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TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

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TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:17 pm

Minarets 9/4 - 9/9 2014

OK, it looks like EVERYONE has done a trip report on the Minarets this year! I returned early from the Wind Rivers, rained out of my last trip; I needed a blue-sky Sierra alternative. My friend who went with my earlier this year was ready for more difficult off-trail terrain and she had never been to the Minarets. Efficient boulder hopping is an art, learned from days of experience, so instead of hauling packs over boulders, we opted for day-hikes. I had previously been in the Minarets early season when grass was lush and green, plenty of snow and yes, plenty of mosquitoes! This time it was an entirely different picture – all gold and blue and hardly a speck of snow.

Day 1 9/4 Agnew Meadow to Ediza Lake. We arrived at Agnew Meadow at 1PM and quickly got on the trail. It was HOT; I wilted! I had just finished a trip in near freezing rainy conditions, and although the blue skies were heaven, the heat was not! On the other hand I was well acclimated to 10,000 feet. My friend had acclimated to Sacramento heat, so did not wilt, but she had just come from sea level! So this leveled the playing field – we both got a bit light headed going too quickly up to Shadow Lake where we stopped to rest in the shade and then slow down the pace as we continued. I had never been on the trail from Shadow Lake to Ediza, and found this trail surprisingly delightful. We set up camp just as the shadows engulfed us, quickly cooked dinner and hit the sack early, as it was getting quite cold. We camped out in the open; not the best choice but the campsites back in the timber were already taken by others.

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Arriving at Ediza Lake as shadows fall

Day 2 9/5 Day hike to Minaret Lake and move to Nydiver Lakes. We awoke to frosty conditions. Brrr! I had my bivy sack so could cook breakfast while still in my sleeping bag. We first walked to the east shore of Ediza to get those famous morning light photos before heading up the trail to Iceberg Lake. The morning light was still perfect here for more photos. I had never been on the “trail” to Cecile Lake when it was snow-free. What a surprise! Without snow it was a bit more tedious, but safer. I had also never been around Cecile Lake when it was snow free. This definitely was harder! We then dropped down to the small pond, up to the notch, and down the use-trail to Minaret Lake. This use-trail sure has grown into a big trail since I first did it years ago. Not sure if that is good or bad. We lazed around Minaret Lake for about half an hour, eating lunch. Now we had to go up all that elevation again to return. We decided that going up was easier than going down. It may have had something to do with our old knees- same for going down from Cecile Lake to Iceberg Lake. We met two groups of people on our return. Back at camp we quickly packed up and left for Nydiver Lakes at 2:30 PM. This late day move with the elevation gain and full packs was a bit grueling. We camped between the upper and middle Nydiver Lakes. I put my fly rod together and took off on a clockwise circle around the middle lake. Fish started biting after about an hour when I neared the inlet. I do not think the location of my fishing made the difference – it just was the timing – they finally decided to come to the surface and eat. I caught three 8-10 inch fish. I could have caught more but shadows were descending on us and I was hungry! We had a much warmer night up here, but slept poorly because of the bright moonlight. The middle Nydiver Lake definitely has the better camping as well as better fishing.

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Morning at Ediza Lake

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Morning at Iceberg Lake

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Ceicle Lake

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Minaret Lake

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Back down to Iceberg Lake

Day 3 9/5 Nydiver Lakes to Thousand Island Lake. I got up at the crack of dawn and went back to the middle lake, walking around, this time counterclockwise, to get morning photos. I had photos from the upper lake from a previous trip; I wanted to get a set of photos from the middle lake. My friend opted to sleep in. After about an hour I was back at camp and we packed up after breakfast. I was concerned about White Bark Pass. It turned out that it was no problem because the snow cornice was gone. We could go down a fair use-path through the boulders, avoiding the class 3 scrambling needed to detour the cornice. Since we had a short day, we dropped to Garnet Lake where I walked out onto a peninsula to take photos. Large fish were swimming along the rock but I did not want to carry fish to Thousand Island Lake. We ascended a steep game trail to the adjacent small valley where there are two more unnamed lakes. These lakes were supposed to have excellent reflections, but alas, the wind was stiff and the water choppy. We continued over the pass to Thousand Island Lake and found a camp on the north shore. It was still early afternoon so we day-hiked around the lake, clockwise. It was Friday and the weekend hordes were already arriving. There is a fair fisherman’s trail all the way around the lake. We were back by 4PM so I tried some fishing, with no luck. The wind was howling and the water rough. The fish were hiding on the bottom. Just before dark, it calmed down and I saw some fish but it was too late.

