Day 6 - Cascade Lake to tarns below Stanton Pass (11 miles)
|Sunrise over the 20 Lakes Basin|
Another day, another big cross-country pass. From my advanced reading, the next two passes made me nervous - rugged, high difficulty, and very remote. Today's pass was Sky Pilot Col, a tiny notch in the Shepherd Crest at 11, 650 feet. Once over this pass and back into Yosemite N.P., we are in some of the most remote and least visited backcountry in the Sierra for the duration of the trip.
|Sky Pilot Col (left end of the lower ridge between the two peaks)|
|Steep scree near the top|
|Polemonium eximium or Sky Pilot|
|View south from Sky Pilot Col including North Peak (center), Upper McCabe Lake (right), and Mt. Dana (left far background)|
|View to the north including Matterhorn, Stanton, and Virginia Peaks. We will pass all these mountains in the next 30 hours.|
|Endless talus dancing|
|Looking back toward Sky Pilot Col|
|Heading down into Virginia Canyon aiming for Grey Butte (right of center)|
We've been staring at Grey Butte for a while, and now will make the final ascent to just below it's summit and some small tarns at the base of Stanton Pass. Stanton Pass sits between the two stately peaks of Virginia and Stanton. Crossing the pass early tomorrow will be the last major hurdle of the trip, although Horse Creek Pass will need to be managed later in the day as well.
Walking along the last stretch to the tarns I kick up a White-tailed Ptarmigan, our first seen for the trip (others heard only). It's a striking male who has little use for us humans and quickly scampers away into the rocky terrain. We find a lovely campsite between a couple of tarns with the mountains of the headwaters for Return Creek and Virginia Canyon to gaze upon. It is a fitting last night camping spot. And best of all, we only got a few sprinkles of rain all day, almost but not quite breaking the streak!
|Camp below Stanton Pass (left) and Virginia Peak (center)|
|Sunset from camp|
|White-tailed Ptarmigan (photo from an earlier trip)|
Sky Pilot Col
Canyon below Shepherd Lake
Return Creek to Soldier Lake