RT Length: 12.74 miles
Elevation Gain: 4921’
Due to colder weather than anticipated, I’d abandoned my initial backpacking trip after the first night and was looking for a “Plan B”. Going through my binder of potential hikes, I narrowed it down to ‘something around South Mineral Creek’ and decided to drive to the trailhead. It was full when I got there, but that was ok, as I was planning on hiking the next morning (I’d already put in 15 miles that morning).
The trailhead was open this week, after being closed due to last year’s fire. There was an information center set up at the trailhead, with a place for volunteer park rangers to talk with hikers. There were also signs educating hikers about wildfire.
Speaking of wildfire… where was it? From the parking area there was no evidence of a fire. As people slowly made their way back to their vehicles and left the parking area, I ate my dinner of noodles and chips, sipped some whiskey, and read a book. I made it an early night, wanting to get some sleep before it got really cold.
It got really cold. Another night in the 20s, which made for a layer of frost on everything when I woke up. I didn’t want to get out from my sleeping bag, where I was warm. And, I had a headache? I really wasn’t feeling it this morning, but got ready anyway, and was on the trail at 6:30am, 2 hours later than I’d originally planned. It was still dark outside. The trail starts at the west end of the parking area, and has a trail register and signage. I didn’t sign the trail register, because it was covered in a layer of frost and my hands were cold enough at it was.
The trail was very easy to follow. The fire burn area was short, and ended just before the waterfall/4WD trail cutoff. It seemed to follow the avalanche area from a few years ago. The trail seemed unaffected, and was clear of debris.
I followed this class 1 trail 2.5 miles to treeline. At treeline, I started feeling more like myself, excited now I chose to hike today (isn’t that always the case?).
At the junction around 11425’ I turned right and followed the trail into the upper basin, towards Island Lake.
Here’s an overall view of the hike to the V4/US Grant Saddle (the lake isn’t visible yet, but it’s straight ahead).
At the junction I turned left, towards Island Lake. This is the junction I’d be coming back to when it was time to hike V2.
I decided to skirt the lake to the left, on the obvious trail, but you can take either side. Note: there isn’t a clearly defined trail to the right, but it’s an easy trek either way. There was a thin layer of ice on the lake.
Once past the lake it’s ‘choose your own adventure’ to the saddle. All routes go here.
Here are some closer pictures
When I hit the scree I put on my microspikes, and didn’t take them off until I made it back to this spot. There’s a runnel you can follow, as well as tundra and scree routes.
Once at the saddle I turned left, towards V4
I skirted the north side of V4, hugging where the talus met rock, following the contour of the mountain west. This is loose rock.
Following the contour of the mountain brought me to a scree-filled gully. I ascended this gully (microspikes were very helpful here, as it’s steep).
At the top of the gully I turned right and followed the scree up
This is where it got complicated. I’m not entirely sure which it the actual ‘summit’. I saw a cairn, and scaled the first tower I came to (this was easier than pictures make this look). The cairn is circled in red
But when I got to the top, it looked like the actual summit might be the next tower.
So, I checked my altimeter. It read 13,540’. I backtracked and made my way to the next tower
But when I got to the top of the next tower and checked my altimeter, that too read 13,540’. I turned and looked back: the first point now seemed higher to me, and it had a cairn, so I figure that was the high point. Peakbagger said the peak was 47 feet behind me, but somewhat closer to the first tower… which would have put me in empty space.
I made my way back to the first tower and took some pictures. I summited V4 at 10am. (Not sure why I said V3 in the video, but by the time I realized my mistake I was already back by Island Lake).
I headed back the way I’d come, back towards the US Grant/V4 saddle
I stayed high here, to avoid the loose choss
My next objective of the day was V2. Here’s the overall route I took to get there
I made my way back down towards Island Lake, this time skirting the lake to the north, picking up the obvious trail on the other side that leads to the US Grand/V2 saddle.
There’s a small fork in the trail about halfway up the hillside, but it doesn’t matter which way you go, as they both merge back together. Microspikes are a good idea here too.
Once at the saddle, I turned right and followed the ridge east, immediately coming across a memorial plaque
There was a trail here, and it was easy to follow.
It was a bit rocky near the summit, but there was still a trail to follow. Easy class 2
The summit was long. I walked the entire length to make sure I summited, but I’m pretty sure the actual summit is about 1/3 of the way across. There’s a wind break there.
I summited V2 at 12pm
From the summit, here’s looking back at V4
It was getting cold, quick, so I headed back to Island Lake, and followed the trail from the morning back out of the basin
Here you can see the burn area (along the 4WD road)
Here are some pictures from the hike out
There were so many people on the trail hiking out! And everyone seemed to have a dog. I was discouraged to see trash on the trail: it hasn’t even been open a week and people are already littering. I picked up a few pieces on my way out.
I made it back to my truck at 1:30pm, making this a 12.74 mile hike with 4921’ of elevation gain in 7 hours
On to the next trailhead!