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Up at the crack of dawn at Nydiver Lakes

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Sunrise at Middle Nydiver Lake

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Sunrise

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Upper Nydiver Lake

Day 4 9/6 Day hike to Ritter Lakes. I was surprised that we did not run into anyone on this day hike. Again, I had never done this hike without considerable snow to deal with. We followed a fair use-trail until it ended in the upper boulders. We picked our way through until we found a distinct use-trail to the bowl just below the pass. There are really two passes – one goes left and comes out above the west shore of Catherine Lake; the other goes right and comes out mid-north shore. I missed the cairn to the shorter and easier pass. Oh well, we eventually got there anyway. We slowly hopped the boulders along the shoreline and then traversed above the outlet pond stopping in a small green pocket just were the creek tumbles down towards the San Joaquin. From this pocket we hike south over a small notch, down to a lake, up to another small green spot of grass and to the overlook to the larger Ritter Lake at 3311 meters. We did not drop to the lake as we were worried about time. I had previously traversed around the southwest side of Catharine Lake. This year it was impossible! Where I had previously stepped onto the Ritter-Banner glacier/snowfield, it was now a cliff and no glacier was present. So we turned around and returned the same way we came in, this time taking the proper pass. We jumped into the creek a couple of hundred feet above Thousand Island Lake, where the water was clear. Bathing at Thousand Island Lake was yucky – too much algae. I again tried fishing when we were back at camp – again no luck and again the wind was howling.

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On our way to Ritter Lakes, over North Glacier Pass

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Catherine Lake from the left (wrong) North Glacier Pass

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Creek from Lake Catherine, just before it plunges to the San Joaquin

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Largest Ritter Lake

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Smaller lake north of largest Ritter Lake



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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:34 pm

Day 5 9/7 Day hike to Marie Lake and move to Garnet Lake. Other than a bit of cross country to intersect the JMT, this long day hike was mostly on trails. Once we hit the JMT we ran into lots of backpackers, going both ways. The trail to Marie Lakes is not as shown on the map. It leaves the JMT farther south and goes over the small ridge to the ponds on Rush Creek. This trail showed lots of horse use. The steeper trail to Marie Lake had not been used by horses. We met a fellow and dog on our way up. We spent about an hour at the lake before returning. At Island Pass we noticed the odd “clouds” and realized that it was a fire in Yosemite. After a short rest at camp, we took off for Garnet Lake at about 3PM, traveling to Garnet Lake the same way we came to Thousand Island Lake. This time we set up camp in a more wind-protected spot. There was just enough daylight left for me to go back to the peninsula and catch one of those fish! It only took about 10 minutes and I had hooked a 15-inch brook trout. I had to cut it into several pieces to cook it in my small pot. It was cold in the shadows. This time I hit the sack at 8PM under a totally full moon. Clouds came streaming over the mountains from the west, lit by moonlight. How wonderful to lay snug in my bivy sack and watch this. Soon it got dark and began to rain. The rain quit as quickly as it had come. It spit on and off all night. I preferred Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake for its fishing and better camping, however there are not as many day-hike options.

