DAY 8 - Little Petes Meadow to Darwin Bench

Distance: 25.0km (15.5mi)
Hiking time: 10:19hr
Elevation gain: 1,910m (6,266ft)
Total people met: 8 (only along JMT)

‘The panorama from Muir Pass is unique, for it is the only spot along the
195 miles of the High Route from which not a single trees or shrub is visible.’ - Steve Roper

Elevation versus Distance graph for the section from Little Petes Meadow to Darwin Bench for the Sierra High Route

The morning was unusual warm, due to the low elevation. All mornings so far were cold and we had to eat our breakfast with all of our layers on. Today was different, there was a warm wind breezing and on top of it the British Army people made a breakfast fire. We were the first ones to leave the camp and we were on our way along the JMT at 7:35am. Today, we were making a lot of miles on the JMT and only for the very last section today, we left the JMT again.

A lot of people passed by us along the trail. This is mainly due to the fact, that the majority of people hiking the JMT go north to south so that they finish at Mt. Whitney. As we were traveling northward, we crossed path with a lot of them. On the agenda today was the legendary Muir Pass that features a stone hut on top of it which was built in 1930. On the way up to the pass, we passed by Big Pete’s Meadow before ascending towards the pass. For the first time, we met some hikers doing the PCT. It was strange talking to all of them, as oddly they all knew each other and were surprised that they were all within a days distance apart from each other, although they all started at very different dates.

We filled up our water bags at Helen Lake, the last lake before the Muir Pass and ascended the final switchbacks leading to the pass. On top of the pass, you have a nice view over the region. For the first time, we had an almost 45min break on top of a pass. We talked to three guys (2 doing the PCT, 1 doing a five day loop hike) and enjoyed the warm sunny weather. I guessed for the first time, we reached a pass that was easily passible, had a trail, was not too step with nice weather. The descend from the pass was long and the sun was burning. We felt very bored by the presence of the trail leading our way. We were stocked to be back off country in the evening and the next couple of days. The trail walking was just not for us at this point. We were walking on trails for the past 3 days.

Everyone that we talked to in the last two days, were super happy that the temperatures were getting warmer again and all of them complained about the super cold night 3 days ago. The one were all of our clothes froze. Most of them were camping further north and complained about strong winds making the night even colder. We felt lucky that we had a spot on that night that did not have any strong winds, otherwise the night would’ve been even worse.

Once we finally reached the end of Evolution lake, we left the JMT to head towards Alpine Col. This is a section that differs from the original routing of the SHR. After the brutal and steep descend of Frozen Lake Pass, we both decided to skip Snow Tongue Pass and opted for the alternative route crossing Alpine Col. We read that Snow Tongue Pass was one of the scariest and steepest passes along the SHR and given the fact, that no year-round snowfields were present so far, we decided to not approach this pass.

From Evolution lake, we had to ascend for about 110m to reach a lake where we decided to camp. This last ascend of the day was super strenuous and we were relieved once we found a good camping spot. The drawback was, it was windy, but to make up for this, the view from our campsite was breathtaking. For the first time, we spent some time sitting in the dark watching the stars rise after dinner. It was amazing and we were stoked about our accomplishments so far and super excited about what was still ahead of us. The SHR is treating us well.

The Stone Monster. This one is along the JMT which is also shared with the PCT. 
Beautiful, warm day refilling our water. 

View back into Lower Petes Meadow.

Helen Lake, the last spot to refill your water before reaching Muir Pass (not shown here).

Inside the Muir hut. 

The Muir hut on Muir Pass.

First pass where we met some people, therefore we could take a proper photo of us :)

Path leading down from Muir Pass. 

Our spot for the night, quite windy but at least we caught the last rays of sun.

Zeno soaking up the sun.

We stayed out after the sun was set and enjoyed the view. 

These mountains, so beautiful. 

View south west past Evolution valley.

Didn't stay up long enough to get a good picture of the stars. 

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