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Thousand Island Lake Area, July 10th - 14th, 2012

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Thousand Island Lake Area, July 10th - 14th, 2012

Postby David and Karen » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:29 am

*** David Here - this is a cross post of a report my wife just submitted to nwhikers.net - this forum was a great help to us when we were doing research. ****

After flipping through my Thousand Island Lake area photos, I’m challenging my statement in my last report that Dusy/Palisade Basins were my favourite areas from our whole Sierras trip. What a fantastic place this is to wander even though there are lots of people crawling all over this wilderness. There are plenty of climber’s paths to be found in the cross country areas, and the place is so huge we still had solitude and quiet camping this leg of the trip.

First up some touristy stuff in Mammoth.

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Tisha and I would start this trip alone, and Jeremy and Steve would join us later that night after flying into Reno and hiking in the last portion by headlamp. Don’t forget cash for the bus driver as we had to beg for change on the bus. On our last visit two years ago I bought the tickets at the hotel desk and used credit card, but the desk staff told me they do not do that anymore even though the shuttle website said differently.

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The hike up to Shadow Lake from Agnew Meadows was uneventful with only a short pause to let a gentleman and his horse named “Toolbox” go by with supplies to help fix the massive trail damage by last winter’s storms. What a great job these volunteers have done! Walking, walking and more walking and then we reached Ediza Lake, our camp for the night.

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The only camping is on the northwest side of the lake. We watched a small party clamber over boulders on the north side and ford the outlet of the lake and thought that route did not look appealing, especially for Jeremy and Steve in the dark. So we scouted the long way around on the trail and found a great spot in the trees but had to take turns going back to get our packs as other backpackers were hot on our heels.

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I guess continual high elevation backpacking is tiring as I did not even hear the boys arrive late at night!

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After some early morning photography we day hiked up to Iceberg Lake, then Cecile Lake, with lots of fishing, photography and dancing breaks.

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How can you not love these pretty alpine lakes backed by the majestic Minarets?

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The party was split on descending down to Minaret Lake, however we still had to pack up our camp and travel cross country to Nydiver Lakes where we would spend the night.

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The way was fairly obvious, there was a climber’s path from Ediza up towards Ritter and then it was just a matter of working our way up and then down towards Upper Nydiver.

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This would be the first of two amazing sunsets we would get to enjoy on this backpack.


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We were all up before dawn photographing and fishing around all three of the Nydiver Lakes. It was fun to watch the fish chasing Jeremy’s lure in the clear alpine water from above!

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We packed up camp and were on the move again, this time, up and over Whitebark Pass. While the pass on the Nydiver/south side was simply uphill,

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descending on the Garnet Lake/ north side was a bit trickier. It is steep with lots of loose scree and talus.

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We headed towards a nice little tarn and meadowy area so we could drop our packs and wander down to Garnet Lake. I have never seen so many paintbrush in one place! The whole end of this basin was just a carpet of red, it was incredible!

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As soon as we hefted the packs onto our backs Tisha said those dreaded words that would become her catch phrase for the rest of the trip “Are those thunderheads?” We all agreed they were and hastily made our way up and over to the far end of Thousand Island Lake. The thunder was loud and booming so we scampered over the high point, spread out and tried to minimize the exposure of any metallic objects (tripods, axes). Steve advised we’d be wise not to let our hiking poles touch the wet ground when we reached the marshy section at the bottom.

We practically ran to the far side of the lake and quickly set up camp and dove into our tents. And this is where I owe Tisha a HUGE thank you. I only had a bivy sack with me to lighten my load so I could carry more camera equipment. Let’s just say thunderstorms and bivy sacks don’t go well together! She graciously loaned me her single person tent (she had for the first night before Jeremy arrived with a bigger one) for the next two nights so that when we had to wait out storms rolling through I could comfortably sit up and play Angry Birds on my phone and chimp my photos instead of being crammed with all my camera gear into a teeny tiny bivy sack. THANK YOU TISHA!

After the storm cleared we wandered around and drank in some of the amazing scenery.

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I had been here before, but we stayed at the populated east end of the lake. Here we were right below Banner and honestly I don’t care how many times I make it back here, I’ll always be impressed by this view.

We were treated to a really nice sunset and then everyone retired to get an early start on the next day’s adventures.

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The rest of the team was headed for Banner Peak itself, all the way to the tippy tip top. Personally I wanted to take my time and ramble around Catherine Lake and Ritter Lakes with my camera.

The group pulled ahead of me when we passed a little waterfall in a meadow with Banner Peak looming impressively behind.

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The plan was to check in every hour with each other via FRS. My first call came too late as they advised me not to go through the massive boulder field I was currently negotiating, instead to veer left. On the way back we would easily walk across a snowfield that took a fraction of the time the boulders did.

Next was the ascent up a short steep snow field, more rocks and then…WOW!

