Koip & Kuna via Bloody Canyon Mono Pass WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: September 16, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

September 16th & 17th, 2017
Koip Peak (12,962')
Kuna Peak (13,002')
Day 1: 8.4 miles, 3,300'
Day 2: 16.3 miles, 3,700'

This trip came about as an attempt at finding something WTC Experience Trip friendly using a less heavily utilized trailhead without repeating a peak I'd done before.

Koip Peak is on the Sierra Peak Section list while Kuna is the 3rd highest peak in Yosemite behind Lyell and Dana.  Since the peaks are only about 500 ft apart they're easily done together once you get all the way up to 13k.  As an added bonus there's a plane wreck to explore on the saddle between them and some mining ruins at Mono Pass.

Most of the writeups I could find for these peaks went in from Dana Meadows off Tioga Pass.  This is a little shorter but means starting inside Yosemite with all the permit limitations and crowds that going along with that.

Instead we'd be starting from June Lakes.  The trailhead is Bloody Canyon AA03 on the Recreation.gov site and is accessed via a dirt road near the north end of Grant Lake.

"Leave Hwy 395 at the north end of the June Lake Loop, Hwy 158. Just North of Grant Lake, follow dirt road 1S23 along Sawmill Creek to the Trailhead. The trail climbs over ridge to cross the inflow of Walker Lake. The road to Walker Lake is private and does not have parking for hikers."

The permit office reiterated the bit about not heading to Walker Lake.  Apparently they really don't care for people traipsing through.

Permit-wise there are only 5 reservable spots a day but I was able to take advantage of one of the perks that Inyo grants to groups being led through an organization like Sierra Club.  Assuming the trailhead isn't heavily used they let us borrow from the following day giving us a total of 10 permit slots.

And since we were starting and camping in Inyo we could pick up our permit after hours which is always a plus for those of us driving from 6+ hours to the south and hoping to get on the trail at a reasonable time.

As usual we drove out Friday night and once again bivied at the area behind the Sherwin Summit.  It was noticeably colder than last week even at that lower elevation.  Looks like fall is here!

Day 1: Bloody Canyon to Parker Lakes

Since the trailhead was out of June Lake we took the excuse to stop for coffee and breakfast in the morning.

Our car ended up at Trout Town Joe where we enjoyed some amazing breakfast burritos and coffee before joining the others at the trailhead.

The road to the trailhead in unpaved but we could have made it in a passenger car with a little care.  The trailhead itself had some nice camping spots, a bear box, and even a pit toilet.  As near as we could tell everyone else there was a fisherman just there for day use.

The trail hops over a small ridge and then drops steeply to Walker Lake.  This does of course mean you have to finish on a steep hill but hey, that was a worry for Sunday.

The trail heads into some dense forest and then climbs up Bloody Canyon for a few miles to Lower Sardine Lake.

It was a nice solid trail the entire way and climbs at a very reasonable rate

We took a break at Lower Sardine Lake which was quite pleasant outside of a cold breeze that had us hiding back amongst the rocks.  This looked like it would be a nice place to camp if you didn't want to go over the pass though it's still above the no fire line.

Once over Mono Pass we entered into Yosemite National Park.

No overnight camping is allowed here as it's the Dana Fork watershed.  They don't explain why and it's really a shame since the area is spectacular especially down towards Spillway Lake.

It's a gentle climb from there to Parker Pass which took us back out of Yosemite where we could camp.

Parker Pass Lakes initially didn't look very impressive compared to the area since the pass.  There are few trees and the lakes are all small and shallow but we found numerous campsites on the rocks with easy access to water.

The clouds had been looking threatening for the last few hours but so far all we'd had to deal with was the wind and the rapidly dropping temperature.

And this about captures the chilly mood at dinner
As a result happy hour was a little more sedate than usual and people went to bed early to get inside their warm sleeping bags.

Day 2: A Cold Windy 13k And Out

I slept out in my bivy and I woke up a few times throughout the night.  At one point the scattered clouds had turned into a solid layer of low clouds that looked slightly concerning but by morning it had all cleared away and we had clear skies.

Photo by Jason Quan

We also had frost covering our tents and I was very grateful for the lack of wind as I reluctantly climbed out of my bag.  But don't worry, that was coming...

