Date September 8, 2009
Time 7:00 – 9:00
(note earlier start time)
Where The Summit Room
1177 Kern Avenue
Program The Upper West Rib of Denali
Presenter Emilie Cortes
Emilie Cortes and John Gray, aka Team X Whisperers, formed a 2 person team to face the Upper West Rib of Denali (aka Mt McKinley) in June 2009. It was John’s fourth time on Denali and Emilie’s first time ever to Alaska. What was it like to suffer day after day uphill in temperatures that vacillated from subzero to boiling with a heavy pack and sled? Did all the logistical planning pay off or did they miss something critical? Did the dreaded “heat collecting volcanic ash” from the Mount Redoubt eruption in March affect the glacier conditions? Did the expedition strain their friendship or strengthen it? Did they summit? All these questions and more will be answered…
From 101: Exit south at Lawrence Expressway. Right on Kern Ave. If coming north on Lawrence make a U turn at Oakmead Pkwy, then go right on Kern Ave. Google map is at http://tinyurl.com/9snt7g.
I hope everyone has had, and is still having, a wonderful, fulfilling summer. Once again, I’m excited to bring you some of the highlights of our recent PCS escapades, some more exciting and terrifying than others, as you sill see. Thanks to all you awesome writers who responded quickly to my pleading email, and let’s make it a great September.
PCS Member News!!
** Judy Molland’s second book, Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get into Nature and Build a Greener Future, was published by Free Spirit on September 1, and is now available.
** Tina Bowman, chair of the Mountaineering Oversight Committee, which oversees all the mountaineering activities of the Sierra Club Chapters, asked Lisa Barboza to join the MOC to represent the PCS and Northern California members. Lisa graciously accepted. Congratulations, Lisa!
When I think of great leaders – and the PCS has many of them – two very special people come to mind: Lisa Barboza and Bob Suzuki. These two leaders have made a big impact on my participation in the PCS.
Lisa Barboza is an extraordinary climber and has become a great leader in a very short time. Her trips range from beginners to extremely strenuous trips. She plans very carefully in advance, supplies beautiful detailed color maps for participants, and knows exactly what she is doing out on climbs. You can be sure her outstanding route-finding skills will get you to the top no matter how hard it I to find the easiest route.
She is quick to climb what looks very hard to the average climber. She easily leads things that most folks will not do without a rope, then belays others. She watches carefully to be sure everyone is doing ok and sets an appropriate pace for the trip. On her trips you can be expect some of the best leadership I have seen. Not only is she a great climber, she loves the mountains and will identify all the types of rock, flowers, trees, and birds. She is great fun and totally enthusiastic about being in the mountains.
Bob Suzuki is an exemplary leader. He is fastidious in producing the trips he mentions in the planning meetings that he will lead. Within a week he has permits and is planning the routes and participant qualifications. Shortly afterward, he submits to the Scree editor complete descriptions of his trips for publication. On trips he is skilled at both high level climbing and deciding when a route can or cannot be done under the prevailing conditions. His judgment is excellent. He is an amazingly conscientious person. You are in great hands traveling with him.
We are very fortunate to have not only these two wonderful leaders but many more. This summer we have had trips led by 14 leaders. We are grateful for the efforts of all these special people. Without highly qualified leaders we would not exist as a Sierra Club section offering such a wide variety of great trips. When you join us, please thank the leaders. They are swamped by emails for weeks in advance of a trip in the process of arranging all the details of their trips. It is a labor of love; they love the mountains and want to share those special experiences with all of you.
I would like to collect stories from our readers about other leaders that have made a big impact on trips or in other ways. I want to do another column highlighting these other great leaders. Please send your story to PCSchair@gmail.com.
Happy Climbing, Louise
PCS Trip Calendar
These are required statements.
Note: CST 2087766-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.
Note: All Sierra Club trips require you to sign a Liability Waiver.
Sept 5 - 7 – Tower Peak
Leader: Kelly Maas
Sept 12 – 13 – Cherry Creek Canyon
Leader: Kelly Maas
Oct 10 – 11 – Langley
Leader: George van Gorden
PCS Trip Details
Peak: Tower Peak (11.755’)
Date: September 5 - 7
Leader: Kelly Maas
Difficulty: Class 3
We’ll use the holiday weekend to do a relatively relaxed 3-day climb of Tower Peak, which the guide books seem to consider is the northern boundary of the “High Sierra.”
Leaving from Leavitt Meadows on Hwy 108, the approach is somewhat over 10 miles, mostly on trail, with minimal elevation gain. We’ll climb the peak on day 2, and retrace our steps on day 3. The class 3 section is only near the end. Most of the peak is class 2.
Cherry Creek Canyon
Date: September 12 - 13
Leader: Kelly Maas
Difficulty: Class 2+
Another no-peaks trip, this
will conclude my Yosemite canyon trilogy of 2008-09. I've done this a couple of
times, but I can't resist repeating it.
We start at Cherry Lake (reached from Sonora or Hwy 120), and the first day we hike upstream on the Kibbie Ridge trail, then drop down into a wonderland of granite that forms the upper part of the creek. On Sunday, we do a trail-less descent of the creek, sometimes traversing steep rock to avoid having to swim through pools. The water flow will be low in September. As usual, we'll bypass the committing "teacup" section. Unlike my previous trips, this time we'll be early enough in the season that the gate at Cherry Lake will be open and we can drive an additional 4.5 miles, which will eliminate 9 miles of hiking on a dirt road. Yeah!!http://www.climber.org/TripReports/2001/730.html
Peak: Mount Langley (14,000+)
Date: October 10 - 11
Leader: George van Gorden
Difficulty: Class 1
This is a good beginner trip. On the first day we meet in late morning at the Cotton Wood trailhead (10000feet) and hike into Long Lake, about 5 to 6 miles. We will have a beautiful camping site by a lake. The next morning we get a moderately early start and climb the mountain by way of New Army Pass. We will have about 5 miles and 3000 vertical feet to the summit. We should get back to our camp by mid-afternoon. After a short break we will break camp and return to our cars. We should reach the cars before dark.
