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 It's no longer maintained but old cut logs provide a good hint when the trail fades away.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.
Cartridge Pass is the low point next to the snow patches. At this point I'm not sure if snow is blocking the pass or not. We'll head up the green-ish area in the rocks.
Looking back on the Big Lake. Amazing!
Climbing towards the pass we get a better view back - Arrow Peak on the right.
There is still an old trail through here but it's just as easy to make your own path.
As we get higher we spy another couple lakes in this basin.
Bench Lake (left edge middle) is now visible on the other side of the Canyon (which drops out of sight).
Cartridge Pass is up there, just to the right of the point and snow patch but out of sight.
Sooz topping out at the highest lake.
You can see the old trail cutting through the rock towards the pass. I thought it would be more cross-country, turns out that there really isn't any. We haven't seen anyone other than ourselves since we left the main JMT. This is great!
Up at the Pass, Arrow Peak still dominates the view to the south.
Crazy patterns in the snow along the pass
Snow reminds me of the Hoodoos or erosion at places like Bryce and Death Valley.
Sun cups. Wheee. Luckily we didn't have to walk across this stuff.
View into Lake Basin from the pass. Check out Sooz and David on the right.
Unfortunately after some careful consideration we decided that it was too unsafe to continue down the north side of the pass. The snow would be hardening, we couldn't see the entire route down - the steepest part wasn't visible and if there was snow there we would definitely be in trouble. It was a difficult decision but erring on the side of caution we turned back.
It's gorgeous down there - I will have to come back.
Looking back - we decide to head back down to the big lake and camp there. Not a bad consolation prize. Check out Bench Lake in the distance. So close as the crow flies, yet we had to go down into the canyon and it took us all day to get here from there.
We found a campsite up and away from the marshy stuff in a futile attempt to minimize mosquitoes. This was the view from camp. Not another human in miles. Perfect.
Tip of Arrow Peak with sunset glow.
Gorgeous moonrise and sunset.
We watched the fish jump. I had already had dinner so I didn't fish but I wanted to do it in the morning.