Friday, February 19, 2016

Minaret Vista and Deadman Pass

Map Track

Bird Lists:

Mono County

Madera County

Walking the ski run
One of our favorite places to be in all the Sierra is the headwaters of the Middle Fork San Joaquin River, including the Minarets and Ritter Range. To visit in a single day in winter limits the possibilities, and there is no better view of this area than Minaret Summit near the Mammoth Mountain ski resort. We set our sights on the summit and then a traverse of the San Joaquin Mountain ridge out to Deadman Pass. Walking this ridge also aligns with the county line between Mono and Madera, so birds for multiple county lists are always a possibility!

We started the trek at the Mammoth Mountain Lodge, proceeding past the giant skier tram, making our way to the snow covered and groomed summer road up to Minaret Vista.  We would have to share this space with skiers for half a mile. Reaching the summit we found a well buried entrance station for Devils Postpile.

The entrance station to Devils Postpile is well buried

From this point on it is nothing but spectacular views into the San Joaquin River drainage. The views included the Minarets, Mt. Ritter, Banner Peak, and many other sights. As we traveled the ridge the views just kept improving. Along the way we kicked up a flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches that flew across the line and into Madera County, making County Birder Susan very happy. The only unfortunate aspect of this snowshoe is that the area is also open to snowmobiles. We were lucky that there were only a few that roared by during our adventure. The advantage to having snowmobiles out there is they pack down deep fluffy snow making snowshoe traveling much easier. Still, we'd rather break trail than listen to those things... 

We stopped short of the steep decent down to Deadman Pass and had lunch. It was a much quicker return trip, mostly down hill, and we had plenty of time to stop and admire the amazing views. The weather treated us well, relatively warm and only occasionally breezy if you got too close to the ridge line.  Another amazing day!

First view of the Minarets and Ritter Range
Panorama of the range
Snowmobile tracks with Mammoth Mountain beyond
North to San Joaquin Mountain
There were some steep climbs traveling along the ridge
South down the San Joaquin River
Minarets, Mt. Ritter, and Banner Peak (L-R)

Wide view of entire Ritter Range
Mammoth Mountain with all its crazy Yo-Yo skiers and snowboarders

Closer now to San Joaquin Mountain (R) with Donohue Peak beyond

Interesting lines in the wind sculpted snow
The Minarets over windswept snow

A wind swept ridge that holds no snow

One more wide view
Susan with the Glass and White Mountains to the east far beyond
Headwaters of the Middle Fork San Joaquin River

Deadman Pass below, with San Joaquin Mountain beyond

Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak stand tall over the river headwaters
A wide view from our turn-around spot showing it all
Far to the east - Inyo Craters and Glass Mountains


  1. Great photographs!! Thanks for "taking" us on another wonderful trek. Nice to see the snow, around here the only expanse of white I see is the beach.

  2. Effin amazing that you guys can get around in such rugged country. We need to adopt you to work on the Nevada County breeding bird project. Our terrain in the northern Sierra is tame compared to what you have to deal with.