Private Trip Calendar
Important: Private trips are not insured, sponsored, or supervised by the Sierra Club. They are listed here because they may be of interest to PCS members. Private trips may be submitted directly to the Scree editor.
September 4-7 – Clarence King, Gardiner, Cotter, Fin Dome
October – Nepal - Mera Peak 21,300 ft
November 14 – 15 - Pinnacles
January 2010 - Kilimanjaro
Private Trip Details
Clarence King, Gardiner, Cotter, Fin Dome
Peak: Clarence King, Gardiner, Cotter, Fin Dome
Dates: Sept 4-7
Leader: Bob Suzuki (SuzukiR@sd-star.com)
Co-Lead: Jim Ramaker (email@example.com)
Difficulty: This is a technical trip requiring a high level of skill.
To avoid holiday traffic we will leave the Bay Area on Thursday.
After a long, strenuous backpack to camp we will have 2 fairly difficult climbs each day, with short belayed climbing on Clarence King and possibly on Gardiner. If interested please be in very good shape with confidence on class 3 & 4 and with some roped climbing experience.
Mera Peak 21,300 ft, Nepal
Peaks: Mera Peak (21,300 ft), Nepal
Dates: October, 2009
Contact: Warren Storkman (650-493-8959, firstname.lastname@example.org)
19 day trip to trek the tallest walkup peak
Rural experience. Approach from the South East
Peak: Your choice
Dates: Nov 14 - 15
Leader: Jeff Fisher (email@example.com) (650-207-9632)
Difficulty: Class 1 – 5, your choice
Come down for a weekend or just for a day of climbing or if you prefer hiking or even biking. There will be climbers of varying abilities. We have reserved group campsite #134 at the Pinnacles campground on the east side of the park. Camping cost is usually about $8 per person. Shoes, harness and helmet needed if you are going to be climbing. We will meet at the Bear Gulch visitor center at 9AM on Saturday. Carpools meet Saturday morning at 7AM at Cottle Rd. and Hwy 85 park and ride.
Kilimanjaro 19340 ft / 5895 m, Tanzania, Africa
Peaks: Kilimanjaro 19340 ft / 5895 m
Dates: January, 2010
Contact: Warren Storkman (650-493-8959, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Trip will be similar to Warren’s previous trip to Kilimanjaro in January 2002. A couple of detailed reports on Summit Post supply myriad detail:
We will be having our fall, winter, spring scheduling meeting toward the end of September. Start thinking about everything you want to do!
For Sale – A Walrus, 2-person, backpacking tent. Excellent condition, 5 lbs and not self-standing; you have to put the stakes in the ground for the hoops to hold up. Will accept best offer. If interested, contact Debbie Benham: email@example.com
Your ad here!
Mt. Barnard (13,990’) and Tunnabora Peak (13,565’), July 2 – 11
by Debbie Bulger
After seeing a stunning photo of Tulainyo Lake, I just had to go there. At 12,802' Tulainyo is one of the highest lakes in the United States. Although it is quite large, it has no inlet and no outlet. Conveniently, it is near two peaks I wanted to climb.
Richard Stover and I started our 9-day backpack from the Cottonwood Pass Trail south of Mt. Whitney before 7 a.m. on July 2. Our early morning start was auspiciously greeted by a spectacular display of Sierra Evening Primroses with their 4-inch diameter pale yellow flowers. Hopping ahead was a leggy, Whitetail Jackrabbit.
Whitney from the north
We took three days to hike about 27 miles to base camp at Wallace Lake enjoying two crosscountry shortcuts on the way. Views of the Siberian Outpost were grand. This year the snow has lingered and everything is greener. The downside is the abundance of mosquitoes. For our first night we tented at a deer hideaway. The soft duff under the Lodgepole pines above Rock Creek was filled with hollows where deer had slept. “Sorry, Bambi, we’ll be gone in the morning.”
The next day as we crossed Guyot Flat, we spotted a pair of nesting Mountain Bluebirds. We watched them for at least half an hour bringing nesting material to a cavity in a Foxtail pine. No wonder we are slow hikers!
Our camp the second night was near a collecting tree of a Williamson’s Sapsucker. The female, which looks completely different from the male sapsucker, gave us close-up views of her sap harvesting.
Instead of descending to the old Wallace Creek Trail on the third day, we turned east on the ridge just after crossing the small steam north of Wallace Creek. Our campsite on a bench above upper Wallace Lake on the third night was very special with grand views of the north face of Whitney and the twin peaks of Mt. Russell. We would be here for four nights and not see another person. A great respite after the international crowd on the John Muir Trail.
Now, we get to climb. We ascended Barnard, a peak named after an astronomer from Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose. Since Richard works at Lick at UC Santa Cruz, it was an especially fitting peak for us. Barnard is an easy climb from Wallace Lake and is just 10 feet shy of 14,000 feet. We climbed sand, scree, snow, and fun summit rocks. There were nice displays of Hulsea, sky pilot, and Dwarf Ivesia.
It was turning windy and cold. From the summit of Barnard one can see into the Williamson Basin and southwest to the Kaweahs.
The next day we climbed Tunnabora Peak, almost 2 miles away and out of sight over a slope. Tunnabora rises from the north shore of Lake Tulainyo sunk in a bowl and still frozen over, sporting blue ice in places. What a fantastic place! This easy climb has been called boring by some—those without eyes and mind to look around them, I would say. As a special treat on the way down we saw the tracks of a lone bighorn as well as sheep scat. We botanized and took photos all the way back to camp.
