Ski Mountaineering

Three Sisters, Dogtooth and Dinkey Lakes Basin

June 2-8, 2018

Reiner Stenzel

Spring is turning into summer, ski trips turn into hiking and climbing trips. I took a week off to experience this wonderful season. The plan was to hike, climb, visit many lakes to finish, maybe swim, and to enjoy my hobby of nature photography. I fondly remember the Three Sisters area in the Southern Sierra Sequoia National Forest. On this peak I finished the SPS List in 2002 and shared the event with many friends. Too bad, this time I was just by myself.

On Sat, 6/2, I drove from the Bay Area to Prather to get a wilderness permit, continued to Courtright Reservoir, then started at 4 pm to hike to Cliff Lake. There I stayed overnight. That was enough for one day. I had planned to stay for a week in the Dinkey Lakes area and take it easy. The price for it was a heavy pack, filled with food, fishing gear and a good but heavy camera.

After a noisy night with many weekend campers at Cliff Lake I relocated on Sun, 6/3, to Rock Lake. Half of the trail was covered by snow which deterred other hikers. I caught two fish for an early supper. With that encouragement I continued on to the next lake, the Second Dinkey Lake. It was pretty, but when I heard the sound of frogs I knew there were no fish in the lake. Too late to return. Anyhow it was a good starting point for a climb of the Three Sisters.

Mon, 6/4, I started early (6 am) to ascend on firm snow which covered most of the way to the Three Sisters main peak. On the way I passed Island Lake which was half filled with snow. Higher up there was a tarn which was covered by thin ice. Since I had no ice axe and crampons I did not attempt to climb the snow covered northeast face, but detoured to the southeast side which had mostly boulders with few snow patches. By 8:15 am I was on the summit and enjoyed the view, the memory, the freedom form mosquitoes and no cell phone connections. I snacked, took pictures and signed the register as the second visitor this year. There was no cloud in the sky and the view of the Sierra Crest was really outstanding. After more than an hour I returned the same way I came. After a lunch break I continued to the First Dinkey Lake. I had the entire big lake for myself. I fished and dipped a bit into the cold water, but was bothered by many mosquitoes which rose from nearby swamps.

On Tue, 6/5, I explored two nearby lakes, South Lake and Swede Lake. Caught a big trout wich did not fit into my frying pan. True, look at the picture! An osprey was also fishing and was more successful since there was a nest with hungry little ones.

On Wed, 6/6, I relocated to my favorite Rock Lake, from where it is easy to climb the Dogtooth Mtn, next day. I met the first humans at Dinkey Lake #1, otherwise this popular area was empty.

On Thur, 6/7, I went XC to the Dogtooth. The closer you get the more challenging it appears. The west face is technical, so that one has to approach it from the east side. Even then it is an exciting high class 3 climb. I summited before 8 am, signed the overfilled register and enjoyed finding Alvin Walters entry from 8/12/2014. There was no chance to find my first entry from 2002. Again, it was a wonderful feeling to sit on a summit with fine weather, great views, placing the first signature in 2018. After a careful descent I looked at the large quartz pieces scattered all around this mountain. I took more pictures since I could not climb with dangling a heavy camera around my body. The Dog has many teeth which are probably a delight for technical climbers, but out of reach for an old f#&t. I returned to my camp at Rock Lake. Since it was early in the day I decided to head out since fishing was slow and my food was nearly gone. It was a long afternoon hike to Courtright Reservoir. There was only one car at the trailhead parking lot. The nearby Trapper Springs Campground was closed. So I camped at turnout of the Courtright Road like many of the locals do.

Next day I cruised home through the San Joaquin Valley with 80-90 deg temps. Great trip, but should have been shared with someone. Maybe later since the summer is just beginning.


Dinkey Lakes Family trip on Labor Day weekend, Sep 2-4, 2018

A few months later I had a chance to revisit the Dinkey Lakes area. The occasion was a family trip with long time neighbors, which included members of three generations, two grandpas, two mothers, two kids, my adult daughter Isabel, grandpa Reiner, and a dog Timone. This trip continued our tradition of family hikes in the Sierras. The members came from LA, Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay Area. We all met at the Cliff Lake trailhead near Courtright Reservoir. We hiked to Cliff Lake to establish a basecamp for day hikes to the Dinkey Lakes.

To start out the happy time we celebrated Jill's 50'th birthday with a round of champaign. Next morning I tested the group with climbing the steep cliffs leading to the Three Sisters. The dog and I were leading, the fearless kids next, the worrying moms followed, the senior had no problem, and finally everyone was relieved when we reached the top plateau. There was a great view of the Cliff Lake, Dogtooth Peak, Courtright Res and soon the Three Sisters's Ridge. It was a warm day and we needed water. There is a wonderful spring near the Three Sister #1 which we found after a XC hike. Clean and cool water poured out of the ground and refreshed us. We had lunch, a siesta in the Fall-colored reddish meadows, and later continued XC toward Island Lake. The water was cold, but the kids jumped in first and swam to an island. The happy time was limited and we continued on trails to the second Dinkey Lake, Rock Lake and finally returned to Cliff Lake.

In the evening the kids lid a camp fire, roasted s'mores, played with the flames and smoke. Fishing was not successful. The night was peaceful without bear visits and or pesky mosquitoes. Next morning we hiked out and drove the long way back home. It was nice to experience the Dinkey Lakes Area in Spring and in late Summer. You can see it in the pictures above and below.

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