I made two backpacking treks over Mono Pass in the summer of 2003.
There are two passes named Mono Pass in the eastern Sierra Nevada, typically called the High Sierras.
The first is near Mono Lake and leads into the High Country of Yosemite. The second is the pass we climbed which leads from the upper reaches of Rock Creek over into the John Muir Wilderness and the Mono Creek watershed. The pass is at an elevation of 12,150 approximately.
The first trip was in August with my cousin Will Palmer. We spent two nights at French Camp near Tom's Place and took day hikes, one up into the Little Lakes Glacial Valley and the other in a search for the Hilton Lakes trail, to begin to acclimatize ourselves to the higher elevation.
We set out dawn from the trail head . Resting as needed we made it to Trail Lakes a little after noon. We started down the trail to Mono Creek back country but didn't get very fair before we realized we were exhausted. Will and I set down to rest, have a bite to eat and have a drink.
Will, after having a bite and a drink, he tilted his head back and, before you could say Jiminy Cricket, he was sawing logs. Will had never been to this high of an elevation before.
I got up, looked around a little and found a great camping site. It was far enough away from the trail and entirely shielded from trail view. It was flat enough for our two small tents. It was surrounded by pine trees and rocks. There was the remnants of a fire pit but my altimeter said we were near the tree line and above the elevation at which you could gather and burn wood so we did not.
The site was in an alpine valley with a stream running through it up on the rim of the mountain above Fourth Recess lake. The next day we made the trek, with day packs, down to fourth recess lake. Rather than taking the switchback trail back up we followed the ridge line up the side of the mountain back to the alpine valley. The next day we hiked out.
The second trip was with my brother-in-law Pat Rowley. We did not have as much time on this trip and planned to spend only two nights total. So we drove directly to the trail head. The elevation gain made us both lightheaded as we parked the truck at approximately 10,200 feet. Pat was actually snoring from as we started up Rock Creek road.
As we were short of time we hiked only to Ruby Lake at 11,200 the first day where we set up camp. The next morning we struck camp and over the pass we went. In the early afternoon we reached our destination which was Golden Lake.
Again we were above the legal timber line so we had no fire. We went to bed early and awoke at dawn.
After breakfast we started to the top of Mono Rock which is the mountain peak above fourth recess lake. Much of the way, once you crossed the pass trail, has a beaten path. When you near the peak you must hike up the largest mountain of sand you have ever seen. The advantage is you are not likely to get seriously injured because it is sand. The disadvantage is that it is sand which shifts or slides down once weight is put upon it.
We hiked directly up the flanks of the peak were it seemed to be least steep. From the base the farther you moved to left the steeper the hill became so we used a switchback pattern to ascend the peak through the sand.
Coming back down you could just jump and slide. We attained the peak. I crawled out on a rock suspended over fourth recess lake and took a few digital photos. You could see the Griz Paw on the mountain above the Mono Creek watershed. We made it back to camp slightly before dark. The next day we hiked back over the pass and drove home.