Day 43, June 6th
Start: devils postpile national monument, mile 904
End: thousand island lake, mile 923
Miles hiked: 24 with side trip to lake ediza and banner peak

Trail angel ‘sugar mama’, a pct class of ’09 hiker (I think ’09) picks us up and takes 6 of us to the trailhead. It’s a long ride, much longer than I expected. Mack, Guthrie, Sheriff and I hike all around devils postpile while carrot and not a chance sit and wait for us.

“Errggg geological wonders” they say, in their nerdiest voices, in an attempt to make fun of us as we walk away to explore. stupid girls. Devils postpile has some great volcanic cylinders that shoot right up our of the ground. It’s really quite fascinating to see.

Soon we’re back on the pct at the junction with the jmt. The jmt keeps to the west side of the valley, passing several lakes, while the pct huge the try east side. They meet up in 13 miles at thousand island lake. Unanimously, we choose the jmt alternate. We begin climbing and reach Johnson lake, and then trinity lakes. “More like trinity mosquito hatchery” carrot exclaims. There’s Mosquitos everywhere today. First time there’s really been an abundance of those jerks.

We pass Rosalie lake, nestled up tightly next to a large granite wall. It’s the perfect composition of blue water, green pines, white snow, and granite outcroppings. The water is crystal clear, and I can see everything on the lake floor. There’s tons of downed trees and giant boulders, and many rainbow trout.

As we continue on we start to descend a steep slope, and I can see shadow lake down below. Guthrie, carrot, sheriff and I sit on no large rock, eating snickerdoodles, tapatio Doritos, sour patch kids, and granola. Mosquitos attack in full force, making it a shorter break than needed. Soon we reach the junction to ediza lake, and sherif and I part ways with carrot and Guthrie. We want to climb banner peak, and the approach is from this lake.

The trail to the lake is beautiful. Gushing waterfalls, dense forests, and large boulders all surrounded by jagged peaks. As we reach the lake it starts to drizzle. The clouds are building fast, and soon a large crackling boom thunders from the sky. Sheriff and I shoot over to the nearest trees and quickly set up my tarp and get everything under it. The rain comes harder, and the thunder continues to crack as we set up our sleeping pads. I quickly drift off to the sound of rain on my tarp. It’s peaceful, and I’m happy to know I’m safe and dry under my trusty tarp.

I wake up at 4pm, two hours later. There’s no more rain, but the clouds still look. Sherrif and I decide to head out and continue our attempt to climb banner peak.

There’s a nice, seldom used trail heading up the valley toward banner and Ritter peak next to rushing creeks, full of the days snowmelt from above. The trail eventually disappears and we begin route finding up the valley, picking and choosing our waypoints as we continue up. As we walk, I consistently check on the route up. It’s a steep slope, class 3 when not covered by snow, as I was told my a local mountaineer. But now it’s just steep snow to the saddle between Ritter and banner. As we get closer, and begin crossing snow, it becomes clear to me that we will not get to the summit. It’s dangerously steep snow, the snow we’ve sl traversed is slushy, and doesn’t hold well, and it’s already 5:45. We would be traversing down that in the dark if we were to go up. I think we could do it, but it isn’t worth the risk.

“I don’t think we’ll make it. That slope is steep and it’s getting late. It’s just not safe enough” i say to sheriff, clearly disappointed.

“I was going to say the same thing. You can see the snow slides and rock slides. That’s not good.”

“Alright, we’ll head up over this pass and around the crest, and try to cut off some mileage by straight lining to thousand island lake. From there it’ll be easy, and we can meet up with the gang right around dark.”

My heart sinks a bit. Banner peak was tops on my list of mountains to climb out here. I had the gopro ready, and was extremely excited to give it a shot. It was hard to give up on it, but it clearly was the right decision. It just wasn’t safe, not without at least having microspikes and an ice axe.

Soon sheriff and I are scrambling up Rocky walls, some very spicy with full packs on. The views south are amazing, and we take our time soaking it all in. We’re up high, well over 11,000 feet, and the views are outstanding. We reach a saddle in the mountain and begin traversing the steepest snow yet. Luckily it’s hard enough that we aren’t post holing, and we make it down quickly with a series of glissades and foot skiing.

I direct us over another ridge off of banner and down to thousand island lake where we traverse it’s south shore. We see another hiker across the lake as we reach the jmt, and we give out a yell. It’s Bearclaw. She waits for us, wondering where we’ll camp. Our friends said they would wait at thousand island lake, and soon we see a note from carrot.

“Hi gang, Guthrie and I are camped down the side trail near the lake.” With an arrow pointing the way.

Bearclaw, sheriff and I snap some pictures of banner peak and it’s reflection in thousand island lake. It has to be one of the best views I’ve ever had. The water is still, and the last light of dusk paints banner peak in many shades of orange and yellow.

We reach carrot and Guthrie and we all cowboy next to the lake (save Guthrie, who always sleeps in his tent). It’s a beautiful site. I’m happy to be here, and thankful to be sharing this night with such good friends. Plus, we made it back before dark, and that’s a positive. I’m still bummed to not have summited banner peak, but I’ll come back again, better prepared, and later in the summer.

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Devils postpile

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Rosalie lake

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Lake ediza and sheriff.

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Snowfields coming down banner peak

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Banner peak and thousand island lake. A truly magical place!