Tuolumne to Agnew Meadows, Day 4 & 5: Nydiver & Iceberg Lakes and hike out

Middle Nydiver Lake
Middle Nydiver Lake

On the morning of Day 4 we had a break from packing up camp. Instead we prepared for dayhiking to some of the other nearby lakes. With no rush, David decided to head back to Ediza to try for some breakfast fish, and sure enough, he came back with one for each of us. My own personal breakfast brookie mmmmm.

Our morning destination was Nydiver Lakes, another area that was possibly approachable by trail, but I wasn’t sure. It turns out that the trail was pretty easy to find, and we really needed it, too. The hike along the drainage of the lakes is steep, but the trail is nice enough to switchback up the steepest part, keeping us out of the thick bushes and jumbly rocks. Towards the top (when my GPS had us within 500 feet of the first lake), we found ourselves running out of trail in front of a wall of rock. The water coming out of the lake’s  drainage tumbled down the rock in a waterfall, so that wasn’t the approach. I knew it shouldn’t be that difficult, so I just started scrambling up towards the only direct possibility – a notch in the wall – feet slipping and sliding on the steep scree surrounding an old tailings pile.

Meadows below Iceberg lake
Meadows below Iceberg lake and the Minarets

Like most mountain routes, it looked much worse from below and farther away. It turns out the notch was the perfect approach, a narrow corridor between rock walls that opened up right into the lower Nydiver Lake. It was one of those jaw-dropping views: first, I could see the east face of Banner right in front of me, then Ritter, then a few more steps revealed a perfect clear alpine lake.

The hike back to camp was quick and after lunch we headed the opposite direction towards Iceberg Lake. There is a well-used trail that heads up to Iceberg so it was a nice break from route-finding. With the sheets of snow and ice floating around, Iceberg Lake definitely lives up to its name!

Icebergs!
Icebergs!

David fished for native golden trout (with no luck), while I wandered along the rocky slopes to pick up some beta for a possible future trip. After a while of enjoying the lake, we headed back to camp which had been taken over by an angry mob of mosquitoes.

After DEETing ourselves up and getting a small campfire going to smoke the buggers out, we had an early dinner and climbed into our tents while the sky was still light. This served two purposes – to get away from the mosquitoes, and to get to sleep early for the next day’s early rise and hike out. I felt like I was tempting fate as I taunted the skeeters from my safe side of the noseeum, but looking at all of the bite marks on my leg, I think I deserved to vent a bit.

We rose early on Monday morning and knocked off the six miles back to Agnew Meadows in no time. The last two miles into Agnew are horrible, dry, horse nugget covered trail. But considering the miles of amazing trail we’d hiked, 2 miles of  garbage is a pretty acceptable ratio. After a short wait at Agnew we caught the Devil’s Postpile shuttle bus and were back at the car and cleaning up by mid-morning. A short drive later and we were munching on the always delicous Whoa Nellie fish tacos and some Mammoth Brewing Company Pale Ale. It was a great trip and I’m so happy I was able to go back and spend more time in an area that I enjoyed so much when I did the JMT. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Shadow Creek to Agnew Meadows at EveryTrail

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Free range human. Mountain sports addict. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Team OmniTen and Evernote Ambassador. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +

  • http://alwaysjanuary.blogspot.com Randy

    Awesome trip! I can’t wait until I get some time to explore the JMT. I think I like the idea of spending more time in certain areas instead of jamming all the way through (though I’ll have to thru-hike it at least once just for the overall experience).

    Thanks for sharing!

  • bthomas

    What a fine looking trip. How marvelous for you! A pitch perfect example of the perfect Sierra trip.

  • Stephanie

    I’m heading to the Postpile in September. I’m thinking of making a day trip out of Agnew Meadows up to Shadow Lake. Can you give me a rough idea of the one way trip time? I know it’s about 4 miles on the map, but what can an ambitious duffer like me with a 13 year-old in tow expect?

  • mP

    HI, do you have the total mileage for the TM to Agnew Meadows route you describe. I would like to do it, but don’t have that many days to spend so need to break it into different segments. Do you have a GPS track for the entire route avail? Great report!

    • Calipidder

      Thanks! I wrote a guide for the TM to Reds Meadow segment of the JMT (which is really similar to the Agnew Meadows trip, just exiting at a different location). It has the map and the mileage info here, along with some campsite suggestions:

      http://www.everytrail.com/guide/john-muir-trail-tuolumne-to-reds-meadow

      Hope this helps!

      • travelingwise

        Hi, since you’ve taken both exit routes – out at Agnew and at Reds Meadow – I wonder if you can help me decide if the extra miles to Reds Meadow are worth it? Assuming we’d go see Devil’s Postpile by car, is there much difference in the terrain and beauty between the JMT and PCT on those last sections? Thanks for your help and great trip guide!