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TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

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TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:19 am

Trip Report
Classic 4 day base camp to Ediza Lake
July 21-24


Purpose of the trip:
To introduce a friend to backpacking. He is fit and had done some hiking before but had never backpacked nor seen the high Sierra. I chose Ediza Lake as a relatively easy and spectacular destination for a beginner–and also one that would not feel too isolated for a person who has not experienced true solitude before.

Pre hike and approach:
We drove from the Bay Area across Yosemite and overnighted in Mammoth to help get the acclimatization started. Schat’s Bakery opens at 6, which permitted us to grab a breakfast pastry and drive into Devil’s Postpile before the gate closes to passenger traffic at 7am. On previous trips I parked at the ski resort and took the shuttle when it starts at 7:30 am, but this trip we wanted to park at Agnew Meadows trailhead. When you pass the gate early as we did you pay the $10 fee on the way out.

Day 1
Agnew Meadows Trailhead is at 8400', one of the highest trailheads in the eastern Sierra, making it an ideal starting point for people wishing to minimize their elevation gain. There is a horsepacker station there too, and a campground–although the campground is still closed after a serious windstorm blew down many trees in the area.

There were half a dozen groups that drove in to the trailhead before 7am, making the start something of a communal activity. It took a little sleuthing to find the trail since there is more than one parking lot, but we were soon on our way.

The meadows themselves were blanketed with mist as we started. The trail works its way briefly on the level through meadow, piles of deadfall, and forest until it gets to the east side of the canyon of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin. It gradually descends the sunny manzanita clad canyon wall and passes little Olaine Lake on its way to a bridge over the river. From the west side of the bridge the trail takes a long switchback up the sunny canyon wall and then follows Shadow Creek, cascading with falls, up to the outlet of Shadow lake.

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Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake is a pretty, forested lake perched at the top of the canyon rim, and has been so popular that it is now off limits for camping. It is at 8750 and only 3.5 miles in, but since you lose some elevation coming down into the canyon from Agnew Meadows it represents a bit more of a climb than it might seem.

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Shadow Creek

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Along Shadow Creek

From Shadow Lake, our trail continued upstream along Shadow Creek, which I believe is one of the most picturesque mountain streams anywhere. It slides through granite pools, cascades over falls, and snakes through green meadows and forests. As we paralleled Shadow Creek, we briefly joined the JMT where it comes in just upstream from Shadow Lake and left it behind when it departed at an intersection bound for Garnet and the north.

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Bridge below Ediza

Just below Ediza the trail crosses a leveled log that serves as a bridge. It was a little intimidating for a beginner, but we wound up crossing it repeatedly over the next few days with greater confidence each time. Then, after a switchback and a trail blasted though granite, the trail comes to Ediza at 9300 feet and 7 miles in.

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Ediza

Camping at Ediza on its east side (the side with the official trail) is prohibited, although we met violators while we were there. When the trail gets to the grassy SE corner of the lake it comes to an intersection, with the official trail continuing on to Iceberg Lake and a very good use trail going across the southern shore towards the inlet streams. There is a colony of fat marmots near the intersection.

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Camping at the upper meadow

On the advice of helpful members of this board--especially Mav and SSSDAve, we started across the southern shore and looked for use trails that led upstream to find a campsite. There are many excellent sites within a couple of hundred feet of elevation from Ediza to the south and southwest, many with penthouse views of the lake and proximity to the inlet streams and the meadows that feed them. We settled in to such a site by 1pm and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon exploring our nearby meadow and viewpoints. The clouds threatened but did not rain, but the breeze kept the few mosquitoes at bay. It made for a colorful sunset and sunrise the next morning.

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Clouds and peaks before sunset
Last edited by kpeter on Sun Nov 09, 2014 7:07 pm, edited 14 times in total.



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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:20 am

Day 2

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Sunrise above Ediza

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Dawn above the meadow

Two short dayhikes today. In the morning, we contoured from our camp above Ediza to join the trail from Ediza to Iceberg–my friend’s first cross country experience. The trail to Iceberg, which was sketchy when I first took it in the early 1990s, received a lot of work in 2010 and is now easily discernable the whole way.

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Iceberg Lake; shows route to Cecile; taken from cross country route to Ediza meadows

Iceberg Lake is a pretty lake surrounded with cliffs and talus, but with limited camping. The campsite near the outlet to the left of the trail was (and is almost always) occupied, but there seemed to be more options across the outlet on the western side. The water was low and crossing was easy.

We had considered hiking from Iceberg across the scree and talus up to Cecile Lake, as I had done in my youth and as many others do. This would have been an ideal summer for it, since there was no snowfield (at all) left across the route. But after eyeing the pass to Cecile, it seemed that it might be a bit too much for a first trip and we passed up the chance.

