Richard and I headed down to the east side to spend some time hiking over the Fourth of July holiday week. Unfortunately he was still recovering from his knee surgery, so we were fairly limited in length and difficulty of any possible hike. I floated the idea of hiking Laurel Mountain which is a short hike from the top of the Laurel Lakes Road and we called the Mammoth Ranger Station to get an idea of how far we’d be able to drive up before encountering snow. I wasn’t totally clear on his description of where the snowline was, but as soon as he said “cars fall off that road all the time,” I decided I’d already filled my quota of rolling cars off forest service roads, so we started looking elsewhere. Not wanting to push Richard too far and not wanting to get in over our heads with late season snow travel we opted to hike Reversed Peak, which sits smack dab in the middle of the June Lake Loop and would hopefully provide decent views of the surrounding lake basin.
We started from the trailhead off of Northshore Drive, following a steep 4×4 road. I hadn’t realized that the road continued past the parking area and I wondered if we should have driven further. The road was fairly overgrown but it was obvious that someone had recently driven up it. After half a mile, the road dead-ended without any additional parking or good place to turn a car around and became a trail.
It was a little warm and the mosquitos seemed constantly threatening (they weren’t too great a nuisance and we never bothered applying bug spray), but it was a pleasant hike through wise old junipers and, here and there, a few large Jeffrey Pines.
Although the trail started off steep, it soon leveled off and meandered along a high plateau, passing several small beautiful lakes. Finally, the trail took a turn north and started climbing in earnest. We passed several runners heading down from the summit and it seemed like this would be a great trail to run, although a bit steep in sections.
To the southwest, Mt Ritter and Banner Peak rose up above the north shoulder of Carson Peak. From this angle, the slightly taller but more distant Ritter appears to be the same height as Banner and their sloping summits mirrored each other with impossibly symmetry. As we climbed, their summits came closer together until eventually they touched and seemed to be one massive peak.
We passed through a stunted aspen forest before the trail became even steeper and eventually the trees were replaced by haphazard boulders. The granite boulders reminded me a lot of the peaks in the Freel Group, with large crystals eager to break free and form kitty litter sand. Some easy class 2 scrambling brought us to the summit where we had our first view northeast toward the ever beautiful Mono Lake.
To the northwest our view of Mt Wood was now unobstructed and I was surprised to see that the line Brian and I had skied two weeks ago still looked skiable (though a bit more spicy)!
Below us to the southeast June and Gull Lakes glimmered in the early summer sun and the beach along the north shore of June Lake looked incredibly beautiful.
The views of all the other peaks in the June Lake Loop were quite spectacular too.
We spent some time on the summit before realizing that Casey, Pete, Chris, and others (whom we didn’t even know were in town) were in fact at June Lake right then! We headed back down the peak and were pleasantly surprised that we weren’t too late to meet up with them. We took a quick rinse in the lake and spent some time sunbathing and catching up with the others who had had a pretty eventful week in the mountains.
Eventually it was time for the Bay Area folk to hit the road so we left the beach in search of the next adventure.
Elevation Gain: 1,900 ft