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Experience Level

Intermediate

Hiking

4-5 miles/day

Elevation

9,700-11,000 feet

Registration Fee

$519

Program Overview: This Yosemite Field School backpacking course takes you into the rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep near Mount Lewis, Mount Gibbs, Mono and Parker Pass. You will camp both nights in a stunningly beautiful spot at Summit Lake just outside of the park near Mono Pass where the ambitious can get an early start to watch the sunrise over Mono Lake.

After setting up our base camp, the group will take excursions to where the sheep lead us. Sometimes there are sheep visible right from camp, other times they are a short hike away and there are occasions where scrambling over scree slopes are necessary to view them. Unfortunately, Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep struggled during the historically deep snowpack of 2022-2023 to find adequate nutrition and escape avalanches in their high alpine terrain. These factors led to high mortality throughout their range which may make it more difficult to spot the sheep than in the past.

John Wehausen, who has been studying these animals for more than 50 years will be teaching the group about Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep along with Sarah Stock, terrestrial wildlife branch lead for Yosemite. John will use radio telemetry devices that he brings along to help locate the collared sheep which can then lead us to the rest of the herd. John knows a lot about these animals and where they like to spend their time which is also very helpful in locating them.

While John and Sarah will have spotting scopes to help you to see the sheep more closely if they are found, it is highly encouraged to bring your own good quality small binoculars on the trip. With your own binoculars, you can be helpful in scanning for sheep and you will be much more likely to spot them – especially if they are moving. As part of the course, your instructors can train you in the best way to use and adjust your binoculars. Consider borrowing some if you don’t have your own.

This will be a small group trip with ample time to relax and learn about the unique adaptations of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, their history, struggles and successes and the ecosystem in which they reside.

Know Before You Go

  • Program dates: Thursday, August 22 evening meeting 6:30pm-8pm. Start hike Friday, August 23 at 8:30am and exit Sunday, August 25 by 4pm.
  • Program location: Take the Mono Pass Trail and set up camp at a lake for two nights
  • What’s included: An evening meeting, and a three day backpack trip with guided instruction by Bighorn Sheep Biologist John Wehausen, Park Wildlife Biologist Sarah Stock, and Yosemite Naturalist, park entry (as needed), Wilderness permit, bear canister rental (as needed), and shared tent camping before and after the trip (camping dates cannot be altered). There is no discount if you choose not to use the included gate pass or campsite.
  • Camping dates: Participants can arrive on August 22 after 12pm and must depart August 23. After the backpack, participants can arrive on August 25 after 12pm and depart, August 26 by 11am. There are three shared campsites among all the participants. We guarantee tent camping only. If you choose to bring a recreational vehicle, we cannot guarantee you will have a parking spot. Please be prepared to tent camp. A picnic table, bear locker and firepit are provided at each site. Campsites fit 6 people per site.
  • Campground Location: White Wolf
  • Experience level: Experience hiking at high elevations is recommended. This is a physically demanding backpack trip traveling at high elevations and sometimes off trail on rocky terrain. Must be physically fit and have good balance to attend.

What’s not included:

  • Gear or meals during your program.
  • Camping gear or meals in the shared campsites.
  • Transportation.

View a suggested packing list including gear rental options.