One of the wonders of the John Muir Trail is that, just when you are sure you have seen the most spectacular scenery possible, you turn the corner and see something even better. Curiously, this occurs if you start from the north or from the south! Hiking the traditional southbound route takes you through landscapes that are increasingly characterized by the panoramic (Evolution Valley), the gigantic (East Vidette), and, of course, the towering (Mount Whitney).
Should you hike northbound you progress into the intimate (Fish Creek/Tully Hole), the painterly (Garnet or Thousand Island Lakes), or the simply magnificent (Yosemite).
Every successful John Muir Trail thru-hiker is asked, “What was your favorite day, your favorite spot?” Ask me that question twenty times and you are apt to get twenty answers.
One spot that certainly makes the list is along the Rae Lakes, with the Painted Lady in the background.
Bolton Coit Brown first named the Peak “The Pyramid” in 1899. Brown was a New Yorker who travelled west to establish the art department in Stanford University. He excelled there, until he scandalized the administration by using nude models. He went on to become an accomplished artist (mostly known for his lithographs) and even had a hand in the creation of the Byrdcliffe artist colony in New York, known better for the name of the nearby town: Woodstock.
“The Painted Lady” first appears on maps in the mid-1950s, after a few decades as the unfortunate “Colored Lady.”
The peak is about 12,125 feet high – plus or minus. Like most Sierra Nevada peaks, you can find different figures at different places. It is a relatively easy peak to bag (mostly described as Class 2), and is less than a mile from and 1,000 feet above the JMT. The best approach is from the south, after approaching from the west.
If roaming that far off trail has no allure, no problem. You can get just as much enjoyment from this exquisite, symmetrical peak by just viewing it from across the lake.
Good hiking, Ray