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Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

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Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:29 pm

The reason you haven't heard from us for a few days is that we were doing what we love--backpacking in the Sierra. This time it was around Emigrant Wilderness, to a series of lakes for which there is no trail, only sloping slabs of granite and a topo map to guide us.

We started at Kennedy Meadows and followed the horses and manure for five miles up to the junction with the trail to Lower Relief Valley. It had rained torrents the night before (we met one group who weathered five hours of thunder, lightning, and pouring rain near Emigrant Lake) and so our normally dry Sierra felt like a sauna. Steam was rising off the rocks, and we were sweating like...well, we were sweating.

That's the gorge below...and you can see the steam rising.

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But once we got above Relief Reservoir, things got a lot better. The trail goes through a very steep climb here, and after lunch we stopped at Summit Creek to enjoy the water, the view...and what the heck, let's camp here. That afternoon P took a recon hike up the granite just to make sure this route was possible...and came back down full of confidence.

That's the view from near our campsite, below.

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The next morning we were up early and hiking straight up the smooth granite. What a wonderful way to explore the Sierra! The views opened up, and there were so many fabulous trees struggling in the granite that we kept stopping to take photos of them.

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You can see all of our photos on our Picasa page for the trip:

https://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/ ... elandLake#

In about an hour we were up at the top of the pass, and then pulled out our map and compass to make sure we were headed in the right direction. We contoured around the granite bowl, and ended up right where we wanted to be, at the northern corner of Ridge Lake. From there we hiked around to explore the three other lakes, fish a bit, and spend the day far from the madding crowds below. Wonderful. The sky was full of fluffy clouds, and we just wandered from one great spot to the next.

Iceland Lake is below:

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The last day was Friday, and we started early to beat the heat. Most of the hike back down to Kennedy Meadows was in shadow...but we also ran into seven (yep, seven!) groups of horses, from three to fourteen people in each. Add in a few groups of hikers, and it sure felt different from Iceland Lake.

This is not a trip for those who want a nice hike along a well-marked trail. In fact, the lakes in question are well off the trail, and take quite a bit of navigation. But they are lovely lakes, and we promise you that you won't see many people up in this area. And the scenery and fishing is pretty darn amazing.

(Note--we did not see a single fish at Iceland lake--only pollywogs. But Ridge Lake and its companion were full of fish, as was Summit Creek.)
Balzaccom

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



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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby Mradford » Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:57 pm

great report and great shot of Iceland lake, it looks amazing.
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby justm » Mon Aug 20, 2012 6:36 pm

I saw all your pics. Loved all the clouds!!! I was there about a month ago, it's a real special place up there. I think Iceland lake and Sardella lakes are now home to the frogs.. which is ok. Did you make it up to the Lewis lakes ? Good fishing up there. My favorite was Ridge and I had it to myself. I wanted to dismantle that huge fire ring pyramid at Ridge lake but only saw it on my way out and didn't have the time. I'll get it next time. Actually the rest of the area was clean, which makes me happy. Thanks for the TR and Pics !!
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:04 pm

Thanks Justm. We didn't see that fire ring...happily !
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check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby windknot » Tue Aug 21, 2012 7:52 am

Thanks for the report, I've always wanted to visit this area.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby DriveFly44 » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:43 pm

I love that area and have had a lot of fun fishing the Lewis lakes. Thanks for sharing.


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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby backpackerlabelle » Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:39 am

I'm thinking of taking this trek this upcoming long weekend. I have found a few elevation profiles with approaches from the west side of the lakes, but none that capture the route you suggest here. Is it consistent with the 4800 feet I've heard estimated from others? It looks from the topo maps like the cross country stretch (from lewis lake to the saddle and hitting ridge lake at the north) does about 800-1000 feet in a mile or so, sound about right?

That makes for a long day, for sure!

Thanks for any input. I love your blog, by the way, I have been using it heavily as a resource for hikes. I especially appreciate how you arrange it by road, that makes it very useful for planning a trip when folks are coming from different regions of the state.
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby balzaccom » Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:11 pm

Thanks for the kind words.

OUr route was slightly different from what you describe. We went up the Summit Creek trail...but within the first fifty yards of hitting Summit Creek above the gorge, we headed directly up the granite. There is a small knob there, we went to the right of it, then more straight up (to get past a slot canyon of pink granite.) Once past the slot canyon, we headed south to follow the small creek there, always staying to the right of the creek. Never got close to Lewis Lakes, and came over the pass into a granite bowl. We contoured around the bowl to the left, and that took us directly to the northern end of Ridge Lake.

If Kennedy Meadows is 6500 feet, the top of this ridge is 9200 or so...3700 feet of climbing. But we camped where the trail hit Summit Creek the first night, then had the full next day to explore Iceland, Ridge and the rest.

Hope that helps....please send us a report on your trip!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:15 pm

Wow, I missed this when it was originally posted. Nice report on a nifty area. Very interesting observations about Iceland, Ridge, and Sardella with regard to fish populations. I wonder if this means they've stopped air dropping this area. I had figured that the three lakes were self sustaining when I visited them in 1992 because at the time they were being air dropped with goldens but I saw rainbows in all three lakes (so I presumed the rainbows were producing from an earlier time).
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: Emigrant Wilderness TR--Iceland Lake

Postby justm » Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:32 am

giantbrookie, I was camped at a high point above upper Lewis lake where I could see both upper lewis and Sardella lakes. While Upper Lewis was bubbling with rising fish in the evening, Sardella was flat and still. I fished it the next morning with no luck,Saw nothing moving. Same thing at Iceland lake, except I saw tadpoles there. Both Sardella and Iceland lakes have a poor inflow and outflow. On the other hand, all three Lewis lakes and Ridge lake have a robust year round glacier fed inflow and out flow with excellent fishing. I don't think they're going to plant any of those lakes anymore.
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