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Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

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Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby BenandStar » Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:58 am

This is our first post on the board and our first trip to the Eastern Sierra. We have planned our trip and secured permit reservations starting July 18th for a three night backpacking trip starting and ending at DP. Our initial thoughts are up the High Trail (PCT), spending our first night in the Thousand Island Lake vicinity, our second night in the Garnet Lake area, and our third night still wide open. We have also considered going off trail and heading around Thousand Island Lake over Whitebark Pass to Nydiver and Ediza Lakes as long as snow/ice allows it.

To give you an idea of our background, we are in our mid 50s, and have been hiking/backpacking for over 35 years. We have hiked on the AT (No, I’m not the former Governor of SC. :^o We actually hike), and Blue Ridge extensively with those being closest to home. We have backpacked in the Tetons from Jenny Lake to School House Glacier up the south fork of Cascade Canyon. Our most difficult trip-to-date was probably two years ago in the Olympic Mountains going from Obstruction Point down to the Grant Lakes and back up through Badger Valley because of the abrupt elevation change with the last 5 miles being a brutal 3,500 ft. climb. We have also hiked in Yellowstone, “Hole in the Wall” at Glacier (22 miles), the Canyons of Mesa Verde, and Arches. Depending on elevation, we are typically comfortable going up to 10+ miles per day. We have become actuely aware of our limitations as the years start to add up.

I guess we would be considered Level 3-4 on experience and Class 2 on terrain. Although we are comfortable with scrambling, river crossings, and snow fields, we neither rock climb nor attempt snow/ice requiring crampons and ice axes. We are no-trace backpackers, and never exceed 30 lbs per pack.

We always keep our trip schedules flexible up to the last moment, and are happy just being out in the wilderness. As for our main interests, we enjoy it all; forests, lakes, rivers, photography, wildlife, big mountain scenery, and especially alpine regions. We prefer loops, but are also happy backtracking when necessary. We love meeting others on the trail, but prefer stretches of solitude along the way.

We are open to any suggestions, including a completely different area. We will be in the Lee Vining area for two weeks starting July 9th, and plan on doing day hikes (probably Yosemite) and a single night of backpacking the first week to adjust to altitude.

We have been enjoying reading the board for a period of weeks now, and have especially enjoyed the frank discussion and interaction displayed here. Thanks for having us as members. If we’re really lucky, maybe we’ll meet a couple of you out on the trails.

Peace,
Ben and Star



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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:29 am

Hi Ben & Star

Welcome to HST!
Agnew Meadows would be your start for the High Trail to 1000 Is Lake.
An easier route would be to use the Shadow Lake Trail to Lake Ediza for the
first night.
Though Nydiver Lakes are one my favorites in the area, Whitebark may give you
problems especially with this years snow.
Take the JMT to Garnet Lake instead, unless you do not mind having to hike back
to Ediza from Nydiver.
Hike to the western end of Garnet, and jump the class 1 pass to 1000 Is Lake.
Stay in the woodsy section on the northern shore of 1000 Is Lake to get solitude
instead of near the shores.
Also be aware this whole area, but especially 1000 Is Lake is a very big bear problem
area.
Be prepared for some serious air raids by mosquitos.
Check here, and the Inyo NF site to get updates of conditions in that area, call
them as you get closer to the start of your trip.
If you have time to spend a night or two, camp above Waterwheel Falls out of
Tuolumne Meadows, Waterwheel falls, and Leconte Falls will be gorgeous this year
with the big run-off, and well worth the effort.
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: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby BenandStar » Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:57 pm

Maverick,

Thanks for the advice! That looks like a great trip on the topo. When you say "hike to the western end of Garnet", can that be done from either shore (south or north)?

We'll also check out the area you mention from Tuolumne Meadows.

Once again, we really do appreciate it.

Ben and Star
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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:17 pm

Ben & Star wrote "When you say "hike to the western end of Garnet", can that be
done from either shore (south or north)?

