Rock Creek to Piute

(north to south)

This superb backcountry tour has evolved into a minor classic, sort of a High Route Lite. This tour has a lot of spectacular high country terrain, yet the tour is relatively short, and the shuttle is painless. This tour can be done in either direction; we chose and greatly enjoyed doing it north-to-south. Average elevation is way up at 11000', making the tour ideal for springtime or even late spring (we did it on July 4th weekend during a particularly heavy snow year).

This tour starts on the Rock Creek road, as far up as you can drive. 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, and continue southward along the chain of lakes. We took our first camp at one of the Treasure Lakes.

  Bear Creek Spire
Beneath Bear Creek Spire near Dade Lake
Get an early start for today's big ascent. Get up to Dade Lake and proceed to climb the steep northeast-facing bowl just to the right (north) of Bear Creek Spire. From the pass, enjoy a great ski descent to Lake Italy, wind around over to Italy Pass, and drop eastward down into Granite Park. Camp 2 is in Granite Park at around 11400'. Don't ski lower than that, because Day 3, you go south, back over the Sierra Crest, to the highest of the four Royce Lakes. Ski From lake to lake. At the third Royce Lake from the top, turn to the east. Return to the Sierra Crest and descend to Pine Creek Pass. Ascend to French Lake, and then Steelhead Lake, Camp 3.

The moderately steep Steelhead Pass, about a mile south-southeast of Steelhead Lake, is the next morning's main event. From the top of Steelhead, ski down , then contour southeast, and then descend to the southeastern shore of Desolation Lake. Continue southeast across Humphreys Basin to Piute Pass. Ski and hike from there down to North Lake, and onward to wherever you were able to park (by mid-spring, you should be able to drive to the bottom of the North Lake road at 8950').

An account of our 7/95 Rock Creek to Piute trip

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