Banner Peak Backpack, Day 1 – Rush Creek to Thousand Island Lake, September 12 2015

posted in: Photos, Trip Report | 2

Thousand Island Lake is one of those places that I knew I had to visit the moment I saw pictures of it. I didn’t think I was going to fit it in this year, but things lined up last minute – I found some available permits online, there was campground with an open site the night before we wanted to start our hike, and more importantly, I found someone that was willing to take on this trip over two days.

After I inquired about possible side trips for Day 2 of our trip, multiple people mentioned Banner Peak, many not realizing we were only going to spend 1 night and 2 days on the trail. The more I read about Banner Peak though, the more unrealistic it sounded. Although the the hike from camp to the summit was only 10 miles round trip, we were told that we should count on it taking us 11 hours. That’s 11 hours of hiking before packing up camp, carrying our backpacking gear 9 miles to get back to the trail head, driving 5+ hours to get home and going to work Monday morning. Before learning exactly how difficult climbing Banner then hiking out would be, I had already created maps and had loaded the GPX files onto my GPS. Since I already put the time into creating them, I figured I should bring them along.

Friday night we stayed at Silver Lake Campground, located near June Lake CA. Since we weren’t planning on hiking Banner and I had slept very little the days prior to the trip, we decided to not set any alarms and just get going whenever we woke up. I slept really well (if you hate mummy bags, you really should consider a quilt for camping and backpacking) and Saturday morning, we left Rush Creek trailhead around 8:15 AM.

The climb up from Silver Lake was tough and I was happy that we did not start any later than we did; the sun felt warm already and we knew it would be a hot day. We enjoyed the fall foliage and talked about the history Agnew Tram System on our climb up to Agnew Lake. We had originally planned to hike through Spooky Meadows on our way Thousand Island Lake, but the climb up to Agnew Lake convinced us to take the longer, but gentler climb.

Between Agnew Lake and the northern most tip of Gem Lake, we ran into several groups of backpackers. Most were surprised to hear were headed all the way to Thousand Island Lake on Day 1. I started to wonder what I had signed us up for, but we were moving at my estimated pace and in general, feeling pretty good. The walk around the lake was easy compared to the climb up from Silver Lake. We took a long break, filtered water and ate breakfast before crossing Rush Creek. We kept the pace up until we were a mile or so from Clark Lakes where the trail got steep again.

After taking a break at Clark Lakes,  we started the last push to Thousand Island Lake. Up until this point, we had no real intentions of hiking Banner Peak. We soon got our our first good look at it and Greg asked ‘what peak are we were looking at?’  I really wanted to say, ‘the peak we’re hiking tomorrow,’ but I said ‘Banner Peak.’ He recognized the name and just based on the look on his face, I knew we’d be headed up there in a few hours.  After hiking a couple more miles, we setup camp, ate an early dinner and went to bed.

Here are some of my thoughts on the conditions we encountered on this hike: Trail, Water & Smoke Conditions: Rush Creek, Thousand Island Lake & Banner Peak, September 12-13 2015

Geek Stats

Distance: 10.87 miles || Duration: 7 hr 30 min || Elevation Gain/Loss: +2,593′ || Max Elevation: 9,832′ || Difficulty: Strenuous


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