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TR: Ansel Adams Wilderness - Ediza, Garnet, Thousand Island Lakes (8/1-8/4, 2014)

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Our group of 6 spent 3 nights backpacking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, visiting a series of subalpine lakes at the foot of the Ritter range, an imposing volcanic subrange of the Sierra Nevada. We camped at Ediza, Garnet, and Thousand Island Lakes, which must be some of the most scenic lakes in the Sierra, easily accessed from Agnew Meadows in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

After spending a night at Mammoth Mountain Chatlets, we parked our cars in overnight parking near the ski area and took a 9AM shuttle to Agnew Meadows. We hiked in on the River Trail and headed up to Ediza for the first night. Day 1 was a relatively easy 7 miles (roughly) with 1200 ft elevation gain...we were at camp by lunchtime and found a great spot on the SW end of the lake. We weren't the only ones there, but had a fair amount of privacy. Wildfire smoke from the French Fire in the San Joaquin Valley moved in around 2 pm and was rather heavy in the afternoon, all but obscuring the surrounding peaks. It didn't, however, stop us from taking a skinny dip and later exploring the basin above Ediza to the SW. In general, smoke was heavy during the daytime, but it typically lifted in the evenings and was clear in the early AM.

On day 2 we backtracked to the JMT, and had a leisurely hike to Garnet Lake. We had been recommended to go cross country from lake to lake, but the route from Nydiver lakes to Garnet looked quite steep on topo and we had a few novices in our group. Because we stuck to the JMT, we ended up losing elevation and having to climb another 1200 ft, but overall, it was another easy day. We again made it to camp by lunch time and set up camp on a peninsula on the north side of the lake. Smoke again was heavy in the afternoon, but did not stop us from swimming out to some of the many islands dotting the lake and exploring meadows above the west end of the lake.

Wildfire smoke lifted just in time for sunset on Garnet Lake.





On day 3, we awoke to an overcast sky. Two of our group hiked out (as planned) and the rest continued on to Thousand Island Lake, again backtracking to JMT. We later day hiked from Thousand Island to the pass at the west end of the lake that connects Thousand Island basin with Garnet and decided that this route would have been relatively easy, even with packs. There is a use trail for most of the way, and only a bit of boulder hopping near the pass. Unfortunately, by 4 pm, it began raining, and steadily increased in intensity until sundown. Eating Mountain House lasagna in the rain was not a highlight of the trip. :-)

On the bright side, recent thunderstorms had really given the wildflowers a boost on this dry year. By morning, the rain had stopped; however, due to another overcast sky and the prospect of views obscured by wildfire smoke, instead of hiking back on the High Trail as planned, we took the shorter route, returning to the trailhead via the River Trail. I don't think any day was over 8 miles and we gained at most 1200 ft of elevation in a day. Lakes were cool, but not unbearably cold. Despite the wildfire smoke and rain, this was a great trip...next time I'll have to make it up to Cecile and Iceberg and hopefully I'll get a sunny day at Thousand Island Lake.

Near inlet of Ediza. Wildflowers were in abundance in the basin just above Ediza thanks to recent rains. This was one of my favorite areas...wildflower meadows, waterfalls, wildlife.





Sunrise at Lake Ediza. Beautiful subalpine scenery set against a stunning backdrop including the Minarets (left) and Ritter/Banner peaks (right).



Arriving at Garnet Lake via JMT...smoke starting to come in.







Thousand Island Lake just before the rain started...will need to go back in good weather.



And finally, the TR would be incomplete without mentioning the hot springs near Benton's Crossing...great for a pre- (or post) hike soak.




Edited 16 time(s). Last edit at 08/17/2014 09:55AM by redpakotasea.
Very cool. Those are some nice photos. I have yet to haul myself up to that area, but this is very inspiring. Thanks for the report.
Cool to see Ediza from that angle. Has anyone been up Volcanic Ridge from there. I've heard that you head south south east from Ediza. Haven't seen an actual route. Guessing there are a few ways up.
Wow, love the pics! Excellent! Storms may have their downsides, but they sure do offer some amazing scenery and colors and textures, no?

Love those lakes! Enjoyed the loop continuing from Ediza to Iceberg, Cecile, Minaret Lakes. Friends of ours who really nudged us into backpacking years ago used to LOVE going to Ediza, regularly! And their stories of the goings-on back in the 70s at the lake... wow... One of our first trips with them was the loop hitting Minaret Lake to rejoin a trail. At the time, I was still relatively new to the backpacking thing, and the snowfield we encountered that year at Iceberg... I just remember looking down thinking, if I slide, I slide right into that icy water.. way down there! ugh. But loved it! Thanks for bringing back great memories!
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JustKeepWalking
Friends of ours who really nudged us into backpacking years ago used to LOVE going to Ediza, regularly! And their stories of the goings-on back in the 70s at the lake... wow...

I can only imagine. smiling smiley

Glad you enjoyed the pics. I'll have to do the bigger loop next time.
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