The Tehipite Loop is a route I came up with, that links together a lot of sites I have wanted to see in the central Sierra. Somehow I convinced Matt and Ari to come along with me in July 2022. The rough idea is Piute Pass to Hell For Sure Pass, hop on the TST through Tehipite Valley, and then follow the Middle Fork of the Kings. From there, buswhack up Goddard Creek to the Ionian Basin. After that take Wanda Lake and Haeckel Pass, back down to Lake Sabrina. It was a beautiful but rugged route. We were hiking all summer, but the Tehipite loop wore us down physically and filled our sould spiritually in a way that none of the other hikes did. No one particular segment was too challenging, but I think a combination of different elements made this an adventure I will never forget.
The trip started out quite peacefully. We gorged ourselves in Bishop, before hiking over Piute Pass, and found a peaceful camp spot by the river on the westside. We followed the trail to the JMT/PCT, headed south for a few miles and took Hell For Sure Pass. Other then the mosquitos, Hell For Sure is actually a very pleasant pass with beautiful views.
We swam in Devil’s Bathtub and then made our way down to the North Fork of the Kings where we found another peaceful campsot. The next day we followed the Theodore Solomons Trail South, and the anticipation grew as we neared Tehipite Valley.
Finally, we were treated to our first views of Tehipite Valley and the views did not dissapoint. Tehipite Valley is a magical place that gets very few visitors. I immediately made plans in my head to return someday.
The descent into Tehipite Valley was quite bushy and overgrown, which only added to the remote feel of the place. After bathing in some waterfalls and viewing some petroglyphs we camped the night there and set our alarms for an early start to the next day to try to beat the heat.
We marveled at how magical, expansive and remote Tehipite Valley was. I have been to many places in the Sierra, but none felt as isolated as this. We saw one other party the whole time in the valley. The trail out of Tehipite Valley was overgrown and a bit slower then expected. Tehipite Valley is down at 4,000 feet, and the next stretch of our journey took us all the way up to 13,000 feet on Mt. Scylla. We slowly made progress climbing up the Middle Fork of the Kings.
The next big obstacle was the matter of crossing the Middle Fork of the Kings. Technically we did not have to do this, since we were staying on the north side of the creek, but we did anyways for some reason. I really struggled here, as I do not have as much river crossing experience as Matt and Ari.
We crossed the river again, and began the bushwhack up Goddard Creek. This four mile stretch from the Middle Fork to the junction with the Enchanted Gorge, is one of the more revered bushwhacks in the range. We had been mentally preparing for it all summer. We came in fearing the worst, and it was easier then we expected. Skurka gave good beta on how to avoid some of the bushwhacking, but then there were other times when we just had to plow through.
We camped that night at the confluence with the Enchanted Gorge, glad to have the worst of the bushwhacking behind us. Again, we marveled at the remoteness and stark beauty of our location. I felt alive in a way that I didn’t on a more predictable on trail hike. We didn’t know where we were going to camp each night, or if we would make it at all. River crossings, bushwhacking, route-finding, all these things kept us very present and fully immersed in the hike. That next day, we headed up Upper Goddard Creek, and while the bush was not as bad, there were a few hairy sections with loose rocks. Eventually, we reached the beautiful Ionian Basin. Back in the High Sierra, Tehipite Valley downstream felt a world away.
In the Ionian Basin, we were exhausted and running out of food, but we all agreed to climb Scylla anyways. I’m glad we did, the views were incredible: we gazed down into the Middle Fork of the Kings and marveled at how far we had come. The Ionian Basin is a very special place that feels unlike a lot of the rest of the range. Crystal clear lakes are protected by miles of boulder hopping required to get into this area. While the JMT/PCT is just over the hill, most people will never venture out here.
We said goodbye to the Ionian Basin and walked over to Wanda Lakes, where we camped for our last night on the trip.
The final day we climbed over Haeckel Col, and then descended down to Lake Sabrina. The hike left us exhausted, but satisfied. Our desires for a wild adventure had been fulfilled. We bathed in the mighty Middle Fork of the Kings and the high alpine lakes that feed it. We felt the heat of the low Sierra and breathed the thin air of the high Sierra. We started in the sagebrush on the east and we saw the big trees and lush vegetation on the west. We slept in the low Tehipite Valley, and then later in the high reahes of its watershed we summitted Mt. Scylla. The water I drank, the cuts in my leg, the sites I saw, this hike will always be a part of me. I will forever carry a deep appreciation for the whole range after this trip. Sierra dreams!