2003 Trans-Sierra Backpacking Trip

Michelle had been promoting the idea of another trans-Sierra backpacking trip for several years. Inspired by Steve Roper's Sierra High Route, (but mindful of an overly "exciting" crossing we once made based on his Climber's Guide to the High Sierra), we decided to cross east-to-west from the June Lake area to Yosemite Valley. Although much of our favorite territory is farther south, the area around the Ritter Range is hard to beat, and by choosing Yosemite Valley as an endpoint we could take advantage of the Yosemite Area Regional Transporation System bus as a shuttle. Plus we could have a seriously decadent dinner at the Eagle's Landing restaurant in June Lake the night before hitting the trail.

On August 21st we drove to Yosemite Valley and caught the YARTS bus (after some fear we'd be late due to the park staff's indecision about where we should put the car). We had previously arranged with the Inyo National Forest folks to leave our wilderness permit at the Mono Basin Visitor's Center in Lee Vining, so Allen rushed out of the bus at that stop and scooped it out of the night-drop box. Then we continued to June Lake, had a great dinner, and turned in at the Whispering Pines motel.

On successive nights starting August 22nd we camped at Thousand Island Lake, North Twin Island Lake, Blue Lake, and Merced Lake. The total trip was roughly 45 miles long, with 2 days on-trail and 2.5 days off-trail. (Though we did find "use" trails at some places along Roper's off-trail route, notably in the briefly-described section just east of the Twin Island Lakes.)

Roughly every hour while hiking we used a GPS unit to record our location. You can find a plot of the waypoints here. In addition to showing the route, it's fun because you can distinguish the slow parts (closely-spaced waypoints) from the fast parts (widely-spaced waypoints).

Finally, the pictures. You can click one of these thumbnail photos to link to a page containing a larger version. The pages with the large images also have "navigation" links that let you view the photos in sequence, or return to this page.

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Classic view of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak.

Thousand Island Lake

First night's campsite.

Thousand Island Lake.

Michelle and her new pack; Ritter and Banner in the background.

Near Thousand Island Lake






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The route for our first off-trail day goes over the pass seen here, between Banner Peak and Mt. Davis.

Thousand Island Lake

Off trail at last, on the way to North Glacier Pass.

Between Banner Peak and Mt. Davis

Big blocks on the way to North Glacier Pass.

Banner Peak






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Northwest side of Banner Peak.

Lake Catherine

Spur of Mt. Ritter seen from Lake Catherine, just below North Glacier Pass.

Lake Catherine

Looking across the chasm of the North Fork of the San Joaquin river toward one of the Twin Island Lakes (our destination for that night).

Near the outlet of Lake Catherine






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Falls along Lake Catherine's outlet stream.

Near Mt. Ritter

Headwaters of the North Fork San Joaquin river.

North Fork San Joaquin valley

No point in carrying boots across the ford -- toss them across first!

Outlet of North Twin Island Lake






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Allen crossing the headwaters of the North Fork San Joaquin.

Outlet of North Twin Island Lake

Looking back on our route down from Lake Catherine.

Near South Twin Island Lake

Looking east to the Ritter Range

West of Twin Island Lakes






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The valley of the North Fork San Joaquin.

On the slopes above Bench Canyon

Bench Canyon -- beautiful and well off the beaten path.

Above Bench Canyon

The Ritter Range and Minarets.

Blue Lake






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Blue Lake and environs in the morning.

Blue Lake

Foerster Peak and Blue Lake Pass.

Blue Lake

Our route lies up the greenbelt on the right, then across the talus above a cliff to the pass (just visible on the left). Note Allen at lower right.

Blue Lake






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Michelle taking a well-earned rest.

Blue Lake Pass

Michelle with Red Peak (on the other side of the Merced Canyon) in the background.

Blue Lake Pass

Where's Allen?

Blue Lake Pass






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Blue Lake at the head of Bench Canyon, with the Minarets and the southern Sierra in the distance.

Blue Lake Pass

An unnamed lake and the upper reaches of the Merced Canyon, with the Clark Range at left.

Blue Lake Pass

The talus field below Blue Lake Pass, with the Merced Canyon and the Clark Range in the background.

Just west of Blue Lake Pass






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Our next objective: The slopes below Peak 11210. Interesting quartz outcropping between here and there. Mt. Hoffmann in the distance.

Just west of Blue Lake Pass

The talus field west of Blue Lake Pass. We hate this stuff. Boulder in the foreground is about 5 feet in diameter.

Below Blue Lake Pass

The unnamed lake west of Blue Lake Pass. Red Peak in the distance.

Below Blue Lake Pass






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Heading down the granite slabs into Merced Canyon, and a very long hike to camp.

Above Merced Canyon

Solar power collectors just outside the Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

Near Merced Lake

A rainy final day on the trail.

Merced Canyon






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Graceful granite along the Merced River. (Credit goes to Michelle for this one.)

Merced Canyon

Pools and falls along the Merced River.

Merced Canyon

Local residents.

Little Yosemite Valley






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Nevada Fall

Searching for apples (or handouts) in the old Curry orchard parking lot.

Yosemite Valley

Avoiding the paparazzi.

Yosemite Valley

All the photos on this trip were taken with Michelle's Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera.