Leisurely Ladies Exploration in the Minaret Lakes, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14123A, Backpacking


  • Explore lakes set beneath the towering Minarets
  • Enjoy a week of female camaraderie
  • Delight in off-trail day hikes and time for leisurely pursuits on layover days


  • Experienced and enthusiastic leadership
  • Supportive atmosphere
  • Exceptional backcountry meals and all group equipment


DatesJul 6–13, 2014
Difficulty2 (out of 5)
StaffAnne Muzzini

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Trip Overview

The Trip

This trip is designed for women who love the high country and enjoy mixing a few seven-mile hiking days with a few layover days to explore, relax, and create -- so be sure to bring your journal, camera, and paints. During this 25-mile loop in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, we’ll visit the spectacular chain of lakes that lie at the base of the Minarets, Mt. Ritter, and Banner Peak. This dramatic mountain range will be the backdrop for our seven-day trip during which we’ll camp at Thousand Island, Garnet, and Ediza Lakes and day hike off trail to more distant and remote gems.


Day 1: We’ll meet on July 6th at a campground near Mammoth for a BBQ dinner and spend the evening getting to know each other and checking gear.

Day 2: A shuttle will take us from the Mammoth Mountain parking lot up to Agnew Meadows, where we’ll begin our 7.5-mile hike into Thousand Island Lake. The climb is relatively gradual but steady, gaining 1,500 feet in elevation. This will be our most difficult day given the distance and full pack weight. 

Day 3: On this layover day, we can hike to Lake Catherine set beneath Banner Peak at 11,000 feet or stay near camp and lounge, paint, or fish. 

Day 4: We’ll pack up and head for Garnet Lake, which is a relatively short distance away (four miles).

Day 5: On this layover day, we can set off for a day hike to the Nydiver Lakes, located in a high basin directly below Mount Ritter.

Day 6: We’ll head out on the John Muir trail and hike five miles from Garnet to Ediza Lake.

Day 7: This layover day will be ideal for making the trek up to Iceberg, Cecile, and Minaret lakes.

Day 8: Our packs will be light for the 7.5-mile hike back out to Agnew Meadows. We should be back to our cars by 3:00 p.m.



Getting There

Mammoth Lakes is located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada about 160 miles from Reno, 250 miles from San Francisco, and 310 miles from Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Trip members arriving from other parts of the country should explore the option of flying to one of these major cities and sharing a rental car or arranging a ride.  A roster of trip participants will be sent out well in advance of the trip to assist those who wish to share rides.  Eastern Sierra Transit provides service to and from Mammoth.  Assistance with trip planning for those using public transportation will be provided.   

Accommodations and Food

The trip price includes car camping at the campground the night of July 6th.  Our first meal will be a BBQ that night and our last meal will be lunch on the final hiking day July 13th.

Meals will consist of hearty and satisfying recipes that are proven to please. Hot cereal, dried fruit, cheese and crackers, soups and stews, whole grains, cookies, and chocolate will certainly be included. We are happy to accommodate vegetarians and can discuss any food requirements ahead of time.  Snack bags are provided for each trip member so you will always have something to nosh on. Every effort is made to include a wide variety of tasty food to fuel our adventure.  Trip participants take turns serving on cook crews and performing various camp chores.  

Trip Difficulty

The trip is rated 2 on a scale of 1 to 5 and takes into consideration trail miles, layover days, and elevation gain.  Mileage on hiking days will range from four to eight miles, with a total of 24 miles. Day hikes will be off trail over steep terrain. Camps will be located above 9,000 feet. 

Carrying a heavy pack (40-45 pounds) for several days, especially on prolonged uphill stretches, is a strenuous aerobic activity and it not suitable for everyone. In order to enjoy this trip, participants need to be in good physical condition. Regular aerobic exercise during the months before the trip is essential. 

Our campsites are between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, so acclimatization to the altitude is also important. If you are not used to these elevations, or if you acclimate slowly, you may want to arrive early to allow time to adjust. There is plenty to see and do in the Mammoth area including a visit to the Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  

Weather in the high sierra can change quickly and range from 80 degrees in the day to freezing at night. Rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon are a common occurrence. It is essential that you be prepared for extremes in weather conditions.

Equipment and Clothing

A complete list of equipment will be sent out to participants. You will need warm, lightweight gear, sleeping bag, tent, and a backpack and hiking boots that have been worn and proven to be comfortable. The Sierra Club will provide all the group cooking equipment and bear canisters for food storage. Participants should keep their personal pack weight to below 25 pounds as the commissary load will equal about 15 pounds per person.     



Bring your map and compass for safety and so that you can appreciate our route and the inspiring landscape surrounding us.  The maps can be purchased online.

  • “Devils Postpile Trail Map” 1:39,600 scale published by Tom Harrison
  • “Mammoth High Country Map” 1:63,360 scale publichsed by Tom Harrison
  • USGS Mt Ritter, Mammoth Mountain, and Koip Peak quadranges


  • Alsup, William, Missing in the Minarets: The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr. The book centers on the search for Walter A. Starr, and is filled with wonderful background on the legendary early mountaineers and explorers of the Sierra. 
  • Arnot, Phil, High Sierra:  John Muir’s Range of Light. Written in 1996 when the Ansel Adams Wilderness was formerly called the “Minaret Wilderness,” this has excellent descriptions of the entire area of our trip along the Ritter Range. 
  • Laws, John Muir, The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. The California Academy of Sciences. An excellent guide to the plans and wildlife of the Sierra Nevada


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity.  We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally.  Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club. 

John Muir may have said it best: “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”  His advocacy and that of his predecessors led to establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Our trip coincides with the 50 year anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  During our trip we will celebrate wilderness protection with discussion of environmental impacts around the Ansel Adams Wilderness. We will venture off-trail into pristine alpine lake basins, which appear today much as they must have to the early mountaineers of the 19ths century.  We will share the mountaineers’ stories and their visions for ensuring the preservation of this treasured wilderness for many generations to come. 

We will emphasize Leave No Trace principles, such as camping and traveling on durable surfaces, properly disposing of bio-waste, packing out our food and paper waste, and respecting wildlife.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Inyo National Forest.



Anne Muzzini is a native Californian and has been backpacking in the Sierra since she was a teen. She has been working on Sierra Club trips over the past 15 years and has mastered the art of backcountry cooking. Anne will share her love of granite and Sierra vistas, and her natural comfort and sense of peace that comes from living under the sky. Anne spends time off pavement on her mountain bike in the hills near her Walnut Creek home.

Assistant Leader:

Lisa Harrison will be assisting Anne on a women’s trip for the third year and she brings lots of enthusiasm and energy to the group. Lisa keeps in shape doing Zumba and we can certainly expect at least one routine during the week.


Teresa Gonsoski

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