2019 Ansel Adams Wilderness

Ansel Adams Wilderness, east of the Ritter Range is a magical place, especially when bright colorful wildflowers, lush green meadows, active streams, and snow-patched granite spires call for your attention.  It is a desirable location for many backpackers and day hikers, making solitude here rare.  Giving a nod to spectacular scenery over solitude, I selected this area for a trip with my brother.  My strategy was to avoid popular camping locations.

We started out of Agnew Meadows, followed the trail past Shadow Lake, turned north onto the JMT and eventually diverted to modest Clarice Lake for the evening.  

Our campsite destination the following day was near the tarn above the west end of Garnet Lake.  It is no more than 3.5 miles away along the north shore of Garnet Lake, but I wanted to show my brother Thousand Island Lake so we added another ~3 miles by looping around Thousand Island and returning over Garnet Pass. Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers abound, especially flourishing in the grassy meadow alongside the stream that feeds into the west end of Garnet Lake.

Garnet Lake

Flowering corn lilies and Banner Peak at Thousand Island Lake

Indian paintbrush and Banner Peak

Day 3 included a climb over rocky and steep Whitebark Pass.  Over the previous weeks, I monitored Caltopo’s hi-res satellite photos and saw our chance of success increase as the snowfields shrank.  We would not need to take an alternate path back to the JMT.  After tiring of climbing over talus, we reached the left side of the large snowfield near the top.  Here, we had to climb up ledges and scramble to the left into a large chute for the final ascent to the top, getting our first views of the Minarets.  We crossed above Nydiver Lakes, past the first tarn to its west at about 10,300’ and ended up at the snowy 10,100’ tarn at the base of Mt Ritter and Banner Peak.  Spectacular scenery AND solitude.  Although we did see a solo climber descending from Mt Ritter.  Multiple waterfalls flowed down Mt Ritter into the tarn on its way to Ediza Lake and Shadow Creek far below.

Whitebark Pass

Snowfield on Whitebark Pass

Whitebark Pass

Nydiver Lake

Morning sun on Mt Ritter and Banner Peak

On the last day, we followed the stream down to Ediza Lake but at the lake, forgot to take the intended south shore route. Our north shore route was a slow quarter mile grind over boulders.  Once back on trail, we traveled alongside Shadow Creek, eventually retracing our steps back to Agnew Meadows.

White Heather

Tiger Lily