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Lake Catherine does not disappoint. It is very difficult to photograph, and amazing to behold, except there was something wrong with this picture. The gang was still sitting here. I knew from the glum looks on their faces that they were going to forgo the summit due to the building thunderheads in the distance. It wasn’t worth the risk. Lucky for me however; as I picked up some pleasant company for the rest of the day!

We made our way around Catherine which took oh so much longer than it looks thanks to lots more rock hopping.

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We wandered through the landscape finding two Ritter Lakes, thinking we had seen them all, but oops! A check of the topo map back at camp and we missed one!

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The storm was building so we decided we needed to get lower and hottail it back to camp.

We were very near camp when Jeremy spotted the motherload of paintbrush.

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Holy cow there were so many of them crammed in one spot! The SECOND Tisha, Steve and I all pulled our cameras from our packs and were getting ready to press the shutters, rather large hail started pelting us. We rushed back to camp with cries of “Ow!” “Man that one hurt” “Owie!” and “Trail margaritas anyone?” I’m not exaggerating when I say the exact second my hand touched the zipper of the tent there was a massive BOOM that sent us diving into our tents.

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Fast forward an hour and Jeremy gets out and says “I think that’s it kids”, we all crawl out happy it is over, only to once again be pelted with massive hail chunks a few seconds later. One more hour and nap number 2 passes and we can finally climb out of our tents and can enjoy the evening.

The next day we would pack up and say our goodbyes to Thousand Island Lake.

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We would pass by the metropolis at the eastern end of the lake and make our way towards Garnet.

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Some more photography ensues at the overlook and at the scenic bridge at the outlet.

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We would then take a “sidetrail”/bootpath to rejoin a main trail at the river.

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It took us a while to find a suitable crossing and after that it was just an unpleasant, hot hump back out to the trailhead. Our timing was impeccable with little wait time for the bus.

We had a celebratory dinner at the always fantastic Roberto’s Mexican food in Mammoth and a well deserved shower and comfy bed in a real, live, actual hotel!

The next day we stopped briefly at Hot Creek Geological site and Mono Lake.

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*** I snipped off the last bit where she just thanks all her hiking partners - hope you enjoyed this series - if you want something more make sure you check out the hilarious video compilation she made of this trip and the others she did in 2012: ***

PS: Can anyone tell me what species of lizard she photographed? The dark one I'm pretty sure is a Western Fence Lizard - not certain what to call the brown one. Large version: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48937858@N ... otostream/ Thanks
Last edited by David and Karen on Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:48 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area

Postby markskor » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:11 am

"Can anyone tell me what species of lizard she photographed? The dark one I'm pretty sure is a Western Fence Lizard - not certain what to call the brown one."

The western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) – also known commonly as blue bellies.

And Uta stansburiana - Common Side-blotched Lizard...Utes
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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area

Postby balzaccom » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:00 am

Great photos and report. We were up in that area last summer as well, and had a lovely trip
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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:17 pm

Thank you for the great trip reports. The photos are wonderful. What camera and equipment did you have?
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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:15 pm

Enjoyable Read Karen, thanks. Obviously had an fine group trip. Looks like mid July? Congrats on finding those areas of dense paintbrush which most groups never happen upon because they either stay by the trail or east end of either of those lakes, or do the popular climb up to Glacier Pass as you did. Of course last winter was relatively dry so wildflowers were generally subpar.

D&K >>>"The only camping is on the northwest side of the lake."

Well for those that want to be next to the water which is the classic mindset of 95% of backcountry visitors, that is true. Actually one cannot see Ritter and Banner at all from that side of the lake. The reason the lake is reknowned is because of views from the south side of the lake but of course all that is a no camping zone. We always camp well above the lake where the main stream from Ritter Pass drops off the large meadow into forest, views are open in all directions, and campspots relatively pristene. Of course you saw all that on your way up to Nydiver.

D&K >>>"We packed up camp and were on the move again, this time, up and over Whitebark Pass. While the pass on the Nydiver/south side was simply uphill, descending on the Garnet Lake/ north side was a bit trickier. It is steep with lots of loose scree and talus."

Normal snow years that loose chute would be much worse. Terrain is much easier to cross further east on the divide at the pond saddle.
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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area

Postby overheadx2 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:04 pm

I don't need specifics, but how was the fishing further up there. Beautiful picks and a great report. Thanks for sharing, Phil
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Re: Thousand Island Lake Area, July 10th - 14th, 2012

Postby David and Karen » Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:13 pm

Thanks for the kind words, per request I have added dates to all the trip reports

Thanks too for the lizard ID, while I am familiar with that species, Image I had no idea that there were some with stripes. In fact it appears the stripes and the faded splotch (seen in another photo) would indicate that this particular lizard is female.

Karen took the majority of her photos with a Canon Mark II and a 24-70mm f2.8 lens

Anything I can say about the fishing would be third-hand information. I can report that he did in fact find fish - this one in particular was from lower Nydiver Image
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