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After a decent breakfast on a clear, cool morning, we were off again. It wasn't long until the pass came into view, along with an interesting geology lesson. The area of Bloody Canyon is probably not named after the mosquitoes but for the red metamorphic rock that tints the area (with a bit of dark grey and gold). This area is clearly not granite! Yet, looming behind Mono Pass stood the Kuna Crest, appearing bright white in contrast to the rusty foreground. The granite more typical of my Sierra jaunts awaited us! We reached the pass, thereby entering Yosemite NP: the classic cutout-metal sign announcing the pass was a clear indication we were there. We turned south and approached the mining cabins (a group of day-hikers was ahead of us, our first sight of humanity since highway 395), but then I realized that the Parker Pass trail shouldn't go that way. We struck off in search of the correct trail and found it rather quickly. Along the way I was startled by a large furry body with a rabbit's ears attached - easily the biggest jackrabbit I had ever seen! It bounded toward Larry so I shouted: "Larry! Jackrabbit!" He later told me that he also would not have expected something that big to be a rabbit, and that Scott suspected it to be a coyote (he was too far away to see the giveaway ears or cottontail). After less than a mile we were off the path again, heading for the stream that connected Spillway and Helen lakes. We reached the swiftly-flowing stream and headed uphill to Helen Lake, where our paper guide suggested a path to the right of the lake. We skirted the south side of the lake before veering right to the base of the final climb, when Larry (further to our right) suggested his path had minimal appeal. Scott and I went a bit left, meandered gently over large and rickety talus, and gratefully reached the top of the Kuna Crest. Somewhere in here Larry decided that we resembled (in spelling at least) a magical charm that wards off evil - and we christened ourselves as the Talus-Men. Apparently we did ward off sufficient evil, since we completed the trip with only minor damage. We were nearly 12000 feet up at this pass and at the highest point of our trip, though we didn't know it then. Despite his route Larry reached the top just ahead of us, and we sat back and savored the hard-earned view.

Lower Sardine Lake - Camp One was in the trees at right

And what a tremendous view! Our climb had revealed the Sierra crest behind us, including Mt. Dana and part of the Yosemite road through Dana Meadows, but the million-dollar view was now to our southwest. Mts. Lyell and Maclure proudly showed off their high-quality glaciers and led a parade of peaks that lowered only slightly before rising again as the Cathedral Range. In that low gap was a granite dome that looked suspiciously like the highest part of Half Dome! Further left of Lyell, through a low gap east of Donohue Peak, we had our first glimpse of the Banner/Ritter massif which so dominates the area south of Donohue Pass along the Muir Trail. We'd be seeing it up close soon enough, but this day belonged to Lyell and Maclure. After dropping and contouring south we began seeking a camp with decent water. We found an excellent spot with a dying stream (decent water but little flow), dropped our packs and looked over the next ridge for better water. Since the next basin showed little water and more exposure, we returned to our packs and sought a good camp. We had several excellent choices, and settled on a spot somewhat elevated and surrounded by monstrous granite blocks. Clouds now drifted overhead, but two claps of distant thunder was all the trouble they could muster. We cleaned up and ate, still marveling at the views, and then were treated to a fantastic sunset. Larry and I scrambled over rocks in search of yet another angle as the clouds turned to gold, then a cool rose as alpenglow settled over the snowy peaks. This was a memorable day - and it was only day two!

Scott and Larry preparing to march from Kuna Crest pass - Banner/Ritter left, Lyell/Maclure right

Wide View from the Kuna Crest

pre-hike - day One - Two - Three - Four - Five - Six - Seven - Summary

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