Little lakes valley is perhaps one my favourite places in the Eastern Sierras. The first time I visited was to climb Bear Creek Spire. I had Little lakes valley back country permits for June 18-19 2016. We had been to Mt.Tyndall the prior weekend so our plan was just to camp by Ruby lake on the Mono Pass trail and then on the next day climb the Petite Griffon or Mt.Abbot. I had 5 permits and Corinne scored a couple more. AJ, Tomas & Andrius planned on leaving Friday evening. Corinne, Nate, Madhu & I would leave early Saturday morning and meet them in Lone Pine for breakfast at Alabama Hills Cafe.
After our breakfast rendezvous, we collected our permits from the Inter Agency Visitor Center in Lone Pine and headed towards Bishop. The amazing thing about Little lakes valley is that within a mile from a the trail head one is in lovely valley full of alpine lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains. This also means it’s a very popular day hiking destination. We left the crowds behind as we took the Mono Pass trail and were at Ruby lake within an hour or so! We set up our tents overlooking the lake which was still partly frozen. Tomas & Andrius had planned to spend the day relaxing by the lake fishing.
The rest of us decided to hike up to Mills Lake towards Mt.Abbot. The trail skirts the left bank of Ruby lake gaining the plateau leading to Mills Lake. After crossing the stream flowing from Ruby lake we were onto the snow covered slope. We didn’t require crampons but we carried some ice axes with us. It was Madhu’s first time hiking in the snow so we made our way up cautiously avoiding a slid down into the ice cold lake! Once we got up to the plateau we could see Mt.Abbot and Mt.Mills with the Petite Griffon in the middle. Along the way we found a fun boulder to try some moves on. Madhu & I stopped by Mills Lake while Corinne, Nate & AJ went further up the trail to scope it out for the next day. Corinne was really happy being out there, we all were but she expressed it the best!
We headed back down to our campsite for the night. Tomas & Andrius did manage to catch some fish and made ceviche. I had planned to make Veg Jalfrezi and lugged all the ingredients I had prepped at home. Unfortunately it didn’t taste great and I was disappointed. We played Judgement & Badaam 7 (cards) in the tent before calling it a night.
It was a lovely sunrise the next morning. The Ruby cliffs towering above the right bank of the lake had a distinct golden glow. Corinne, AJ & I headed out to climb Petite Griffon. We retraced our steps from the earlier day passing by Mills Lake. Soon we were at the base of the notch going up to the Petit Griffon. From here we could even see Bear Creek Spire into the distance on the left. We weren’t feeling confident going up the steep snow slope so decided to climb Mt.Abbot instead. The route follows a snow slope at the top of which one turns right to gain the ridge via 4th class climbing and then turns left following the ridge to the summit.
As we were getting our crampons on we saw a solo hiker charging up the snow field below. We barely got going when he passed us. Following his steps in the snow we made our way up. I was wearing my old hiking shoes which didn’t fit into the crampons properly and came off a couple times! I finally made it to the top where Corinne and AJ were waiting. The solo hiker was above us trying to find the route. As we were watching him climb, we suddenly heard rock fall to the left of him and quickly realised it was heading our way. All of us were wearing helmets and we ducked for cover. I don’t recall if any of the debris hit us but we were quite shaken. The rocks above looked chossy so heading back down seemed like the safest option. So down we went. It didn’t take us long to reach camp where everyone was waiting for us. After having lunch we packed up and headed back to the trail head. We reached the trail head within the hour. It was another memorable weekend in Little lakes valley. I didn’t know it then, but I would return within a month for a very special occasion!