Ski Mountaineering

Lake Iridescent, Miter Basin

Aug 16-19, 2012

Reiner Stenzel

I am writing this report in November. The summer is long gone in the high country of the Sierra Nevada but I have such nice memories of a trip in mid August that I would like to share some pictures in this short trip report.

In 2007 I climbed The Miter and looked down on Iridescent Lake. It was so beautiful that I always wanted to come back and stay at it for a while. After five years it finally happened.

On Thurs, Aug 16, I drove to Lone Pine, got a wilderness permit for Miter Basin via Cottonwood Lakes trail and took off. The Ranger mentioned that Miter Basin is a mountain lion territory. While I was accustomed to bears this could be a new adventure.

In the late afternoon I made camp at Cottonwood Lake #4. The Cottonwood Lakes have pretty big golden trout, but only for catch and release. It was a pleasant stay. No moon at night but a sky full of stars, and once in a while a shooting star.

Fri morning high clouds moved in from a tropical storm in Mexico. I headed around Cottonwood Lake #5 and ascended Army Pass. Although it was mostly overcast there was a moment of sunlight on the Kaweahs as I descended toward Rock Creek.

The entrance of the Rock Creek drainage is very pretty. I contoured around the Lower Soldier Lake and ascended above Rock Creek toward The Miter. Before ascending to Sky-Blue Lake one turns east into the Miter Basin. Although it is a cross-country hike it is easy to find Iridescent Lake (3629m).

Initially, I was a bit disappointed because the lake was as grey as the sky and the mountains and it was almost raining. But that would change the next day when the morning sun came out. There was nobody at the lake and no big cat in sight.

The next morning was a repeat of previous day's weather. Initially sunny, then high clouds moved in and thickened. During the sunny hour the scenery became spectacular. The mountains reflected in the green-blue water. The Miter was a huge wall of bright granite. I hiked around the lake and dipped into its ice cold water. There were red brine shrimps in the lake but no sign of trout. By 9 am the sky was cloudy again. So I decided to hike down and stay at some lower lake.

By midday I was at a pretty meadow with an unnamed lake near the trail leading to Mt Guyot. While I was looking for a suitable campsite it started to thunder in the west. I was not in the mood to sit out the impending storm and decided to head over New Army Pass to the east side of the crest. I walked resonably fast but the sky got darker and darker. At the Pass the first raindrops fell. On the switchbacks down all hell broke loose with hail, rain, wind and occasional lightning but at least a mile away. I hiked down to Long Lake where the storm eased up. I stayed at a fine campsite overlooking the lake with Cirque Peak in the background.

On Sunday morning I hiked down and out to the Cottonwood Trailhead. Although I would have liked to stay longer the monsoon weather was repeatable and the rains would have started even earlier. It was a leisurely drive home with a pleasant stopover at Owens Lake for bird watching.

It was a fine Sierra trip with beautiful sceneries, sunshine, rain, and no encounters with the wild things.

Trip pictures (click for large version):

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