We started at Mammoth Mountain's summit parking lot, where we proceeded to Minaret Summit, getting our first of many views of Ritter, Banner, and the Minarets. From here, we skied northwards along San Joiquin Ridge, taking lunch at Deadman Pass. It was here that two members of the group split off from the rest of us, as one of them was having trouble keeping up with the pace, and had equipment problems to boot. While we were waiting, I photographed Andy's Christmas card picture.
From there, we traversed along the west side of the ridge until it was time to drop down. We telemarked down a few hundred feet, and then did a blazing downhill traverse towards Agnew Pass, our fastest mile of the trip. We pulled in to Thousand Island Lake a little before dark.
Sunday morning, Carol discovered that she had accidentally packed in a can of diet soda; she enjoyed it for breakfast. Refreshed, we all skied across Thousand Island Lake, contemplating the oddity of a Sierra lake being named after a salad dressing, and the beauty of the towering Vinegrettes (Minarets).
We made it up over a minor saddle, and faced our first significant pass of the trip, a face rising up over the headwaters of Garnet Lake. Cathy, hoping for something less steep, proposed that we go higher, between Mt. Banner and a large knob in front of it. This other route looked easier on the map, and though it went higher (11200'), we wouldn't have to drop down to get to it as we would for the original route.
Cathy's higher pass ended up being a fine choice, the bonus being a wonderfully long telemark descent all the way down to our Sunday campsite at Lake Ediza. After setting up our tents, Simone, our radical randonnee skier, arrived, having skied around to the other side of, and climbed to the top of, 13000' Mt. Banner. Yow!
The next morning, we trudged up to Iceberg (lettuce) Lake. The pass up to Cecile Lake looked mighty steep, but Marty and Simone took turns kicking steps all the way up. The rest of us followed with no trouble at all. The other side of Cecile was just as interesting; we kicked steps down that as well (except for John, who skied it in about 5 seconds).
From there, we descended down, down, down, Vinegrette Creek, to the San Joiquin River and Devil's Postpile. We crossed the mighty San J., skied along the base of the 'Pile, and then mosied out to Reds Meadows Hot Spring about a mile away.
In the summer, you soak (half-hour maximum, the sign says) in one of six little bath stalls. These were padlocked shut, but the outdoor source pool (which is locked shut in the summer) was open. I'd guess 103 F in the main pool, and 107 F in the side pool. Most excellent!! We put the hot spring to very good use.
Soon after our arrival at Reds Meadows, a couple of dogs showed up, a black one, and a Golden who came to be known at our camp as "Shithead." They apparently belonged to some people who yelled for hours from 1/2 mile away, but who we never met. After a pleasant evening of begging for food and chasing its tail, Shithead decided to protect our camp from coyotes by barking all night. At one point, Marty looked up from his sleeping bag to see a coyote charging at the dog, who backed off with its tail between its legs. The coyotes were too kind.
The barking didn't stop until shortly after I climbed into the hot spring at 5:AM. I attracted the dog to the pool, and delivered a well directed power-splash. Shithead left and never came back. I enjoyed a peaceful soak until sunrise.
After breakfast, Larry lead us up over Mammoth Pass, and down into the Tamarack XC center, where we all got to try skating with heavy skis and full packs. Larry and Cathy took the groomed trails back to the cars, beating the rest of us who took my steeper "short cut."
-Bob Akka, 4/14/96