Saturday morning, we started up the Mono Pass Trail from Hwy 120 and quickly met a Yosemite Ranger led nature hiking group discussing the landscape since the Ice Age. After a brief stop, we continued on, passing the remains of an old log cabin, and soon reached a junction with the Spillway Lake trail. The posted trail sign here states incorrectly that it is 3.4 miles from Hwy 120 (this junction is actually a little over 2 miles in). We continued on the steadily climbing trail, eventually reaching the open meadows just west of Mono Pass. The Parker Pass trail junction is easy to miss here, but if you look to the south the trail is easily spotted on the far side of the meadows. The previous trail sign should be posted here since this junction is 3.4 miles from Hwy 120. Here and throughout the trip, Chris MacIntosh did a great job pointing out and identifying the wildflowers that were abundant everywhere. We crossed the meadow, picked up the trail and continued on to Parker Pass, about 5.5 miles in. From the broad expanse of Parker Pass the trail drops slightly into the Ansel Adams Wilderness and passes numerous creeks, waterfalls and tarns to the base of Parker Peak. We stopped here to have lunch, taking in the view of Mono Lake through Parker Creek Canyon and looking at our next obstacle a 1400 foot climb to Koip Peak Pass via Parker Peaks steep North ridge. Suffering from the altitude, Steven decided to stay and wait while the rest of us continued on. As we climbed, the views towards Mono Lake and into Parker Creek Canyon improved while the weather grew more threatening with billowing clouds. Fortunately the trail was remarkably stable and in good condition and thunderstorms never developed. Once the switchbacks ended, the trail turns southwest and makes a final steady ascent to the pass. Note that this section passes above broken cliffs and can be dangerous if covered in snow. Fortunately for us, no snow was present and we eventually reached Koip Peak Pass, turned west and began the final climb over stable scree slopes to the summit of Koip Peak. The one-way trip total was around 9 miles and 3300 feet net elevation gain from the trailhead. Debbie felt the hardest part of the climb was the steep switchbacks up to Koip Pass, "It's bleep-bleep (unpublishable)!!" The rest of us agreed.
The views from the top were great, extending from Tower Peak in the northwest to the Silver Divide in the southeast. This was everyones first ascent of Koip Peak and for Song it was his first ever Sierra peak! We briefly celebrated our accomplishment, not lingering too long before heading back down. We intended to continue on to Kuna Peak but our late arrival precluded that. Kuna Peak is class 2 from Koip Peak, but does require some route finding over broken terrain. We kept in contact with Steven throughout the climb using a pair of Motorola Talkabout 200 radios that worked quite well. We met him near Parker Pass and made it back to the trailhead just after sunset.
On Sunday, with the official PCS trip completed, Leo headed home while the rest of us decided to hike up to May Lake and possibly climb Mt Hoffman - after a long climb up Koip Peak the day before, we intended to make Sunday far more relaxed. We arrived at May Lake via the 1.2-mile trail from Old Tioga Road, where Debbie, Chris M. and Song spent a relaxing time at May Lake enjoying the scenery, reading and identifying woodpeckers, nuthatches, and jays. Wolfgang, Steve, Steven and myself decided to continue and hike up Mt Hoffmann using the popular use trail. We made it to the summit in 1.5 hours and enjoyed the all round views of the Yosemite landscape from its centrally located position in the park. Wolfgang and I took a detour from the summit to explore Mt Hoffman's central (easy class 3) and eastern summit blocks before heading back and meeting everyone at the lake. We hiked back to the vehicles together and had an enjoyable post climb meal at La Cascada Mexican Restaurant in Oakdale before heading home (note that Ferrareses in Oakdale now closes at 4 PM on Sundays).
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