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Newsletter of the Peak Climbing Section, Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter
August, 1995                                               Vol. 28, No. 8


DATE: Tuesday, Aug. 8

TIME: 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Bob Wallace and Marj Ottenberg's home in Saratoga. From I-280 take
Saratoga Sunnyvale toward Saratoga. Right at Pierce Road. When Pierce bends
left, go right onto Foothill. It's the fourth house on the left, with
Christmas lights. Bring a sweater, and please carpool. Lost? (408) 867-4576

PROGRAM: Bill Rausch will show slides and give commentary on his trip with
Saeko Izuta to New South Wales and Tasmania in Australia, and the South
Island of New Zealand. Experience the unique flora, fauna and geology of
these areas  and the climbing and bushwacking opportunities.

Mission improbable

Messner bagged the fourteen 8000 meter peaks. I aimed a little lower: 100
ascents of a lesser peak - the grass and cow-covered fang of sandstone that
towers loftily over Fremont, otherwise know as Mission Peak.   

That was in 1989. Now, to my consternation, I realize I still haven't found
anything better to do with my weekends. I logged ascent number 200 last
weekend! I'm contacting the Guinness Book of World Records people to see if
they can give this feat the exposure (pardon the pun) it deserves.  

Why would anyone in his right mind devote so much attention to such an
undistinguished peak, you ask?  

1. Where else can a mountaineer get a 2000-foot workout in only a couple of
hours in the south bay?  

2. Where else can the aforementioned mountaineer find a steep enough slope
where he can get anaerobic without subjecting his sore knees to the indignity
of running?   

3. Where else around here is there a mountain with such a variety of routes
to explore (when the grass is low, that is)? Counting variations, I've
probably hiked/climbed 50 different routes up every side of Mission. There
are even a variety of rock scrambles on the upper west face (Careful, the
rock is quite crumbly).  

So which of those climbs were most memorable? There was one last winter when
I summited in the teeth of a wet, ferocious gale (can you spell

There was one climb where I breached the overcast to watch the sun set on a
sea of fog. Then there was the time my girlfriend and sampled Mission after
dark, with the city lights glowing at our feet.   

Also memorable were the wildlife sightings:   
 1 rattlesnake 
 3 bobcats 
 2 herds of wild pigs 
 20 deer (approximately) 
 10,000 "slow elk" (i.e., cows) 
 (Alas, no mountain lions)  

To sum it all up: "I came, I saw, I got stuck in one heck of a rut climbing
this peak."  

  -- Butch Suits  

Official PCS trips

Haeckel, Wallace, Fiske, Huxley
Aug 5-12
13,000+ feet, class 3
Leaders: John Ingvoldstad, Kate Ingvoldstad (408) 996-7129, (209) 296-8483
Topos: Mt. Goddard 15', Mt. Darwin 7.5'

From Lake Sabrina it's only one day in to Evolution Basin via the col
between Mts. Haeckel and Wallace. Once situated, many class 2 and 3 climbs
beckon, including Haeckel, Wallace, Fiske and Huxley, all over 13,000 feet.
Deserving separate mention is Mt. Darwin, the highest peak in the area at
13,830 feet, and arguably one of the best class 3 climbs in the Sierra,
featuring multiple chutes and route finding, and very solid, clean rock.
Don't miss this week of thrills!

Vogelsang, Fletcher
Sept 16-17
11,493 feet, class 2
Leaders: Bob Suzuki (408) 259-0772 H (after 7:30 p.m.)
         Debbie Bulger (408) 457-1036 H (until 10 p.m.)
Topo: Vogelsang Peak

Mid-September is the ideal time to visit the Yosemite high country. Warm
days, cooler evenings and diminishing tourist crowds allow a more peaceful
wilderness experience. From Tuolumne Meadows we'll backpack in seven miles,
drop our packs at camp and climb Fletcher Peak. Sunday morning we'll climb
Vogelsang, then hike out. This will be a relaxed outing suitable for
beginning peak climbers. Limit 8-10 people.     

Private trips

Temple Crag
Aug. 5-6
12,999 feet, class 3
Organizer(s): Debbie Benham (415) 964-0558 H; dmbenham@aol.com
              Charles Schafer (408) 354-1545 H; charles.schafer@octel.com
Topo: Big Pine 15'

We'll be climbing the southeastern chute which is 300 feet below the south
side of Contact Pass. The chute leads to a large talus slope then a 50 ft
section of Class 3 just beneath the summit. As we do not have a backcountry
reservation*, we'll try for either a N. Fork or S. Fork, Big Pine Creek,
entry.  Accepting four people for a total of six participants. All will be
asked to sign a liability waiver. [*-waiting in line with fingers cross; Plan
B possible]

Deerhorn, Ericsson, Junction, East Vidette
Aug 10-14
13,888 feet, class 3 
Organizers: Aaron Schuman (415) 390-1901 w; schuman@sgi.com
            Steve Eckert (415) 508-0500; eckert@netcom.com
Topos: Mt. Whitney, Mt. Pinchot

We enter Bubbs Creek on 8/10 and camp around East Lake. On 8/11 we move the
packs to the lakes between Ericsson Crags and Mt Stanford, and climb Deerhorn
if we have lots of time. On 8/12 we move the packs to the saddle, bag
Ericsson, and drop around Caltech Pk to camp between Diamond Mesa and Caltech
Peak. On 8/13 we move packs to Forester Pass and bag Junction Peak, then camp
on the Bubbs Creek trail as close to East Vidette as possible. The last day
we bag East Vidette and pack out. Ambitious, eh? Everybody better be in good
shape! We will start early to beat the heat and allow packing and climbing on
the same day. This is a 5-day trip, but plan on taking an extra day's food in
case the going is tough or the weather is bad. To sign up, call or send
e-mail to Aaron for instructions. 

Mt. Ritter/Banner Peak
Aug. 18-20
13,157 feet, class 3
Organizer: Charles Schafer (408) 324-6003 W; (408) 354-1545 H
Co-Organizer: Kelly Maas (408) 279-2054 H; (408) 944-2078 W
Topo: Devil's Postpile 15'

According to Secor, Mt. Ritter is perhaps the most prominent peak in the
High Sierra, and is located in one of the High Sierra's most scenic areas, so
this trip promises to be nothing short of spectacular. We'll hike in on
Friday to either Ediza or Nydiver Lake, then try for both peaks on Saturday.
An ice axe will probably be required.

Red Slate
Aug 19-20
13,163 feet, ice
Organizer: Eugene Miya (415) 961-6772
Topo:  Mt. Morrison

Red Slate's north couloir is noted as the "easiest" ice climb in California
by Chouinard and Robinson. This is a 1000-foot, 40-degree ice gully. It
should be climbable in three hours or less. This will not be a beginners or
instructional trip. Maximum of six climbers. All participants should have
personal ice gear.

Mt. Winchell
Sept. 15-17
13768 feet, class 3
Organizer: Siamak Navid (408) 553-3850 W; (415) 361-8548 Hsia@vid.hp.com
(Leader wanted)
Topo:  Mt. Goddard

This is a three-day trip. The plan is to camp at Sam Mack Meadow (or lake),
climb the peak on Saturday and return on Sunday. I will be on vacation Aug.
5-20, so leave messages. 

Mt. Shasta Hotlam Glacier
Sept. 16-17
14,162 feet, class 3/ice
Organizer: Kai Wiedman (415) 347-5234
Co-organizer: Kelly Maas (408) 279-2054
Topo: Wilderness Press: Mt. Shasta

The Hotlam Glacier is the most challenging of Mt. Shasta's glaciers.  The
Hotlam presents three distinct icefalls. Each offer route-finding among
seracs and crevasses. Join Kelly and Kai for some mixed climbing and exposed
blue ice. Technical ice climbing skills are not necessary. Basic ice axe and
crampon skills, including self arrest, are required.

PCS Slide show for aspiring climbers at Planet Granite

The Sierra Club, Peak Climbing and Rock Climbing Sections are presenting a
slide show at Planet Granite for new and interested peak baggers and rock
climbers on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. The presentation will last about one hour with
time for comments and questions. Planet Granite is located at 2901 Mead
Avenue, Santa Clara. Phone: (408) 727-2777. Ask for Tonya Emerson, Director
of Marketing, for more information.

The Hand: More tales of the gripped

Reading about Royal Robbins and the Hand in the July Scree reminded me about
astory I had heard years ago regarding the same notorious climb.  

After Salathe made the first ascent of the Hand the climb soon became a
test-piece for local climbers. Many of the best climbers of the day tried
their hand at the Hand. One of these climbers was Floyd Burnett.  

The following story is about his attempt to scale the Hand, and about the
climb that is now known as the "Burnett Bolt Variation." Floyd Burnett was
an active local climber back in the late 1940's and early1950's. He has a
handful of first ascents to his credit in the Sierra and Tetons.  

As it so happens he is a close friend of my father - they went to high
school together. A number of years ago my father thought I would enjoy
meeting his climbing friend and invited me over one day when Floyd had
stopped by.  

I had recently climbed the Hand by the standard route during which I had
noticed the lone bolt of the Burnett Bolt Variation. I asked what provoked
him to create such a bold variation on the original Salathe route.  

Apparently he had inadvertently climbed past the point where Salathe
traversed left into the easy gully. By the time he realized his mistake he
was high above some questionable pitons on a vertical face on the verge of
taking a very long fall. There was no way he could climb down.  

He figured his only chance was to somehow place a bolt and lower off.
Unfortunately, he needed to have at least one hand hold onto the rock.
Placing a bolt with only one hand would be virtually impossible.

Fortunately, a short distance above was a large protruding knob.  While his
belayer, a young climber named Allen Steck, prepared for a big fall, Floyd
climbed up to the knob and wrapped a loop of the climbing rope around it with
his one free hand.  

He called for "tension." Somehow the rope held. Now Floyd could use both
hands to place a bolt. By the time the bolt was finally in Floyd was spent.
It had been a harrowing experience. He had narrowly escaped taking a
dangerously long fall.  

Floyd had had enough of the Hand and yelled for Allen to lower him off. The
two of them retreated. Floyd never again attempted the Hand.   A few years
later some hapless climber spotted the bolt and climbed past it to the
summit, not realizing that he had actually made the first ascent of what has
since become known as the "Burnett Bolt Variation."

  -- George Sinclair


``Raiders of the lost axe''

Phyllis Olrich checks in with a desperate plea: "Please help me get my
beloved ice ax back! If you can retrieve it from the summit of Mt.  Haeckel,
I will personally bestow upon you an appropriately wonderful award.  "While
on the summit block of Mt.  Haeckel July 22 I dropped my 18-year-old Royal
Robbins Alpenlite ice ax down a crevice. It has a blue handle strap attached.
You can see it if you look way down into the crack, but it is just out of
reach. I think it can be done if you bring some kind of long grabbing tool
that could hook onto the strap. "Become a celebrated hero(ine) and receive my
eternal gratitude andadmiration (and don't forget that reward)! Contact
Phyllis Olrich  at (415) 322-0323)."

`` Have a Sherpa to dinner''

This from Judith Dean: "Dreams of Nepal dancing in your head? Want to
organize your own trip? Come and meet a sirdar and find out more this country
of snowy mountains, green fields and smiling people. "Urgen Sherpa, owner of
Sherpa High Ambitions Trekking in Kathmandu, is visiting some of his
"trekkies" here. He arranged such an excellent trek for us last year that
we'd like the chance for you to meet him.   

"We trekked in the Everest region, but Urgen will organize treks or climbs
anywhere in Nepal, and is especially interested in working with clients to
plan routes which fit their interests and schedules. We're having an open
house on Friday, Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Judith (Yarborough) Dean's house in
Menlo Park.   

"If you'd like to stop by, call or email one of us for directions (and so we
know how many corn chips to buy)."

Judith Dean     (415) 854-9288   e-mail: Judith.Yarborough@forsythe.stanford.edu
Chris MacIntosh (415) 325-7841   e-mail: chrism@clbooks.com 
Linda Smith     (415) 327-2099 

``Slap happy'' 

Those PCSers who cancelled their subscriptions to Sports Illustrated after
the last swimsuit issue missed the fascinating report on the latest sport in
Finland: mosquito swatting.

It noted that "swat teams" from around the world had gathered in
Pelkosenniemi, Finland, last month for the third annual World Championship of
Mosquito Killing.

Their goal: to eclipse the world record of seven kills in five minutes.

(No, that is not a typo. That is in fact the official world's record. We
know that most Scree readers have killed that many with one swat; on a recent
trip to Alaska, your humble editor had at least that many kamikazee into his
soup at once. All we can say is, pack your bags for Pelkosenniemi next
summer. Glory awaits.)

"It's surprisingly few," SI quoted organizer Kai Kullervo Salmijarvi as
saying of the record, "but the mosquitoes are drawn away from the competitors
by the warmth of the crowd."

Speaking of the fans' short attention spans, he added, "That's another
reason why the contest is so short. People get bitten."

``Now you know''

What does Ama Dablam mean? It means "mother's jewel box." The term refers
specifically to a prominent hanging glacier high on the mountain.

``The last words''

"We never grow tired of each other, the mountain and I." 
  -- Li Po

"The mountains speak in wholly different accents to those who have paid in
the service of toil for the right of entry to their inner shrines." -- Sir
  -- Arnold Lunn

"There, where human habitation, then trees, then grass peter out, is a
kingdom, sterile, wild, inorganic. But in its extreme poverty, in its total
nudity, this kingdom of silence and light proffers a joy which is beyond
price--the happiness one sees in the eyes of those who frequent it."
  -- Gaston Rebuffat

A bad day on North Pal and an epic on Cathedral Peak

Dot Reilly and I took a four day weekend (July 13-16) to do some climbing in
the Palisades. Our main objective was North Palisade via the U Notch. We had
a nice hike up to about 12,200 feet on the Palisade Glacier on Thursday under
beautiful cloudless skies.  

The trail was clear to just below Sam Mack Meadow and over much of the trail
leading out of the meadow. The snow conditions were fantastic and the weather
was consistently clear, although a bit cold at night.  

On the way in, we had met a pair that had told us of their failure to
overcome the bergschrund. They said that another pair had also failed and
that they could see no footprints in the couloir. 

Nonetheless, Dot and I hiked up to see for ourselves on Friday morning. The
guy we talked to had given us an accurate story. The bergschrund was wide
open and to climb it directly meant getting up and over a 10-foot overhanging
lip of not entirely consolidated snow. 

A careful traverse to the right under a giant snow tongue showed the only
real possibility for us. If we carefully stepped out onto a questionable snow
bridge, some 5.8 rock would lead to further climbing (of a hopefully easier
level) and finally back left into the couloir. Not for us, we decided.  

Dot and I discussed whether or not our mutual friend David Ress would have
given it a try. I'll have to show him the photos when I get them back and
hear what he has to say.  

We lazily traversed over and up to Glacier Notch and I ran up and down
Gayley while Dot took in some sun. Back at camp, my MSR XGK stove went from
annoyingly flakey to almost non-functional. Add in the fact that animals had
eaten much of my breakfast and lunch and we decided to forego the third class
climb of Winchell we had considered for the next day.  

We ran into the climbing ranger on the way out and he said that he thought
the rock on the right was about 5.9. He was also of the opinion that the snow
in the couloir was rotten and would slide sometime soon.  I wouldn't have
thought that looking at it, but there is a lot of snow up there.  

The V Notch looked like a snow climb (complete with a cornice) and we talked
to a pair that had climbed easily up the right Underhill Couloir the day we
checked out the U Notch.  

Dot and I talked of climbing in Tuolumne or perhaps another go at Cathedral
for Sunday. We got up a little late Sunday morning and I suggested we just go
for pancakes at Tioga Pass Resort. Of course we had the usual run-in with
T.M. Herbert at the resort, complaining about the pancakes there.  

Sitting at the Lembert Dome parking lot, where we planned to climb the
Northwest Books, Dot and I decided to just go and climb Cathedral anyways. We
drove quickly to the trailhead and madly sorted our dirty and disorganized
gear, finally setting out at 9 a.m. under a cloudless sky. We made decent
time and arrived at the base a little before 11 p.m.   As we geared up, T.M.
and his partner arrived to solo the route. When we mentioned that we'd been
there twice the previous weekend, first in the rain on Saturday and then
again in the wind on Sunday, he said "what are you guys, Reinhold Messners?"

At the top of the first pitch, I looked out at the few clouds developing and
jokingly told Dot that it would probably rain on us when we got to the end of
the fifth pitch. We moved pretty well, the only snag being a stopper that
stuck near the second belay. I downclimbed and spent seven or eight minutes
working it free.  

