This isn't a very long section. For the southbound traveler, Silver Pass offers a taste of what's to come further south. The trail drops down from Tully Hole to the Fish Creek Crossing (a fine crossroads where lunch is imperative--see picture below.) From here to the crest of Silver Pass, it's all uphill. But one hardly notices the toil, for the landscape is some of the most inspiring on this end of the trek. The trail wraps itself through glades and up switchbacks to Squaw Lake. There is no real camping at Squaw Lake, in spite of the insistence of previous pathetic campsites. Better to go up another level to the higher lakes (see below.) Silver Pass offers a spectacular view of lands traversed as Banner & Ritter now seem like distant spectres on the horizon. Over the top, the trail winds down past Silver Pass Lake, through sub-alpine terrain to a beautiful meadow. Just past the meadow the trail plunges down to the North Fork of Mono Creek. From there it twists along the river, sometimes steeply, to finally arrive at Mono Creek and...if you've got any sense at all, a well-deserved side trip to Vermilion Resort.
Ideally, you've just hung out at Vermilion. If you just got off the ferry, you might even be waddling beneath the weight of a tall stack o' pancakes and several cups of coffee. If that's the case, you'll be glad you stocked up on energy. The climb to Silver Pass isn't pretty. Okay, it IS pretty. It's beautiful. But it's steep. The trail climbs up away from Mono Creek to a crossing at Pocket Meadow and then jags steeply up an exposed face to a gorgeous open space. We cross a creek on the way up the trail here. An early season crossing is rumored to be dangerous. I've never been through here early season, so I don't rightly know. Be careful, in any case. The rest of the ascent to the pass is more forgiving. Once on top, we get a tremendous view of vistas to come. Yes it's our first glimpse of Banner & Ritter. We'll get to know these guys rather well over the next few days. All said, this is the tougher approach of this section. The ascent is longer and steeper than southbound, but the drama when you crest the pass is hard to beat.