Whitebark, Garnet, and North Glacier Pass

Forest camp above Ediza Lake to Lower Twin Island Lake
(9 miles, +3,300/-3,000 feet).

Today was extremely gorgeous!  We basically spent the whole time circumnavigating the highly photogenic Ritter and Banner Peaks and the lakes below them.  I will definitely need to come back to this part of the High Route.

To make things even better, I got the best sleep last night I think I have ever gotten on trail.  My tent was perfectly snuggled in a flat dry copse of trees and I awoke only once the whole night!

This morning we packed up to a glowing Ritter and Banner that would only get bigger and lovelier as we approached them.

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Alpenglow
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MixMaster and the mountains
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A whimsical JimmyJam

We waited to have breakfast until we hiked a bit and reached a flat area at the base of the glaciers below Ritter.

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Breakfast time
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Breakfast view

After breakfast we approached the glaciers and found a beautiful tarn at their base.

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Banner reflection 
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Panorama
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Enjoying the view

Slowly we started climbing away from this shangri-la over grassy slopes on our way towards Whitebark Pass above Nydiver Lakes.

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Crossing the outlet of the tarn
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Heading uphill
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A little higher
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MixMaster below Ritter
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UltraShuffle below Ritter
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Rainbow T below Ritter

The path grew a little steeper, but it was grassy and we needed only to keep our elevation as we wrapped around above Nydiver Lakes

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A beautiful traverse
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Nydiver Lakes
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View from Whitebark Pass
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Made it!
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Wardrobe adjustment

On the other side of Whitebark Pass we got our first glimpse of Garnet Lake and the talus that lay below the pass.

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Garnet Lake
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More talus
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Banner Peak
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Garnet Lake

I made my way down to a big boulder and waited in the shade for the rest of the group.

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A lovely place to break
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UltraShuffle and Banner
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Just Banner
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Tarn above Garnet Lake

Garnet Pass was even easier than Whitebark Pass as we passed into the basin for Thousand Island Lake.

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Thousand Island Lake
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Banner Peak

The High Route winds around Thousand Island Lake and keeps going straight northwest for a bit until it passes a very large ridge below Banner that contains the lake’s inlet.  It then heads south-ish (and up!) to North Glacier Pass.  We eventually came upon a distinct use trail that led the way up this beautiful valley.

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Looking back on Thousand Island Lake
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Trailside companion
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Meadows below North Glacier Pass
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Looking back

Soon the route turned to talus and snow fields.

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No more meadows here
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Snowfields
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At least it beats talus!
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Last snowfield before the pass

When we got to the top it was a bit of a fakeout — we needed to climb another 100 feet!

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This wasn’t the top
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D’oh!
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Really?
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Making our way through the fakeout
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Almost there

But we did finally reach the pass proper and we were immediately treated to gorgeous views of Lake Catherine sitting at 11,040 feet above sea level.

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Lake Catherine
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Making our way down

We stopped for a much-needed lunch (Ultashuffle said he used his last molecule of energy on that climb!) and enjoyed the lake before once again doing the talus shuffle.

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Lakeshore
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MixMaster vs talus
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Panorama
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Rainbow T and the Ritter-Banner glacier

Below Lake Catherine was another small lake that we carefully picked our way around

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Continuing down

We then followed the outlet through meadows, past waterfalls, and over terrain that bordered on class 3 as we made our way through massive granite hills.  I was really nervous about the description of this part of the High Route, but it turned out to be fine, with very little exposure and no need to lower packs anywhere.

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Grassy meadows
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Wonderful waterfalls
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Keeping it class 2
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Watch your step!
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Almost down
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Whew!
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Snacky time

The next part of the high route involved finding an old mule trail that switchbacks down a steep gully, again to avoid class 3 climbing.  Fortunately we found it, and then followed a use trail nearly all the way to Twin Island Lake.

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Tarn in meadow at 10,400 feet
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Looking for the mule trail
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Following the use trail
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Traversing above a meadow
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Easier than we expected!
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Looking back on the dramatic outlet from Ritter Lakes
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First view of lower Twin Island Lake
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Making our way down

The last bit of our hike that we were nervous about was a deep stream crossing at the outlet for lower Twin Island Lake.  The book on the High Route suggested that the strongest hiker in the group carry all the backpacks back and forth in chest deep water.  But this late in the season it turned out to be a relatively easy leap across from a wet rock to a dry rock.

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Rainbow T makes the leap

At the lake we stopped and looked at the map.  It did not seem like we had enough time to make it to Bench Canyon tonight, and that meant we probably did not have enough time to make the bus in Tuolumne by Saturday evening.  So we needed a plan B for the rest of the trip.

Fortunately, I had downloaded the list of back country passes from High Sierra Topix and I saw that there was a class 2 pass just two miles north of us that would take us down to Davis Lakes and back to the John Muir Trail.  So we decided to make camp at the lake, enjoy a leisurely dinner, and head north in the morning.

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Lower Twin Island Lake
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Setting up camp
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Evening reflection
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Putting the mountains to bed
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. susieant says:

    Wow. That pass on all the rocks looked tough. Did you carry bear cannisters for this trip?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      yes, we had two bear canisters and an ursack between the four of us. we were prepared to fit everything into the canisters if we made it to yosemite, but since we stayed in Ansel Adams where the ursack is allowed, we used it throughout the trip.

      Liked by 1 person

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