Our enjoyment of the climb began to fade as the clouds grew darker.  As Dot
reached the belay at the end of the fifth pitch it began to snow in wet
gloppy blobs. Dot had no rain jacket so she put on her fleece. I donned my
eight-year old Gortex (which wasn't a whole lot better) and began traversing
left around the peak. By the time Dot followed the wet fourth class traverse,
she was pretty freaked, and I wasn't sure whether to hunker down under a
space blanket or try to get off before it got worse.  

Fortunately, the weather improved. In fact, it never actually rained after
that, but the sky gave no indication that things would remain dry.  A short
5.6 corner brought us to the ridge and we did one short and two longer
rappels to arrive at easier terrain. We took a moment to rest, I coiled the
ropes very sloppily, and we started down the west side towards the Muir

Here I screwed up pretty badly. We followed what looked like an obvious
descent path (complete with ducks), but soon found ourselves on wet death
slabs. I worked us into a position in which I didn't want to continue and Dot
didn't want to go back. So I climbed up and found a place to set up a rappel.

Oops! I had Dot's pack with the ropes but no gear or harness. Also, because
of the way I'd coiled the ropes, it took me 15 minutes to untangle them. In
the pack was Dot's harness and one sling. I slung the sling around the horn,
crossed my fingers that it would hold, and started back down the slabs with a
dulfer rappel (two 8.5 mm ropes -- ouch!)  

Finally down to Dot, I backed up the rappel with a couple cams, got her into
her harness and she dropped down to a tree. I carefully got into my harness,
pulled the backup cams and noticed that the ropes were not going to pull.  

Once again I climbed up the wet death slabs, nearly slipping off twice. I
finally arrived at the sling again, fixed the problem, and rappelled down to
Dot at the tree. One more rappel finally got us out of that mess. Whew!  

The rest of story was just one of hunger, thirst, fatigue, mosquitos, third
class grunge and trying like hell to find the next tree blaze to keep us on
the snow-covered Muir Trail. We got back to the car at 9:00 p.m. How do you
spell "epic"?  

Dot swore off Cathedral after this (her third) trip. Her first time she got
out at 10:30 p.m., the second she had to bivy, and now this. I've decided to
give up mountaineering. I'm staying home on the weekends and watching
cartoons from now on.  :-) 

  -- Jim Curl 

Banner's direct North Buttress: a new variation

We made a leisurely start on Friday, first enjoying a large breakfast at the
"Breakfast Club" restaurant in Mammoth. Then, the four of us, Kai Wiedman,
Dave Erskine, Bob "The Stoic" Suzuki, and me boarded the shuttle bus for the
Agnew Meadows trailhead. 

The hike into  Thousand Island Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail was
beautiful and pleasant, particularly after we climbed out of the swarms of
mosquitos that abounded near the meadows. As we approached Agnew Pass, the
trail was occasionally hard to find because of patches of snow, and, later, a
huge mudslide. 

But we eventually made our way to the snowbound outlet of Thousand Island
Lake. A short hike from there we located an acceptable dry campsite on a
bench above the lake. We were early to bed before the sun fully set.  

The next morning we arose rather late, about 5:30 a.m. The night had been
cold and damp, and a thick layer of frost coated my sleeping bag. The coyotes
sang to us as we ate our breakfast. At 6:45 a.m., we departed for the climb.

The approach to the climb was almost terrible in its difficulty, because of
the 1.5 miles of continuous one-foot scalelength suncups in the snow. Never
before have I traversed such a hellish field of snow. When we finally reached
the far end of Thousand Island Lake, things became much, much better. Without
much difficulty, we reached the start of the technical rock, an ugly gully
consisting of mixed loose rock and snow. 

Above the gully loomed the  North Ridge of Banner, at this point a chaotic
collection of towers and blocks. The whole party found the appearance of the
gully to be very demoralizing. The route description made it clear that the
"good" part of the route lay beyond and above the gully. The gully itself,
with its mixed snow (or ice) and rock, was beyond our abilities as equipped. 

To my amazement, Kai and Dave wanted to turn back! To me, the difficulty
with the gully offered the opportunity to find a new, more direct and
aesthetic line up to the main buttress. The Stoic was not decisive, so I went
forward to explore a bit, climbing up a fourth-class chimney to gain the top
of arete, then down and around easy blocks and ledges on the other (west)
side of the arete. 

It turned out to be easy to reach the base of the next tower on the ridge,
and I saw a ledge that might allow a traverse halfway up the tower. I
returned to the others and related my findings, but Kai and Dave were
unmoved. The Stoic was psyched, however, and so he and I left the others and

With a pack on, it was a bit more difficult to negotiate the chimney up to
the arete. I managed to stem it without much problem, but the Stoic struggled
mightily, making me nervous because of the serious exposure. From the top of
the arete, we had no difficulty in getting to the notch below the next tower.
We climbed up a bit more and roped up for a technical pitch to gain the
ledge. I was able to make the ledge in my mountain boots, although the moves
proved to be 5.7 --a little challenging in stiff and heavy footwear. 

Unfortunately, the ledge went around to nowhere, in terms of gaining the
next notch below the main buttress. So I put on my rock shoes and continued
up the face. Climbing up an exciting and slightly overhanging 5.9
dihedral/crack rapidly used up my larger gear. The crux move required
substantial calmness and character because of the absence of pro and loose
rock in the crack, now larger than fist size. 