Instead, we played around and looked for a cross country pass back to the meadows above Ediza where we were camped. We crossed the outlet of Cecile and climbed very steeply on stable ground to find a long slot notch we could ascend; this was just a few hundred yards SW of the Iceberg outlet. After picking our way, we came out East of the pond in the upper most meadow feeding the southern inlet stream to Ediza. We ambled downhill through these gorgeous meadows, filled with flowers, grass, waterfalls, cascades, and five loping deer back to camp.

IMGP3918.jpg
Meadow stream and paintbrush

That afternoon my friend read in camp, and I wandered up the western Ediza inlet to visit my old friends the Nydiver lakes. I simply followed the stream through its high meadows–every bit as pretty and inviting as the morning amble, until I got to its source pond, then reversed direction uphill to the ENE to climb to the rocky and barren plateau that is slightly higher than the Nydivers.

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Whitebark pass from just above Nydiver Lakes

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Nydiver Lakes in the stark midafternoon

I walked across the plateau and looked down on the interesting but stark Nydivers but elected not to descend to them, since it was already mid afternoon. The lighting for photography from my angle was terrible and they looked rather flat and uninviting at that point, so I turned back–much more enchanted by the numerous babbling streams and meadows on the way home.
Last edited by kpeter on Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:21 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:20 am

Day 3

This was an exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting day. We planned a very ambitious dayhike with many trail miles and some challenging cross country, and with the help of some advice from this board, we pulled it off.

We started out early in the morning and took the main trail all the way back to the intersection with the JMT. The section of the trail north to Garnet Lake from the intersection where it leaves Shadow Creek starts off as one of the less interesting parts of the trip. The trails grinds uphill through forest, with no particular views and away from water, until it nears the pass to Garnett. When it finally angles left and comes out of the forest it gets quite interesting, ascending over red volcanic rock and finally developing views south and then north across spectacular Garnet lake.

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Switchbacks and southern view from Garnet Pass

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Garnet from the JMT coming down from Garnet pass

My friend got his first taste of the JMT trail community. We met numerous very nice people from all over the world, stopping to chat and compare notes. A new group would come along every twenty minutes or so. This was certainly not solitude, but it was a good but different sort of experience. We descended down to Garnet and collected water at the outlet, and then headed up the much shorter pass out of Garnet over to Ruby, Emerald and Thousand Island Lakes.

Ruby and Emerald Lakes have never been my favorites, but they have their own charm and might seem more interesting if we took the time to explore them. But we zipped past them on our way to Thousand Island. My friend was duly impressed with the picture postcard views of Banner across the lake from the NE side where we lunched.

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Thousand Island Lake in poor noon lighting

At this point we had to make a difficult decision. It was already early afternoon, and if we wanted to get back to camp for a reasonable dinner time we could simply turn around and reverse our steps. After thinking it through, however, we elected to push on and return via a cross country route I had researched here.

From the Thousand Island outlet we took the use path around the northern and western sides of the lake, aiming for the low pass in the SW that links Thousand Island with the basin above Garnett. This use path was always well developed for the first half of the north shore, where it serves as the entrance to many campsites. I was surprised, however, to find it well developed around the whole shore that we traversed. On the western side there were a couple of decisions as it snuck its way between the lake and the two tarns held back by a moraine just a hundred yards or so from the main lakeshore. We easily arrived at the base of our low pass.

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Southwest corner of Thousand Island Lake; shows use trail and pass to western Garnet

Walking over this pass was slightly more complicated than I remember it having been when I last did it, but if you follow the patches of grass between the talus fields you can minimize scrambling and rock hopping on both sides of the pass, and we were over without many difficulties.

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Looking at Garnet from the ridge above the large pond above it; best descent.

Coming down the south side we came to the stream that feeds the ponds above Garnet and stopped for water. Seemingly out of nowhere we heard a voice, turned around, and had a pleasant conversation with a fellow who was hiking the Sierra High Route and had just come down from Whitebark Pass. There was no snow in Whitebark Pass, but I had already decided it was not on the agenda for a beginner.

The previous time I came this way I followed my way to the second large pond and started downhill, taking a sharp right to hug the base of a cliff and avoid as much bouldering as possible. This time we found a much better route. We ascended the ridge to the south of the large pond and found a break in it that let us descend a grassy, stable slope with no bouldering all the way to the shore.

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Paintbrush at western end of Garnet


Garnett was abloom with paintbrush. Whole shorelines and hillsides on the southern slopes were red. Gorgeous.
Last edited by kpeter on Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:32 pm, edited 19 times in total.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Sat Jul 26, 2014 9:21 am

IMGP3955-copy-1.jpg
Shows our general route to the pond-pass to the south from a northern vantage point

Operating on SSSDave’s notes, we angled up the slopes on the southern shore, picking our way higher and looking for a slot east of point 3267 where we could find the two ponds atop the ridge.

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Looking back as we make our way up from Garnet's south shore

We were already tiring and it was now late in the afternoon, and we were beginning to worry about daylight should we fail to find the way through and have to use a different alternative to get back to camp. Using the way the islands in the lake lined up with the first pond on the ridge, we were able to avoid trying for the slot too early and eventually found a long steep ramp between the granite. We went up it hoping it would lead us to the right place and experienced a Eureka moment when we found the pond. From here it was a simple matter to wander over and down to the second larger pond, which was very picturesque and seemed as if it was on top of the world.

