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Western Ansel Adams Wilderness TR

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Western Ansel Adams Wilderness TR

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:34 pm

I took off early the 21st to go into the AAW and head up towards
thru Bench Canyon and over Blue Lake Pass.
Unfortunately the northern side of the pass had way to much snow
and I didnt bring and ice axe nor crampons.
Even Harriet Lakes uppermost lake was still frozen with snow on it and
the other middle size lake was 1/2 frozen.
The other lakes were thawed in the distance as I could see from the
I went in from the Granite Creek Trailhead and made it to the the mouth
of Bench Canyon where there is a nice camp spot.
The next day it was up to Blue Lake, the lack of flowers was
dissappointing to say the least in an area which is known for its flower
I was suprised to say the least to find as much snow on the northern
side of the pass with triple digit temps daily.
I then climbed the ridge to the west to take a look at Harriet Lakes and
you read allready know what I saw.
Then it was down and then up the last peak to the east which had a
great view of Twin Lakes and Ritter Lakes.
I wasnt going to go down Bench Canyon again so I chose to descend
the creek that parallels the North Fork to its west.
A nice small lake starts off the descent into the canyon with pretty little
meadows ,but very few flowers.
Everything was going smooth with about 3 hrs of sun left when the
canyon narrowed into an unpassable gorge.
Climbing back up was not a good option because of a cliff that was
difficult enough to down climb.
So I decided to head east towards the North Fork but ran into some
class 3-4 cliffs and ended up down climbing some pretty difficult
portions at times. Got down to the North Fork and a campspot by
Here is where I had to make a decision whether I was going to hike
back towards Isberg and then down towards the Lyell Fork area
which was my original area to visit or explore the AAW area.
So the next morning I headed down the North Fork to Iron Creek
where I headed cross-country towards Iron Lake.
The start was easy with minimal climbing involved, then the middle
section has an extremely steep section that needs to be approached on
the creeks northern side otherwise youll be fighting thru alot of bush.
Once pass this section you enter a basin where the views of peaks to
the east just open up right in front of you.
There is one more climb up to the smaller lake before Iron Lake which
is a little steep but not to long.
Both lakes are beautiful. The smaller was still frozen with a samll glacier
behing it. Iron Lake was thawed and also has a glacier behind it,
making for a dramatic backdrop.
The views from Iron Lake(small hill on westside of lake) are so vast
to the south, west and north that they alone are worth the trip.
I visited this area back in the early 70's but being a young teen I didnt
have the appreciation of such beauty at that age.
I opted to take the trail back towards Hemlock Crossing thinking I
could use the freeway system (trails) to get to another area of interest
and since the trail passes thru several meadows maybe Id run into
the flower show of spring that was eluding me.
Boy was I in for a shock! Not only did this 11 mile hike take almost
8 hrs, but the lack of flowers was depressing.
The trail was in horendous shape. Signs were down(I erected 3 of them
I hope the NFS will be sending a check soon), tons of deadfall and
avalanche debris, over growth that made finding the trail very
difficult in most places(cross-country would have been quicker).
I wanted to see flowers so badly that I let it supersede my first and
logical choice of descend Iron Creek.
Another thing was the lack of water. There was no water to be found
for a 6 mile section which in 100F temps is not a good combination.
The next day was spendt next to 2 waterfalls one of which was very
The next day to my last campsite I meet a woman with a dog who
was camping near Hemlock Crossing. They took a day off because
there dog needed rest.
I informed here of the conditions of the trail coming up and they opted
to change there plans to go to the Mammoth area.
So I guess coming the way I did no mather how miserable the conditions
were did have its purpose.
On my hike towards the trailhead I did find some decent flower gardens
but I guess the lack of winter has really taken its toll on the area
this year. Ill have more photos latter.
This is Iron Lake. Image
View north from Iron Lake.
From the peak looking down at Twin Lakes.

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Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:33 pm

Beautiful pictures! That's some classic Ritter Range metavolcanic stuff there.

Too bad about the flowers. Very surprising that there are still frozen lakes and snow cornices--I'd have thought it would all have melted by now.

