Trip Report - Ice Age Tour

August 2012. 
I took a quick two-night solo cross country backpack in the Cathedral Range. 
I had often looked at the map and wondered about a way to navigate across
the long north-south ridges.  So I went to find out and had an amazing trip.

Total mileage was about 12 miles and total elevation gain/loss was 7600'. 
Lots of up and down, and a bit of class 3 scrambling.  I used only a topo map,
no GPS, no compass.  Really fun navigation challenge.
Elizabeth Lake
I don't want to give the precise route so it can remain a challenge for those
interested in discovering it for themselves.   But in general, I started in 
Tuolumne Meadows Campground and went up the Elizabeth Lake trail,
then followed the fishermen's trail south.  At  "the notch" I left the use trail
and took a shortcut directly south to Nelson Lake.  I spent the first night there.
On the second day I went pretty much due west across four ridges and
spent the next night at popular Sunrise Lake (the middle one).  On the third
morning I went down the Mildred Lake drainage to Tenaya Lake and exited at the
Sunrise trailhead.   

It worked well to leave my car at the Sunrise trailhead (and food in the bear boxes), then take the Tuolumne Shuttle back to the store to begin hiking.   I started about noon on the first day and came out about 10:00 on day three.  The pace was leisurely and comfortable and I spent lots of time just absorbing the gorgeous scenery.

The terrain is simply fantastic, most of it just at treeline.  Wonderful vistas from
the top of each ridge.  Up close look at the relics from the ice ages that managed to
survive the glaciation:  Cockscomb, Columbia Finger, Matthes Crest, etc.
Matthes Crest

While not a serious challenge by mountaineering standards this is definitely not for the average backpacker.  Moderately strenuous off-trail travel is required, up to class 3, and advanced cross country navigation skills are needed.

If you've never been off-trail in the Cathedral Range, get out there soon, it's some of the most outstanding terrain in the Sierra.

Sunrise Lake


cathedral range map

©Copyright 2012 John Dalbey