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Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 9:07 am
by robertseeburger
For those of you who have followed my posts over the years, I have been very SEKI and John Muir Wilderness focused. No TR's in Yosemite.
It doesnt mean I dont like Yosemite..just that I spent a huge portion of my youth backpacking in Yosemite and Emigrant Wilderness and after a 30 year hiatus..wanted to focus on SEKI.

Well, there has been one big area of the sierras I have never seen..that is southeastern Yosemite. And while I have been to Thousand Island Lake and Ediza lake etc.. I have never done the Sierra High Route under the Ritter Range. I was supposed to be on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Range the beginning of August, but my Wyoming backpacking partner had to cancel, so that gave me the opportunity to do another Sierra trip. (This is my third this year, 12 days, 11 days, and now this one 12 days.).

When I read trip reports in HST, I look for facts and pictures just like everyone else. And of course I like a good yarn as well ( as long as it isn't too long!).
But I also look for ..that special feeling for a place or area. One of the areas I have felt that special feeling is the area of southeastern Yosemite and especially Bench Canyon. Somehow this area brings out some really good trip reports. So it has been high on my list for awhile. I finally cobbled together a trip that started at the Isberg trailhead, over Isberg Pass , into southeastern Yosemite , over Blue Lake Pass along the SHR, and down the SHR past Minaret Lake, and then return to Isberg. A little fishing too..(though not much really). So with my backpacking partner Gary, here goes..

Started at Isberg in the morning. A lot of walking through trees. Very pleasant but not much in the way of photo ops .
Made it to Sadler Lake (9 relatively easy trail miles) day 1. Pleasant lake. Decent fishing for brookies mainly.
The next day, made it over Isberg Pass and into Yosemite. Very fine views looking south. Red Slate Man, Red and White Mountain, Gabb and Abbot, Seven Gables, Goddard. and more.
And got the view of Ritter and the minarets. I have been looking at pictures of the minarets for many years. My first ever trip, in 1968, was Silver Lake, up to the Muir trail, Island Pass, Thousand Island Lake, Banner and Ritter and out. So, when I look at the minarets from this ( the west side), my brain almost tries to tell me that the picture is backwards.
And looking the other way , a view of the Clark Range. I asked Gary if he knew the names of the peaks. He did not. I said, I tell you what, one of them is named Red Peak. He got that one.
We went up cross country to a lake nearby. It was a beautiful lake. Very stark.
A view north from the lake.. I can make out Echo Peaks and ridge near Tuolumne Meadows.
Another view from higher up on the lake.
And a shot of Gary at the lake..did some fishing here.
We went over to Red Devil Lake. I can see why the lake is named Red Devil Lake under Red Peak.
Some unnamed lakes and a view of Gray Peak.
And a view toward Lyell, Mclure, and Rogers . Another view that is weird to me because I am so accustomed to seeing Lyell with its glacier view from the JMT.
And what Gary does when fishing is slow.
End of part 1 . Part 2 to follow.

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 9:30 am
by robertseeburger
Part 2

We then hiked eastward with the next destination being Harriet Lake.
A view of an unnamed lake toward the Clark Range again.
We made it to Harriet Lake. Very quiet lake. I dont think many people get here, even though it is not hard to get to.
Lots of flowers at Harriet.
From Harriet we got to the Sierra High Route. And then went up to Blue Lakes Pass. A short stint of talus to the pass. Not really difficult.
A view west to the Clark Range.

And a view to the Ritter Range and minarets. I still cant help but feel it is backwards.
And now, here is where I think the area is quite special, as advertised. There is a feeling of remoteness in Bench Canyon. And beauty. No disappointments.
We had some navigation issues getting from Bench Canyon to Twin Island Lake. Roper talks about this section being more difficult. The book is written from south to north and we did north to south. But no significant issues. We made it to Twin Island Lake late in the day.
What a beautiful place. We debated what is the best island in a Sierra lake here....
Sunrise over Mount Ritter
A short of the northern Twin Island Lake...we felt very isolated..
The waterfall at the top of northern Twin Island Lake
OK.. the weather was "OK" up to now. A few afternoon thundershowers. But on 8/10, all hell broke loose. And we were high up and exposed.
We decided to hunker down just short of Catherine Lake. We thought we had a flat space, with good enough drainage. But we were wrong.
The storm was quite intense, with several hours of continuous, and hard hail. We actually got swamped.
I had to move my tent. Moved it to be on a flat rock.
End of part 2.. part 3 to come...

