San Joaquin & Two Teats From Yost Lake Trail WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: July 24, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

July 23rd & 24th, 2016
Two Teats (11,352')
Day 1: 3.1 miles, 1,600' Day 2: 12.2 miles, 3,800'

So there's a peak in the Sierra called Two Teats.  And like any peak with an entertainly juvenile name (Mollie's Nipple, ManlyWhipple, ect ect) I'm always game.

Two Teats is normally done in conjunction with the SPS peak San Joaquin as a dayhike from Minaret Vista.  From there it's about 6 miles each way and there's a trail.  I've eyed it before when I was in the area but that always seemed a bit on the pedestrian side vs the other options around there.

Then came the day I was looking for a reasonable 2 day backpack involving a peak suitable to be a WTC Experience Trip.  I wanted wilderness, low -ish mileage, preferably camping by a lake, and a peak with a great view.  And as it turns out they made the area behind June Mountain a wilderness area (Owens River Headwaters Wilderness) a few years ago and the trailhead from June Lake is extremely  low utilization making it almost perfect for an experience trip.

So I listed it and after getting the melon themed happy hour and a few descriptive terms thrown out by the lovely and wonderful WTC outings chair it was on.

June Lake is a long drive but not unmanageable especially if you drive up to Sherwin Summit where there's a decent dispersed bivy area and then drive the rest of the way in the morning.

We had two cars leaving from a local park and ride at 7 pm planning to do the same thing.  As we left town there was a large fire flaring up around the 210 (which made for a nice sunset) and another heat wave inbound so it seemed the perfect time to get to the mountains.

We had a full permit worth of participants when we left but as occasionally happens we had a very late breaking cancellation at 10 pm Friday night that cost us two participants.  This is always a bummer since most trips end up having a waitlist of folks wanting to go.

I threw out a post on Facebook about our empty slots while we were driving up and low and behold Dave Jahng dropped everything and hauled out there going almost without sleep.  He found out about the trip at midnight and was there by 9 am.  Not bad!  Sleep is for the weak and all of that.

The rest of us were feeling a little more rested as we set about signing paperwork and getting our packs ready.  The trailhead is a signed dirt parking lot which had bear boxes but no bathrooms.  We saw one fire crew and a handful of dayhikers while we were there but we seemed to be the only backpacking groups.

The trail is short but steep reaching Yost Lake after only 2.7 miles and 1700' gain.

We weren't in a hurry and took a nice long break just past the junction to Fern Lake where there's a nice stream crossing.  Based on the people we talked to along the trail it seemed like Fern was the more popular destination.  We'd debated camping there but it's over the National Park boundary and therefore requires a permit be picked up in person though in retrospect it might make it easier to gain the ridge when you're heading for the peaks.

Yost Lake
We reached the lake in short order and found it to be a fair size and plenty deep to swim.  The use trailheads around the right hand side before ending suddenly leaving you scrambling over rocks and through some brush.

Past that we found a nice spot on the southern side of the lake with plenty of options for tents and even an old fire pit (which sadly we couldn't use this trip due to fire restrictions.)  We didn't check the east side of the lake but we did come across another nice spot on the west side of the meadow a bit south of the lake if you're looking for someplace else suitable for a group.

We were in camp by 1 pm which means we had some time to burn.  We briefly debated hiking over to June Mountain but settled on swimming and enjoying ourselves.

Yost Lake was surprisingly cold considering the altitude and took somewhat of an effort of will to stay in for long.  It also was a bit stagnant with a lot of vegetation beneath the water which was covered in slime.  When disturbed you then found yourself in a small cloud of slime particles.  But other than that it was quite pleasant -ish...

Most of us went in at least briefly with a few sticking it out for an extended period before wandering back to camp.

There was running water east of where we camped.  When it comes to the great debate about filtering water I tend to not filter unless we have a really questionable water source.  The water here was running well and coming from above the lake where as near as we could tell there were no people or livestock.

I'm reasonably sure it didn't have giardia but it did have this shrimp looking thing.

I noticed it swimming around in Williams bottle after we were sitting back in camp and after it had been treated with Aqua Miura.  Turns out that doesn't kill bugs.  He was returned to the stream seemingly no worse for the wear for being slightly chlorinated.

