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Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

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Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby catspawred » Tue May 10, 2016 6:16 am

I am going to be taking my family backpacking the second week in August with a 3-night wilderness permit for the Agnew Meadows Trailhead outside of Mammoth. My wife and I have done numerous backcountry backpacking trips (some in the Sierra) and are comfortable with trails and limited cross-country travel. We have also camped in bear country and have a bear canister. Our kids (10 and 13) have been car camping and been on longer hiking daytrips, but have not camped in the backcountry. We stayed near Mammoth mountain last year and did day hikes to Valentine lake and Lake Ediza. My older son and I also did a punishing 6-hour (roundtrip) summit of Mt Dana from Tioga pass.

Our plan for this August was (tenatively):
Day 1: Leave Agnew Meadows hike into Lake Ediza, set up camp and enjoy the views
Day 2: Dayhike from Lake Ediza with the following options:
a. Head up to Ritter pass
b. Hike up to Nydiver Lakes with possible trip traversing the base of Banner peak to Lake Catherine
c. Hike up to the Volcanic ridge for scenic views
Day 3: Pack up gear and hike to Cecile Lake via Iceberg Lake and set up camp
Day 4: Hike down to Minaret Lake and out to Devils Postpile area

Alternatively we could also set up at Ediza for all three nights with planned dayhikes and just head out the way that we came in. My questions to others on this forum are:
1. Are there any other recommended dayhikes out of Ediza? My older son likes to push himself and would love to bag a peak, my younger daughter likes to take pictures and be outside but won't want to do a really crazy-tough hike.
2. I would love to try to summit Banner or Ritter, but these seem like serious peaks, and most approaches involve glacier travel. I am not experienced enough to feel comfortable tackling terrain that requires an ice axe and crampons with my son no less. Is there an alternative hike that might be a challenge for my son that would come close to the views of Banner or Ritter? Secor says that Banner is Class 2 from the west side. Is it possible for a long dayhike to traverse Banner to Lake Catherine and go up from the west side? If we cannot do Ritter/Banner is it worth heading up to Ritter Pass, or the Volcanic Ridge as scenic viewpoints? Is one better than the other? Is the approach to the Volcanic Ridge better from the South via Minaret Lake?
3. For the third night would it be better to hike up to Cecile Lake or try to push on and attempt to reach Minaret Lake? If both are worth staying at, we could pack out on Day 2 for Cecile Lake and make Day 3 a hike to Minaret Lake with a possible side-trip.
4. In other posts I've read that there is significant ice and snow between Celile Lake and Iceberg Lake. As stated above, I do not want to do any technical climbing/packing over glaciers or permanent snowpack. We may have to wait to see what the conditions are, but is there a general consensus on what the trip from Lake Ediza to Cecile Lake are in early-mid August?

I know that Lake Ediza will be more crowded than most places. We are from the east coast and are used to lots and lots of people out on the trail and at campsites.

Sorry for the long post, but I look forward to any responses.



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Re: Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue May 10, 2016 10:34 am

If your daughter does not want to do "crazy hard" she may not like Iceberg Lake to Cecile. When there is not steep snow, there is steep talus. I personally would not feel comfortable taking kids up on that route. It is steep enough, snow or not, that a fall would be serious. There also is a lot of talus hopping to get to the south side of Cecile.

I would do the day at Ediza, with a day hike up to Iceberg Lake and another day hike to Nydiver Lakes. There is a use-trail to the small tarn east of Ritter. Then it is fairly easy off-trial over to Nydiver Lakes. Smallish fish at the west end of the middle Nydiver Lake. That way the kids can choose to do both trips or not. The Iceberg Lake trip is the most scenic for the effort. Then go back towards Shadow Lake and take the JMT to Garnet Lake. There is a use-trail along the north side of Garnet Lake. It starts at about 9800 feet, about 0.4 miles up the JMT towards Thousand Island Lake. The inlet end has good fishing. There is some spectacular camping out on the large peninsulas along the north shore. The small lakes to the southwest of the inlet are also quite pretty. You can return via the PCT (high trail) if you do not want to do the River Trail again.
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Re: Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby maverick » Tue May 10, 2016 1:33 pm

Hi Catspawred,

Welcome to HST!

