Minarets Loop Trip Report- 8/28-8/30
3 days, 2 nights. About 30 miles total.
Day 1: Agnews Meadow to Thousand Island Lake via High Trail; camp north side of TI Lake
Day 2: TI Lake to Cecile Lake via JMT & off-trail; camp North side of Cecile Lake
Day 3: Cecile Lake to DPP Ranger Station via Minaret Lake trail
My friend and I took the 7:15am shuttle from the Village in Mammoth Lakes directly to AM to start our journey. (There are 3 early morning shuttles that go directly to the Reds Meadow valley without requiring you to switch shuttles at the Mammoth Adventure Center). Round-trip ticket cost- $7.
We headed north on the High Trail (PCT) towards Thousand Island Lake. It was a beautiful, clear summer day- so it was hard walking in a straight line with my head always cocked to the left to admire the views. Plenty of wildflowers still in bloom (esp. close to water sources), and plenty of places to fill up with ice cold water along the way. Also- not really any skeeters on the High Trail. We encountered a lot of fisherman coming back from TI Lake, but there weren't so many people at the lake where we were camping on the north side (I assume since it was a Sunday night and people finished up their weekend trips). It was warm enough to sleep without a tent, but it was handy since there were still lots of skeeters at dusk on the lake. For those seeking more isolation- it looked like there was still a good amount of snow on the western banks of the lake, and also in patches on the southern side.
We headed out at 9am (we weren't in any particular hurry) south on the JMT. After you pass Garnett Lake the trail scenery pales in comparison to that of the High Trail, and it's a pretty long downhill until you hit Shadow Creek. (People climbing up the opposite way didn't look like the were having much fun.) On the South side of Ediza Lake, there's a sign pointing to the trail which takes you to Iceberg Lake. There was still snow blocking the trail up to Iceberg at certain points- but they could either be circumvented, or the smaller ones were slushy enough in the afternoon to trudge across easily.
Iceberg Lake is simply gorgeous and a great spot to camp that's easy to get to, yet not the busiest locale. (Plus there are less skeeters there than at Ediza). For those wanting to cross the snowfield to Cecile Lake- do note that it is still VERY snowy. We crossed at around 330-4pm- when the field was in direct sunlight and at its slushiest before the sun vanished behind Mt. Ritter a little bit later. We crossed only using trekking poles and kicking big holes with sturdy hiking books, and it took us about an hour. There were plenty of other people who crossed that day, so tracks are visible. I'd recommend crossing with the proper equipment- ice axe, crampons or microspikes- something to guarantee that you won't wind up in freezing Iceberg Lake, and waiting until later in the afternoon once the snow has softened. Once the snow ends, after about half a mile it seemed, the fun just begins with the ascent of a class 2 (or 3? I'm not the best judge) loose rock. There's a path that's pretty warn, and I'd recommend following that as it seems to be the path of least resistance. (I'd prefer doing this section in the direction we did it- I think it'd be less fun to do the part before the ice field heading down). Once we got to the top, we cut to the left (east) since there's more snow to the right (west), right above Cecile's outlet. Not to far from here, there's a cleared out spot among the boulders that's big enough for a 2 person tent, and a another spot a few feet away that looked big enough for 1 person in a sleeping bag. This seemed like the best/only campsite on this side of Cecile. It was a great spot to be, as we had the whole lake to ourselves that night. (Also- it was a lot colder here than anywhere else- which makes sense being at the highest point of the trip so far- but since there were no bugs, someone could probably go without a tent, even up there.)
Sunrise above Cecile was spectacular- definitely worth the previous days hard work. We continued to the left (east) across the scree/boulders. The west side of the lake has about 4 snowfields, and I would stay away from that- but we met people who did manage to cross via the west side. Before you get to the southern side of the lake, you head uphill to go over and down the other side. There was still snow in certain areas heading up- so, again, we took the path of least resistance and found our way easily to the other side. Before heading down some Class 2s, I recommend scouting out what looks like the best path to you, and then taking it down to the little bowl/muddy pond below. On the pond's southwestern side, you take the worn trail (marked by other hikers) down to Minaret lake. Go slowly here as most of the trail is loose sand/gravel- and try to stay "left"- the ground seemed to be more stable there. Once you finish this downhill- you'll see the trail that will take you around Minaret Lake. Once you leave the lake, it's downhill all the way back to the DPP Ranger Station. From there we caught the shuttle back to the Mammoth Adventure Center.
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