First morning of hiking up the trail to Mono Pass after leaving the Mosquito Flat trailhead, highest in the Sierras (10,200').

Great views of Little Lakes Valley.

Near Ruby Lake at 11,000'.

Beginning the steep ascent to Mono Pass.

Ruby Lake. Our trip will take us to the other side of those peaks.

The final stretch to 12,000' Mono Pass.

Summit Lake just beyond the pass.

The view opens up to the northwest.

Just before beginning our descent into the Mono Creek valley.

Nearing Mono Creek. We continue to below 10,000' so we can have a campfire.

Continuing down Mono Creek the next morning. After wading across the creek, we hike into the Second Recess and find a comfortable campsite.

Hiking up Mills Creek the following day.

Lower portion of Second Recess, a beautiful narrow valley off the beaten path of the Sierra high country.

Steep cross-country ascent to the hanging valley of upper Mills Creek.

Magnificent view of Mono Divide.

High Sierra at its most scenic.

Lower Mills Creek Lake, where we camp for the night.

Near our campsite.

Looking back down the valley, across Lower Mills Creek Lake, after continuing our climb the next morning.

Upper Mills Creek Lake as we near Gabbot Pass (this is looking northwest, back towards Second Recess).

Approaching Gabbot Pass, elevation 12,240'.

The snow is soft and easy to climb.

Looking south as we reach Gabbot Pass.

Resting on Gabbot Pass.

Jagged ridge to the east.

The view opens up as we begin descending the other side.

Finding our way across broken granite slabs.

Entering the barren basin of Lake Italy.

One of our possible routes to the other side of the lake is to traverse the rocky slope on the left, just above the lake. But we watch two backpackers struggle towards us and then describe a very difficult crossing.

The other route is across the large snowfield just above the lake. Probably a simple crossing once the snow has softened (especially if you carry trekking poles), but the less experienced backpackers in our group opt for a trans-Sierra trip instead.

Hiking along the northern shore of Lake Italy.

Pretty meadow below Lake Italy. We make our way up to Brown Bear Lake to camp for the night.

Beginning our hike down the next morning.

Heading down into the Hilgard Branch of Bear Creek.

Pretty scenery as we find our way down the valley.

A pleasant hike down to the busy John Muir Trail. Fast-packing crowds and thick trail dust soon make us yearn for the grandeur of Second Recess and upper Mills Creek.