Today's route takes us from Bench Lake, across the South fork of the Kings River along the JMT, and then up to Cartridge Pass along the old, unmaintained in 80+ years original JMT.
Bench Lake in the morning
Arrow Peak and Bench Lake
Arrow Peak and Bench Lake. Beautiful Place! I'm glad I finally got here.
The view up Upper Basin as we hike out from Bench Lake.
And the view of Cardinal Peak and Taboose Pass (the way we came in). We'll fork to the left and head down to the Kings River.
Stream crossing at the Bench Lake/JMT Junction
Crossing the South Fork on the JMT
Sooz at the deepest point of the crossing. No problem. Just cold!
Just pass the crossing we turn off along the JMT's old route. For a while it is an easy to follow trail, though obviously not as worn down as the current JMT. It's no longer maintained but old cut logs provide a good hint when the trail fades away.
The trail is pretty clear until reaching the three rock slides. This is first one.
Hopping through one of the slides.
A beautiful break spot. Bench Lake is above us up that wall on the other side of the river.
A great place for a foot soak and head dunk.
Arrow Peak from our break spot. It was so nice, I was tempted to just drop my pack and stop here.
Sooz coming through one of the slides.
Eventually we leave the south fork and start switchbacking up towards Cartridge Pass. The trail was a bit hard to find but once we got on a switchback it was pretty easy to follow. Back when this was 'built' the trail engineering was a bit different - it was really steep and washouts occasionally obscured the path. Still, it was trail and it got s where we needed to go.
After climbing steeply for a while we popped out on a rocky flat area that had some great views - here I'm looking back towards Arrow Peak, across the South Fork canyon.
And we finally reach the big lake below Cartridge Pass. Gorgeous! But buggy. We stopped here for a long foot soak in the crystal clear water before pushing on to Cartridge Pass. We wanted to get into Lake Basin for camp this night.
We had this whole basin all to ourselves. This is why it's great to get off the beaten path.