Rock Creek to Mammoth Tour
- Advanced mountain terrain including several steep passes (up to around 40 degrees)
- 35 miles in 4 days
- Cumulative gain, loss: +8700', -9000'
- Avg. Relief: 500'/mile
- Topos: Mt. Morrison, Mt. Abbot, Mt. Tom (15'); Bloody Mtn., Convict Lk., Mt. Abbot, Mt. Morgan (7.5')
This is yet another fine middle-Sierra backcountry jaunt, with a few steep passes tossed into the brew.
Average elevation is 10400', making it ideal for springtime. This tour can be done in either direction;
we did it south-to-north, and our reward was a long dreamy descent from Duck Pass down to the Mammoth
Area's Lake Mary.
Leave the northern shuttle car where overnight parking is permitted about 1/4 mile north of Tamarack XC
near Lake Mary, and proceed to Rock Creek. Drive as far up the road as you can. Early spring, you may not
be able to get higher than the SnoPark area at 8900' (SnoPark permit required at this particular spot,
916-653-8569). Later season, you may be able to drive 1000' or so higher, almost to the summer trailhead.
From wherever you park, proceed to the summer trailhead at Mosquito Flat. Follow along the west shores of
Mack and Marsh Lakes, to Heart Lake. Then turn west and ascend uphill to Ruby Lake, Camp 1.
Descent of Hopkins Pass; photo by Doug Cochran
The next morning, ascend west, then north, to Mono Pass. Continue northward down to Golden Lake, then
telemark on down westward to south of Mt. Hopkins. Turn northward up Hopkins Creek, and continue on up
to Hopkins Pass. Depending on ice and/or cornice issues, you may want to descend the steep north side
of Hopkins Pass now or on the following morning. A variation that avoids the Hopkins Pass cornices,
in favor of a different pass and different cornices, is to head northward up Pioneer Basin and over
Steelhead Pass, and then around the north side of Mt. Crocker; Moynier now recommends this variation
instead of Hopkins Pass.
Day 3, proceed north, then northwest, from Big McGee Lake, over a pass to Constance Lake, and onward
to Bighorn Lake. From here, part of our group skied and hiked out to Convict Lake; the rest of us stayed
with the route by going west over a steep pass to Franklin Lake, and onward to Camp 3 at Ram Lake.
Bob at Ram Pass; photo by Doug Cochran
The final steep pass of the trip is the one about a mile northwest of Ram Lake, and like the other steep
passes of this trip, it wasn't quite as steep as it looked from afar. Drop from this pass down to Duck Lake,
pop over Duck Pass, and enjoy the long smooth descent northwest down to Lake Mary.
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