Marie Lakes Loop

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July 5 & 6, 2003

Outline and Background

Two day backpack trip to Marie Lakes, figure 8 loop. This was my first backpack trip in some years. My hope was to be vigorous enough to make it over the ridge to meet up with a CHAOS group, however, inexperience and a vigorous hike the previous day caused that to be a vain hope. I over packed and also managed to forget my iceaxe, which didn't help with the confidence.Map(s) of perambulations below.

Outbound to Marie Lakes on Sunday

Started up the Rush Creek Trail from Silver Lake (7215'), wishing, as always that the cable tram took passengers, saving me the sunny, warm and steep climb up to Agnew Lake (8050') and maybe even Gem Lake (9058'). I don't think I'd mind the climb so much if it wasn't so disturbed by the tram, dams, artificial lakes and aqueducts. As it is, it is just a slog up to Gem Lake, especially with a too heavy pack. Billions of mosquitos, which happily didn't like DEET...6 inch exclusionary zone. After 9 miles, you get away from the reservoirs and shortly meet the PCT/JMT.

After climbing around the ends of ridges for a bit, I turned off on the Marie Lakes Trail, which climbs, at first gently, into a cirque, then, it takes off steeply to climb up to the hanging cirque that Marie Lakes are nestled in. About this point, the trail disappeared under moderately steep snowfields, and any possible benefit from switchbacks was lost. Ended up on the ridgeline and followed that to a promising protected spot overlooking Lower Marie Lake (10,856'), where my body indicated that further major ascent was no longer on the agenda, even though it was only 130pm. Set up camp, napped, wandered about, thought about the slipperiness of stream crossing rocks with morning ice on them, packed up camp about 730pm, crossed over to the other side of the outflow, looked for a decent protected spot on the low ridge, and...

Looked at the route I'd be taking the next morning. Crossing steep snowfields above steeper rocky bits, and decided that I'd rather cross the upper edges of same when the snow was still soft from the day's heat, rather than solid ice in the morning. By 830pm, I had crossed the snow and clambered over some rocky spines to find a sandy pothole on the north ridge of Peak 12356' (11,450'). Enjoyed the end of the sunset and slept well.

Up early to enjoy the sunrise, and then began the more or less gentle descent and traverse to Donohue Pass (11,056'), the nearly flat snowfields I had to cross were treacherous enough to make the previous evening's decision a smart one. From Donohue Pass, I followed the PCT/JMT across my earlier path, over Island Pass (10,205') to Thousand Island Lake. From there, I went over Agnew Pass, past Clark Lakes, down into Spooky Meadow, down the steep grade to Agnew Lake, down the tram tracks to pick up the Rush Creek Trail the rest of the way back to Silver Lake.

Made it back to San Francisco in time to have sushi at Ebisu. YAY!

Summary and Technical Details

About 30 miles, more or less evenly split between the two days. Total elevation gain about 5300 feet, 3/4 on the first day. Pack way too heavy.

Weather and Conditions

Sunny and warm. The trails were mostly well groomed. Except where they disappeared under snowfields. Except for dawn on Monday, temperatures were mild.


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Map with route, outbound to Marie Lakes in red and blue-purple
inbound to Silver Lake in fuchsia, yellow and lavender

Map with route
Detail map (848 x 461, 106K)

The holiday weekend started with a dayhike of the Iceberg Lake Loop

Marie Lakes Loop . Hiking Homepage

Marie Lakes Loop / Robert Parks / / revised July '04