Mon, Jul 15, 2002
One of the nice features of this hike is that you start high, over 9,000ft at the Minaret Summit. And it falls right at the boundary of the restricted travel area inside Devils Postpile NM, so one can drive to the trailhead without trouble. The hike traverses mostly along the Sierra Crest, so you enjoy excellent views both east and west, though the views of the Mts. Ritter, Banner, and the Minarets to the west is by far the highlight.
My sister Kathy and brother Tom joined me for moderate outing, the main objective being to reach Two Teats. Leaving the rest of our families back in Mammoth in the early hours, we were at the trailhead at 7a and on our way. Tom has hiked/climbed with me a number of times in the past, but this was Kathy's first real hike with me. As a runner we have often enjoyed early morning runs together (and had been doing so each morning on vacation), but she was a bit skeptical about this hiking stuff and needed a bit of convincing the night before. She had little to worry about.
The first half of the ridge follows the 4WD road that runs along the crest, and aside from a bit of dust, there was nothing in the way of difficult terrain to travel. We talked about the features in the Minaret Range, noting the ice on Ritter's SE Glacier that could be seen shimmering from almost ten miles distance. The ridge is mostly an easy grade, though there are ups and downs along the way. Once the 4WD road gave out at one of the local high spots, we followed the use trail that then took us the rest of the way. The first downhill section had some loose rock and this disturbed Kathy a bit, but with a bit of handholding and encouragement, she was able to negotiate the steepest section without too much trouble. The ridge was mostly sandy, rocky in a few places, but nothing more than easy class 2, and after about 2 hours we were on the final approach to Two Teats.
Two Teats is really one mountain with an anomolous class 3 bump (that looks more or less like a teat) on the west side, but I suppose naming it "XXXX with a Teat" wouldn't have sounded nearly as nice as Two Teats. We (ok, "I") gravitated towards the class 3 blocks of the lower west summit, and after perusing a number of possible ascent options chose what seemed to be the easiest. Really there was just one class 3 section, all of about 15ft in length, but it was enough to get Tom to hesitate for a few minutes before giving it a go. Kathy didn't even give it a second thought and planted herself on some rocks in the sun at the base and told us she'd happily wait for us to come back down. We didn't stay long, just taking the obligatory summit photos, before heading back down. There really wasn't any better views to be had on the summit, and it was only the semi-interesting summit blocks that beckoned at all.
I let Tom and Kathy know my intentions to head further along the ridge to bag San Joaquin, which as a listed peak ought to at least have a decent register on the summit. As I expected, Kathy and Tom were content to head back, and I quickly left them, heading north. Though it looks a good deal further, it only took 30 minutes to descend the small gap and climb to the higher summit of San Joaquin Mtn, arriving at 10:15a. I was even closer to the June Lake resort and could see one of the lakes along the June Lake Loop, and Mono Lake in the background. I signed into the fine register that I found at the summit, and headed back after taking a few more photos off in all directions ( west, northwest, south). I was back at Two Teats by 10:45a, and cruised up to the higher east teat. No register to be found on that teat either, so I headed south towards Minaret Summit.
It took nearly an hour and a half to catch up to Tom and Kathy (and a bit of jogging to boot), catching them finally a short ways after they'd started down the 4WD road. I expected to find Kathy had quite enough after 4hr+, abut she surprised both of us by deciding to jog back the rest of the way. I imagine it turned out easier than she'd expected. Tom and I merely hiked, and arrived back at Minaret Summit right at noon. A fine half day hike with great views!
For more information see these SummitPost pages: San Joaquin Mountain
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