Yes it can, most do it from the northern shore.
If you do Whitebark you'll be back there already, also the smaller lake west of
Garnet is pretty cool, and there is a pretty rocky meadow that extends west and south
of it that has a beautiful wildflower display, but you will probably be to early this
year to experience it.
Same goes for Davis Lakes north of 1000 Is Lake, which can have a beautiful meadow of
Indian Paintbrush, as can 1000 Is Lakes southwestern shore, but this year it will be late July
or August when they will be at there best.
The High Trail is famous for the views of the Minarets, and the gorgeous wildflowers
hopefully they will have started to show by the start of your trip.
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: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:19 pm

Yes Whitebark pass will probably be steep snow, Nydiver's may not have thawed much. Might camp first day at Summit Lake. Colorful volcanics above on the easy ridge slope above with fine views. That way you can take the more scenic PCT.
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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby BenandStar » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:36 pm

Great stuff! Both responses will be very helpful.
Our permit is for Agnew. I have no idea why I typed DP.
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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby acvdmlac » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:47 pm

Great first choice for East-side Sierra!

Garnet lake is fantastic, if you camp there, be sure to explore off the John Muir trail along the north or south shore as the JMT traffic is so heavy thru-hikers will be hiking along after dark and before dawn with LEDs... but there are plenty of secluded campsites along the shores.

Don't try to skimp on bear-proofing here. Our friends who had their food in a supposedly bear-proof Kevlar bag lost most of it to bear tooth punctures big enough to let in the chipmunks etc. who finished it all off in the night... :angry: . All 4 nights we camped at Garnet, we heard bear activity, but as we brought the required canisters we didn't have any problem (they make good camp-stools too...).

The west ends of Garnet and 1,000 Island are very beautiful, the east ends have the best views of Mts. Ritter and Banner, the Minarets and Shadow Lake are also very beautiful, you can't go wrong here (except w/bears), have fun!
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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby kpeter » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:50 am

You folks sound a lot like me--52, 35 years backpacking, don't do anything over class 2, etc.

You will be going to the section of the Sierras that I believe are the most photogenic. All the other advice given seems spot on. I remember Nydiver to Garnet being very straightforward other than the high altitude puffing, but with this year's snow it could well be different. I love the Garnet to Thousand Island hike over the pass at their west ends. You see some magnificent meadows and ponds and even if there is snow in there it should be very simple. The hardest part (though not difficult--just a tad slow) is just getting around the north side of Garnet. I remember a lot of ups and downs. You will miss that if you can come from Nydiver, though.

I like camping at the west end of Thousand Island lake just west of the main inlet stream--it means crossing the stream, obviously, but this puts you well away from "John Muir motel" at the NE shoreline area where everyone and their distant relatives seem to camp while through hiking the JMT. You will have some stunning views of the length of the lake and one magnificent erratic boulder that is a landmark of the west end. For the best photo shots of Banner across the lake, though, you might hang out at the east end instead. Some of the best photography happens when Banner is in a cloud shadow and the lake is sparkling in the sun. Banner looks very forboding in those conditions. If you stay at the west end for a day you can dayhike up the inlet to Lake Catherine, although no telling how far you might get before hitting serious snow.

Lake Ediza was one of Ansel Adam's subjects and it routinely attracts photographers from around the world. It is pretty easy to see why--you will not want to miss it if you can work it into your trip. If you spend a day there you can dayhike up to Iceberg Lake. There will be snow between Ediza and Iceberg--there was last year two weeks later in the year. There also was a trail crew last summer dramatically improving the trail from Ediza to Iceberg, which had previously been little more than a boot path. Many people continue from Iceberg to Cecile and even over to Minaret, but I would not attempt it at the time you are going. There will be a large 40 degree snow field plunging into Iceberg that you would have to traverse for a few hundred yards.

Not sure how many days you planned, but starting at Agnew I would head up the Shadow Lake trail to Ediza on the first day, spend a day there dayhiking to Nydiver, Iceberg, etc., take the trail to Garnet for a day, head cross country over the west pass to camp at the west end of Thousand Island, spend a day dayhiking , then take the high trail back, being entertained by sights of all the mountains you have visited along the way.

Finally, be extremely well prepared for mosquitoes. They were horrendous in this area last year up until about July 20 or so. Not sure how the late melt and heavy snow this year will affect their timing, but it could be very bad.
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Re: Suggestions for our 1st Trip to the Eastern Sierra?

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:31 pm

Howdy neighbor !

I'm about 20 miles down the road from you toward Greenville.

I agree what the others have suggested about the hikes, but would add to visit Island Pass above 1000 island lake (maybe camp there) if you can. It's all good in the sierra ! My son and I have been there several times and we love it. Can't wait to get back. Much better than the AT in my opinion.
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