Lyell Fork

Lake 10217 to Lake 11311 and back then downstream to Isberg Pass Trail
(10 miles, +2,300/-2,700 feet).

Today we started with a day hike to explore the upper Lyell Fork.  I’ve mapped it on caltopo, along with our trip yesterday through Bench Canyon:

lyell-fork-bench-canyon

For the most part route finding was straightforward, except the path from Lake 10702 to Lake 10999.  More on that below!

We started early, just as the mosquitoes were also starting to wake up.

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Good morning!

The early morning light made everything look like a pristine wonderland.

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Lake 10217 outlet
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Little lake above Lake 10217
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Snow > talus

There is a huge waterfall below Lake 10702 with an easy route just to the south of it.

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Waterfall below Lake 10702

An easy class 2 climb quickly turned to class 1 at the Lake 10702 outlet

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Easy peasy
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JimmyJam and 10702
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ChiaGLyph and MixMaster and 10702

There is a gorgeous flat grassy area that leads up the inlet to Lake 10702, but it quickly narrows into challenging and loose class 3 climbing at about 20 feet above the rushing creek.  Instead of following the creek we should have climbed the hill to the west of the ravine.

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Gorgeous class 1
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Sketchy class 3

We bailed about halfway up the class 3 part by heading straight up the hill, but instead of climbing to the top, we went to the other side of it which was not-so-stable smallish talus.

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Lake 10702 from the hill west of Lake 10999
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West side of the hill

Eventually we hit some granite slabs that made it easy to get to the top of the hill, and on its north side we found a way back down to 11,000 feet.

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Lake 10999
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Nearby tarn
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Lake just below 10999
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Northwest shore of Lake 10999
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Easy peasy
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Inlet to Lake 10999
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JimmyJam checks the route

After our last ravine adventure, I was a little gun-shy on the way up to Lake 11160+.  But it turned out to be much easier, barely class 2 as we climbed above the canyon walls on the east side.

We found a massive snow field at the outlet to the lake.

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Snowfield at outlet of Lake 11160+

There were three ways to cross: a snow bridge, a 5 foot jump, or a wade.  Each of us chose a different way to go!

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My route
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ChiaGlyph’s jump and MixMaster’s wade
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Lake 11160+
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South shore of Lake 11160+

The rest of the way up to Lake 11311 was a piece of cake, as we found a lovely grassy seam.  It was as if John Muir himself had rolled out a green carpet just for us!

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Green carpet
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Lake 11311 and Mourt Lyell
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Lake 11311 and Peak 12767

The color of the lake was spectacular — too gorgeous not to dive in!

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So pretty
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So clear and green
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So cold!!!
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JimmyJam’s swimming’ hole

After warming (and drying!) in the sun for a bit, we pressed on.  Massive snowfields forced us up about 40 feet on the southern shore.  Slowly we made our way around the lake.

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Peak 12767
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And its reflection

I was thinking: this is a really huge lake!  But as we headed back down valley, we actually passed a second, unmarked lake to the south that is just a few feet higher than 11311.  Once we got some elevation we saw that they are not connected.

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Mount Lyell and Lake 11320+
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ChiaGlyph snaps a photo

From there we descended past a series of tarns.

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Tarn at 11360+
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Tarn at 11160+
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Tarns at 10960+
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This one was really pretty

The descent was all class 2, with occasional route finding to keep it that way

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ChiaGlyph and MixMaster find the best way down

We took a nice long break at Lake 10880+.

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Lake 10880+
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ChiaGlyph filters water
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Our gorgeous watering hole
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Lake 10880+ towards the outlet
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And back towards the inlet

All that was left to do was to follow a series of grassy ramps down to a ridge west of Lake 10217.

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Grassy
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Elektra Peak
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A lovely descent
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Paintbrushes line the route
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First view of Lake 10217
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View down the Lyell Fork

We could not find a rock hop across the outlet to Lake 10217 so we waded at an ankle-high spot.

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Lake 10217 crossing

And then we had lunch!

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Do we like lunch?
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Yes we do!

Honestly, I didn’t know it at the time but the most challenging part of the day lay ahead.  We had to descend a pretty steep and cliffy area to the west of Lyell Fork.  There was a lot of backtracking and sometimes we had to do short class 3 moves down steep granite cliff faces.

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Lyell Fork dropping
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Willows here and there
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Cliffy
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Steep granite faces

But soon the angle mellowed and we dropped into a breathtaking forest.

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Wow!
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Meadows too
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Peak 12113 reflection shot on tarn at 11320+
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Looking back up valley

The cross country was actually much easier and less buggy than I expected until about half a mile before we hit the Isberg Pass Trail.  Here we had to tangle with huge boulders and lots of willows and our worst mosquitoes of the day.

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Not so fun

We found the trail, and I was hoping to find an established camp site, especially since we were all pretty spent.  But we couldn’t find one on our side of the creek, and it was still running high enough that crossing over to the other side would have been annoying.  Instead, we opted for the switchbacks up the south side of the valley.

We pooped out at about 9500 feet, opting for the first flattish spot we could find.  But it was still deep woods and buggy, so ChiaGlyph pressed ahead and found a spectacular ridge spot with views and even a little breeze to knock down the bugs a bit.

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Awesome camp site – thanks ChiaGlyph!

We could hear thunder in the distance, but I didn’t worry because we were still pretty close to the woods.

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Lightning shield

The stormy weather made for a lovely sunset.

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Nighty night!

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