April 2016 Peak Climbing Section, Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club Vol. 50 No.4

http://peakclimbing.org - http://www.facebook.com/peakclimbing



There is no General Meeting this month. Instead, check out this awesome trip report from a recent ski trip by four PCS members.


Tamarack Peak


March 17, 2016




Rakesh Ranjan


Participants: Julius Gawlas, Linda Sun, Louise Wholey, Rakesh Ranjan


Four days after a snowstorm draped the Sierras with some fresh powder snow, four friends pulled into the parking lot on Highway 431 to ski Tamarack Peak, located in the North Lake Tahoe area. The snow cover was such that we skinned up right from the trail-head. Louise had brought her wonderful dog Robbie, who was an exuberant companion throughout the trip.


After a short hike up on skis, we reached the summit and had the first close look at the famous Hourglass Bowl. After a short break, we decided to ski down. To everyone's delight the bowl offered dry and deep powder snow, so much so that each turn was accompanied with laughter and smiles, with high-fives at the bottom of the bowl.


Louise skinning up, with Robbie behind her

Summit of Tamarack Peak, with Lake Tahoe behind


After the incredible fun earned from the first lap, the group decided to go for more. And there we went for a second lap of the same bowl. Since that wasn't enough, we hiked up to the summit for a third time. After the third hike up to the summit, we took a different line to ski down through trees and gullies, eventually leading to the trail-head, back to our cars. There couldn't have been a better way to welcome California Spring than earning our turns in deep snow in our beloved Sierras.

Julius shredding the Hourglass Bowl powder





Hi everyone,


When this is published I will be in Nepal and in the Himalaya.


We have lots of trips planned, and I encourage you to share these trips with your friends and people who might be interested in learning how to climb. Leaders, please provide input to Rakesh as the details of your trips become more firm and when you get your permits approved.


For aspiring leaders, Terry Cline and I are teaching a Loma Prieta Chapter-wide OLT 201 course for people who want to lead overnight, Sierra Club sanctioned trips. In addition to OLT 201, you need Wilderness First Aid, and the approval of our Mountaineering Commitee,





chaired by Terry Cline - Thank you Terry!


We have some snow practice coming up, led by Kelly Maas and Arun Mahajan, which is a great time to sharpen up your snow skills. The climbing season is likely to open later this year and these skills will come in very handy and could be life-saving. Thank you, Kelly and Arun!



Finally, please go and check out our Meetup site. Lots of new people are joining, and I hope you will join too.


Happy Trails,






I am very psyched to bring you this issue of Scree for two reasons. 1) We have an awesome number of trips lined up. Hooray, and thanks to all those leaders. 2) Our trip report this month is from New Zealand. Some of you know that my son, Will Molland-Simms, has become somewhat obsessed with the South Island. He has climbed Mt. Earnslaw, but this trip report is written by a fellow climber, Ben Armitage. It is a wonderful piece of writing, and I urge you to read and enjoy!






Note: CST 2087766-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.


All Sierra Club trips require you to sign a Liability Waiver.









Round Top, 10381 ft

Location: Carson Pass

Date: April 3

Level: Moderate (2 - 3)


Kelly Maas, kamaas444@sbcglobal.net


Arun Mahajan arun.mahajan@att.net

This is a day trip on snowy terrain. You will need ice-axe, crampons, skis or snowshoes and your boots have to be crampon compatible. Skis with skins or snowshoes needed for the approach then ice-axe and crampons for the summit area. Since this an official trip, participants will be required to sign a liability waiver at the trailhead before the trip starts.


Meet at 8.30am at Carson Pass Sno-Park on Highway-88, ready to go. We depart at 9am.

To park there you will need a sno-park permit.

Please call/email to sign up. Must have experience with ice-axe and crampons.

Difficulty: Snow/winter conditions but otherwise intermediate level skiing and you have to have some experience.