Debbie on Tunnabora
Instead of climbing the next day, we decided to take a layover day. I must be getting old; it was delightful. No need to get up at dawn, we spent hours on our hands and knees looking at “tiny treasures,”
itty-bitty flowers that most people don’t even notice. Someday, I’d like to compile a book of photographs of these small wonders. There was water everywhere. Small cascades, snowmelt pouring into lakes and creeklets, ice in places, and waterfalls dropping into various lakes. Each was an opportunity to examine the bryophytes and other water-loving plants nearby.
On the first day of our return, we opted for a dry camp on Guyot Flat to avoid the crowds near Crabtree. It was a good choice. Nice and quiet. The next day we stopped by the Supervising Ranger’s cabin by Rock Creek, and she told us about a rare flower in the Wallace Creek drainage. It must not have been in bloom, had it been, surely we would have seen the Menyanthes trifoliata, a type of gentian that prefers mountain bogs.
We made the mistake of deciding to hike out over New Army Pass instead of Cottonwood Pass. When we finally got to the top of the pass, it was about 6 p.m. and starting to ice up. A 50 degree snowslope completely blocked the way. We could not see where the trail resumed. We had neither ice axes nor helmets, and it was getting late. We retreated and set up camp at the foot of the pass. We later learned a woman fell to her death near there two weeks later.
Instead, we headed for Cottonwood. Three juvenile Clark’s nutcrackers provided comic relief on the way out. Their parent was trying to teach the cacophonous group how to store nuts for the winter. Jabber, jabber, jabber. Those noisy kids had an opinion on everything. At one point they flew 20 feet away in a group requiring their mom to start the lesson anew. Listen up birdies, a long, cold winter is coming, and you need to be prepared.
North Guard, Bivouac, and Broken Ribs, August 1 - 9
by Louise Wholey
Bob Suzuki and Jim Ramaker put a trip together to help Eddie Sudol and Louise Wholey, scribe, to get some of the peaks we had not yet climbed. Ron Hudson joined the quest for round 2 of the SPS list. The plan was complex due to different needs for the participants. My plan included climbing with the group for North Guard and Table than heading down the Kern River for others.
We all started from Road's End on Saturday August 1. We hiked our hefty pack to East Lake where the plan was to climb Brewer. Ron wanted to climb North and South Guard, which from camp would be accessed from the summit of Brewer. I also wanted to climb North Guard and linked up with Ron to do all three peaks Sunday. Brewer took the whole morning, leaving some question whether we could complete our plan, but Ron and I took off for North Guard anyway.
North Guard is complex but Secor's description is correct. You just have to figure out what qualifies as gullies, then take the correct ones. The climbing was harder than I expected. The talk is always about the summit block, but there was lots of dodgy class 2 sandy ledges and hard class 3 to get to that. It was challenging. The summit block seemed anti-climatic and no harder than the rest. We did not use a rope.
Next was South Guard. Rather than a walk up an easy pass with a use trail, we climbed somewhat tricky ledges and loose gravel to a pass on the north side of South Guard, then quickly ascended the easy blocks and gravel to the summit. After a quick look around we dashed for Longley Pass as daylight was fast disappearing. We followed the gentlest slope on the map to where it looked like a stream course would allow us to descend to Lake Reflection. After a last look at the map, however, it was dark. We could no longer determine a safe descent route, so we found a dry cluster of white pine trees in which to spend the night.
Fortunately it was a warm night. We had a fire and actually did get some sleep. I crawled under pine limbs and eventually managed to get into a horizontal position. I had a sleeping pad, fleece vest, down jacket, extra socks, several dry bags and a backpack to wrap around myself. I was cold when Ron would fall asleep and the fire would begin to fade, but otherwise was almost comfortable. Ron ate my emergency ration, a bunch of beef jerky for dinner. I found dried fruit and some nuts more satisfying.
At first light we finished the hike to camp where others were waiting for us. It upset the plan for the sequence of climbs to miss Monday morning, but after I ate some refreshing food (previous night's dinner, then today’s breakfast) I started to feel a bit more alive (though still relatively sleepless). The group finally took off toward a higher camp below Thunder Pass. Ron had car trouble to handle and had not planned to climb the other peaks so we bid him farewell. We traveled on the well-defined use trail past Lake Reflection, then along the creek drainage beyond it, and finally ascended a waterfall to reach our camp spot by evening.
From our camp below Jordan we climbed the obvious left-hand chute then pranced clockwise all the way around lower summits to the final rocks of Jordan's summit. The step-across to the actual summit block gave some folks problems. It is a bit like a stream crossing with so much exposure that the mind plays tricks on its victims. But we all finally made the step
Then Eddie announced he had dropped his carabiner in a small hole but he was sure he could get it if someone held his legs. I elected to be chief photographer. Bob held his feet as he struggled to snatch the carabiner with an ice axe. Before Eddie was done, Bob called for reinforcements. Jim took one foot. Bob had the other. Finally Eddie got the biner and asked to be raised. He actually did get out of the hole! But in the process he lost his watch from his pocket.
We returned to camp and took our packs over the horribly loose Thunder Pass (Col). Campsites were few, but we did manage to all find one near the highest lake. Dinner was quick and sleep came easily after the day's effort. The next day, Aug 5, the plan was to descend 3000 feet then go around the east ridge of Table to climb the east face. We spent 3 hours descending the beautiful valley. I carried all my overnight gear in order to continue down the Kern drainage after climbing Table. The others planned to return to their camp below Thunder Pass. In a moment of inattention I took a fall with my big pack, a fall which had serious consequences later in my trip.
