DAY 4 - Lower Lake Basin to Palisade Lake

Distance: 17.7km (11,0mi)
Hiking time: 11:13hr
Elevation gain: 1,776m (5,826ft)
Total people met: 12 people (only along JMT)

‘The vast majority of these boulders are solid - but all it takes
is one rogue giant to crush a leg. Be careful!' - Steve Roper

Elevation versus Distance graph for the section from Lower Lake Basin to Palisade Lake for the Sierra High Route

The morning started off well, the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining. Today we would encounter our first tricky pass, as Roper described it as one of the three most difficult passes of the whole Sierra High Route, Frozen Lake Pass. We were both excited, but also scared about this adventure ahead of us. The path towards the pass was easy to find. It travels gently upwards along a beautiful meadow with grassy slopes. We were greeted by two deers who were happily eating and didn’t feel bothered by us. Just below Frozen Lake pass we filled up our water bags and had our first snack of the day. We were stocked and ready to tackle this pass.

While enjoying our snickers, we discussed how we should head up the pass. We agreed on a path and were on our way. The ascend was strenuous, involved big talus hopping and smaller rock and scree sections on the way up. It took a long time to reach the top and it was scary at times as it was steep. But this was peanuts compared to what was ahead of us, or shall I say, below us.

Looking down from Frozen lake pass is frightening. You can’t see the full path, as it is so steep. We looked at each other and were thinking ‘OMG’. We tried to keep it rational, took a break and took another look down. A faint zig zag path lead the way down for the first few feet. We moved forward one at a time, me first. With every step you slide down a bit and your heart dropped with it. After the first extremely steep scree field, we made it to the Talus field. At first, this looked like a relief, but it wasn’t. The Talus field is endless, your knees hurt a lot and you are mentally exhausted finding the best route from talus to talus. The year-long snowfield that Roper suggested to slide down for easy descend was of course not present, making the descend even longer. Once we reached the lake, we were relieved for a bit.

However, there was another 300 feet drop involving steep talus… This was very frustrating and annoying. But it was a big accomplishment once we made it through there. Our motivation sky rocketed, we made it through the talus! The next section was flat, what a relief. We moved forward very fast and were super happy, until we reached another sudden drop-off that we could not descend. We did not find the route properly, so we were heading back and finally found a gully that we could descend further to the left, yay! We made it and soon reached the John Muir Trail for the first time! By that time, it was already quite late, but our daily goal was to reach Palisade Lake, which is past the Mather Pass. As the remainder of the section is along the JMT, we decided to go for it.

Just only 5min after walking on the JMT, we met two hikers, we haven’t seen anyone in three days. It was a weird feeling and we chit chatted for a bit before heading to Mather Pass. Our walking speed average went up along the trail, it was so nice to not have to think about where to go next. The made a quick ascend of the Mather pass along the nicely build switchbacks. Once we were on the pass, the weather changed, it slowly began to rain a bit and more and more clouds appeared on the sky. We quickly headed down the pass and as the rain worsened, we decided to find a camping spot along the trail near a water stream. We met quite a few hikers along the trail who decided to camp there as well. As we were setting up our camp, the rain luckily stopped and we had a nice dinner in the dark. We were extremely happy that we accomplished our daily goal. It was definitely a day full of emotions.

Another wonderful day with beautiful weather ahead.
Ready for a busy hiking day.

View into the Lake Basin area. 

Flat sections in the morning are perfect to get your blood flowing.

Snack break discussing the next section.

Lake just below Frozen Lake Pass. The pass can be seen in the center of the image as a little kink. 

Getting some water to be ready to tackle Frozen Lake pass. 

View north from Frozen Lake pass. The next checkpoint is the lake just below. You can kind of see how steep this section is. There is no snow on the pass or below the pass.

View south from Frozen Lake pass. This is how we ascended the pass. 

Lake below Frozen Lake pass. 

View on the north side of Frozen Lake Pass. We descended by the little kind in the center of t
he image along the shadow / sunlight boarder. 

Another view of the north side of Frozen Lake Pass. Here the big Talus is very well seen.

Endless steep Talus on the north side of Frozen Lake Pass. 

Camp just after descending Mather Pass. Fortunately, the rain stopped while we prepared our camp.

Preparing dinner. Low-hanging clouds are visible in the back.