I want to start this by saying that I have caught Golden Trout before but they were always little dinks, 8-10 inches at most. It has been a goal of mine for years to make it to those high country lakes that hold the big guys. Most of the time you have to be there just as the ice begins to melt off the lake or late in the season when the big guys come up form the deep to feed before winter. I have tried many times but never seem to hit it right, until now.
We had a really ambitious plan that would have us in the backcountry for ten days. Many people said they would come out and join us but no one could get the time off work or just found work, finally. Either way my buddy and I had this planned and were going regardless. Being the bartender that I am we didn't exactly get an alpine start. We hit the trail around 10ish and were on our way.
About four miles in the clouds began to build. according to the weather we had a 20% chance of showers Sat-Sun and then clearing was to begin on Monday.
We got pounded by rain at Piute Lake and luckily set the tent up just in time. We were stuck in the tent for about three hours.
By the time it stopped raining it was too late to continue on to our original destination so we stayed the night and hit the pass early the next morning. By 10am it was already spitting and getting dark.
Mt. Humphrey's shrouded by clouds.
We continued on through the rain and topped at Desolation Lake for lunch during a brief clearing.
After lunch we headed towards our destination.
The cross country travel and steep col keeps most people out of this area.
Aim for the high point and go left. I went to the wrong highpoint and ended up above the wrong basin. Pretty though.
After about a half an hour we got back on course and we above our destination.
What we had to come down with heavy packs.
We set up camp and then tried our luck during the evening bite.
We kept missing the fish as they didn't strike like normal backcountry fish. They would come up fast and then seem to sniff the fly before getting it in their mouth. Many times we pulled to set the hook and missed. After about a half dozen misses we slowed everything down and waited until the fly was in the fishes mouth, then rip lip. My buddy was the first to hook.
and it was a beauty.
With the sun setting quick we headed back to camp with hopes to catch our fill the next day.
The next morning we woke up and hit the lake early. The winds were picking up but that actually gave us an advantage because the fish couldn't see the line.
We got into some nice fish real quick. We were fishing 10 feet off the shore anywhere that there were rocks. I was using a yellow stimulator and my buddy was using yellow hoppers. We killed it.
After lunch we went for a little hike to some of the other lakes to see what the fishing was like.
We caught a lot of fish but they were the normal Goldens that you usually find in the high country lakes.
We decided to go back for quality over quantity.
The next morning was still and the fish weren't biting.
We decided to pack up and head off.
Trail crew atop Pine Creek Pass.
After lunch we headed off trail and up into the Royce Basin.
We set up camp and did a little fishing and exploring around the basin. The fishing was good but nothing like the day before. These lakes are really deep and the big guys go deep and stay there until just before the lakes freeze over. We did catch a few little guys though.
We headed back to camp made some food and layered up because the sun goes behind the mountains early up there.
That night we got crushed by a thunderstorm. It was pretty gnarly laying on decomposed granite, next to a boulder, at 11,600 feet during an electrical storm. If I would have crawled out of my bag I am sure that the hair on my arms would be standing up. If the graupel wasn't pounding the tent I am sure you would have heard the tent poles humming. The storm lasted what seemed like forever and the flashing lightning was immediately followed by deafening thunder that echoed for at least ten seconds. We woke up early and got out of the tents to see the surrounding mountains covered in white.
There were lots of low level clouds sneaking up the valley but it seemed like the storm cleared and we were set to go for some peak bagging.
After a very hearty breakfast we headed over to the Royce/Merriam saddle and began to go up.
The North Buttress has some amazing climbs on it set up by Bishop locals and climbing legend, Peter Croft and Lisa Rands
I would love to make an attempt at some of the 5.9's but do not have enough experience or the gear to go at it alone.
Heading up to the saddle. It was nice to get off the talus and onto the snow.
The views at the saddle open up and you get a great view towards Gemini and Seven Gables. This was to be our destination the following day.
We decided to climb Merriam Peak , 13,103, first. Just below the summit ridge.
We gained the summit ridge and made our way out to the high point. Nice views.
Royce Peak, 13,253 from the summit of Merriam was up next.
Looking down the Pine Creek to the valley floor about 9000 feet down
We got back down to the saddle and my buddy decided to go fishing and not bag Royce. I was off on my own up the rubble heap.
I hauled ass to the summit and made it an half an hour. Once I gained the summit I could see the weather beginning to turn. I took a few summit shots and then ran back down to camp.
Merriam Peak from the summit of Royce.
When I got back the saddle you could see the storm rolling in and hear thunder off in the distance.
It poured from the saddle back to camp and I was soaked. The worse part was the graupel slamming you. I got back to the tent just as the heavy stuff was coming in. We were forced in our tents for another few hours while another wicked thunder and lightning storm passed over head.
A few hours later the storm passed but left low clouds hanging around the basin.
With a small break in the weather we decided to change plans and head to a lower elevation.
Two hours later we got to Honeymoon lake at 10,500ish feet.
The next morning we dried all of our gear out and decided we had enough with the rain. We packed up and headed down Pine Creek Canyon.
It's a long way down to the valley floor from here.
Finally at the bottom and into some nice greenery.
We ended up cutting our trip short by four days but I am fine that. We will go back into the bear lakes drainage and hit up Seven Gables another time with much lighter packs.