It may not feel like it in the midst of the relentless lower elevation heat waves of July and August, but the summer season can seem fleeting, especially so when you head up into the high country above 9-10000'. Often before the calendar has even flipped to September I find myself caught off-guard by ground cover changing color and pockets of gold in the aspen leaves, not quite visible from across a valley necessarily, but undeniable up close and personal.
Regardless of the magnitude of winter awaiting us, the Sierra rarely escapes the months of September and October without a decent shot of snowfall and sub-freezing temperatures (it happened early this year, on the last day of summer no less). The earlier within that time frame it occurs the more likely it is to mostly melt off (it has!), but it never fails to jolt me out of my mellow endless summer reverie and jump-start a bit of autumn manic mode to squeeze in as many more alpine runs as I can before a real winter-like storm shuts down the backcountry to foot travel for good.
In the spirit of that mindset, and knowing that there are probably many of you out there with similar feelings about impending winters and the annual end to the alpine running season, here are a few "last high country run" options, both fittingly accessed from the highest paved trailhead in the Sierra: Mosquito Flats in Rock Creek Canyon at 10200'.
The first option heads approximately 4 miles up the heart of Little Lakes Valley, rolling gently at first past numerous lakes, before climbing several hundred feet above Long Lake to 11150' Morgan Pass. This is one of the more mellow runs you will ever come across at this elevation so easily accessible directly from a trailhead, as most eastside trailheads start with a 2-3000' or more climb directly to a pass.
Here is a link to this downloadable run beta on our website: Morgan Pass.
The second run option to Mono Pass is a bit more of a typical climb to a pass, ascending 1800' in about 3.5 miles, to the barren, rocky moonscape that is the backside of Mt Starr, overlooking Summit Lake. Partway up the pass the trail does a series of south-facing switchbacks overlooking spectacular Ruby Lake and with views of the headwall of the drainage and it's several 13000'+ peaks (Bear Creek Spire, Mt Dade, Mt Abbot, Mt Mills). The short side trip on the way to or from Mono Pass to the shoreline of Ruby Lake is very much worth it.
Here is a link to this downloadable run beta on our website: Mono Pass.
There are countless other options for a final alpine run of the 2017 season. You can't go wrong, as long as you simply get out there!
If you're still not inspired here's a link to the point forecast for the 10500' elevation in Rock Creek Canyon for the upcoming week: weather forecast week of October 23. The weather will be similar wherever you are in the Sierra. Shorts and t-shirt alpine running will be a treat, not a trick, this Halloween week!
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