We hiked up Milestone Creek for a mile. Jim Ramaker suddenly became rational. We were not going to be able to climb Table and get back to the high camp. They could bivy in my small tent, but I had only one sleeping bag. The others decided the climb would not work and headed back toward Thunder Pass. I gathered my gear and headed for Junction Meadow and the Colby Pass Trail with the hope to climb Kern Point and Picket Guard, then hike out over Avalanche Pass.
My first problem was I kept getting a bloody nose. It is very hard to hike with one of these. My progress was slow due to stops. I finally found a place to camp to the side of the Colby Pass Trail but short of Gallats Lake. In the morning my nose dumped blood all over everything including my nice Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. It took a long time to stop the bleeding and pack up without restarting it, but finally I moved camp to an old trail workers' site just beyond Gallats Lake and took off for Kern Peak. The climb was longer and trickier than I expected, but finally I reached the summit. It was too late to try for Picket Guard the same day.
The next day I awoke in pain and felt awful. My whole upper body hurt. I did not know what had happened but later learned that a broken rib is not too bad, but when the tissue surrounding it also breaks, such as during sleep, sneezing or coughing, then the pain is intense. I gave up on climbing Picket Guard and struggled in very slow motion to pack up for the hike over Colby Pass. It took three hours! But once I got on the trail and reached the place where I had my last chance to leave the trail for Picket Guard, I decided I had to give it a try. But breathing was very difficult. It hurt to breathe, especially deeply. I managed to climb to a point about 600 feet below the summit but saw that progress was so slow it simply would not work.
I returned to my pack and attempted to hike to Colby Pass. But breathing got harder. I had no idea what was happening and got scared about my situation - 27 miles to the nearest road and unable to breathe. I started pushing the SPOT Help button to show that I was in trouble and my progress was extremely slow. Had I known how much better I would feel after just one more day I would not have used the Help button. Jim received my Help messages and contacted the park service, setting in motion a backcountry ranger, Laura Pilewsky, the Tyndall Creek ranger, to hike up Colby Pass trail to help me. She did not reach me.
I did not make it over the pass that night. A party of 3 ladies were hiking the trans-Sierra ski tour route and came down "You Gotta Be Kidding" Pass just as I was passing on the Colby trail. One of the ladies, Miranda, helped me set up camp. Pumping water was something that was extremely difficult. It was very reassuring to have her help and to have someone with whom to discuss my issues. I started taking Ibuprofin which helped with the pain so that I had a great sleep. I was pretty exhausted from my effort.
In the morning a young couple, Andrew and Lisa, came past my camp on the trail. Andrew is an EMT nurse and gave some advice to definitely use the Ibuprofin. He also took my expendable food and climbing gear over the pass to Roaring River Ranger Station, saving me a few pounds. Miranda had come back to check on me to be sure I had a reasonable plan and left to continue over Milestone Pass (Col). As I was packing, she suddenly reappeared thinking I was having a heart attack. It took some convincing to assure her that I had a biomechanical problem that made breathing so hard. By this time I was pretty sure that the problem was a broken rib. I shared with her info on the route up Milestone, which she planned to climb. She had extra time because she intended to hang out in the beautiful Milestone Basin for a day.
Hiking over Colby Pass went easily. The breathing problem was gone and I was moving well. I hiked to Roaring River Ranger Station despite the very late (11 am) start. The ranger, Cindy Wood, was out picking up her son from camp, but a trail crew fellow, David V., was doing ranger duties. He gave me Cindy's son's cot for the night and made a substantial effort to get a horse ride out for me. When the price was stated, $850, there was no issue. I would hike out. He recommended going to Horse Coral rather than hiking over Avalanche Pass, due to the fact I was unsure about my breathing and the 5K feet down the cobblestone trail would be horrible.
I got a good start at 6:40 am and reached the trailhead at 3 pm. A group of 8 private horses arrived shortly after me. They were wonderful people from the local area, especially Kathy and Danny, the organizers of the ride. They gave me a ride to Grant's Grove where there is campground, store, restaurant, and lodge. I caught a ride from one of the ~2% of the cars heading toward Road's End. The Spanish couple gave me a ride to the next campground. There it was clear who was going toward Roads End, not many Sunday evening. What an experience. Americans treat hitch-hikers as if they do not exist or are a great threat to them, but fortunately, an English family came by in a rented RV and gave me a ride to my car. I was able to share with them all I knew about King's Canyon and some general stuff about California and the local approach to global warming. They were wonderful.
I had dinner at Grant's Grove. After waiting an hour for the pay phone to be available I begged the lodge to use the desk phone and contacted Jim. He called Sequoia King's Canyon dispatch to tell them I was out and doing ok. I encountered Ryan O'Lear in the parking lot and discussed the use of SPOT. I think we agreed I used it right. More status messages after I had used Help would have been useful to everybody. I spent the night there and drove home in the morning.
Today my doctor said the nosebleeds were due to my having torn the tissue in my nose, unrelated to my fall. They slowed me down for 24 hours Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. The rib ruptured either when I lay down to sleep or during my sleep Thursday night.
I met many wonderful people who helped me a lot, for which I am extremely grateful. It is not, however, an experience I would care to repeat!
Many thanks go to Laura Pilewsky for trying to catch me on the Colby Pass Trail. I had no idea she was coming. I thought the message that I needed help would go to Cindy Wood, who might hike up from Roaring River. I certainly wished for someone to help me evaluate my situation and injuries. It is extra hard to pick the best plan by oneself, especially when it is not clear what is wrong with one's body.
The Milestone Nine (Eight Is Enough for some!)