From the top of the crack, a short ledge led around to more broken terrain
on the west face of the tower. It looked like a easy traversing pitch would
take us to the next notch at the base of the main buttress. We had nearly
completed the "Direct North Buttress" variation!  I brought the Stoic up.
Poor guy, he was shivering cold from the shady belay stance. The Stoic is
prone to numb fingers and his climbing suffers from such. He was unable to
manage the bulging crack, and had to swing over to easier terrain. When he
got to the top, he noted that it was now 3 p.m., and we probably didn't have
enough time to do four more technical pitches, traverse the summit ridge and
still get down during daylight. 

I sighed, wishing that we were a bit faster or even just a little less
sensible. But I agreed to his alternative to rap down to the west, down-
climb the fourth class terrain below, then follow a large ledge south to what
appeared to be a much easier gully to the top, thus bypassing en- tirely the
lovely looking rock on the North Buttress.  

The remainder of the climb was fun but non-technical. The downclimb was
fourth class as expected, but not challenging. The ledge did indeed take us
to easier terrain, a gully of clean rock that provided pleasant, mostly third
class scrambling to the summit. 

At a bit past 5 p.m. we reached the summit and went through the usual
rituals. I attempted to get an unique photo of the Clyde Minaret as it
appeared through a hole in the drifting clouds. 

The descent was largely uneventful. We dropped down steep snow on the east
side of Banner directly to the Banner-Ritter glacier, turning a steep part
near a bergschrund on nearby rock. The remainder of the descent to Thousand

Island lake was straightforward plunge stepping and foot glissading down the
glacier and neighboring snowfields.  Unfortunately, the hideously textured
snow surface near the lake had not magically vanished. As long as we were
descending, the going wasn't too bad: you basically just "danced" down the
corrugated but soft surface, allowing your feet to be guided by the infinite
suncups and keeping your balance amidst the chaos. But when the slope finally
went away, our movements became a most wearisome trudge, with every footstep
a challenge to balance and forward progress. 

The Stoic, in character, seemed unfazed by the hideous stuff, and I let him
lead me through the torture. Finally, we reached camp at about 8:30 p.m. I
was so weary! It was remarkable pleasant to just sit quietly and make dinner.
I slept intermittently through the night, awakened periodically by the
remarkable harmonies of three snoring mountaineers.  

The final day was relaxed and pleasant. We broke camp around 8:30 a.m., took
the shorter River Trail back to Agnew Meadows, arriving a bit before 12:30
p.m. We had a pleasant break and a drink on the grass outside of the Mammoth
Inn; Kai suggested that we come back again next year and try this route
again. I enthusiastically agreed, thinking of completing that gully-bypass

Despite remarkably heavy traffic into the Bay Area on I-205, the Stoic and I
arrived back at our meeting point in Livermore before 7:30 p.m.  

  -- The Monoplegic

Parking structure proposed for Yosemite Valley

Memo from the Yosemite Committee, Sierra Club:
BY SEPTEMBER 1, 1995, PLEASE WRITE TO: B.J. Griffin, Superintendent, Yosemite
National Park, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389 regarding the recently
released '1994 Alternative Transportation Modes Feasibility Study' for
Yosemite National Park. NPS is encouraging comments on the important issue of
future transportation plans for Yosemite. 
One of the alternatives in the study proposes the construction of a PARKING
STRUCTURE for 1844 cars and 20 buses in the West end of Yosemite Valley,
opposite El Capitan. The Sierra Club Yosemite Committee REJECTS THE PARKING
STRUCTURE as it would serve only to move the problems of traffic congestion,
and the attendant problems of noise and air pollution, from one area of the
Valley to a currently undeveloped area.
Please participate in this important issue which will result in a final
transportation plan for the Park. Thank you.  Any further questions, please
contact Linda Wallace, Chair, Sierra Club Yosemite Committee at 916-758-5034
or email to: pswallace@ucdavis.edu

Abbot and Dade prove tough in the year of big snow

The PCS advance trip schedule showed Mt. Abbot and Mt. Dade on June 3-4, but
the trip was dropped from the final schedule due to co-leader reluctance and
the incredible snowpack this year. At the last minute, several people called
and wanted to do the trip anyway, so off we went.  In the meantime, the CMC
schedule had come out indicating a Mills/Abbot trip the same weekend, so we
hoped to have some company. Our merry band met near Rock Creek Lake since the
remaining 1.5 miles of pavement was covered with 3 feet of snow. 

A little pavement walking, a little hard morning snow walking, and the two
with skis (Charles Schafer and Chris Yager) decided to lighten their packs
and weigh down their feet. The two snowshoers (Steve Eckert and Bob Suzuki)
stomped on down the trail, confident that the skiers would overtake them
soon. Well, not so soon. It became apparent that there was a pace difference,
and a route choice difference, that split along the ski/snowshoe boundary. 

Bob and Steve set off for Treasure Lakes, dreams of an afternoon blitz up
Dade dancing in front of them like a mirage. Chris and Charles headed up past
Ruby Lake and planned to meet us at the 12,500-foot saddle between Dade and
Treasure Peak, where we would camp poised for a Sunday assault on Abbot. 

This year, there is no such thing as a trail. None of the lakes were melted,
and the streams poked through heavy blocks of snow making the simple task of
filling a water bottle quite exciting. 

The Dade-bound duo dropped their packs at the base of the Hourglass (a
40-degree snow chute south of Dade) about 3 p.m. Snowshoes had not been
required until about 11,000 feet, but the snow was softening rapidly. We
actually kicked steps up the Hourglass in snowshoes because it was too soft
to climb in just boots! (If you flip your foot out behind you,the tail will
swing up and you can punch the tip in instead of letting the shoe hit flat.)
Still on snowshoes, we summited about 5:30 p.m. Late summitting is becomming
a habit for me, it seems. 

