Pippa's Excellent Adventure

My Story

Hi! My name is Pippa. My mother was a Border Collie and my father was a miniature Australian Shepard, both working ranch dogs. I've got my father's size and my mother's good looks. I love to go on mountaineering trips. Some people believe I'm too small to be a backcountry girl, but I like to think of myself as a big dog in a small package.

War Paint

In August I had a nice five day trip in the Central Sierra out of Lake Edison. We caught the morning ferry to the east end of the lake - I like to stick my head out and let my ears fly. From there we climbed the Mono Pass trail, which I've been on before and is hot, dusty and dry. We left the trail at Second Recess and crossed Mono Creek on a fallen log. The water in the creek was fairly tame compared to how it is sometimes, but my guide made me go first anyway; he thinks I get impatient and push him when I am second. We made camp early at a nice flat spot that had some good swimming in Mills Creek.

The next morning started with a bit of a steep thrash to the upper valley and the Mills Creek lakes. It wasn't so hard for me as I can duck under a lot of the brush. Once in the upper valley, the terrain is open and easy and we made good time. It was my first trip up this way, but my guide thinks it's one of the nicest off-trail stretches in the Sierra.

At the head of the valley there is another steep climb up to Gabott Pass (12,240 ft). The north side of the pass usually has snow in it even late in the season, and it is so refreshing to have a nice wriggle. But in the summer red algae grows on the snow's surface, and that's where I got my war paint.

My guide makes me wear a harness - Ruffwear, size XS. I don't actually carry anything, but it helps him to boost me up, or lower me down, steep terrain. He got an ice rope mill end from Bluewater, and sometimes gives me a belay on steep snow; my kit also includes a DMM mini-swivel and Phantom locking biner. It's all a bit heavy for me, but it's the lightest gear we could find, and my guide insists on all hardware being man-rated, because in the backcountry you never know. And even though my guide sometimes wears crampons, I always insist on leading!


From Gabott Pass we descended to the Lake Italy basin for another early camp, and some more swimming.

The next morning it was a long traversing climb above Teddy and Brown Bear Lakes up to White Bear Pass (11,880 ft). My guide had been over these passes before and knew they wouldn't be a problem for me. And then through the notch to Black Bear Lake, down between Ursa and Big Bear Lakes, and finally to Vee Lake. Along the way I touched noses with another backcountry girl going the other way.

We had a lovely balcony camp at the tip of the Vee, but after two big days I couldn't wait for my guide to get the tent up so I could take a mid-afternoon snooze.

The next morning we descended the Seven Gables Lakes basin to marry up with a trail. There was one spot where the East Fork of Bear Creek spilled through a gorge, and we had to figure out a way around a granite dome to the right that got us to the trail. That should have been the end of it, but it turned out my guide had forgotten about the upper part of the "trail" which was a bit of a thrash. After a few miles and a big swim across a flat and wide section of the creek, we reached the part of the trail that really is a trail. From there it was easy going north along the JMT.


Of course the JMT in August is practically a highway and we started to see a lot of people. Some of them looked so unhappy, like they weren't having any fun at all, but then cheered up after I rolled over on my back and let them rub my belly. We also came across a pack train going south, and I met a distant trail cousin named Reno, who had a fancy collar with an antenna.

When we got to where the Hilgard Branch empties into the main channel of Bear Creek, we crossed to find a nice site in a meadow on the west side. Now my guide had been a bit skimpy on my food, and this was where it ran out, and I had people food for the last day. My guide picked the chicken chunks out of his teriyaki, and the cheese and buffalo sticks were darn tasty, but the yellow clumps people call freeze dried eggs, a starving dog would not touch!

The next morning was a hot walk north on the JMT, and a descent of the 62 switchbacks down to Lake Edison. With a couple hours to kill, there was plenty of swimming and stick chasing until the ferry came. Then it was back to the luxury of the truck, and half a pound of flank steak for dinner. It just doesn't get any better than this!