Ansel Adams Wilderness

Mountain Secrets

tonykrizan@hotmail.comOctober 1, 2013 

For many years, I've wondered if there was a hidden route to Peter Pande Lake in the canyon behind Devils Bathtub.

To locate this area, first drive through Shaver and Huntington Lake on Highway 168. Drive over Kaiser Pass at 9,200 feet, then descend into the remote canyon of the San Joaquin River. Look north toward the distant Silver Divide Mountain Range and you will see a large recess carved into its side. This is the location of Devils Bathtub and maybe will lead to a hidden route over the top to Peter Pande, Anne and Olive Lakes.

Also looking forward to this high elevation hike into the unknown is my hiking partner Nancy Morgan.

At the west end of Edison Lake is the trailhead at 7,645 feet. The four mile trail leads to Devils Bathtub and an ideal place for our first campsite. In 1907 this lake was named by George R. Davis (USGS) because of its distinguished shape.

Early the following morning, we hiked around the lakes east shore before starting our accent into this wilderness canyon. Although remote, other hikers have left ducks (markers) for visual route finding. Our objective for today is the large tarn (pond) that is located at the west end of this long box canyon.

Upon arrival at the tarn, we set up our campsite behind a huge boulder which formed a natural barrier to block the wind funneling through the canyon. I spent the late afternoon studying the north face for a possible route to the summit. Feeling confident that a route has been surveyed, we now are anxious to start our accent tomorrow morning.

During the last two days, rain clouds have been forming by late afternoon, but would clear before sunrise. The morning sky is clear once again for today's adventure. For those of you who have experienced class two or three climbing, a day pack is much friendlier to carry than our six days of provisions with a full backpack.

We managed to establish a safe route and kept climbing in elevation. My map displayed two mountain ponds, one at 10,730 feet and the second around fifty feet higher. We skirted the first pond but the second was north of our route. After four hours of climbing, we arrived at the saddle which we thought was our objective. Looking over the summit was our first disappointment. A steep canyon face descending over 1,000 feet was leading in the opposite direction toward Big Margret Lake to the west.

Looking to the east, above us was another high ridge and another disappointment; my map revealed that we would have to climb another 100 plus feet to that eastern summit before descending to Peter Pande, Anne and Olive Lakes.

Another half hour of climbing and we finally arrived at the summit, 11,300 feet. In the distance, over 1,300 feet below, was our objective — Peter Pande, Anne and Olive Lakes.

After further investigation, this was not a class two descent. I would estimate a class three or four with the aid of ropes. Defiantly, this descent will not be recommended with a full size backpack.

Looking at the time (2:45 p.m.) I realized a decision has to be made — do we attempt this descend or double back to the pond at 10,730 feet for the night? We'll need water at our next campsite and at this elevation, there is no water. For safety reasons, the pond was our only option.

We spent almost an hour at the summit just absorbing the breathtaking views along the Silver Divide Mountain Range. Peter Pande, Olive, Midge, Anne, Big Margret, Edison and Florence Lakes were just a few of these mountain highlights.

During our descent to the pond, I had a different perspective of this mountain. I noticed huge 100-pound plus boulders that looked out of place in the surrounding landscaping. I noticed them on the climb but on our descent, it dawned on me that these are century's old American Indian markers. I counted more than 12 markers and followed them the next two days descending to Devils Bathtub. Referring back to our second campsite, when I viewed the mountain landscaping, the smaller canyons, which looked impossible to climb through, proved to be the easier route by following those markers.

We could not complete our original route over the mountains, but there is always next year to revisit those lakes that were my first adventure into the Ansel Adams Wilderness decades ago.

I'll still have two choices through the mountains: hike around the Graveyard Lakes and over Silver Fox Pass, or follow the John Muir Trail over the Silver Divide to the Lake of the Lone Indian. Both treks will lead me to Peter Pande, Anne and Olive `Lakes.

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