My California - Fern-Ashley Loop
For this weeks Show Us Your California contest by @socalsteemit I head out into the eastern Sierra Nevada with my mom to backpack the...
My mom and I headed up to Mammoth to do a 5 day backpacking trip in the southern end of the Ritter range. We started at Reds Meadow. We crossed the middle fork of the San Joaquin river and hiked through the Devils Postpile national monument getting some nice views of the Postpile from the trail across the canyon. From the monument we headed up the Fern lake trail. The trail was fairly steep, but luckily it was overcast which helped keep us cool on the climb. We dropped down through lower King creek and then started the climb up to Fern lake. We were expecting to get some rain, but luckily the rain never came. We arrived at Fern lake and found a great spot to setup our camp. After that we spent the spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake and having fun doing some trout fishing. Fern lake had a nice population of rainbow trout and I caught and released 9 of them!
The Devils Postpile
Lower King Creek
Mom catching trout
The next morning after breakfast we loaded up our daypacks and headed out on the days adventure. We were attempting to climb Iron mountain via the southeast ridge. We climbed up above Fern lake and then started the steep climb up the ridge above Anona lake. It was a beautiful day and as we climbed the views got more and more impressive. From the route descriptions and trip reports I'd read I knew this route was a long approach, but technically it was supposed to be the easiest. But as we made our way along the ridge we started running into more and more obstacles which slowed our progress and eventually we got to a point where we were going to need to do a fairly big class 3 climb up some sketchy looking rocks. So we stopped there and took a break and discussed our options. And unfortunately with the day already being halfway over and us still having a couple miles of unknown obstacles in-between us and the summit it wasn't looking good so we made the decision to abandon our summit attempt and head back down the ridge. When we got down to the base of the ridge it was still early so we decided to go down and check out Anona lake which was really beautiful and I even tried some trout fishing, but unfortunately didn't have any luck. After hanging out at Anona for a bit we headed back up and over to our camp at Fern lake where I hooked up three more rainbow trout for a total of twelve fish at Fern lake!
Climbing along the southeast ridge
Looking west from the ridge
Zoom in shot of Balloon Dome
Mom on the ridge
Me on the ridge
Overlooking Anona lake on the way back down
Views of Mammoth mountain and the Mammoth crest
Getting back to Fern lake
Evening at camp
Day three we woke up, had breakfast, and packed up our camp at Fern lake. We tossed on our backpacks and hit the trail. We dropped down from Fern lake and got back on the main trail. From there we headed north though beautiful pine forest and serene meadows with the sounds of waterfalls coming from King creek. We climbed up the trail eventually meeting and crossing the creek. We took a break by the creek and then headed up the trail to Ashley lake. The last mile of the trail was a little hard to follow and there were a couple times where we had to do some searching to stay on route, but eventually we arrived at Ashley lake which was absolutely beautiful! Iron mountain towers over the lake and the small island near the outlet and the waterfall at the inlet all just added to the beauty. It took a bit of searching but eventually we found a nice spot between the two inlets (one from the waterfall and the other from the melting glacier) where we set up our camp. Once camp was all setup we spent the rest of the day trout fishing. We each caught five and we both kept one to cook with our dinner that night.
Meadows along the trail
Waterfall on upper King creek
Meadows along King creek
Me out on the island in Ashley lake
Mom on the island in Ashley lake
The glacial inlet at Ashley lake
Our original plan for day four was to spend the day checking out all the other lakes in the King creek basin, but since we failed our first attempt at climbing Iron mountain we decided to try again via the glacier chute route from Ashley lake. Since it was late in the season and since last winter wasn't the heaviest we were hoping we would be able to bypass the glacier for the most part since we didn't have crampons. We climbed up the talus filled chute to the base of the glacier and we eyed our route. We bypassed the lower part of the glacier by sticking to the west edge of the chute but there was one section where we did have to cross the ice and get on the glacier. We climbed up the glacier passed large crevasses and ice caves that were formed by the melting. The terrain was a combination of ice and loose talus which was pretty sketchy, but we made it up to the final climb. About 30 feet or so of class 3. From below it actually looked pretty easy and once we got to it I was really confident that we could climb it. But once I got up on it I realized it was much sketchier than I thought and there was a 10 foot section that I just couldn't find a safe way up. It was on wet mud and the rocks in the mud were not trustable for handhold/footholds. If I could have got passed that part and up onto the more solid rock I think we would have made it to the top. But I tried a few times, climbing up and down on extremely sketchy terrain trying to find a way up and ultimately I had to accept defeat once again. It was just too dangerous and a fall could easily mean serious injury and/or death. So while it was disappointing we made the safe decision and abandoned our summit attempt and made our way back down the glacier chute which was quite the adventure in itself. Once below the glacier we stopped for a snack break on a large boulder overlooking Ashley lake. While we were sitting there we discussed what to do with the rest of the day since we still had plenty of time left in the day. So we decided to do some of our original plan for the day and go check out some of the other lakes in the area and try some fishing. We got back down to our camp at Ashley lake and while we were there a family of like six or seven came by and were looking for a spot by the lake to camp. We talked to them and gave them some suggestions and they found a spot on the far side of the glacier inlet. Then mom and I headed out. We hiked around the lake and back down the trail to where the outlet of Noname lake crosses the trail. From there we took a shortcut and followed the outlet stream up to the lake which. saved us a bunch of time. We hiked around Noname lake and continued climbing up to Holcomb lake. Another absolutely gorgeous lake with huge mountain peaks all surrounding it. We dropped our packs and pulled out our fishing poles and started fishing. And right away we started hooking up some really nice and large rainbow trouts! We fished for awhile and I ended up catching seven trout, four of them being really large. One of the smaller ones I caught swallowed the hook so I wrapped it up and took it back to eat with my dinner that night. After having a lot of fun fishing at Holcomb lake we headed back over to our camp at Ashley lake for one last night.
Morning at camp
Climbing up along the glacier
Looking down the glacier chute
Overlooking Ashley lake
Hiking around Ashley lake
Catching rainbow trout
Small unnamed lake just below Holcomb lake
Day five, our last day. We woke up, had breakfast, and then packed up our camp and headed down the trail from Ashley lake. This time taking the Beck lakes trail down passed the ruins of the old Beck cabin and eventuall back down to the Devils Postpile national monument and our trailhead where we started at Reds meadow. In conclusion it was a really awesome trip. And despite not making it to the summit of Iron mountain both of our attempts were exciting adventures. And I had a ton of fun fishing and just being out in the mountains with my mom!
Me at the Beck cabin ruins
Views from the trail
Back at Reds meadow