Cal Tech Peak, Mt. Stanford, Ericcson, Jordan, Genevra, Table, Midway, Milestone, Thunder,
August 7 - 13
by Lisa Barboza
Photography by John Cheslick
Participants: Corrine Livingston, Bill Livingston, John Cheslick, Shane Smith, Brian Roach, Lisa Barboza
Day 1: TH to Tyndall Creek Camp
Day 2: Tyndall Creek Camp to Caltech Peak, Camp1 below Lake South America
Day 3: Camp1 to Stanford, Ericsson Peaks
Day 4: Camp1 to Dropoff, then Jordan and Genevra peaks, then to Camp2
Day5: Camp2 to climb Table, Midway, Milestone
Day6: Camp2 to climb Thunder
Day7: Camp2 to TH
Nine Peaks, Seven Days – This was a seven day private trip with friends over Shepherd Pass, into Lake South America, and into some delightful lakes in the headwaters of the Kern River. Our intrepid climbers included John Cheslick, Corrine and Bill Livingston, Lisa & Brian Roach, and Shane Smith. In Yosemite on Thursday, we encountered 30F temperatures and driving snow – and all this in early August – Accordingly, we took along warmer clothing, but the weather turned out to be great! We were favored with near-perfect weather – there were clouds most afternoons, but it only rained (and just a bit) on our Thunder Mountain peak day. Corrine already had climbed Jordan – so Eight was Enough for her!
Friday: This was a mule trip; with a string of 4 mules packing in to Tyndall Creek, about a 15 mile, 6500 gain hike in. After a 4:30 AM wakeup, strong coffee, and oatmeal, we drove down the dusty road to the Symmes Creek corral, and saw the dull glow of a cigarette by the side of the road, hunched in a baseball cap. Cowpoke Darryl introduced himself as our pack driver, we met the mules – Nellie, Max, Calvin and George, and he sorted out our packs while we drove the last few miles to the Trailhead. The TH was surprisingly crowded with cars – but we all found spots and were hiking by 6:00 AM. It was thankfully chilly (had snowed in Yosemite the day before) – and with only daypacks, the hike up to Shepherd Pass went quickly and was actually fun (in contrast with the usual dreaded hike up the hot, dry, dusty trail, with full packs). For extra fun, we found that the mules were not at all enthusiastic about the pass. In fact, Nellie, the smartest, had to be pulled (have you ever tried to pull a mule over a 12,000 foot pass?), spanked, cajoled, and ‘brute forced by shouting’ over the pass. Seemed that she didn’t like walking through snow on the trail with a significant drop-off. But she did eventually make it, as did the rest of the mules. Around 4:30 PM, daylight found us at the Tyndall Creek bear box for a delightful dinner and Happy hour. There was wine, Indian food, a sautéed veggie dish. We were visited by ranger Laura, who inspected our permit, and happily chatted with us.
Saturday – The mystery of the Cantaloupes- Up at 6:00 AM for a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee – and John ran by exclaiming that our 2 cantaloupes and his dinners – were missing from the bearbox. – A most unusual event. But we all had plenty of food, and scraped together a set of meals – the rest of our stuff was carted down to town by Cowpoke Darryl and his string of mules. We got going by 7:00 AM and took the turnoff to Lake South America from the JMT. A few hours later, at 9:30 am, we were at the broad pass (12,150) Waypoint CTPASS, which forms the southwest shoulder of Caltech Peak – and we dropped our packs and side hilled, on west side talus, below the ridge to a shallow, scree filled west side chute which was obvious from the pass. This chute leads to the broad plateau of Caltech – and from there, after a false summit, we achieved the first peak of our 9-peak trip. Fine summit views showed us the Whitney complex, a hint of Stanford, and a great view of Junction Peak’s chute. We also had a great view of Lake South America (inverse). A quick trip down, and we were at camp- Instead of camping at Lake South America, we camped at a smaller lake (12,002) Waypoint CAMP-1 just below it – less wind, no bugs, better camp spots, and a slightly less chilly lake to swim in – we all jumped in to get clean. The 2nd class chute that RJ climbed on a previous trip didn’t look like too much fun – and we were glad we climbed Caltech from the pass.
Sunday – Stanford and Ericsson day – we left camp at 6:30 AM and began the climb to Harrison pass, past Lake South America. There is a use trail that we followed, as well as switchbacks up the Harrison Pass. But this trail is seldom used. The Kings-Kern Divide is formed by these peaks and passes. North slopes drain to the Kings River; South slopes drain into the Kern.
Mt. Stanford: 13,963; South Ridge route: The highest peak of the nine; from the pass, we climbed the talus slopes to Gregory’s Monument, named after Warren Gregory, early Sierra climber. Once on the broad flat plateau of Gregory’s Monument, climb almost to the very top of the Monument. Drop, through a small cleft, onto the west side of the monument. Here the fun climbing starts – continue north on an 8 foot wide catwalk, which leads through another cleft, to a chockstone between the monument and the south summit block of Stanford. We carried a 30m (8.1mm) rope and slings. Some in our party wanted a belay, so I scrambled down the 8 plus feet to the chockstone, and set up a belay (There is a fine and safe horn just above the chockstone). Some wanted a belay to get off of the chockstone as well – (but you can climb it easily with a mantle move between the chockstone and the monument wall). The chockstone is 12 feet high, 4 feet wide, occupies the gap between the monument and Stanford’s south summit block.
(On the way back, we set up some webbing which enabled some to forgo a belay on the way back up). From there, you will drop down onto the east side, down a CL3 chimney chute, and then along a 1-4 foot wide narrow exposed ledge, and drop about 100 feet total. At the end of the ledge, there is a steep CL3 class climb up a chute back up to the south ridge, which looks difficult and almost impassable from afar, but goes well. Some wanted a belay. From there, you are on the razor sharp south ridge which leads to a low CL3 class scramble to the Stanford summit block. We reached the summit at 11:00 AM. This is a fine peak, with incredible views – and well worth the climb. As RJ says – it is shy, but needs more attention.