Nothing says sophistication like a glass of wine and a gas station donut

Our happy hour capped off a distressingly relaxing afternoon which meant everyone was well rested for our early Sunday morning wake up.  We had everyone up an hour before dawn since we had two peaks to do and a long drive home.

It was surprisingly chilly for this time of year.  Enough so that I broke out the Camp Snuggie (my sleeping bag) in cold weather wearable mode.

Which was promptly appropriated by certain other folks already wearing a fair amount of their own dead goose covering...

We were all in high spirits leaving camp grateful for the chance to warm up.  We headed south watching the ridge to the west for a spot that looked reasonable to climb.

We stuck to the western side of the meadow south of our camp only to find out later that there was a trail running along the east side.  But hey, we got some really nice pictures!

Wildflowers in the meadow

We didn't see anything we liked leading up to the ridge so we decided to head over the small saddle connecting with June Mountain to what looked like more gradual inclines.

June Mountain is apparently undergoing a massive tree die off due to complications around the drought.  We were on the western side and starting around the saddle it looked like almost every tree on the mountain was dead.  According to Google it's a particularly bad example of the pine bark beetles that have been infesting large areas of the mountains.

The saddle had an old wooden sign and clearly had seem some traffic though not much in recent times.

Just past the saddle we found a steep but climbable route.  The first part was a little steep but we soon joined an animal trail which made the rest a bit easier.

We had one participant elect to stay by the closed contour partway up the ridge.  The rest of us continued up and it was far easier from here.

Tori gaining the ridge
Two Teats on the left, San Joaquin on the right
There was some debate on the way up as far as what peak was what.  San Joaquin is a rather nondescript looking bump with some brown coloration while Two Teats has a rocky smaller teat that's a little more distinctive.

The ridge also had a spectacular view of the Ritter and Banner area.  And due to a high wind it was incredibly clear.

On top of the ridge just north east of San Joaquin
San Joaquin was just a sandy stroll to a pile of rocks on the summit.  Not long after we arrived another gentleman arrived who turned out to be someone I knew from a previous AMP class.  Small world!

There was a loose sandy use trail leading from San Joaquin to Two Teats.  We all layered up as a cold wind was battering us pretty relentlessly.  But we were on a quest for taataas here and would not be denied.

As we approached Two Teats I could see a group climbing the rocky 3rd class right teat.

When we reached the valley of happiness between the teats we found a rather large group of high school cross country runners.  They'd come up from Minaret Vista and to hear them tell it it had been an epic journey that they had only barely survived.

I wandered up to see if we could manage the lower teat without violating our Sierra Club I rating.

Not really.  This is the 3rd class move.  It's not hard but it's a solid monkey move to get up and if you don't have grippy shoes coming down requires some awkward contusions to the left.  I explored around the right side of the summit and could have made it up that way but it was slightly 4th class.

Top of the 3rd class teat looking at the higher teat
Lower of the Two Teats viewed from halfway up the taller one
So we had to skip the lower teat.  The upper teat is a simple walk up and didn't even have a register.  We did a quick selfie and headed down eager to get out of the wind.

We grabbed our friend on the way down and managed a slightly easier route down from the ridge by swinging further south though it was rather steep.

We went around the eastern side of the meadow this time and found it to be much easier going.  There's a trail on that side that's only partially marked on the map which connects to the June Mountain trail.

We packed quickly and headed down the few short miles to the car.  Getting up and down from the ridge had taken a fair amount of time and it was now late afternoon.

Looking over June Lake Loop from the Yost / Fern Trail
Fire season in the eastern Sierra

We had grand plans for post trip Mexican food but sadly we were came out just a little too late.  Even things like the Subway in Lone Pine ended up being closed (don't trust the hours on Yelp)  So instead we very reluctantly ended up at *sigh* Carl's JR before driving home in the wee hours of the night yet again.

Overall it was an excellent trip that I'd heartily recommend.  I would be interested in seeing what the route up to the ridge from Fern Lake was like vs what we did since from the top it looked a bit more gradual.

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