Anyone going to Dade should take a new register box, because the one there
is missing a lid and badly crushed. Most entries have washed out because they
were in ink and some fool stood the topless can upright in the snow. Back to
the packs around 6:30 p.m., we faced a 1,000-foot climb up snow that still
required snowshoes. 

Even protected by Diamox, Steve did not feel up to the task after the long
day, so he started melting snow while Bob headed up to the saddle (sans pack)
to let the others know we'd join them in the morning. He never made it. Ran
out of light and returned with the report that while he could see the saddle,
there was no one there. 

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, Chris had broken a ski binding and Charles was
suffering from early-season altitude effects as well. They got within sight
of the saddle (on the other side) around 8:30 p.m. and decided to stop there.
Charles skied over toward the saddle, but found himself in avalanche debris
with failing light and turned back.

Bob and Steve got to the saddle with day packs around 7:30 a.m., and between
gusts of wind managed to communicate with the others who were still half a
mile away at their camp. They were not climbing, so we headed up Abbot with
high hopes and good hard morning snow.  Crossing the standard snow chute was
no big problem, but some spots were past knee deep. Climbing out on the
third-class rock seemed particularly dangerous, because there were few route
choices not covered by snow, and a fall almost certainly would send you on a
rock-spiked glissade.

Then we turned the corner and stared into the jaws of defeat: The traverse
over to the summit ridge measures 48 degrees, and was fluffy soft corn snow
with gaps near buried rocks. Packing a step involved repeatedly kicking or
pushing snow into a deep footstep until there was enough of a base to hold
your weight. The solid step was then five feet below the snow at arms length
in front. 

We spent 45 minutes doing a 200-foot traverse, using all kinds of unusual
snow moving methods (knees, shins, ice axes held horizontally with both
hands, etc.). Once on the ridge, there was a knife-edge cornice that was
packed hard by the wind. It seemed friendly compared to the soft corn. 

Some mixed third class and icy snow lead to the summit of Abbot, where we
excavated in vain for 10 minutes but never found a register. Too much snow.
Damn. We were there. Really! 

The return to the saddle was much less nerve-wracking, but we had to repack
our steps due to softening in the sun. Bob accused Steve of working for
CalTrans and making a sidewalk, but the steps that did crack out under
testing caused little wet avalanches. Caution was advised, because recovery
from a mistake would be difficult. 

Baking in the afternoon sun, we darted from shadow to shadow trying to avoid
further sunburn. Steve was doing the zinc oxide clown face routine after
giving up on SPF 40, while Bob was counting on superior genetics to protect

Snowshoes were required for the entire hike out: We got back to the car
around 6 p.m., and due to closed passes we gotback to the Bay Area around 3
a.m. after a scenic drive past Lake Tahoe. A long trip, and one of the most
challenging mixed condition climbs I've done in many years, but two people
got two peaks in two days. 

We never did see the CMC group, so I assume that the ranger's warnings of
high avalanche danger kept them away. We saw only melted debris, but the soft
snow was certainly at risk of cutting loose.

  -- Steve Eckert

Cherry Creek offers pink granite slabs and the Flintstones

This Memorial Day trip to the western edge of Yosemite was a nice warm-up
for the summer and the group enjoyed a beautiful weekend of sunshine, granite
and wild water.

The trip turned out to be a merger of Kai Wiedman's Scree-listed trip and
Laura Sefchik's private trip. Participants were Laura, her husband Wade, Kai,
Gary Aldridge and me.

The gathering place was to be the end of the road that crosses Cherry Creek
Dam, which is the Kibbie Ridge trailhead. I came up Friday night and found a
"road closed" sign on Cherry Oil Road above the Tuolumne Canyon and for a
moment thought I would have to go all the way back to Sonora and come in the
other way.  

However, the sign said it was open at night and on weekends, so I went
ahead--slowly. There was some major construction dealing with a part of the
road that had slid out during the winter, but the drive was uneventful and I
got to the end of the road about 11 p.m.

Next morning the others arrived and we got on the trail to Kibbie Ridge
around 10.  Our plan was to follow the ridge to a point where a creek
drainage allows access into the canyon and then drop down into the canyon to
a place called Flintstone Camp. This  avoids the long slog up the canyon
starting from near the end of Cherry Lake.  

After later experiencing the lower canyon on the way out, this route is
definitely the only way to go. At the trail junction for Kibbie Lake, we
encountered snow on the ridge and finding the trail became difficult. After a
few minutes of wandering around trying to find the trail, we just went for
the ridge and followed it on the west side to a lookout point Wade needed as
a reference to find the route down into the canyon.  

This lookout provided a fine place for lunch and we could see a good portion
of the canyon as well as the campsite down on the creek.  Heading down the
drainage was actually made easier by the snow cover until about halfway down.
After that we had to do some minor bushwhacking to get to Cherry Creek and
our camp.  

At the so-called Flintstone Camp there are rock tables and chairs (hence the
name) over in a stand of trees close to the creek. However, we chose a nice
flat platform covered with sand and gravel above the creek and with a much
better view of the white water coming down the canyon.  

No one else was there and we saw no one until we were on the way out on
Monday. Cherry Creek was a raging torrent and the right temperature to
provide some really cold beer. It was obvious to everyone that if you somehow
went into that creek along here your longevity would be measured in minutes
if not seconds. 

We arrived early enough (which probably disqualifies this as an official PCS
trip) for a leisurely dinner and some hiking around the immediate vicinity on
nice slabs and domes of granite.  

