Trip Report: Mono Pass Backpacking in Yosemite

By: Rachel McCullough

people hiking under grey skies

What: Backpacking
Mono Pass, Yosemite
September 2023 

“Expect to see lots of bighorn sheep carcasses” isn’t quite what one wants to hear embarking on a 4-day backpack trip in Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adam Wilderness.  But that piece of news from the ranger station, along with threatening clouds is how our foray into the wilderness started.

Apparently, the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep do not like big winters as much as powder-seeking skiers. Last winter, the herd got caught up in an avalanche in the steep and rocky high-elevation terrain around Mono Pass and about a third of it perished. And we were likely to see the results of this and the mountain lions' feasts.

What started as a felt-longer-than-it-really-was slog up to our camp at 10,400 ft, with everyone feeling the altitude and their heavy packs, wondering what the clouds were going to do and when these carcasses would appear ended up being 4 joy-filled days in the mountains exploring lakes and even a 12,300-foot peak!

Here’s a photo tour:

Campspot at Upper Sardine Lake, with a view of Mono Lake.
Our campspot at Upper Sardine Lake, with a view of Mono Lake.
person standing next to large snow bank in September
The snow was still taller than I am! Photo credit: Phillip Romano
Views from of Parker Pass Lake.
Views from our day hike to Parker Pass Lake.
The rocky summit of Mt. Lewis at 12,300 ft.
The rocky summit of Mt. Lewis at 12,300 ft.
Views from the Mt. Lewis summit
Views from the Mt. Lewis summit at 12,300 ft (the elevation on the marker is wrong!)
people hiking under cloudy skies
Hoping the clouds don’t open up! Photo credit: Nicolas Smith
Pink snow - snow algae
Pink snow!  Photo credit: Nicolas Smith
bighorn sheep skull
Evidence of bighorn sheep.
abandoned mines and mining cabins.
Lots of abandoned mines and mining cabins.
person setting up a tent on the shore of a lake
Of course the last day had completely blue skies after the clouds threated us most of the trip! Photo credit: Nicolas Smith

Author: Rachel McCullough

Rachel never turns down an adventure, whether it’s a dawn patrol or polar swim (without a wetsuit!). Rain or shine, she’s motivated to get outside. Besides playing in the mountains, you’ll find her at the helm of McCullough Web Services, the company she founded to help clients improve their online presence with impeccably-designed and easy-to-use websites.

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