Stanford’s Class 3 chimney
Mt. Ericsson: 13,608 East Face – There is an error in Secor’s book. Secor shows the summit being to the left of the right hand chute – it is actually on the right side of the chute. From Gregory’s monument, you will see two very obvious chutes leading to the ridge that forms Ericsson’s summit. The left chute goes to a low point on the ridge – don’t take it. The right hand chute is the best route. Shane, Corrine, and I headed down to Harrison Pass, and climbed the CL2 ridge to the right of the right hand chute. The chute was a good descent route – but not a good climbing route. We climbed up the ridge most of the way to the summit ridge. There are 2 notches in the NE ridge at the top of the right hand chute – we chose the right notch – don’t traverse to the right notch until you are almost at the ridge – the CL3 right notch leads to a chute that drops off the northeast side of the peak. Once through the right hand notch to the west side – you’re in CL2, which leads to a short section of CL3 to the summit. We summitted at 2:30 PM. We found it easier to drop back to the east side for the final summit push as the west side summit block has a somewhat daunting slab. Ericsson has fine views, a wonderful register- and our second peak of the day. We descended down the chute, and were back in camp by 5:00 PM for a wonderful, brief, cleansing swim and dinner. Yes, this was a deluxe trip!
Monday – Move Camp, climb Jordan & Genevra. We decided to move camp to a set of lakes in the Kern River headwaters. Looking at the map – we would have to climb an additional 620 feet to get back to camp after climbing both Jordan and Genevra – so an easy decision. Six hundred and twenty feet below our last camp, we dropped our gear by the trail and a small lake at 11,380 feet (waypoint DRPOFF), and off we were to climb Jordan and Genevra.
Mt. Jordan: 13,344 – East Slope CL3 with CL4 Summit block. From our drop-off point, we went cross country across many small granite ridges, into small tarns, and finally found ourselves in the basin leading to Mt. Jordan. We climbed the slabs to Lake 11,918, only to find it dry and forlorn. (Waypoint DRYLAK) But we had water. Jordan is climbed by going up the scree and talus to the saddle between the north summit and the higher south summit. Once near the saddle (which we found blocked with snow), and you don’t want to go to the saddle, you start an east side climbing traverse on CL3 ledges southwards, around a buttress, from the chute you climbed into a second, and then a third chute. At the top of the third chute, find a wide, sandy ledge that leads to CL3 climbing to the summit of the south peak. At the summit, there is a 5 foot step across a 20 foot deep gap to get to the true summit. I jumped across, scrambled up the CL4 Summit block and set up a belay. But there were already slings set up (by Bob Suzuki’s party, just a week earlier). We easily belayed everyone across the step (which if it were 2 feet above the ground, all would have found it trivial). We summitted at 11:30 AM, enjoyed wonderful, exhilarating views, and down climbed back to the sandy ledge to have lunch at 12:15.
Mind the Gap
Mt. Genevra: 13,055 West Ridge ascent, East Face descent. Shane and I were ‘in the mood’ for a second peak. From Lucy’s foot pass, we stayed below the West ridge (CL2) to the summit. We summitted at 3:00 PM. We wanted to avoid the PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) that we experienced on the way up the valley to Jordan, and decided to descend the East side chute. This chute is close to the peaks NE ridge, and you pass through a notch just east of the summit to get to it. You’ll find an inviting chute, bordered on the north side (left) with slabs that look inviting but are too steep to friction on – and on the right side, loose sand and rock that requires care with rock fall. But in any event, we were down 1000 feet very quickly, to Millys Foot pass – and then just a two mile saunter through wonderful alpine country, dotted with tarns and meadows, back to our drop-off point to retrieve our pack items. From there, it was a 1.5 hour hike downhill 2.5 miles to our new camp at 10,670; we got there at 6:00 PM. The trail disappears on granite slabs occasionally, but stay close to the higher lake. Our campsite, at 10,670, proved to be a wonderful lake with a sandy beach on its north side, and it was warmer than the lake at 12,000 feet and made for an inviting dip. This campsite Waypoint CAMP-2, and lake is at the junction of the Kern Canyon trail and the trail from the JMT to Milestone Basin, and about 1/3 mile north of the poorly maintained Milestone Creek trail.
Tuesday – Table, Midway, and Milestone. Another early start, 6:30 AM, found us going down the trail and going up the poorly maintained trail up Milestone Creek. We got back to camp at 8:00 PM, in twilight.
Table Mountain: 13,630 Southeast Face. We took the north right hand fork at 3380 meters Waypoint N11089, and followed it up to a lake at 3500 meters, then to a larger lake at 3620 meters (there is some difference in the elevation of this lake), Waypoint LK11920. From here, the broad expanse of the South Face of Table blots out the sky. There is a brownish ledge that ascends from west to east gradually across the south face. You want to get on that ledge, Secor describe a v-shaped notch in the ridge with a small gendarme (very small) to its left - and says to start the climb just beneath this notch. Greg Roach says to take a bearing of 318 from the inlet end of Lake 3620, and to start the climbing from there. We found that by going slightly left of both instructions, we could zigzag up the south face on sandy CL2 and CL3 ledges, with ducks. This route is just to the left of a low 15’ high chimney, if you follow the Secor and Roach descriptions. Eventually, you will climb 100 feet above the brown ledge, and gradually drop down 100 feet, below a vertical face, onto it. Follow the ledge NNE until you get to a large buttress, and short snow chutes.
