Royce Peak and Merriam to Steelhead Lake: Bear Lakes Loop Day 6

Royce Peak Southwest Slope
Royce Peak Southwest Slope

The previous day’s early cloud build up had us a bit paranoid about today’s weather so we were up and ready to climb Royce Peak first thing in the morning. It wasn’t a big climb – 2 miles, 2000 feet of gain, and routine class 2. We expected it to take a few hours at a regular pace,and to be back at camp mid-day, long before the typical danger time-frame of afternoon storms. This was us being so smart. I’m sure you can tell where this is going.

Leaving camp around 8:30, the clouds were already starting to build over the ¬†surrounding peaks, but they were light and didn’t concern us. If they built at the expected rate we’d have plenty of time to get up and down the peak. Royce Peak was still under clear skies.

We wandered up the southwest facing slope, one big ramp all the way to the summit. Evidence of wildlife was around – we saw some baby grouse hopping around, and also saw a ‘pika pile’. It is a well-known fact that pikas are the cutest animal in the mountains, looking like some adorable mouse/rabbit hybrid. They spend all summer stockpiling green plants to insulate their den and provide food for the long months they spend under the snow in the winter. We came across a pile of greenery in a dry and non-green pile of talus. It could only have been a pika!

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Bear Lakes to Merriam via Feather Pass: Bear Lakes Loop Day 5

Inlet to Bear Paw Lake
Inlet to Bear Paw Lake

This was the day we very reluctantly left Bear Lakes Basin. But, if we wanted to complete our planned itinerary and peaks it meant packing up and continuing onward. Our plan was to depart the Basin via the Sierra High Route (Feather Pass). We would drop into LaSalle Lake and camp somewhere above Merriam Lake. This would put us into a good position to climb Royce Peak either that afternoon or the following morning.

From our campsite on the far side of Big Bear Lake we hiked over to Ursa Lake. Originally, Sooz and I followed Gordon along the northern shore of Ursa Lake, but the terrain got a bit sketchy and we were pretty much walled out. Gordon scrambled up to find a way around, while Sooz and I just turned around and followed the easy south shore of the Lake. In between Ursa and Bearpaw we crossed back to the north side.

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