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Another beautiful dawn at Thousand Island Lake

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Marie Lake

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Marie Lake

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Kiop Crest on skyline, from ponds on Rush Creek below Marie Lake

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Fish from Garnet Lake

Day 6 9/8 Garnet Lake to Agnew Meadow via River Trail. We awoke to menacing clouds. Thinking we could pack up before the rain, we got up. A hard rain descended quickly on us, getting everything soaked. The sun came out about as quickly, followed by more rain. We followed a good use-trail and the closer we came to the JMT the more campers we met. By the time we reached the outlet the rain and subsided. The JMT was full of people with several illegally camped at the outlet. Across the bridge we found a cairn on a rock, but no sign. We dropped down a steep gully where the trail became distinct and dropped steeply to the river where there was a large established campsite. I failed to look at the map and simply followed a fairly distinct trail along the southwest side of the river. The River Trail is on the other side. The use-trail was well marked and turned out fine and joins the River Trail farther downstream. Once on the River Trail we again ran into tons of backpackers. We arrived at our car about 1PM. Driving home we ran into smoke at Lee Vining.

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Early morning at Garnet Lake

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Garnet Lake sunrise

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Farther down the trail towards the outlet of Garnet Lake

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Garnet Lake is still stunning in black and white

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Near the junction with the JMT at Garnet Lake
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby acorad » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:45 pm

Wow!

Andy
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby maverick » Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:13 pm

Just missed you by a few days WD. We went from Ediza to Ritter Lakes via Whitebark>
Garnet Pass>climbed up to small lake/pond at the bottom of a glacier north of Banner
Peak, class 3, and a few class 4 section at the top.
Returned via Catherine Pass, jumped the class 1 ridge to the east instead of going
down all the way to 1000 Is Lake via the use trail, used a class 3 chute down to the
smooth granite section leading down to eastern end 1000 Is Lakes, and then back to
Ediza the same earlier route.
Could not believe the crowds at Ediza, several folks camping on the illegal eastern
side of the lake. :\
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby FeetFirst » Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:21 pm

Wonderful report and photos as always. Thanks for posting.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Vaca Russ » Mon Sep 15, 2014 4:52 pm

maverick wrote:Just missed you by a few days WD.

Could not believe the crowds at Ediza, several folks camping on the illegal eastern
side of the lake. :\


Yes, Miss Daisy, we just missed you. Your pictures are beautiful! I was curious about the condition of the trail from Iceberg to Cecile. It looked awfully sketchy.

That is a great looking brookie you caught in Garnet. I'll bet it was tasty!

I hope to post my version of our trip tomorrow morning.

Thanks,

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby maverick » Mon Sep 15, 2014 5:16 pm

VR wrote:
I was curious about the condition of the trail from Iceberg to Cecile. It looked
awfully sketchy.


VR,

Jim and I went to Minaret Lake this route, then up to Kehrlein-Pridham Notch, and
South Notch, and then back Cecile>Iceberg>Ediza on Thursday.
There is a use trail, kind of gone in the middle section where the ice/snow section
is during the early season, but nothing to bad, just some loose talus in spots.
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: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Sep 15, 2014 9:55 pm

Really nice! What a summer you've had! This trip and those amazing hikes in the Wind Rivers.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Tom_H » Tue Sep 16, 2014 6:21 pm

Fantastic reporting and marvelous photos as usual. Sorry your last Wind River trip was so rainy, but hope you had a lot of great adventures in Petzoldt's playground. Also very glad to hear our common friend was with you. With her advanced culinary skills, I'm sure that trout was incredibly tasty. Thanks for the TR!
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:39 pm

This may surprise you, but sometimes when two women who have advanced culinary skills go backpacking we really do not want to cook; we prefer a vacation from cooking. Our focus was hiking. We actually cooked separately and did little more than boil water. I hope that does not burst your bubble. Yes being rained on all summer made me appreciate the mild Sierra summers. On the other hand, I missed the lush green and amazing wildflowers. I really hope the Sierra gets its fair share of snow this winter. I missed the snow up on the mountains. But the Minarets are truly stunning any season, even without snow.
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Vaca Russ » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:12 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:I really hope the Sierra gets its fair share of snow this winter. I missed the snow up on the mountains.


X2 :nod:

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway
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Re: TR: Yes, the Minarets, again!

Postby Herm » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:46 am

Wandering Daisy;

Great trip report, and fantastic photos!

Thanks for sharing.

Herm
I am not in a hurry, so don't be hasty.
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