2002 - Piute Pass, The Keyhole

23-26 July 2002


Rich Hart, Steve, and Darlene left Sacramento about 1pm on July 22. Up over Highway 4, which ended up having 3 significant passes, not just one like we are accustomed to on Highway 108. Ate dinner in Lee Vining, then made it to Bishop about 7:30. Picked up our permit from the night box there, as arranged, and headed up the hill to camp. Stayed at the first marked campground (Big Trees?). Small place, but nice, right by a river. Full moon.


Had potatoes and eggs for breakfast, then up to trailhead at North Lake. Started hiking by 9am, and went ‘up de hill.’ A few stops to eat, check the map, etc, but otherwise pretty standard pace. Did meet an interesting person on the way – Dale Johnson, who is Mr. Frostline. He founded the company many moons ago, then eventually sold it to Gillette (the razor folks), who eventually sold it and it is now gone. Seemed like an interesting fellow.

Arrived at our first night’s campsite, up above the lowest Lost Lake on the north east side, at about 4:00 pm. Decided that this was a good spot to take off for The Keyhole from, and the only real camping spot was up in the white barks. Lots of wind, so we needed some windbreaks, and there was nothing much at either of the next two higher lakes. Set up camp, bathe, get water. Hung our food from the short trees to keep it away from the ground critters, which worked fine. Rich was very tired, so he was in bed by 7, and slept the full 12 hours.


Got started hiking by 9am, and went rock picking up toward the Keyhole. In the cirque, we found 3 candidates for the Keyhole, but couldn’t tell which it was. Steve went up to the center one, which was wrong. Darlene and Rich headed up toward the northernmost one, while Steve went toward it across the ridge, and found that this was the correct one. So, from the Lost Lakes basin, the keyhole is the rightmost, or northernmost one visible. It took us 1 hr, 45 mins to get there from our campsite.

It is an interesting place. A small opening covered with a large pile of rocks that looks down westward toward the lake. Sandy, steep chute, and not much view from within. Apparently class 3 cliffs below, but these are not visible from the top. It looks like most of the west side is doable by those with enough incentive, and the Keyhole may not be the best or easiest route. Alpine Col, which is west into the Goethe basin, was quite a bit below us.

We messed around there for a while, then went back over the ridge back to the center one, where there was a better lunch spot. Tossed a few rocks, then headed back. Back to camp in about the same time.

Moved camp down the lake’s outflow to Muriel Lake. Set up camp on the high point of the peninsula at the south east end. Again in the white barks, although the wind was pretty much gone. Steve and Darlene took off to go up into Goethe basin, to see it and the other side of the Alpine Col. Fairly straightforward to get there. They were able to get past the big snow drift which went almost into the water at the south end of the lake. Went along the east side of the lower Goethe lake, which was a mistake – too much bouldering. Went around to the west side of the upper lake, but still didn’t get a good look at the actual col, it was still around a corner. However, the basin was pretty desolate, rocky, snowy, and full of talus and moraines. Might be a good explore some time.

Back to camp, had baths, cooked, and sat around. One other group of 4 women nearby who we really didn’t talk to.


Left camp by 9, and went ‘down de hill.’ Arrived at the trailhead about 1 pm. Steve and Darlene bathed in a stream near the parking lot, then headed down the hill. Stopped at the Ranger station in Bishop, trying to figure out the bear canister situation, but it wasn’t very definitive or productive. Headed home. Here are the driving times:

Leave Bishop2:40 pm
Mammoth exit3:25
Lee Vining3:50
108/395 junction4:40
Sonora Pass5:10
Kennedy Meadows5:25
Arrive Pinecrest6:00
Leave Pinecrest6:15
dinner in Sonora˝ hour
Arrive Elk Grove9:00



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