South Face of Table
Here, find a keyhole, about 150 feet below the plateau (13,550), formed by several rocks forming a chockstone up a short chimney. Beware of falling rocks. Together, we passed our packs through the small keyhole, climbed the short chimney – from here, it is a scramble to the summit plateau. Once on the plateau, it’s a third of a mile stroll across a pre-glacial landscape – mostly flat, to the cairn at the northeast end of the plateau. We summitted at 11:30 AM, lolled on the summit, which is really an incredible place and would make a great dry camp if you could bring up a few extra liters and a sleeping bag. We were the first to summit this year.
Summit Party (Corrine, John, Shane)
On the way back down, in the keyhole, I passed my daypack through the hole – to nobody! It rolled off the sandy ledge below the keyhole, then off the mountain, down a 500 foot cliff – to be found in some future time – as a time capsule of the early 21st century. Oh well – it’s just a pack. But, if you find, it, please let me know!
Midway Mountain: 13,666 East Ridge. John and Bill went back to camp (and John kindly lent me his daypack and a platy for water, and some food – poor packless Lisa!). Corrine, Shane and I descended Table Mountain and worked our way south around the moraines – we summitted the easy CL2 route at 3:30 PM, then turned around, and went back down to the notch on the east ridge that leads to Milestone.
Milestone Mountain: 13,641 East Side. Shane was ahead of us, bounding across the slabs between Milestone and Midway. We went down the notch, CL2, across the slabs, up a talus slope to the notch just north of the pillar that forms the peak. We crossed over the notch, which went at CL2, down the west side and traversed along the west side on low CL3 to a gully on the SW side of the peak. From here, we could see the route up the summit pinnacle. We climbed 100 feet up the gully and found an easy CL3 route up to the summit. We summitted at 5:15 PM. We wished for more time – the summit is surprisingly roomy. But time was running out – we descended quickly, and before we knew it were in the tarns and meadows, filled with lupine and summer wildflowers, on the way back to camp. We returned at 8:00 PM, tired, but happy (and one was quite relieved that we didn’t have to go back up that drainage the next day for Milestone) that we had climbed all three peaks in one day. And of course, just in time for another swim!
Wednesday – Thunder Mountain: 13,588 Southeast Talus slope – another early day – but we left at 7:00 AM. We hiked north along the trail, stayed north off-trail at lake 3277, and turned west at the much larger lake 3335 up the un-named drainage SE of Thunder mountain to lake 3750. Thunder is ‘way back in there – you have to hike 1 mile west of the large lake just to see fullness of the peak, nestled via a connecting ridge to the northern ramparts of Table Mountain. We went up the Southeast talus slope, staying on the rocky parts to avoid the sandy descent routes. We met Bill Wolverton – on the way down, saying that he couldn’t find the route. Our hearts fell – but we kept climbing.
We were able to find the south summit – and once up to it, climbed to the very top of the south summit and over a small cleft that led to the west side of the summit ridge. Then, we dropped down 40 feet immediately on the east side to a small landing that made a good belay station. From here, climb the north side wall of the south summit and find a small chockstone, about six feet long, that makes for an airy bridge to the middle summit block. You can easily step across it, but some wanted a belay, which I happily provided. From here, after 20 feet of traverse, there is one delicate, exposed CL3 move to a 100 foot long narrow ledge, about 1-2 feet wide, and exposed, which leads to the summit block proper. The summit block itself can be climbed either from the south face where there is a loose chockstone up a jam crack (someone had kindly left a sling-which we used) or up a 10 foot high jam crack up the southwest side. I climbed it first and set up a belay for Shane and Corrine (John had climbed it previously). Before you knew it – we were on the summit – our ninth peak in seven days! We summitted at 12:30PM. The way back was uneventful, and I rapped down off the summit block to save time.
Back at the airy bridge, we found none other than Bill Wolverton, who had descended all the way down to Thunder Pass (just east of the peak), watched us find the route, and climbed back in time to see us return. He thanked us for showing him the route (Thanx to all of those who came before us) – and we watched him solo the summit block. After chatting with him for a while, we returned to camp, arriving at 5:15 PM. It rained on the way back, and Brian and Bill reported that it had rained for about 1 hour – but we still went for a long swim to the middle of the lake and our toes were cold – and a hearty dinner, although we spent most of the time in sleeping bags trying to get warm.
Thursday – Hike out day
A leisurely morning led to us leaving camp at 7:30 AM. We left Shane behind; he was going down to climb Picket Guard and Kern Point – and took the trail out of the Kern Canyon, to the JMT, cut cross-country to join the Tyndall Creek trail to Shepherd Pass. The way out of Shepherd Pass was typically hot and dry, and we made it back to the trailhead by 4:30 PM. A fine dinner was prepared at Bill and Corrine’s second home in Independence – no injuries, a bunch of happy campers – and were we ever glad that we climbed Milestone
CALTEP,36.68892,-118.39052, CALTECH PEAK
STANFS,36.70388,-118.39570,NA,STANFORD S MT
Clyde Minaret SE Face,
August 15 – 17
by Rick Booth
Participants: Rick Booth and Linda Sun
Clyde Minaret via the SE Face has been on “the list” for years. The closest to a serious attempt was made several years ago, however, I picked up a nifty case of food poisoning from a sandwich purchased in Oakdale and spent the night in the Mammoth Lakes Campground barfing. That was the end of that. This year was to be different. I was going to go with Linda and it would be about the fifth trip of the season so it should go smoothly.
Wrong. Every trip I had planned prior to this ended up being cancelled for one reason or another. Work, professional commitments, illness, friends’ illness, life in general, all seemed to conspire against me this season. So, Clyde Minaret, in the middle of August, was to be the first alpine trip of the year. After sneaking the car into Devils Postpile Saturday morning before the mandatory shuttle, Linda and I started hiking the trail to Minaret Lake and ultimately to Lake Cecil. Eight miles and about 2800 feet of elevation gain. Hike, hike, pant, pant, yorkle, snarfle, yak, pant, hike, walk, sweat, whine. It was terrible. I hadn’t done a thing in so long I could not believe how far out of shape my feet, legs, and hips had become. I was thankful I wasn’t headed to the Palisades Glacier. Linda would have had to bury me at Sam Mack Meadow.
