit many pretty lakes. The trail descends to the Recesses and I first took a side trip into the Fourth Recess. Fourth Recess Lake is a jewel of green-blue water in a cirque of steep mountains. A large waterfall feeds the lake with cold snowmelt water. Wildflowers grow along the shores and there is wildlife in the surrounding forests.

By midday I headed up into the Pioneers Basin. Nobody was at the first Pioneer Lake, so I decided to claim it for my second night's camp. In the afternoon, I started a loop tour around the Pioneers Basin. One trail ascends in a green valley east of the lakes. The outlet streams from the lakes were running strong with many gushing waterfalls. The only nuisance in this scenic area were swarms of hungry mosquitoes which even defied my jungle juice.

The Basin ends near Mt Crocker where there is a large lake with a fine sandy beach. It was a bit windy for a swim but a great place for a break and picture taking. Then I descended Pioneers Basin on the west side from lake to lake. Some where still surrounded by snow fields from the heavy snow year this season.

Coming back from the hike I did some fishing. But only small rainbows bit and I felt guilty and let them live and grow. At night it got cold and the waterbottle was frozen in the morning.

On Sunday, 8/7, I hiked out from Pioneers Basin via the Mono Pass trail to Mosquito Flats. The entire parking lot was filled with cars and many people enjoyed day hiking in Little Lakes Valley in mid-summer. But what a difference a day makes, in the morning freezing temps, in the afternoon 100 degs in the Mojave desert, in the evening coastal fog at home. Such a trip is a great change of the work routine.








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