Kennedy Mtn (11433 ft)

Location: Monarch Divide, Kings Canyon National Park

Dates: May 28 - 30 (Memorial Day weekend)

Level: Class 2 snow climb

Leader: Aaron Schuman 650-450-1437



This trip is a repeat of a 2011 adventure that ended abruptly in a spring snowstorm. From Cedar Grove (5035), we値l hike up the Copper Creek trail. This area burned last summer, so the trail conditions may be challenging. When we meet snow, some of us will switch to skis and others to snowshoes. We値l set up camp in Upper Tent Meadow (9189). We値l traverse up and down through the Volcanic Lakes basin, and from East Kennedy Lake (10100), we値l climb Kennedy Mountain (11433) and return to our camp. Memorial Day, we値l pack out all the way back to Cedar Grove and head home. Permit for six climbers.







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.

Snow Climbing Practice: ice axe & crampons

Location: Red Lake Peak, class 2/3 summit

Date:     April 2, 2016, Saturday

Leaders: Kelly Maas (kamaas444@sbcglobal.net, 408-378-5311), Arun Mahajan (arun.mahajan@att.net),


This 1-day outing is an opportunity to practice on snow slopes with ice axe and crampons. We also expect to climb Red Lake Peak, near Carson Pass on Hwy 88. No experience is required, but all participants must supply their own equipment. Be prepared for spending the full day on the snow, including sitting and sliding. This means appropriate boots, full rain gear and warm clothing. If the snow is not sufficiently consolidated, the trip will be re-scheduled for a later date.


Meet at 8.30am at Carson Pass Sno-Park on Highway-88, ready to go.  We depart at 9am.

To park there you will need a sno-park permit.


Participants must bring the necessary equipments: Helmet, Ice-axe, Crampons, Crampon-compatible Boots, proper shell jacket and pants, warm clothing layers, hand-gloves, food, water etc.

Please call/email to sign up.


Four Gables (12720 ft / 3877 m)

Location: East side of the Sierras

Level: Class 2

Dates: 04-08-2016 (3-4 day trip)

Leaders: Aaron Schuman (a.j.schuman@gmail.com), Chris Prendergast (chris.p.prendergast@gmail.com)


We're entering the wilderness on Friday, April 8. Depending on the group and the conditions, we




will take 3 or 4 days for the expedition. We haven't decided yet about starting from Aspendell or Rovana. It is a snowshoe trip, with ice axe and crampons as necessary equipment. We expect to camp on snow, and we need to be prepared to melt snow for drinking water. Yes, it is a class 2 summit, but it is a serious trip. Being a spring trip, it is subject to abrupt cancellation depending on the weather forecast for those dates.


Ski Traverse

Location: Sugar Bowl Resort

Level: Expert

Dates: April 16

Leader: Tim Hult

PCS leader Tim Hult will lead a day trip on skis; the trip involves a traverse from Sugar Bowl to Squaw in the Lake Tahoe area. This trip is only for expert level skiers. If you are interested or seek more details, please contact Tim directly. (timdhult@sbcglobal.net).


Pinnacles National Park

Location: near Hollister

Level: All

Dates: April 30 - May 1

Leader: Jeff Fisher 650-207-9632

jeff_fisher_5252 at sbcglobal.net   (Email is best)

Saturday and/-or Sunday April 30 and May 1. Hiking, climbing and possibly biking. Your choice. Right now the campground is full, BUT loop C has not been opened up yet due to flooding.  It will open up for reservations in April. I will try to get a site or 2 depending on the number of people who want to go. So let me know. Come down for a weekend or for just one day of climbing and/or hiking or even biking. There will be climbers of varying abilities. Don稚 forget your shoes, harness and helmet, needed if you are going to be climbing. You can stay the night, or just come down for one of the days.


From Warren Storkman:

This coming Oct 2016 I'll be returning to Tibet.

This will be my 6th visit. I'll apply for our group permit from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu; no visa necessary.




This is a 19 day-trip from home to home: nine 

days in Tibet, five days in Nepal, and five days of air travel. 


Also, there will be many things to see and do in Kathmandu (KTM)  (+ or -) $500.00 cost. 

The Tibet trip cost is $2850. Maximum overall total is $3350.


There is no financial obligation at this time. 

