Mt Davis From Thousand Island Lake WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: September 15, 2014
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

September 13th to 15th, 2014
Mount Davis (12,303')

This has been a weird summer due to changes in my work and living situation.  After years of running back and forth between Orange County California and Boise Idaho I was back in town permanently but also having to deal with the reality of a new job after a long relatively stable period.  As a result I ended up doing lot more adhoc vs the usuall planned official trips.

I did still manage a few official Sierra Club trips and this one to Mount Davis co-led with Paul Warren as a WTC experience trip was one.

As I've written about elsewhere the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course runs from January to April each year for 10 weeks including 4 weekend outings involving a long dayhike, a weekend in Joshua Tree doing nav and rock scrambling, a snow dayhike, and finally 3 days 2 nights in the Sierra Nevada backpacking and camping in the snow.  Once students make it through that they have to complete two experience trips to graduate.  This was planned as one of those.

The trailhead is out of Mammoth which means a long drive.  And traffic was not being cooperative.

Eventually in the wee hours of the morning we made our bivy spot at Minaret summit.  And after a precious few hours of sleep it was time to get moving.

After the requisite sunrise visit to the Minaret Vista of course.

As with the other times I've hikes out of the Reds / Agnew Meadow area I wanted to avoid taking the shuttle.  The road back there is narrow so it makes sense they limit car access and the shuttle offered from the lodge is rather nice but I always figure there's a greater than minuscule chance we could end up coming out late after the shuttle stopped running.  I didn't want to end up hiking up the road out of there.

So instead we turned it into a positive and lured everyone to the backpacker lot early with the promise of a group pre-trip breakfast at Reds Meadow.

I hadn't been back here since I passed through on the JMT last year.  This was a little more pleasant circumstances.

We had a good turnout with only one person arriving too late.  We had mostly Kaweah students with two from Modjeska and then Joe and Heather who had been on other trips of mine.

After breakfast we wandered back to the backpacker lot and got everything packed up and ready to go.  There's plenty of parking, bathrooms, and bear cans.

Introductions were made, paperwork was signed, and we were off!

We got moving at a relaxed pace since this was a three day trip.  We took the lower trail on the way out and it was pretty but lacked the views we'd see coming out via the high trail.

Of course the views improved just a bit as we rounded the corner and came out in Thousand Island Lake.

I'd never stayed here before since when I did Ritter (the big peak on the left side of the skyline) I stayed at Ediza.  It always looked neat from afar and when I ran through here during the JMT fastpack I basically put this trip together just to have an excuse to camp here.

As far as the peak no it's not either of the cool ones to the left.  Mount Davis is on the right.  It's one of those bumps along the long ridge.  Yea, it's slightly less than impressive.

For as popular a place as it is proper campsites were surprisingly difficult to find.  We went around the right side of the lake coming across the a few people set up on the grass or right on the trail.  I spread us out and started looking up on the rocks away from the lake and eventually we found a spot.

One of our group is known for being somewhat less then shy and before long she was out on one of the rocks in the middle of the lake doing nude yoga much to the entertaining of all the other groups camped around us.

The water was cold but refreshingly so and we all felt better when we retired to camp for happy hour.

Hard to beat the view.

The next morning we had people up and moving before first light.  Mount Davis wasn't difficult but had a reputation for being a bit of a slog.

On the plus side we got a nice sunset.

We set off up the slope toward the saddle on the left side of the picture above.

Notable for this climb is an old grave marked with a metal plaque.

JULY 1934.

I remember having read about it before in the excellent Lonely Grave in the Sierra by H. Galic.  Totally worth a read.  Go now, I'll wait...

The wind was cold and blowing hard so anytime we took a break people tried to huddle behind rocks.  Here we are near the saddle trying to stay warm.

On the backside we now had an amazing view of Banner.

Supposedly this chute is a 2nd class route up Banner avoiding the ice axe and crampon requirements of the notch on the other side. From where we were it sure looked like you'd only want to stick on the snow.

While most of the pictures were taken towards Ritter and Banner for obvious reasons this was the direction we were traveling.

We traversed along the backside climbing where it looked convenient and following occasional ducks.

From here it was a long boulder slog.

We had one person step wrong and take a tumble.  Fortunately after a brief rest they were able to continue.

Eventually we reached what all of our maps assured us was the summit of Mount Davis.  Slightly less than impressive considering it's neighbors but the views are hard to beat.

Looking back on the upper route to Davis from Thousand Island Lake / Lake Catherine
Looking back down at Thousand Island Lake

The occasionally threatening clouds and cool temperatures kept us moving.

The descent was unremarkable but not fast.

When we did reach camp several people were very happy.  The rest of us decided to go swimming again.

Unfortunately there was smoke in the air from somewhere.  More worryingly we could hear a helicopter and soon saw it searching Banner.  They even touched down on the top probably to pull the register and see if the party in question had been there.

I never found out what happened.  I had friends attempting one of the Minarets off in that direction so I was just relieved it didn't have anything to do with them.

After dinner those still upright enjoyed dinner and a well deserved rest.

The 3rd morning the smoke was gone and we let people sleep in a little since the hike out was reasonable.

We also had a secret weapon to get them out of bed.  We'd all helped carry ingredients when we packed in and Paul whipped up some of his Warren Special Breakfast Burritos.

Not a bad way to start the morning.

Leaving camp
On the hike out we decided to take the high trail.  It added a little gain and distance.

We're climbing how much!?!
It was worth it.  Next time I'd be tempted to take it in both directions.

We had some of the best views of the trip and that's saying something for this one.

Mammoth Mountain is visible in the background
Afterwards there was only one thing to do.  Change back into cotton and get Mexican food!

We went to Robert's Mexican Cafe which is one of the better options up there.  Smoke was really bad in town.

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