Day 5: Cross-country to Honeymoon Lake via Royce Pass

We get an early start for what should be a spectacular day of hiking.

We drop four hundred feet to the trail intersection in upper French Canyon (and are fortunate to run into a backpacker who snaps this photo).

Great views as we climb above treeline.

On the 11,000-foot plateau just below Pine Creek Pass.

Last stretch to Pine Creek Pass.

We stop to study the cross-country route to our west.

Soon we're looking down on Pine Creek Pass with rugged mountains to the north.

Continuing up an easy slope.

Stopping to enjoy the view across French Canyon to our south.

Some of the more enjoyable off-trail hiking we've done.

Studying the topo to make sure we avoid the steeper slopes.

We traverse across the rocky hillside with Merriam and Royce Peaks looming above us.

Taking a break to enjoy the incredible views.

Climbing one of the steeper slopes.

By late morning, we're on the plateau just east of the southernmost lake (Lake 11656). Glacier Divide is visible in the distance (looking south).

Mike looks down towards the lowest of the Royce Lakes.

Approaching one of the five Royce Lakes, Lake 11656, with Royce Peak in the background.

A good view of the permanent snow and ice fields along the Glacier Divide.

Easy trail finding alongside the three lakes we pass on the way to Royce Pass.

Great view of 13,100-foot Merriam Peak.

We take a snack break at Lake 11725, which is just below Royce Pass.

It starts raining so we head towards the biggest obstacle of the day: a field of talus on a steep slope dropping into the lake.

Zoomed-in view doesn't reveal any good path through the large boulders, and we struggle for about a hundred feet to get through it. Steve and I take the low route and Mike takes a higher route, but both are difficult with full backpacks.

Through the talus and on the pass. It didn't require any real climbing, but it was much more difficult than the guidebooks suggested (though well worth it for the fantastic views).

Gentle slope leads to Honeymoon Lake. Upper Pine Lake is a little further down.

Finding our way down a gully.

Granite slabs give way to grassy slopes.

Nearing Honeymoon Lake. Campsites are on the southwest and southeast side of the lake.

Eating dinner at 10,400 feet.

Serene evening with scattered clouds and a few sprinkles.

Beautiful mountain lake setting just a few hours hike above the Pine Creek trailhead.