Our goal for the day was to traverse over Donohue Pass into Yosemite Wilderness, stopping short of Kuna Creek and the camping prohibition zone.
The Quick and Dirty:
Location: Ruby Lake to Lyell Canyon (over Donohue Pass)
Distance: 11-12 miles
Around 3 AM, I woke up laying in a pool of water inside my tent at Ruby Lake. My water filter bag leaked all over my Hexamid Twin floor, soaking through parts of my sleeping pad, my hiking clothes, and my Nano Puff. I got up, cleaned up the mess, and placed all my clothes out to dry. Thankfully, my sleeping pad dried quickly, allowing me to get a little more rest before dawn.
I got up the next morning around 6 AM packed up and started breakfast. Still waiting for my companions, I decided to wait until about 7:30 AM before I back tracked to look them. Around 7 AM A and E came over the top of the crest and descended into Ruby Lake. We had a brief conversation about what happened. They camped about 10 minutes from Ruby Lake and stop for the night because they were tired.
They filtered some water to cook breakfast while I waited for my gear and clothes to dry off. We started hiking on towards Thousand Island lake around 8 AM, passing a couple south to north-bound JMT hikers. A few miles up from Ruby was Emerald Lake with a few nice camp grounds. It looked like a nice camp, with a couple tents set up from the night before.
A few miles up was the beautiful Thousand Island Lake, the campground was huge but looked very busy. It looked like several groups were already at Thousand Island, along with a couple other groups that camped close by. I discussed the next stopping point with A & E, and headed up the switch backs up past Thousand Island Lake towards Island Pass. The weather was warming up and the sun was starting to beat on the trail. I made an effort to stop every 10 minutes or so to snap a couple photos. Thousand Island is massive and each step offered a different view of the lake.
I hiked through Island Pass and got to Marie Lakes (?) junction around 10:30-10:45 AM. I stopped to relax my feet and eat lunch. After 30 minutes or so, realizing A & E were far behind, I found a shaded spot and took a long nap. A came around the corner around 11:45 AM and shortly after E swung around the corner. They took a short break to cool off, topped off their water bottles, and we started the hike towards Donohue Pass.
The hike towards the pass was a gradual climb. The landscape opened up from tree lined trails to open grass and rock. Donohue itself was rock steps the whole way to the top of the pass. A tough, long climb approximately 1000 feet per mile. From the base to the top of the sign posts took me just shy of 45 minutes. I snapped some photos at the top and talked to several really cool hikers and a group of friends out on a fishing trip. We joked around and shared stories before they departed. I waited about an hour for A to crest over the top, about 20 minutes later E showed up. The views up top of Donohue pass were spectacular.
Knowing that E was at the tail end of tired, A and I discussed potentially stopping at one of the two lower lakes just by Muir Crest. A couple of hikers mentioned that it is one of the better camp sites, but knowing the mileage we needed to cover the next day, we decided to soldier on.
We hiked down from Donohue, taking note how much more difficult the climb is heading south bound, and crossed the Lyell Canyon Creek bridge around 5-6PM. A couple hikers we passed mentioned that there are no camp sites available by the bridge. We continued a couple miles north just before Kuna Creek. I pitched my tent, jumped into the creek to take a quick bath and washed some of my hiking clothes. After a long day of hiking, the ice cold bath was well worth it.