Clyde Minaret at the right. Ken Minaret to the left.
Some time about mid afternoon we arrived at Lake Cecil. There is a pretty good climber’s trail that branches off from the fisherman’s trail at the far end of Minaret Lake. This trail heads up and then back to the right through a hidden gap to a point a little northeast of Lake Cecil. This is well worn and a few ducks mark the end as it goes towards Lake Cecil. Camping at Lake Cecil is somewhat problematic. We found a small site under a few trees that was reasonably close to the water and out of the wind.
We opted for the alpine start and were rolling out of camp headed for Clyde at about 5:30 AM, just as it was light enough to not need a headlamp. We headed up toward the Ken-Clyde Couloir, just to the left of Clyde, and just at the point where the left end of the Ken-Clyde Couloir juts down into the scree is the start to the original route. Supposedly, at one time, it was marked with a cairn but now there is a little pile of rocks on the entry shelf with a stick poking out of it to mark the start. It was 50 minutes from the campsite to starting out on the first pitch.
The first pitch heads pretty much horizontally and up slightly to go around a corner to a decent ledge with a bunch of rappel slings. This is about 120 to 150 feet long and is easy with a 50 meter rope. Some topos have this strangely marked as two pitches. If the first pitch was easy and obvious, the next few pitches were the opposite. The face is indistinct and we got lost, as, I suppose, was to be expected. After wandering around in the middle of nowhere we eventually found the little tower with the rappel slings indicated in the Croft topo. This sort of marked the beginning of actually knowing where we were. After a zig-zag to escape the little tower with the rap slings, the rest of the route pretty much goes straight up and heads towards an obvious dihedral. The idea is to stay either in the dihedral or a little to the left of this feature. This consisted of *a lot* of 5.8 crack and face climbing. The number of pitches that remained was nowhere near the number indicated in the Croft topo so it may be that we were just as lost as before but I tend to doubt it. We did, no surprise, more pitches than indicated in any topo, all of which sucked. At the top, the topos indicate a 5.7 pitch and vague wandering to the summit. Make that two pitches of 5.7 and a couple of rope lengths of fourth class. Who draws these things, anyway?
Looking down from the end of pitch 3
After signing the register and scoring some lunch we headed down. Or, more correctly, headed straight backward, since the summit is just a bump on the ridge. The first obstacle is a short fourth class move above a huge drop. Once past this we headed further down the ridge and encountered a tower with a rappel station. This may be used to get around the next sort of fourth class section but we used a double rope rappel to drop straight down into the third class talus heading down toward the Ken-Clyde Couloir. A single 60M rope is not long enough to make this rappel. We tried. Don’t do it. I followed Linda down the rappel and stopped on the upper blocks to move the knot down as low as possible to avoid catching it in several evil looking notches in the blocks. We used the usual EDK (European Death Knot). Anyway, the ropes pulled clean, eliminating the threat of an epic, and we headed down towards the couloir.
The couloir is fairly obvious and we just thrashed downward and at the top of the couloir headed left on the ledges that appeared. This continues down until we ran into a whopping huge rappel station. This wasn’t indicated in anyone’s route description so we threaded the rope and hung over the edge and peered into couloir. Apparently this rappel drops you past the huge chock stone from the right side of the couloir. It appears getting to the rap on the other side would involve getting into the couloir much higher, which, of course, we missed.
We rappelled into the couloir past the chock stone. At the base of the chock stone is a well mouse chomped rappel station which appears to be needed for the annoying looking snow field that extends down the rest of the couloir. We ended up slithering down the side of the snow field between the rock and the snow using our cleaning tools as fantasy ice axes and successfully deluded ourselves into thinking this would work. After about ten minutes of yelping we were on the talus and headed for the camp site. We arrived around 9 PM, about an hour after dark, so it wasn’t quite a headlamp less ascent but close enough.
Monday morning we packed up and headed back to the Devils Postpile.
We used a double 60 meter rope system. A double 50 would work. A single 70 *might* work for the rappel off the ridge but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. The route descriptions are so vague it is hard to tell if you can link pitches so it is probably not worth the extra rope length. We brought a single black Alien, single blue, double green through red, and double Camalots #.75 through #3 and a complete set of stoppers which were very useful. The first pitch is relatively easy to locate but the stuff in the middle until getting near the dihedral is anyone’s guess. Drop me a note if you figure it out. The hike in is straightforward except for the road restriction which requires getting past the gate before 7 AM. There are lots of campsites at Minaret Lake and lots of tourists. Lake Cecil is better but the camp sites are fewer and smaller. Zero tourists. All topos suck. I found one in the summitpost.org website but lost the link. It wasn’t any better than the rest of the topos.
Hairy neighbor at Lake Cecil
The High Sierra, Peaks, Passes, and Trails, Second Edition, R.J. Secor, The Mountaineers, 1999, ISBN 0-89886-625-1
Climbing California’s High Sierra: The Classic Climbs on Rock and Ice, Second Edition, John Moynier and Claude Fiddler, The Globe Pequot Press (Falcon Guides), 2002, ISBN 0-7627-1085-3. Lousy topo and route description.
Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, Steve Roper and Allen Steck, Sierra Club Books, 1979, ISBN 87156-262-6.
The Good, the Great, and the Awesome, Peter Croft, Maximus Press, 2002, ISBN 0-9676116-4-4. Lousy topo
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