Sep 152011

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but I haven’t been doing much climbing this summer. Between major life events and traveling to South Africa for my field season, I’ve been super busy. I don’t really mind the time off, though. It gives me the space to appreciate other activities, like running!

We headed out to Pine Creek Canyon with a bunch of friends for Labor Day. SK is out of commission for climbing right now and had come out planning on going on some running adventures while everyone else was climbing. I got a couple of pitches in, but running in the Sierra sounded much more fun.

Scenery along the Bishop Pass Trail.

During our “warm-up” run on Saturday, which involved ~1800ft of elevation gained (and lost) over 5 miles, we decided to do something less steep for our long run. While I headed out to climb a few pitches in the afternoon, SK went into town and get beta from the local running store. After considering our options, we decided on the Bishop Pass Trail, which would lead us a little over 5 miles from the South Lake Trailhead, past many alpine lakes, to Bishop Pass, where we’d get a great view of the Palisades.

We didn’t exactly get an alpine start, so we ended up starting the run around noon. With the trailhead at 10,000ft the temperatures are great even in the middle of the day, especially since trail initially winds through a forest. We even got an extra “bonus” mile (and ~600ft of elevation gain) since South Lake was so popular that we had to park a mile down the road.

We made it!

The trail almost immediately started heading uphill and I could definitely feel the elevation. We paced ourselves, walking up the steepest sections (especially the stairs, which are not so fun to run up). A couple miles in, I tripped on a root and fell pretty much flat on my face, hitting my knee and elbow pretty hard. Part of me wonders if the elevation factored into my slow response, since I usually catch myself when I trip. I was sore, but I was pretty sure I would just be bruised, so we continued onwards and upwards.

As expected, the scenery was amazing. It being Labor Day weekend, there were plenty of dayhikers and backpackers out on the trail, but they were all really nice, cheering us on as they stepped out of the way. We took breaks every 30 minutes to consume some calories and soak in the views.

The Palisades from Bishop Pass.

Working our way up past the lakes, our eyes were drawn to the steep landscape ahead of us. Where was Bishop Pass and how on earth was this trail going to go up through the steep talus? But impressively, the trail was very well constructed with a nice grade and many (many) switchbacks. The elevation and the sore knee were definitely slowing me down, so I power-hiked up the whole final grade, but I was psyched to be getting close. And then, finally, there we were at practically 12,000ft, the second highest I’ve ever gotten under my own power (the highest was the summit of Clyde Minaret, last Labor Day with SK).

The way back down was really fun – very runnable (but not super fast, since the ground is anything but smooth and flat) and we were just psyched to be out there. We made it back to the car after about 3.5 hours of running (and hiking), not including our rest breaks, after a total of 13 miles and 2700 ft of elevation gain. We took off our shoes, rinsed our feet in the super cold creek by the car (which was great) and headed back down to Bishop to shower.

Looking back down at the way we came.

We were all the way up there!

Definitely a day well spent and I’d totally recommend the trail as a “rest day” run or dayhike if you’re around Bishop in the summer. You’ll be happy to be moving light and fast up there with just a camelbak and some shot bloks as you pass all the backpackers.

Man, my two upcoming half marathons are going to be easy in comparison – less elevation gain and they’re practically at sea level! But they won’t be as alpine and that is certainly a loss.

Anyone else have recommended trail runs near climbing areas in California? We’re thinking about doing the Tuolumne to Yosemite run…

Post-run feet

  8 Responses to “Bishop Pass Trail Run”

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  1. What amazes me the most about the photos in this post is how different it looks than it did when I was there in June! No snow! I’m amazed that you were able to run that trail. I had so much trouble with the altitude that I couldn’t have run if I wanted to. Beautiful, Lizzy!

  2. Yep, this was pretty much perfect weather and conditions, but I can imagine it was probably snowy pretty late into the summer since it’s so high. The elevation was definitely kicking my ass, but that’s how you get stronger! Running at sea level never feels as easy as right after you’ve run above 10k. I’m considering going back to the area to do a longer run next summer. It’s so incredibly gorgeous up there that it’s raised my standards for trail run scenery quite a bit 🙂

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