Would also recommend staying at 2 nights at Ediza, do a day hike to Nydiver and/or Iceberg, and spend the third night at 1000 Is Lake, go back to Agnew via the High Trail, beautiful views of the Minaret Range.

Forget going to Cecile, camping isn't that great and the views at Iceberg are better. The section on the eastern side of Iceberg leading up to Cecile is unstable, even without the snow, and should not be attempted by anyone without some off trail experience, especially kids.

Even the Ritter/Banner route from the west is not easy, just getting to Catherine is difficult for some, and then the glacier itself is not easy to ascend, using crampons and ice axe should only be used by someone with experience in using them properly to self arrest, otherwise they can cause injury to the user, those with experience over ice/snow can use their trekking poles and microspikes to ascend the glacier.
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Re: Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby wildhiker » Tue May 10, 2016 6:57 pm

We did a family trip in this area in August 1991 with our three kids aged 7 to 12. The route from Iceberg to Cecile Lake was snow-free that year and there was a well-beaten use trail up the slope - no problem for the kids. Of course, our kids had backpacking experience starting at age 3 to 4 :-). The talus around Cecile Lake on the east side was not too bad. Cecile Lake did not have good camping. We went from Ediza to Minaret Lake easily in one day. You need to find the use trail from near the southeast end of Cecile Lake (but not all the way to the outlet) that runs along the side slope and then drops down to Minaret Lake. Minaret Lake had beautiful camping - look around for the best spot. The trail back to Devils Postpile is a slog for the last few miles which are in decomposed pumice - especially the JMT section.

Another good option from Ediza is to go over to Garnet Lake. We took the cross-country pass described by Roper. It is quite steep on the north slope, but we had no problem with the kids - of course, we came UP the north slope because we were heading to Ediza. I think it is always easier to go up a steep slope than down it. From the west side of Garnet there is an easy walk on meadows over a low pass to the west side of 1000 Island, where you pick up a use trail around the north side of 1000 Island Lake. Personally, I would prefer to head to 1000 Island Lake, even on the JMT, rather than to Minaret Lake and then come back to Agnew Meadows on either the River Trail or the High Trail (one day for either). I think 1000 Island Lake is one of the premier beauty spots of the Sierra.

-Phil
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Re: Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby maverick » Tue May 10, 2016 7:12 pm

Another good option from Ediza is to go over to Garnet Lake. We took the cross-country pass described by Roper. It is quite steep on the north slope, but we had no problem with the kids - of course, we came UP the north slope because we were heading to Ediza. I think it is always easier to go up a steep slope than down it.


Sorry, but respectfully disagree with Whitebark Pass being okay for kids with only longer day hikes and no backpacking or absolutely no off-trail experience.

PS Understand and respect that you have trained your kids and they now feel comfortable on talus, scree, and uneven terrain, for someone who has never had to deal or experienced it, or may never really want to (daughter sounds like she may not be up for anything besides trails), putting them on a class 2 pass right off the bat, may not be the best way to go about this IMO.
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Re: Trip Advice Early August Agnew Meadows Area

Postby catspawred » Wed May 11, 2016 4:50 pm

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments. We have tentatively decided to set up base at Ediza and then just spend a few days with easy dayhikes. Definitely we'll head up to Iceberg lake and we'll try Nydiver Lakes. We'll also plan to bring some fishing gear as well. On our trip to Nydiver, I will probably scout the trip to Garnet with my son, but I think we will avoid any Class 2 backpacking this trip. If my son wants a harder trip we'll stop at Tioga pass again on the drive out and spend a day climbing up Mt Dana. We are all pretty cautious and want this first backcountry trip for the kids to be pleasurable so that we can do it again.
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