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Banner Peak

Banner Peak

- Six day backpacking trip to Banner Peak in Ansel Adams Wilderness with my dad.

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My dad chose the trip! He wanted to revisit some memories of a prior trip when he attempted to climb Ritter (but climbed Banner instead) from Ediza lake. We had permits for the trail way in advance (they get snatched up 6 months before your departure date) and nervously watched the snow and road conditions. We were very lucky and grateful to get out and experience this part of the Sierra.

If you want to check out the route video you can find that here.


Banner Peak
Trailhead sign

Banner Peak
Wilderness sign selfie with dad

Day 1 Highlights

  • Drove through Yosemite on Tioga Road and traffic wasn't too bad; 20min to get into the park and about the same at the one lane section right after Olmsted Point. Stopped in Groveland and a market in Yosemite to stock up on food to eat the first day. Great views of Tuolumne Meadows, Mt Dana and all the granite domes and peaks of Yosemite.
  • Glad we had shuttle passes as we figured out how to park and get the shuttle from the Mammoth Adventure Center over Minaret Vista and to Agnew Meadows. Had to stop and wait for log clearing.
  • Had a huge group of day hikers at the wilderness sign try on my pack and take photos with me - glad they also snapped the wilderness sign selfie of me and dad!
  • Having an easy, mostly downhill 2.5 miles first day was great. Nice open camp by the bridge crossing the middle fork of the San Joaquin among the towering juniper.
  • It was tough fitting all that food in our bear canisters!


Banner Peak
Mammoth from Shadow Creek

Banner Peak
Magical rainbow cloud

Banner Peak
Minarets from my scramble to Nydiver lakes

Banner Peak
Nydiver lakes

Banner Peak
Ediza Lake and Volcanic Ridge

Day 2 Highlights

    • A day hiker (runner) passed us on the way to Ediza. We saw him later running back and asked how far he got. He said "to the top of Banner!" Incredible.
    • My dad and I guessed how long the ice floating in Ediza would take to melt. We thought days or weeks. It was gone the next day!
    • Mosquitos started this day and we never really saw the end of the bugs unless the wind picked up.
    • Quite a rocky, boulder scramble to get to the campsites.
    • I made the scramble from our campsite to Nydiver and back in about 1.5 hours. It was a classic adventure and the wintry, remote paradise of the lakes was quite a reward.
    • Made way for pack trains returning with trail working tools in their packs.
    • Saw an osprey dive and catch its brunch at Shadow Lake during a very nice break.

    DAY 3

    Banner Peak
    Sunrise on the Minarets from Ediza

    Banner Peak
    Volcanic Ridge

    Banner Peak
    Iceberg Lake

    Banner Peak
    The Minarets

    Day 3 Highlights

      • Rest day at Ediza and a chance to head up to Iceberg Lake. Fun hike on the snow to test out my spikes and ice ax with hardly any slope and low risk conditions. Iceberg Lake itself was like a fairy pool of deep blue ice surrounded by volcanic rock and stone. Breathtaking.
      • I watched a coyote do their morning routine. I had just scrambled around a large rocky outcrop on my way up to Iceberg Lake when the flat expanse of the inlet delta opened up in front of me and I saw a coyote who spent several minutes walking through a looping route.
      • A group of 6 or 7 arrived in the afternoon and we watched in awe as they each took turns jumping into the freezing waters of Ediza.
      • Watching the sunrise on the Minarets was incredible.
      • Dad met some backpackers who were hiking out after camping up at Iceberg Lake. Wow!
      • It was really incredible watching the ice and snow melt - so much changed just from one day to the next.

      DAY 4

      Banner Peak
      Dad enjoying his morning coffee

      Banner Peak
      View on our cross country shortcut

      Banner Peak
      Clear waters and amphitheater backdrop of Ruby Lake

      Day 4 Highlights

        • Very tough day hiking from Ediza to Thousand Island Lake. The two passes were tough to get up and over. The snow by Garnet was melting fast, but still a challenge. A long day with our heavy packs, with lots of breaks.
        • We took a cross country shortcut from Shadow Creek to the JMT which was a relatively easy, surprisingly joyful romp. We did this so that we didn't drop and regain elevation. We stumbled upon incredible views of the Shadow Creek valley and various seemingly seldom used group camp sites among the quiet, old trees.
        • Had a great rest break at the first pass with incredible views in either direction.
        • I took so many photos and videos of Ruby Lake, it was such a stand out to me. I'm not sure how much camping is currently available there, I saw several signs of the area being closed to camping in order to rehab.
        • Watched tons of fish swim in the outlet of Thousand Island. We learned later that maybe the rainbows were spawning.
        • It took a while to scout a camping spot once we finally arrived at the backpack city of Thousand Island Lake. But our campsite was fantastic.

        DAY 5

        Banner Peak
        Sunrise on Banner from Thousand Island

        Banner Peak
        On my way up North Glacier Pass

        Banner Peak
        Lake Catherine

        Day 5 Highlights

          • Enjoyed the fantastic campsite among the throngs of campers at Thousand Island and the many, many marmots.
          • I had quite an adventure getting up to North Glacier Pass and looking over the stark expanse of Lake Catherine right at the final approach to the saddle between Banner and Ritter. I saw one mountaineer descending the pass on my way up and another group of four having a lunch break on my way down, otherwise I got to enjoy the travel and exploration of this heather, snow and rock covered landscape.
          • Chatted with several other campers and hikers, many of which were fishing in the lake.
          • We were bewildered by the echoing sounds of frogs in the morning and evening.
          • Took a wonderful evening stroll with my dad along the lake trail. There were still pools of water by the lake that had snow and ice floating in them. It was very peaceful beyond the crowds of camps as you approached the mountain range.
          • In general, it was hard not to constantly pause, look around, and say "wow, this is beautiful." I think we felt a little overwhelmed with gratitude at being here and having such perfect weather and conditions.

          DAY 6

          Banner Peak
          View back at the Ritter Range on the High Trail

          Banner Peak
          Sierra Superbloom

          Banner Peak
          Endless miles of flowers and streams

          Banner Peak
          Sunset at Olmsted Point

          Day 6 Highlights

            • Decided that instead of splitting the hike out into two days, to do it all in one go. 8.5miles back to the trailhead!
            • This was like hiking through a wildflower, nature wonderland. Every flower was in full bloom and streams were tumbling down the PCT/ High Trail for miles.
            • Many pack trains and hikers along the way.
            • Fantastic views of the Ritter Range as we hiked along.
            • The trail was an up and down roller coaster of gain and loss.
            • We were thrilled to get onto a very full shuttle and make that trip back to the Mammoth Adventure Center. A delicious burger and beverage were had at the Whoa Nellie Deli before the long (but smooth, no traffic) drive home to a warm shower and good nights sleep.


            • Location: Ediza and Thousand Island Lakes, Ansel Adams Wilderness via the Agnew Meadows trailhead. We took Shadow Creek to Ediza, then the John Muir Trail to Thousand Island, then the PCT back to Agnew Meadows.
            • Date: July-August 2023.
            • Stats: 25 miles with 5,000+ ft elevation gain (not including side trips)
            Route map
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            What a treasured adventure.
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