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Ansel Adams Wilderness, first time visit

9 activities · 3 days
Lam Tran ·last month
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It was my third backpacking trip ever and it was epic. In summer 2017, An asked me to go on another backpacking trip with him to make up for the last two trips that we couldn’t make it to our tempted destinations. I asked my friend Duong, from Houston if he’d like to come with us. Duong agreed and we set the date for September 8, perfect time to visit the Sierra Nevada.

Story
Itinerary
Day 1
The first few miles were very easy, we took a lunch stop at Shadow Lake. After 2 miles from Shadow Lake, we hit a fork where the trail splits into two directions. The left turn will take us to Ediza Lake and the right turn will lead us to Garnet Lake. After the fork, the trail starting to ascent uphill with more switchbacks to tackle. We slow our pace down, took more rests. Last night sleep at 7,000 ft campsite help us with the elevation although Duong got a struggle with his pack which he borrows from a friend who’s a lot taller than him. The wrong size pack has weighted his shoulders down. An and I waited for Duong to catch up with us many times.
An on his Toyota Element before heading out to the trailhead
Easy downhill hike along a valley
An and Duong took a quick rest at Olaine Lake

Olaine Lake

Olaine Lake, California, USA
Duong wandering offtrail when we made a lunch stop at Shadow Lake
Me, resting on a large boulder looking out to Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake, CA, USA
The Shadow Creek run along the trail from Ediza Lake into Shadow Lake. At some sections it runs really strong and fast.
Eventually, we hit the outlet of Ediza Lake where it creates a wide strong creek. We didn’t take the footbridge and made it to the right side of the creek. That helped us to scramble up the lake via a talus field. There was a group of 5 young backpackers on the other side of the creek, trying to cross the creek with shoes off. They saw us and asked how we got across. We told them that we took the right turn at the footbridge. Apparently, it was a few switchbacks down below but I guess they were already exhausted so they decided to cross the creek where the water is shallow and they made it across safely.
An and Duong tackle up Shadow Creek to Ediza Lake outlet.
We set up our camp at the north shore of Ediza Lake. Both An and me didn’t have a tent at that time so we took shelter under a thick pine groove, covered ourselves with tarps. Duong pitched his tent at the angle where it could block the wind for us. After everything looked fine, we went for a day hike to Iceberg Lake, sit at 500 ft higher than Ediza Lake. It was an easy 2 miles trail with mostly switchback grind but nothing significant. Looking down at Ediza Lake gave us a spectacular view.
Starting to go up the swichbacks
The rugged peaks look amazing
Duong and An taking rest on a switchback
Walking through a small meadow
Iceberg Lake was really beyond my expectation. The view was stunning and the lingering ices made the whole scenery looks like it was from another world. I was speechless watching the lake.

Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake, California, USA
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We spent half an hour at Iceberg Lake and went down to Ediza Lake for dinner. We took a good sleep except I tried to wake up to do some night photos but the sky was so cloudy and I couldn’t get anything good. I went back to sleep again and woke up 5:30 AM to catch sunrise.
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The wind was calm and the water was still made perfect reflection.
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Taking a photo with the stunning Ediza Lake before continue on our adventure.

Ediza Lake

Ediza Lake, California, USA
Day 2
We had breakfast and coffee in the bright warm sun then gearing up for the next destination in our itinerary, Garnet Lake. We scramble through the talus at the outlet of Ediza Lake and then retrace our steps back to the fork where we could head to Garnet Lake. It was about 5 miles in distance with 1,000 ft gain. The view along the way was mostly rugged and rocky, very little to no trees until Garnet Lake appears in our sights at around 4 PM. The Lake is vast with a stunning view of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak on the southwest shore. Despite its vastness, we had trouble looking for a level ground to set up our camp. We walk around the shore and finally got a place beyond the footbridge at the west shore. An told us he not gonna explore furthermore and he will be taking a nap until dinner. I grabbed my day pack and got on the hike with Duong to Thousand Island Lake. It was just a short 1.6-mile hike with 300 ft gain and we stopped by Ruby Lake and Emerald Lake on the way. These small lakes are beautiful but they don’t have stunning backgrounds like Ediza Lake or Garnet Lake. We may not stop by them again if we are gonna redo this route. But Thousand Island Lake was worth to spend more time to explore. Worried that we have to hike back to Garnet Lake in the dark without headlamps, Duong and me spend very little time at Thousand Island Lake, just enough for a few photos. On the way back to Garnet Lake, I found a great spot for overlooking the lake.

Ruby Lake

Ruby Lake, CA, USA

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake, CA, USA
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Thousand Island Lake

Thousand Island Lake, California, USA
Amazing view of Garnet Lake on the way down from Ruby Lake.

Ruby Lake

Ruby Lake, California, USA
Day 3
The night at Garnet Lake was uneventful. We woke up early for breakfast then rushing to pack up for heading back because we knew it’ll be a long hike back to Agnew Meadow. We also had to ascent some last few miles and it really wearied us out. But when we made it back to the parking lot at Agnew Meadow, we were so happy that we could do a very beautiful scenic route in Ansel Adams Wilderness and we celebrated it with burgers and cold tap beer at Toomey’s in Mammoth Lake Town. It was only my third backpacking trip but the beauty of this area I have seen had already set a very high standard for backpacking destinations. Back then I told myself I will definitely come back to this area to visit these beautiful lakes again didn’t know that I came back here for real in 2019, two years later from this trip. And writing these lines today makes me want to revisit this place over and over again.

Garnet Lake

Garnet Lake, California, USA
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