Solo in the Minarets July 2004

By: Nancy Pallister

Plans to meet RJ at Tuolumene Meadows for the last leg of his “vision quest” were scrapped when I drove into thick smoke on Tioga Road. I did a quick turn-around and continued until out of the smoke! I ran into the FS office at Mammoth Lakes and got a permit for the Minarets. I never did run into RJ! Thus began my 7-day adventure.
The trail to Minaret Lake was good; mosquitoes were bad! After a buggy night, I ascended from Minaret Lake and found an easy Cl1 route that avoided the “narrow slot”. The descent from Cecile Lake to Iceberg Lake was scary on steep hard snow. Once down, the view and flowers were worth it. At Ediza Lake I cross-county traveled up to the small tarn below the SE Glacier route on Mt. Ritter. From this point on I was high enough to avoid mosquitoes. Come morning, I studied the route, got confused, and just followed my nose. A few Cl3 stretches, much elevation gain and I reached the edge of the glacier just in time for a huge rock to come sliding down ahead of me. No rest stops here! I picked on of the may variations up the chute to the summit plateau . Then it was a long slog to the top. After a rest on top , I headed down hugging the east side of the glacier.
Rocks were shooting off the steep icy glacier as the sun melted the ice. I was back in camp by early afternoon and discussed the route with three other folks who had arrived. Then, a refreshing bath, dinner and early-to-bed.
The next day I hiked over Whitebark Pass. The north side was icy and difficult. Then over the easy Garnet Pass, past Thousand Island Lake and up North Glacier Pass. The east side of this pass had tedious large talus. Reaching top, as I started around the rocky north side of Lake Catherine, I gave up and on the east side of the lake I found a great camping platform . I bathed in the frigid lake, ate dinner and checked out the tricky traverse to the large west snowfield on Mt. Banner.
Rising early, I traversed a bit of Cl3 scrambling and then it was easy, thank goodness, over to the snowfield and happily put on my crampons, vindicated for carrying the extra weight . I was on top by early morning and spent an hour sunbathing . On my way down I ran into a fellow I met on Mt. Ritter – small world up here! Instead of going back to camp, I traversed from the snowfield to the Ritter Lakes for a tour of unspoiled beauty. A few icebergs were floating in the deep blue. These lakes are well worth the trip. Then I returned to the outlet of Lake Catherine and circled the lake back to camp. You could not ask for a better day.
Next day, I headed back over North Glacier Pass, still not able to find a “good” route. I chose to go cross country around Thousand Island Lake, over Island Pass to the PCT and down to Rush Creek. Hordes of folks were hiking the PCT. Once up the trail to Marie Lakes, I again had the wilderness to myself . The trail ended at the lower Marie Lake – I crossed the outlet and worked my way to Upper Marie Lake and camped on a scrubby flat at the outlet . The plan was to climb Rogers Peak the next day . Off at dawn, I circled north around the lake, up snowfields and 3rd class up a slabby face. Then onto a knife-edge ridge with an awesome view into the upper Lyell Fork. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong peak! I had climbed the hump just north of Rogers Pass.
The route finding was challenging on my little unnamed peak and ridge was very exposed and exciting! I packed up back in camp and headed down to camp on Rush Creek and managed to get in a side trip to Davis Lakes for a fabulous sunset . My camera batteries gave up before my climb of unknown peak, but I can definitely recommend both the Marie Lakes and Davis Lakes are for some good adventurous climbs and great camping.
The next day I walked out. Dave met me at June Lakes and, for the most exciting part of the trip. I had my first ride on the back of a motorcycle to pick up my car at Mammoth Lakes Lodge!


View of Clyde Minaret fron Iceberg Lake

Climbing Route on Mount Ritter

Clouds over Lake Catherine

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Page Created on February 1, 2005