Monday, August 10, 2015

The Ritter Range

Agnew Meadow
We had no definite plan for the day other than starting at Agnew Meadow and checking out Cabin Lake off the Ediza Lake trail. We had heard it was a nice spot off the beaten track (thanks Barb!).  We had to beat the mandatory Devils Postpile bus by getting through the Minaret Summit checkpoint before 7:00, so it was an early start.  The meadow is already showing signs of fall with frost on the grass and bits of color in the willows. We made good time and got to Shadow Lake 4 miles in well before 9.  The late summer flowers are presenting well now.

Sierra Gentian
Approach to Cabin Lake
We weren't sure how exactly to get to Cabin Lake; one report on the internet talked about going most of the way to Ediza Lake and backtracking on a use trail up to the lake. Being the ever intrepid explorers that we are, we simply followed Shadow Creek until it met with the outlet stream from Cabin Lake and headed up.  Straight up...  A few hundred vertical feet later we were there at a pretty little lake tucked into the edge of the Volcanic Ridge.

Cabin Lake
After a short break we continued west and then north on the obvious use trail towards Ediza Lake. A pleasant meadow sits just a short distance west of Cabin Lake with nice views in all directions.

Meadow west of Cabin Lake
Crossing a ridge we started the descent back toward Shadow Creek. The view from this elevated perch of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak was excellent. This was just a taste of what to come for views of those two impressive mountains. We were back down to Shadow Creek a short time later with half a day left to adventure.

View northwest to Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak
Shadow Creek and Hikin' Bill walking on water

At the end of June, Susan and I had passed this way and by Nydiver Lakes on the Sierra High route. We were eager to go again with a little more time to explore, and our friend Hikin' Bill had never been there. To Nydiver Lakes we go!  These lakes are a cross country amble up nearly 2,000 feet from Shadow Creek. We took the direct route and headed up the outlet creek from the lower Nydiver Lake for a while before contouring around some cliffs to the north. This was the same way Susan and I had approached earlier in the summer so we knew the way. We eventually reached the Nydiver bench above the lowest lake with a nice view of the lake to the south.

Lower Nydiver Lake with Volcanic Ridge in the background
Instead of dropping down to that lake we continued west toward the upper two lakes.  With a bit of scrambling we made the shore of the middle lake for a nice extended break.

Hikin' Bill doing a short class 3 scramble.  He wasn't happy with me for taking him on this part. ;-)
Middle and Upper Nydiver Lakes with Ritter and Banner
It was decision time... We could backtrack for the shortest distance, or continue on past the upper lake, over the ridge near the base of Mt. Ritter, and descend to Lake Ediza after bypassing some steep cliffs.  This would add several more miles but would take us to new territory and even better views of the big peaks. Of course we went the long way! We ascended the ridge then dropped to a tarn at the base of Mt. Ritter.  The melt water streams cascading off the snow fields were impressive at close range. It was a good choice going this way - some of the best mountain views ever!

Ritter and Banner from the ridge with the tarn below

Nearer to the tarn as we descend the ridge

Mt Ritter
Once at the tarn we picked up a climber use trail that led us easily down to Ediza Lake through a magnificent grove of Mountain Hemlock. The storm clouds continued to build, and while a few drops fell now and then, we never had to break out the rain gear.  

Use trail to Ediza Lake with Mountain Hemlock

Fireweek and Ediza Lake with the Minarets beyond
Once on the cruiser trail at Ediza Lake we pounded out the 7+ miles to the Agnew Meadow trailhead pretty quickly.  There was real food waiting at Mammoth Lakes!

20 miles, 4,600 feet ascent


Bird Lists:

Agnew Meadow
Shadow Lake
Cabin Lake
Nydiver Lakes
Ediza Lake

1 comment:

  1. Hikin' Bill needs a better trail name I think....something like scramblin' Bill or Class 3 Bill or even rock-hoppin' Bill come to mind:-)