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The second and larger of the ponds in the pass.

Now came a critical decision. SSSDave had said to follow the green band on the topo down from this pond. Had he not mentioned this, we would likely have followed another way down that seemed more obvious to the SE that might well have cliffed out or led to the wrong drainage. But we picked our way to the SW and started down a very steep intermittent drainage that feeds that green band of trees. A couple of times it cliffed out and we found our way down by working the southern open side of the green band, always returning to it.

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Looking down the very steep "green band"

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On the descent showing the Nydiver use trail

Eventually the green band led us to a whole set of large granite ledges, and we left the band and did the usual back-and-forth down the ledges, which led us deep into the drainage canyon coming down from the outlet to Nydiver Lakes. Following the drainage just a bit further we stumbled onto the old Nydiver use trail, which led us down surprising good switchbacks to the main trail. That Nydiver use trail is hard to spot from the main trail, but it is in good shape once you get across the rocky flat section at the bottom. From here we walked, slowly and tired, back uphill to our camp above Ediza.

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Getting back to Ediza in the last sunlight

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Ediza at dusk after a very long day

Day 4

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Manzanita hillsides and the trail down from Shadow

The day home is always a bit sad. We packed up early and hiked out, taking about 4 hours rather than the 6 that we spent on the way in. Stopping to chat to a group, we missed that they were standing in front of the trail sign where the trail turns left to Agnew Meadow and we went a few hundred yards toward Reds Meadow, not noticing until we started downhill again. That alerted me to our miscue and we backtracked having lost 15 minutes.

Then a sponge bath, off for a meal, and the drive home.

It was a beautiful trip, pleasant weather, no mosquitoes to speak of, a good natured companion who was deeply appreciative of seeing some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, some physical and mental challenges, and the knowledge that the good people of this board helped to make it possible.
Last edited by kpeter on Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby hybrid90 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:11 pm

Awesome pics and trail report!

Question about driving to the trail head instead of shuttling in.

I would also want to drive to the trail head instead of shuttling in but say after we are done camping at Ediza and going back... are we allowed to drive the car back down to the resort within bus schedule operating times 7am-7pm.

OR do we have to wait till the bus stops running after 7pm to use the road to head back down to the resort?

Thanks
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:15 pm

Hybrid--once you are inside the gate you are allowed to drive out at any time. I had to stop and pull way over to the side of the road to allow two buses to pass on their way in, so be prepared to drive very slowly around blind curves. The steepest part is one lane with turnouts.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby The Other Tom » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:39 pm

Great report and pics. Thanks for posting. Thinking about putting that trip on my list.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:50 pm

Thanks for the great trip report and photos. You provided a lot of excellent details that will help any of us who want to do this trip. The base camp with day hikes was an excellent way to introduce someone to the high country.
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby hybrid90 » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:24 pm

kpeter wrote:Hybrid--once you are inside the gate you are allowed to drive out at any time. I had to stop and pull way over to the side of the road to allow two buses to pass on their way in, so be prepared to drive very slowly around blind curves. The steepest part is one lane with turnouts.


Thank you sir for info!

My permit is booked for Aug 24-26. Can't wait!!!
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:42 pm

Hi Kp,

Great to read that you and your friend had an enjoyable trip. TR and photo's
are marvelous, as is the additional information that you provided, which will
make others experienced members visiting this area much better and
safer, thanks. :thumbsup:
You did not mention anything about seeing any Indian Paintbrush on the
southern (southwestern) side of 1000 Is Lake, or any wildflowers in the
meadow on the far western side of Little Garnet Lake, so I will assume this
was a bad year for them in that location.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby kpeter » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:01 pm

maverick wrote:Hi Kp,

Great to read that you and your friend had an enjoyable trip. TR and photo's
are marvelous, as is the additional information that you provided, which will
make others experienced members visiting this area much better and
safer, thanks. :thumbsup:
You did not mention anything about seeing any Indian Paintbrush on the
southern (southwestern) side of 1000 Is Lake, or any wildflowers in the
meadow on the far western side of Little Garnet Lake, so I will assume this
was a bad year for them in that location.

Hi Mav,

There were flowers and paintbrush in both those locations, but things are already beginning to dry out some. Above the ponds at the western end of Garnet there was one healthy inlet stream but many other dry ones, so my guess is that the flowers are past their most intense moment. Even so, the SW shoreline and hillside of Garnet was fairly impressive.

IMGP3999.jpg
Paintbrush at SW end of Garnet


The meadows above Ediza were nice, too.

IMGP3805.jpg
Paintbrush in Ediza feeder meadow
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Paintbrush above Ediza
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Re: TR: Classic 4 day basecamp at Ediza

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:21 pm

Cool, thanks Kpeter. :)
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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