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:27 am
by robertseeburger
part 3 continued

Both of us managed to keep our sleeping bags from getting wet. But we needed extensive dry out time for everything else.
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A view of hail on a lake during the trip. It was quite intense at times.
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On to the trip.. getting to Catherine Lake..and Banner Peak
Catherine Lake and the glacier between Banner and Ritter
Finally made it over Glacier Lake Pass and down to Thousand Island Lake.

And along the HST .. a view to Garnet Lake.. below Whitebark Pass.
A view from Whitebark pass to Volcanic Ridge..would climb next day.
Moon over Ritter Range
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A classic view seen many times before.. Ritter and Banner..
We had hoped to climb Ritter from the west side...but the storm from earlier didnt allow that.
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And finally made it to Iceberg Lake to camp. We saw quite a few people at Ediza, but surprisingly we were the only people camped at Iceberg, which was nice.

Another classic view....of the minarets...
And the same view with a reflection...

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And.. a grouse seen along the way.. got very turns out she was protecting young ones from us...
end of part 3.. part 4 ( last one ) to come.

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:58 am
by robertseeburger
Part 4 ( last part)

We climbed Volcanic Ridge. (This was a consolation prize for not climbing Ritter..but a pretty good consolation prize).
I had always heard it had one of the great views of the Sierra, and it did not disappoint.
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Ritter and Banner from top of Volcanic Ridge.
Gary on the summit
Descending volcanic ridge.. to Minaret Lake
Another classic view.. Minaret Lake and Clyde Minaret. We met a couple who was planning to do the southeast face that morning. We saw lots of people at Minaret Lake.
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And we then went over Nancy Pass to Superior Lake. A view across Superior lake to Nancy Pass.
A side note on Nancy Pass. A long time ago, when I read Roper's high route, I wondered about Nancy Pass. It occurred to me that there really wasn't a purpose for it. You could go from Red's Meadow directly up to Minaret Lake, or you could go to Superior Lake and over Nancy Pass. I looked at it, and couldn't figure out why Roper chose the Nancy Pass route. I thought I would never do it. But we had to get back to Isberg. Our plan was to go over Nancy Pass, and then over Beck Lakes Pass, down to the San Joaquin and out. We thought about doing the trail all the way down to Red's Meadow and over the Granite Stairway, but that seemed too many miles of a diversion. We decided that we had had enough of cross country and talus and chose to go out via the trail..but still went over Nancy Pass to get to Granite Stairway, cutting off a lot of trail miles. So, on Nancy Pass, it doesnt look very difficult from the above picture. However, there is very loose rock on both sides of the pass, particularly the north side. Though short, it is quite tedious.
And the view, while decent, is nothing special. My conclusion that there is no purpose to the high route from Red's Meadow to Minaret Lake via Nancy Pass. I still dont know why Roper did this. If I had to recommend to a friend, I would say skip the Nancy Pass leg and go direct. Just one man's opinion.

Back to the route. We hiked the many miles from Superior Lake to Granite Stairway ( nothing really there), and over the San Joaquin at Sheep Crossing in one day. Lots of trail miles. While pleasant, no pictures worthy of a post from my perspective. I was unaware of the fire that burned most of the territory from Granite Stairway to the San Joaquin. This made the hike here less pleasant. But it is maintained.. fallen logs have been cut.
Not really a recommended hike.

The next day we made it out and returned. Gary had hidden two beers in Granite Creek near the trailhead, and they were there, which was great.