However, if you are interested in this "9 days in Tibet" itinerary by auto, contact me at dstorkman@aol.com




Mt. Earnslaw/Pikirakitah (9285 ft)

South Island of New Zealand

December 2014


Ben Armitage


My desire to climb Mount Earnslaw/ Pikirakitahi began in an instant, when I rounded a corner on the road to Glenorchy and first glimpsed the mountain's majestic form. I was whizzing past Bennett's Bluff where sheer cliffs drop down to Lake Wakatipu providing an immersive view of the submerged ancient glacier and the tall peaks from which it was carved. The towering backdrop to the scene are the twin peaks of Pikirakitahi, its southern faces covered in a blanket of glacial white which remains throughout the changing seasons. Drivers routinely slam on their brakes here before limping into the narrow turnout to catch their breath and snap a few selfies.


In the mythology of the Ngai Tahu tribe, Pikirakitahi was formed when a wedge of pounamu was inserted into the highest peak of the region. This hard green stone was used to make a variety of essential tools including adzes and fish hooks as well as personal adornments. Expeditions would venture from the outlet of Lake Wakatipu, near present day Queenstown, towards outcrops in the Dart Valley. Pikirakitahi was not only the guardian of the supply, but also




a towering guidepost by which to locate the alluring greenstone. Our journey would begin from the same place, but the Ngai Tahu's guidepost was to be our destination.


Joining me on this trip was Enrique, a veteran of several high peaks in the Andes who had recently moved from Western Australia to be reunited with the mountains. We had struck up a friendship after meeting through the Queenstown Climbing Club and I had started parking my campervan in his front yard. Also with us was was Aaron, who brought valuable local experience to our party. Hailing from the North Island, he had spent the previous season as a warden on the Rees-Dart Track, a 4-5 day tramping track that loops around the Earnslaw Massif.


So, as we left our vehicle at Muddy Creek car park, he quickly offered some choice advice: The tramping track bobs up and down as it traverses the Valley痴 true-left slope; it's slow going, he explained, but gives trampers a fighting chance of maintaining dry feet. His preferred option was to follow a 4WD track along the valley floor which is flat and direct, although the river meanders back and forth across it and we found ourselves wading through thigh deep water.


After about eight kilometres, we turned west and negotiated electric fences and cattle to find the beginning of the Kea Basin track. Although well maintained, it begins abruptly on the bush edge with no obvious path leading to it. Upon arrival, its location is indicated by a large orange triangle and a Department of Conservation sign.


Here, the climb begins. The endless switchbacks can do only so much to tame the steep slope winding through Mountain Beech forest, where mosses envelop anything that stays still, and lichens hang like beards from the limbs of trees. Towards the top, we allowed ourselves a breather, a quick detour without packs to see the Earnslaw Hut which is a simple old timber and iron structure that has been tastefully restored. I always feel an instinctive attraction to shelters such as these, even if the ostensible purpose of the trip is to encounter the wilderness.


Earnslaw hut (with Will Molland-Simms, in April 2015)


After a further climb, we crossed the tree line an abrupt shift into alpine tussock and scrub, and where orange track markers cease. Fortunately, a trodden path winds its way around clumps of bastard grass (Aciphylla colensoi) whose long, strong blades are sharp enough on the ends to cause injury. The route then emerges onto open pastures of tussock grass (Chionochloa) before swinging north and onto a spur with a vista over the waterfalls and hanging glaciers of the Kea Basin. Steadily, the trail becomes less and less defined, braiding out into several options that often diverge and later recombine.


Kea Basin

After consulting the map to predict the trail's general direction, we began to call our plan for the day into question. Predicting travel times





demands experience on similar terrain, something that I for one did not possess. Back in Australia, I first assume that the ground is flat, then tweak any calculation to account for hills. While this approach has served me well, it was completely inadequate when our route for the day included 1800m of rise over just four kilometres. Knowing all this, I had made sure that we all considered the plan before we set off.


