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Minaret and Cecile Lakes - California, United States

by steverod  
with a Garmin Oregon 550t
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Story:
My last Sierra hike of the 2011 season was retracing a fondly-remembered, gorgeous overnighter to Minaret Lake, and from there the plan was to follow a popular cross-country loop to Cecile and Iceberg Lakes.

The first day to Minaret Lake was smooth and uneventful: permit pickup in Mammoth Lakes, obligatory gawking at the Minarets from Mammoth Pass, then drive to Devil's Postpile and start hiking.  For a trail which gains 2,500 feet, the Minaret Lake trail is surprisingly mellow, with some delightful waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. I was surprised by the late-season flowers (nice) and mosquitos (not-so-nice). Only in the last mile or so (at 9,500'+) did things start to drag as the altitude and incline caught up with this sea-level dweller.

Minaret Lake is gorgeous and popular; on this late September weekend there were at least 8 of us there. But the view can't be beat, with the spiky Minarets right over the lake. I spent my afternoon relaxing and scouting out tomorrow's "cross-country" (but obvious) route up to Cecile Lake.

The next morning I took my time, as the route to Cecile and Iceberg Lakes is slow and time-contstrained: the permanent snowfield between Cecile and Iceberg is most safely crossed in the mid-afternoon when the sun's on it and it's soft. From Minaret Lake, the unofficial trail to Cecile Lake is obvious and straightforward, climbing towards a big cliff and then zig-zagging up one side of the cliff, with the last 20 or so feet involving some easy 3rd class (hands-and-foot) scrambling. Cecile Lake is as beautiful but more stark than Minaret Lake, placed right at the base of Clyde Minaret.

Scoping out the next leg of the trip, I noticed building thunderheads to the north and actual rain to the south. I waited for a while to see if they would clear but no such luck. Being solo and a little out-of-practice on my ice axe skills, I decided that the course of prudence was to get down and try Icerberg Lake another day. I joined with another party to try an alternate (2nd class) descent route by Minaret Creek, which turned out to be more bushwhacking than we had hoped. 

From Minaret Lake, I headed down and all too soon the rain reached me, but at least it passed quickly. The rest of the hike was uneventful, and I soon was looking at the overcast Minarets from Mammoth Pass, thinking about when to come back.

Tips:
  • Getting to Devil's Postpile requires a shuttle bus ride through the summer months but not after Labor Day. This is not as onerous as it sounds, as it becomes easier to to point-to-point trips from one trailhead to another.
  • Bears are VERY active in this area. Bear canisters are not technically required here but are highly recommended.
Tags:
Sierra Nevada, Minarets, Backpacking
Photos: See all pictures and videos from Minaret and Cecile Lakes
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Trip Info
September 23, 2011
Trip Location: Lake Mary, California, United States
Length: 7.1 miles
Duration: 4 hours
Activity: Backpacking
Trip viewed 3,332 times
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