A leisurely start the next morning got us on the way up the canyon to
explore further. It was cross-country but easy as it was mostly exposed
granite, with a lot of the red/pink tinted granite that supposedly gives the
canyon its name.  

Some of the gorges showed striking evidence of glacial polishing. We
probably got three to four miles up the canyon (just past a major eastward
turn in the creek) before snow made further progress treacherous due to
postholing down into talus and boulders.  

We backtracked to camp, had another nice evening and next morning rose at
dawn to get an early start for the hike down the canyon back to the cars.
After a false start up a dome that Wade thought we had to go over to get
down-canyon, we retreated to the creek and followed it down. 

This was all cross-country.  We couldn't even find a use trail although we
occasionally saw a duck. The route is fairly obvious but you do have to
search around often for a way through all the rocks, trees and brush and we
did find the maps quite useful in determining our position in the canyon.  

Just below our camp we saw people camped on the other side of the creek and
wondered how they got there considering the state of the creek and with no
official trails or bridges in the canyon. As we moved down canyon and came to
a 40- or 50-foot chimney (class 3?) that we had to go down, we noticed a
large tree across the creek which provided a very good bridge to the other
side and explained the campers over there.  

The chimney wasn't difficult and was about the only part of the hike out
that required any climbing. Moving further down we encountered more people
who had come up the lower canyon and were now leaving.   It was now getting
pretty hot as we left Cherry Creek just behind the lake and headed up the
forested slope back to where the cars were.  Here there were many use trails
and although none of them seemed to be a preferred route, they all traversed
up and to our left toward where the cars should be and in fact we hit the
road right at the cars, arriving around two o'clock.  

We drove back from Cherry Lake on the road to Sonora and this turned out to
be a very nice drive, although probably not as fast as using Cherry Oil road.

Cherry Creek Canyon is a real gem and makes for a great backpack trip. The
trip is almost all cross-country and most of it on granite. It was obvious
that the most spectacular part of the canyon is upstream from the Flintstone
Camp, the lower canyon being unappealing. I would suggest that future trips
follow our route or avoid the lower canyon altogether and come out the way we
came in.

  -- Larry Hester

Avalanche danger changes plans on Matterhorn Peak

Fracture lines in the snow clinging to the sides of Horse Creek Canyon were
visible from the trail below. We put on long gaiters at 8,500 feet and
stepped one to two inches down into crunchy snow. Perfect conditions.

We camped at 10,500 feet at the origins of Horse Creek on June 23. Snow was
all around, with patches of earth near trees and large boulders. As we passed
the gully for the approach to the east couloir,  Brian Staby, co-organizer,
and with a group consensus, nixed the idea. Exposure on the route, fracture
lines in the snow along the sides, and abilities of the entire group came
into play to make the decision to contemplate another route.

Avalanche stories worried, then scared, us (well, me actually --organizer,
Debbie Benham). All encouraged me to "wait and see what's up there."

Approximately 6 a.m. the next morning, Brian led the way up to Horse Creek
Pass, where we then followed the Southeast Slope up to the summit. Snow until
about 11,700 feet, then no snow at all on the ridge line and top o' peak.
Beautiful weather, beautiful day!  Participants: Christopher Fulton, Patti
Haight and Kate Ingvoldstadt.  And from all of us, THANK YOU Brian for your
very competent leadership!

  -- Debbie Benham

"Inaccessible" Starr-King is an enjoyable climb

"Mount Starr King is the most symmetrical and beautiful of all the dome
shaped masses around the Yosemite. Its summit is absolutely inaccessible. It
will never be trodden by human foot."
  -- Josiah Dwight Whitney

I climbed Mt. Starr-King with my friend Doug Mohr on July 15. We climbed the
southeast face, the standard route. According to the register, it was the
first ascent of 1995.  

Friday night we crashed on a dirt road a few miles south of the Wawona
entrance station. The Wawona ranger had, reluctantly, agreed to leave our
permit taped to the outside of the ranger station so we could pick it up
Friday night.  

From the Mono Meadows trailhead on the Glacier Point road, we hiked about
five miles to our camp. Illouette Creek was raging, but fortunately we found
a logjam that made for a practical yet exciting crossing. Our plan was to
find the closest campsite to the mountain that still had water. 

We followed a branch of the creek all the way up to the base of the
southernmost dome of the Starr-King massif. This required a good hour and a
half of uphill cross-country. Although a fire has cleared away some of the
brush in this area, we still had to work hard to minimize tedious bushwacking
through manzanita. This approach is probably why more people don't climb

After pitching camp, we headed up the mountain at 3:30 p.m.. We contoured up
around the east side of the massif to the saddle between the southern and
middle dome, then clambered up the granite slabs of the middle dome to its
top, which is a stone's throw from the base of the northernmost (summit) dome
of Starr-King.   

The northease face is a fun, low-angle slab climb--two pitches no harder
than about 5.4. We summited around 6 p.m.. From the top we could see clearly
see the white streamer of Yosemite Falls in the distance and ample snow on
the north side of the Merced Crest, the west slopes of the Clark Range above
9,000 feet, and Mt. Hoffman to the north.   

On the descent, we added fresh slings to the decrepit rappel anchors. With
two ropes we were able to descend the route in two raps. We returned to camp
for a hearty spaghetti dinner and some unwelcome guests: a few hundred
voracious mosquitos. We botched our bearbag attempt by getting the end of our
cord, to which we had tied a rock, stuck in a tree. Still, no bears disturbed
our jury-rigged setup.   

On Sunday we hiked out in the morning, beating the heat by baptizing
ourselves in the bone-chilling waters of Illouette Creek.  