Or so I thought. "That痴 ambitious," Enrique blurted as I pointed out our location on the topographic sheet. Striking camp lower than first planned would have blown out an already long Sunday, and work demands meant we couldn't afford to be out for more than two days. After a late start, our plan was beginning to seem untenable, but nobody wanted to adjust our objective until we absolute had to. Our decision point was to be the base of the glacier, where we would either make camp on the spot, or if possible, push on to Esquilant Bivouac Hut and make it before last light, which being nearly midsummer, was around 11pm.


As we continued on, the track took us past the first of two rock bivouacs in the basin. Both of these, along with thousands more around the country, are marked on the official NZ Topo50 series, with their very own symbol a very useful feature. For a second time, we briefly indulged in time out from our main plan to poke around a shelter that we had no need to occupy. This particular 'bivvy' boasted a long lip of overhanging rock, at a cosy but practical height, providing comfortable shelter for four people. The natural structure is augmented by a low wall of stacked rocks on the open side, and for a touch of luxury, dry tussock has been collected and piled on the ground for cushion and insulation. Unfortunately, it was too low on the mountain to be useful to us, however many parties take three or even four days to complete this route, making the bivvies an ideal base camp.

Rock bivy


Our next stop was at a very large cairn that happened to be right on the snowline. As we discussed our prospects of reaching the hut before nightfall, A Kea (Nestor notabilis) joined our conversation with its raucous squawks. To all round relief, we calculated that our rate of ascent had increased markedly since the switchbacks of the forest, and we all agreed to forge on to the hut, though we double checked that our head torches were handy.


As we rose up the glacier in a diagonal traverse, the setting sun shone through Wright Col. This gap between high peaks is better known to Lord of the Rings buffs as the Redhorn Pass on Caradhas. We had excellent traction in the spring snow so, unlike Frodo, we managed not to slip, nor to spill any of the precious cargo we were carrying.


As we approached Esquilant Bivouac, the setting sun exuded a pink glow across the wild granite country of the Darran Mountains, home to Milford Sound. This view was our reward for carrying overnight packs to within just 400m of the summit, and it meant we were on track to claim the summit in the morning.


The small six-bunk hut is perched at the far end of Wight Col, almost hanging above cliffs hundreds of meters high. It is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club and costs $15 per night, paid to the Department of Conservation in Queenstown. Since it can't be booked, spaces are claimed on a first come first served basis.


The hut and the tent


We were the last of three parties to arrive, so we pitched our tent alongside the hut, nestled within another dry stone wall for wind protection. Aaron and I sat outside to soak up the mountain scenery, while Enrique jumped in his sleeping bag at the first opportunity and our dinner was shared by passing the pot back and forth through the door flap. Noodles with zucchini and tuna was the chef's special just a minor violation of rule which demands at least four calories per gram for back country foods. As I savoured the fresh taste of vegetables, I decided it was a rule that deserved to be ignored.


After dinner, Aaron headed for the tent, leaving me to happily claim the last available mattress in the hut. One big advantage of staying inside was the warming effect of six breathing bodies in a very small space. The other was the effect of peer-motivation: When alarms started to go off at the agreed time of 5 am, there was no movement at first. Then, our collective tossing and a few murmurs led to more activity, until eventually all of us were on our feet and getting ready to set off.


Of course, an overseas trip report must include mention of some cultural curiosities and our kiwi commonwealth compatriots need not be exempt. In the land of the long white cloud, there is nothing long at all about the preferred choice of leg wear; shorts are de rigueur in all conditions. I had already become somewhat





accustomed to this sight hardly batting an eyelid when Aaron had crossed the glacier holding an ice axe while baring his knees. In the morning, however, foreign jaws dropped when a jeune fille kiwi stepped out into the biting mountain air with tiny shorts that barely extended below her parka. Of course, the day would warm up, and the outfit would prove to be completely practical, but it is an option only for the well acclimatised. As other parties set off, we were left behind melting snow. We had neglected to fill up our water the night before, and the trickle we had the night before was now frozen solid.