Some trout photos... although the main focus was on cross country walking, not fishing. Gary with a 15 incher..
Another one
We ate a few..our usual method..poach using two stoves in foil.
Me with a nice one..
And another long one
What they were eating...
Biggest of the trip was 17 inches. We hit one golden lake on the trip..and both us struck out completely. Seems like a lot of people have struck out on goldens this summer. But the rainbows were good.

Overall this was a great trip. Great to see the minarets and Ritter and Banner from many angles. Didnt see many people until we got to Minaret Lake.
And the whole Blue Lakes Pass/Bench Valley/ Twin Island Lake area was indeed a very special place.

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 6:27 pm
by Harlen
But on 8/10, all hell broke loose. And we were high up and exposed.
We decided to hunker down just short of Catherine Lake. We thought we had a flat space, with good enough drainage. But we were wrong.
The storm was quite intense, with several hours of continuous, and hard hail. We actually got swamped.
Looks like we are following each other around... I was at many of the places you visited in 2018 and June this year ... And it looks like we both got whacked hard by weather on August 10th
Indeed Robert, as you say, we are tracking each other; and not just in places, but in experiences too! Everything you wrote in your first note above, except the Catherine Lake location, was happening to me on the same night, but 100 miles or so south. "Swamped" is the very word I would have used for my camp, had I the vocabulary. Your relocation to the rocky "flat" looks a bit tenuous... like you could have been swept over into the drink!?
Will that go into the post by Eric of our favorite campsites? It certainly had a tremendous view!

I really love the shot from the top of Volcanic Ridge, and the one from Lake Catherine. Regarding the former place, I think once again we were closely tracking each other. In one of your summit photos from there, isn't your friend Doug's left foot up against the very same rock that is to the right of my pal Bearzy's left ear? Note the right-angle crack in it. Yep, one year prior, we were sitting in those very same foreground rocks? I reckon we're bound to meet up soon. ... &mode=view


Great Trip Report as always, thanks for sharing it with us, and lovely big fish. Cheers, Ian.

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 8:04 pm
by windknot
Great report and photos! Thanks for taking us along on the journey -- I haven't been in this area yet so I especially appreciated living vicariously through your report. Your storm on 8/10 makes the storm I experienced a week later on 8/18 seem tame by comparison!

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 8:37 am
by canukyea
Thank you for the report. Your trip covers a whole bunch of the more remote areas of the park so it was fun to follow along! Yosemite has at least two golden trout bearing lakes (maybe more?) and both of them have been rather spotty as far as I could tell. In a slower summer, it's not all too surprising the lake didn't yield anything. Those bows looked like they were eating the real small stuff, did matching the hatch work well?

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 6:28 pm
by Dwwd
Wow! What a great trip report. From the rugged, closed in canyon walls of beauty, at Twin Island Lakes to the expansive beauty of Mt. Ritter, Banner and the Minarets. I always appreciate beauty in the very large, but also find it in the very small and wild, like your flower and grouse photo. On a recent trip I caught a newly hatched, 1 inch Rainbow fry dancing in an outlet. Then at the end of the day, the often heard but hard to see, pikas were sporting around in the rocks. Your clever idea of setting up a tent on a rock is new to me. I presume with a sleeping pad, it is no worse than hard pan dirt. I will have to remember that trick in the future for wicked weather. Thanks for sharing your adventure

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 8:14 pm
by kpeter
Fabulous report and interesting photos--that was quite the hail storm! Red Devil Lake is one of my favorites. Did you stop and look at the gravesite on the way down from Glacier Pass? It looks like one of your photos was from about that location.

Re: Circling the Ritter Range 8-4-20 to 8-15-20

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:09 pm
by giantbrookie
Really neat to see both sides of the Ritter Range on one trip. The west flank view of the Ritter Range is really underrated and Twin Island L. is a really special place. Yes I recall the optimal route getting there had some odd details--like you start heading down one gully then turn back and go up another fork sort of thing. The views at some of your destinations early in the trip were so dramatically different from what I saw last year at the same places I had think about them before I recognized the places; looks really different without a ton of snow.