Not sure where you had the lack of water, but I ran into that in August 2000 in the area west of the North Fork (Chetwood Creek and such)--all the streams around there originate below 10,000', so they dry up by the end of the season.
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Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:33 pm

Southern Yosemite and the Ritter Range was sort of a dividing line for a number of winter storms last winter. North of there, precipitation was mostly 60% to 90% of normal while south things became increasingly drier quickly. Thus it is not too surprising you found more normal late June snow conditions in those area that normally would not be showing many flowers till later July. I'd guess wildflowers will look much better in those areas by mid July. I have a 4 night permit reserved for Granite Park during the third week of July that would normally be prime the first or second week of August. But that area is even further south than the Ritter Range so its vegetation ought to be even a bit more advanced. Generally the pattern this dry summer I have been seeing thus far is early wildflower species are triggering their cycles after the snow above them melts while the main mid season wildflowers are less effected. The result is a less coherent bloom. ...David
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Postby maverick » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:03 pm

TT all the creeks from Iron Creek to Corral Meadow where the trail
from Iron Lake connects where dried up.
There was one dribble in which I could get my nalgene bottle 3/4 full
in a meadow at Earthquake Meadow but that wont running to much
I hope your right Dave Im going to the Observation Lake area at
the end of July.
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Postby maverick » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:18 pm

Dave these flowers were the main ones that were abundant enough
to photograph, but the way what are these flowers called.
I love taking pictures of flowers but I do not know most of there names.
There was a breeze so its not the sharpest.
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Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:14 pm

Shooting star, dodecatheon jeffreyi, one of our most beautiful Sierra wildflowers, that has several relative species in other wet California environments. One finds these colorful wonders along streams and especially in wet meadows. They are one of the first flowers to color our mid elevation mountain meadows along with buttercups, violets, and camas lilies.

Wildflowers are one of the few sources of unusual color we photographers might add to our mountain landscapes. Different species bloom at different times of the summer, in different environments that depend on sun exposure, shade, temperature, moisture, geology, wind exposure, adjacent species, and other subtle factors. The observant visitor over years of experience can learn much about when, where, and how they grow that is not only of value in photography but another source of mountain wonder and joy.

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Postby maverick » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:11 am

Thanks Dave.
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:09 pm

Interesting report and a nice trip off the beaten path. I had to go to Secor to see what "Blue Lake Pass" was. It's interesting that one would have lots of snow on its Yosemite side, because that side is more or less west-facing. There is another notch into the Lyell Fork that is more direct. This is the one directly east of Foerster. Although that one is north-facing and guaranteed to have snow if the other one was cornice-bound, but I think it's a bit less steep, less likely to be corniced and has a good bowl out just below it (ie you'll gently decelerate if you should fall). Another creative approach into the Lyell Fork that may avoid snow and cornices is to go directly over the top of Electra Peak--this has a good chance of being snow free because it's a ridge route.

I've never been to Iron Lake and vicinity but it looks gorgeous. The view over the top of Twin Island Lakes toward Ritter and Banner is an unusual one and very impressive. Another rarely seen shot is your Ritter-Banner photo from Iron Lake, which I've never seen before because I've never been to Iron Lake and nobody else I know has, either. I am also taken by how little water is in the spectacular waterfall from the Ritter Lakes, consistent with your other observations of the lack of water. In early July of 1994, a low snowfall year (although not as low as this past winter), we were at Twin Island Lakes and looked up at the impressive west wall of Ritter from there; there was quite a bit more water in that waterfall.
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: Western Ansel Adams Wilderness TR

Postby Kesha32 » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:09 pm

Thanks for the photos,
It is beautiful,
Full of colors,
It adds beauty to us...
Thanks for this amazing post... :nod:

Re: Western Ansel Adams Wilderness TR

Postby balzaccom » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:43 pm

Great stuff, Maverick! Thanks for posting. Sounds like a memorable trip. I particularly enjoyed your comments about when you were a teen...and your perception of beauty then!

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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