Tag Archive | Minarets

High Sierra Trip: Crosscountry from Thousand Island Lake to Minaret Lake

The Minarets

After a ten-year hiatus from backpacking, we chose to get back into the High Sierra, but with updated gear.  With our new ultralight purchases, we enjoyed six nights traveling cross-country in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, with each of our packs weighing in at under 30 pounds, including fly fishing gear.  For the whole story, go back to the oldest post and read forward.

Top of the Trip

At 10,240 feet, this is our last high spot – the rest of the trip will be downhill from here. Cecile Lake is beautiful and austere. There is very little cover here – we are glad we camped below at Iceberg Lake last night.

We paused at the top for drinks and snacks. A pair of hikers caught up with us. We are entertained by their electronics – one is texting his wife, the other seems to be mapping every thirty steps on his GPS. We’ve gone “old school,” only carrying two USGS topo maps and a compass. (Although, the compass was totally unnecessary since the topography is dominating and obvious.) There is an obvious fitness difference between the pair, and the less fit of the two appears to be using his trekking poles to compensate. From our observations, though, his use of the poles is actually putting him in more precarious positions, causing him to extend his body and loaded backpack into awkward and off-balance positions.

We trail the hikers through the talus along the edge of Cecile Lake and discuss the options for the descent down to Minaret Lake. The crest of the saddle at the outlet of Cecile Lake is littered with lightning-struck snags and dead wood – a testament to the area’s exposure.

The pair drop off towards Minaret Lake while we stop for a snack to discuss our options. This is the other spot with challenges, according to previous trip descriptions. We drop over the top, and then I hear Steve say, “Here we are – the class three spot.”

I hurry to look over his shoulder. “That’s it?!” I exclaim. It’s maybe an eight or nine foot slot, with spots that look like they will serve fine as hand and foot holds. Steve scrambles down, and I then hand my backpack down to him. I also scramble down, with a long stretch for my foot. But, not scary. Not barely doable. Seriously. That’s it?! I didn’t even stop to take a picture because it was so unremarkable. Sheesh!

Ascending to Cecile Lake

This day has the two parts of the trip that give me the most trepidation: ascending to Cecile Lake up the steep, less than stable slope, and the class 3 section descending from Cecile Lake to Minaret Lake.

We planned an early start – we knew others camped at Iceberg Lake would be on our same route, and we didn’t want to be caught in a dicey place if the weather shifted. I was up at dawn to try to catch the morning glow on the Minarets, but the broken clouds dampened the colors.

There seems to be several routes marked by cairns on the slope, and several times we found ourselves in between routes, and other times we were on the routes. The climb was not as difficult as anticipated, especially with the snowfields gone for the season. We were soon enjoying the reflection of Clyde Minaret in Cecile Lake.