A cold cold breakfast.  Photo by Jason Quan
I rarely find pre dawn wakeups pleasant and they're even less enjoyable when it's so cold you can't sit still without shivering uncontrollably.  One person didn't have sufficient layers and elected to remain in their sleeping bag instead of joining us for the peak.  The rest of us muddled through our morning rituals and got moving.

We were hiking by 6:45 am following the trail southeast down the canyon.  It crosses the drainage leading down down to the east side at Parker Lake and then turns south and steeply climbs the northern ridge of Parker Peak for about a thousand feet.

The climb was a chance to warm up a bit but as we got higher we were exposed to the wind.  I was wearing long johns under my hiking pants and spent most of the time simultaneously shivering and sweating profusely.  By the time we reached the pass I was climbing in my full down jacket at times which is something that almost never happens.

The switchbacks were such a nice steady climb that when the trail turned towards the pass I was briefly tempted to continue up cross country and grab Parker Peak before descending the western slope to Koip Peak Pass.  The fact we had another 1000 ft or so dissuaded me and I told myself we'd climb it from the pass if there was time.

In addition to a nice view of Mono Lake the pass had a small barely legible sign and a quite ineffective rock shelter.

We had one person feeling the altitude a bit but they said they were good to continue and the cold drove us to keep moving.

The slope up to Koip is easy class 2 and there's even a use trail most of the way if you tend a little further to the left than we did.

Sebastian capturing his slog up the mountain

The summit of Koip had no register we could findand more importantly no cover from the wind so we only paused there for a moment before continuing over to Kuna.

The saddle between the two peaks is an easy stroll and has an old airplane wreck.

According to what I found online it was a B-24E which had been en route to Salinas from Tonopah in 1942 when they hit turbulence and went down impacting at 12,800' on the saddle between the two peaks.  All 7 people onboard were killed and there is still significant wreckage scattered around the hillside.

The remains of the propellers were the biggest pieces of wreckage we could see though doubtless there's more down the slope.

After that it was a quick hop up the slope to Kuna.

Views from the top were impressive and we could see several other peaks we've visited over the summer.  Red Slate and Baldwin can be made out to the left of the panorama above along with Rogers and Electra in the foreground to the right of Ritter and Banner.

We made the summit at 11 am and spent about an hour enjoying the relative warmth.  The wind had finally died down leaving us far happier but it did detract from the flag shots.

We left the peak a little after 12 and retraced our steps passing another gentleman on his way up from the pass.  We were back in camp around 2:40 and on our way down by 3:30 pm.

It took us 4.5 hours to get the the trailhead motivated by the fact we *really* wanted some warm food after the last few days.

At one point some of the group followed what they thought was the trail on the other side of the stream below Lower Sardine.  They found it somewhat challenging to get back across once they were down a short distance resulting in a bit of a scramble as we tried to locate them and get everyone back on the right side.

By the time we reached the trailhead it looked like we weren't going to make it to Mountain Rambler in Bishop until after they close their kitchen at 9 pm.  We called ahead hoping to evoke some pity and maybe get them to stay open for just a few minutes more but that was a no go.  They did however let us put in a phone order to go which we did intending to grab a table once we arrived so we could have a well deserved beer or two.

We arrived to find the place packed due to a live music performance and we could barely find a place to stand much less sit down and eat.  This left us only one option...

Because nothing says classy like drinking craft brew out of a dirty gatorade bottle on a sidewalk.

Other than the chilly weather this was a really nice trip and I'd definitely come back here.  Writeups I found online talking about how rough the trail is up Bloody Canyon are exaggerating just a bit and while it is steep in a few places the trail is solid and relativly scenic.

There also didn't seem to be many people at all once we left the trailhead and before we reached Mono Pass at which point we started to run into people hiking in from Dana Meadows.

Camping at Parker Pass Lakes was nicer than I thought it would be based on my initial impressions but if you want to have a slightly easier time you could camp at Upper or Lower Sardine Lake and possibly climb Mount Lewis from Mono Pass.

There are also some mining ruins along the way I would have liked to get a better look at.  No campfires unfortunately even at Lower Sardine but the lakes were pretty and would have made for nice swimming with warmer weather.

Next week it's back to Yosemite as we try for Mount Starr King assuming we can get past the roads closed due to fires from the west, passes closed due to snow from the east, and the fact Glacier Point itself has been closed due to another fire.  It should be interesting!

You Might Also Like