Located to the west of Sixty Lakes Basin, this infrequently-visited area was the focus of another post-Labor Day loop trip starting and ending at Kearsarge Pass.
After spending the night at Charlotte Lake (above), we traversed above the descending trail angling across to meet the old Gardiner Pass route. Charlotte Dome with its Yosemite-like cliffs was a striking landmark below and to the left prior to the final climb up forested slopes to the pass. We enjoyed a superlative panorama especially to the south and then dropped down into a drainage where we saw no one as we climbed up to a small timberline lake campsite (below).
Blessed with perfect early fall weather, the next day was highlighted by a climb of Mt. Cotter (12,721 ft.) prior to crossing over to Sixty Lakes Basin. Wandering downward toward Rae Lakes, at one point we came upon four bighorn sheep posing dramatically on the cliffs above. The campsite for the night was on a bench below Dragon Lake. We closed the loop with a scramble up to Gould Pass with a descent to Kearsarge following a detour to the summit of Mt. Gould (13,005 ft.). Surprisingly, after leaving Charlotte Lake, we had the entire region to ourselves even passing across the popular and scenic Rae Lakes region. Once again, mid-September in the Sierras was good to us.
Star trails above Gardiner Basin
Next: Gardiner Loop Gallery
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