Minaret Lake Loop Death March

I had planned on leaving the trailhead at 9 by the latest... that didn't happen.  I was up at 4:30 to catch the meteor shower out at Hilltop.  I saw a few good ones, but nothing too amazing.  Around first light, the gunshots started going off all around me.  Apparently it is hunting season.  I left before the sun was over the mountains and grabbed breakfast and some supplies in town.  It was 9:40 by the time I left the trailhead.

I made good time up the trail.  4 miles and an hour and 15 minutes later I stopped for a quick snack at the waterfall.

I continued up the trail to Minaret Lake.  I saw the turnoff for the Minaret Mine, which was my backup plan if I couldn't do the loop.

The Minarets started to come into full view.

I made it to Minaret Lake in a little under 2.5 hours.  It was here that I would see the last people on my trip.  They had wanted to do the loop, but were unsure of the scramble around Cecile Lake and down to Iceberg Lake.

I took the wrong trail around Minaret Lake and ended up on the hillside.  I had to make my way back down to the shore to catch the use path to Cecile.

Minaret Lake looks like an awesome spot to camp at.  I will definitely be back.

The use trail heads up to the right through this drainage with some brief class 3 climbing.  This is the last sight of the ski area for a long time.  

I knew that I had to be at Cecile lake by 1:00 if I wanted to complete the loop before dark, and I got there at 1:04.  This was the 8 mile mark.

I had some food and a beer at Cecile and rested for 20 minutes. The Minarets rise straight up from Cecile.  There is still a good amount of snow up there, with fresh snow covering existing snowfields.

I made my way across the snowfield and scrambled the rest of the way around the lake.

On the far side, there was a chute that went down to Iceberg lake. Iceberg lake, true to its name, was still frozen from winter. 

I started making my way down the face down what looked like the best route from the top, but it turned into a few class 4 moves that were fairly sketchy.  Rocks and ice and a foot of powder mixed in-between.  My approach shoes were worthless on anything wet.  I slowly made my way across the snowfield to the other end of the lake.  From here you can clearly see where the trail goes.

Ritter and Banner are now in full view as you make your way down to Ediza.

I stopped for 5 minutes for a quick snack at Ediza.  I knew I had to keep the pace up if i wanted to finish before dark. 

The far end of Ediza was the 10 mile mark.  I had 11.3 miles to go.

At this point I knew that I could not waste any time, so I did not take any more photos.  I made my way down to Shadow Lake, then decided to take the JMT back.  There are 600 feet of switchbacks out of Shadow Lake that were not fun.

I stopped at Rosalie Lake for a quick break and watched the fish.  The fishing looked really good in all of the creeks and most of the lakes I hiked by.

I knew this section of the trail was long, but it still felt longer than I was expecting. After the climb out of Rosalie, it was all downhill.  I was making good time at this point, 15-16 minutes a mile.  I made it back to the trailhead around 6:30, right as it was getting dark.

The total milage was 21.3 miles with 4,573 feet of elevation gain.