The day began with a field of talus. The route then steepened and as the mountain itself began to expose itself through the crumbly debris we found ourselves clambering up a series of small ledges. Crampons went on after we encountered verglass, a layer of ice formed by refreezing of the previous day痴 meltwater. It was more a blessing than a hazard because it helped to hold the loose rock together. October and November are considered the best months for this route because avalanche conditions are generally low risk, yet enough snow and ice is present to improve the surface. We only roped up at the crux section, known as the keyhole. Here, a large slab of rock had come unstuck from the mountainside, demanding a tight squeeze through and up. For us, the step up was a little higher than usual: A chunk of ice had taken up residence over winter and had gobbled up the fixed line that would be available for climbers later in the season.


Summit shot


As we gained altitude, we traversed a number of snow gullies, until we emerged onto the ridge. On this, we cut our own switchbacks into consolidated snow to completed the final 100m of vertical gain. After racing ahead to reaching the summit first, Aaron had the camera ready to capture my arrival. When Enrique soon joined us, he posed for a photo beside the summit cairn, making a heart shape with his hands for his wife, who had learned that she was pregnant just three days earlier.




At 2830m, it hardly needs saying that the views were panoramic. Looking north along the Southern Alps, we perceived a landscape comprised exclusively of snowy, craggy peaks. The wide green valleys that separate them were hidden from view, giving the impression that they simply didn稚 exist. In the other direction, we saw the far shores of Lake Wakatipu, in which Queenstown was nestled. To the west, we looked upon the marginally lower west peak, and dreamed of completing the more difficult traverse of both summits. As Nelson Mandela wrote, 羨fter climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.


The other parties had arrived and left before us, so we had the patch to ourselves. Under bluebird skies, we felt hardly a breath of wind, which created a surreal impression of paradise.


The descent to Equilant Bivouac was mostly as straightforward as the way up, although the ice




which had cemented much of the choss in place was now beginning to melt, and could no longer be trusted. Aaron negotiated the terrain like a mountain goat, and arrived in the col in time to say farewell to the other parties. They had taken a slightly different route, up and down a snowy couloir, so we hadn稚 crossed paths.


Birley glacier


Back on the Birley glacier, the warm sun had turned yesterday痴 firm corn snow into a soggy slop. Our trudging gait soon turned to a semi-jog so that gravity could power our descent. As we refined this technique it turned into a careless playground skip. Our faces were plastered with wide grins as we quickly made our way to the snowline. If a chairlift had been handy, I might have taken it up just to run down again.


After a further 1300m of descent, and a seemingly eternal slog along the flats, we were almost upon the car. 前h for a beer!, we all thought. "Wait, what痴 that in Aaron痴 hand?" To our astonishment, a fly fisherman had pulled over his 4wd and generously offered us part of his evening痴 supply. Just as generously, Aaron hadn稚 finished it by the time Enrique and I caught up.


The Southern Alps of New Zealand are packed with peaks to suit every level of experience and commitment. Pikirahitahi/ Mount Earnslaw is a classic, and in many ways typical, with its charming, practical hut, and loose, chossy rock. More information about this route and others



nearby can found in Queenstown: Rock, Ice and Mountains, as well as Moirs Guide North which describes many harder tramping routes including the approach to Esquilant Bivouac.


This climb is popular throughout the summer, although conditions can be severe and change rapidly at any time of year. All parties should be equipped for alpine travel and prepared to deal with contingencies on their own. If that rules you out, but you still want to go, guides can be contracted from Queenstown and will charge around $4400 for a party of two. In that case, all that is required is good fitness and a dose of enthusiasm.


PCS Officials


Lisa Barboza: lisa.barboza@gmail.com


Vice Chair and Trip Scheduler

Rakesh Ranjan: rakesh.lists@gmail.com


Treasurer and Membership Roster (address changes)

Arun Mahajan: arun.mahajan@att.net


Scree Editor

Judy Molland: screeeditor@gmail.com


PCS World Wide Web Publisher
Bo Meng: mengbo@hotmail.com


Joining the PCS is easy. Go to http://www.peakclimbing.org/join.


If you join the PCS Announcement Listserv you will receive announcements and updates of trips and meetings.