  -- Butch Suits

BONUS: Trip report - Bear Creek Spire - not in the hardcopy scree!

Bear Creek Spire (13,713"), July 14-16, 1995

This trip was to be a repeat of last year's at the same time, to the Rock
Creek area. Fears about the snowpack discouraged many; only four showed up,
even though we had permits aplenty and about 12 came last year.  

After a good sleep Thursday night, we backpacked the four miles to Dade
Lake, (11,600 feet) from Mosquito flat (10,200 feet) carrying rack, rope,
harnesses, axes,crampons, etc. The nice thing about this is the easy
access--about the easiest access to high country peaks in the Sierra. 

Snow became substantial at about 10,700 feet; Long Lake at 10,500 feet was
about 70 percent frozen on Friday and 50 percent frozen on Sunday. Any higher
lake or bowl was basically a sea of snow. Steep mountainsides and ridges up
high were mostly snow free and dry though; O.K for climbing.  

We found a dry spot to camp and set up by noon. After being inactive for
essentially four weeks, I felt quite tired and not used to this. I had
recovered from a severe bronchitis with cough, fever, and absence from work
for 1 1/2 weeks. The afternoon I laid around and just ate, read, and slept to
acclimatize for the climb on Saturday.  

We were planning to do the East Arete, rated grade III, 5.8 in Secor's book.
Gerry Cox, my partner, hiked up to the base of the climb to leave steps for
the morning. The snow was well-consolidated all around -- little postholing
even in the afternoon.  

Snow was quite hard in the morning, even though the temperature did not get
below freezing. Crampons were not needed for the one-mile hike to the base.
We started the first pitch at 6:30 a.m. We took axes with us, and I took my
crampons and boots on the climb too. Gerry left his plastic boots at the

The spectacular arete, which sticks out directly at you when you see it from
the Little Lakes Valley, was completely clear of snow. Fourteen pitches are
involved and most of them are a full rope length.  Maybe 60 percent of the
route is fifth class and the rest fourth and some third.

Pitch three,  at 5.8,  and pitch 10,  at 5.7, are the crux pitches. However,
the 5.7 moves seemed 5.8 and the 5.8, 5.9. RJ's description in the book is
somewhat brief; we didn't have a climb topo and had to do some hunting for
the route.       

The climb was exciting!  Really nice views and vertical progress up this
classic sharp arete. I had thought it would be a simple one; four parties did
it the day I climbed another route up the peak last year. I guess the
altitude and my inactivity made it hard (for the rating), to me, anyway.  

Jerry led the odd-numbered pitches and I did the evens. The first 5.7 pitch
was interesting for me - not real easy. Jerry had an exciting and strenuous
time getting around the 5.8 crux overhang.  At that crux it was a real
struggle for me to get out onto and balance on the exposed vertical wall at
its side, even though I was following.  

There were a number of low fifth class pitches as the book says -- not much
hardware needed on those. When I led at the beginning of pitch 10, I got hung
up. The book says go left around a gendarme and past two cracks to a third
one, but I was confused whether I was in the right place. The gendarme is
really a huge cliff wall that you see down about one third of the ridge from
the top.  

It took me about 20 minutes hanging onto the exposed wall at the bottom of
the crack until I could get three pieces in that I still didn't really trust.
A Friend had reversed one of its cams and I couldn't get it out while hanging
there. Then above that no jugs or rest spots for 20 feet or so. 5.7!   

If the crack went nowhere, how would I get back down? That made me nervous;
but we weren't up there to sit back and let the world go by.  I could see a
long channel ahead; I followed it and it did finally end at a great spot to
sit and belay.  

Jerry then led on by, and it was only half a pitch to the triangular hole in
the ridge where he belayed.  After that it was slow and deliberate (at 13,500
feet above sea level) class 4 and low 5 to the summit block.  

The block itself requires a bit of a strength move while exposed with only a
belay from below. Action and adventure it was! The weather was perfect.
Bright sun and no wind all day. Some of the belay spots were in the shade,
and I was glad to be shielded there from the blast of high altitude solar

We had a full rack and one 9 mm rope. Could have used some more larger
pieces (2 1/2 - 5 inches). Protection opportunities are mostly excellent.
Nice cracks, spectacular vertical exposure,and quality Sierra granite! 

Many of the pitches, particularly near the end, were a matter of moving
deliberately using minimum energy since we were breathing hard in the
altitude. We had no falls nor slips. Being careful is all-important; the fate
of some when tired or distracted near the end of a climb is to have a
momentary lapse in attention or judgement and then suffer the ultimate

We summited at 5:30 p.m. To get off the summit area, there is a rappel point
( half a pitch) down to the northwest, then class 2-3 down to the ridgecrest.
To get off the crest the least steep way down was about 150 yards north of
the low spot on the crest north of the peak. The snow was steep, but
negotiable with boots and ax.  

I belayed my partner, who was wearing his rock shoes, two rope lengths
pitches down the 50-60 degree snow until the slope did run out. He then had
to make a detour on the way back to retrieve his boots.     Back in camp an
hour later I met Alois and Jim, who decided to do their climb on Sunday, up
the easier Southeast Buttress (and then drive home).  

Jerry and I walked out Sunday morning, me somewhat sore but with grand
memories of a great climb.

  -- Ron Hudson


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*** Rock Climbing Classifications ***

The following trip classifications are to assist you in choosing trips for
which you are qualified. No simple rating system can anticipate all possible
  Class 1: Walking on a trail.
  Class 2: Walking cross-country, using hands for balance.
  Class 3: Requires use of hands for climbing. A rope may be used occasionally.
  Class 4: Requires rope belays.
  Class 5: Technical rock climbing.

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