July  2016              Peak Climbing Section, Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club               Vol. 50 No.7

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



Mt. Shuksan - Fischer Chimneys

July, 2016


Rakesh Ranjan


This was my third 4th of July weekend in North Cascades National Park, where I have done some amazing alpine climbing – however, this year my luck ran out with the weather. Our original plan was to climb the North Face, but given the rains and the warm temperatures of the past few days, we changed our plans to climb the slightly less steep route: the Fischer Chimneys.

Trail through the picturesque valley


I met my friend Kel at the picturesque little town of Glacier on Friday evening. On Saturday morning we drove to the trailhead at the end of the aptly named Mt. Baker Scenic Highway. The North Cascades are known for their lush green valleys and countless streams – and soon we were hopping over those running streams and soaking in the beauty of the mountains. A couple of hours into the hike, we reached the base of the Chimneys, which are named after the vertical rock outcrops that need to be climbed to reach the Glaciers higher up. There we met a group of 5 young climbers from Oregon, who seemed to have had difficulty in route-finding earlier in the day. The chimneys were mostly class 3 and 4, with a couple of pitches of low class 5 climbing. At the top of the chimneys, there was a bit of steep snow climbing that took us to the Winnie's Slide, our campsite for the night. Throughout the day the sun and the clouds played their hide and seek game, painting the green valleys, the dark rocks, the white snow and the blue lakes into a perfect symphony of changing colors.

Winnie's slide

View from campsite



Having reached the camp early afternoon, I spent the next few hours practicing and perfecting my crevasse rescue skills. After an early meal, we went to sleep. When our alarms went off at 3:00 am, I woke up only to be disappointed seeing the strong winds as well as rains lashing out at our tent. We waited for an hour, and then finally decided to cancel our summit plans. A few hours later, when the winds and rain had subsided, we packed our bags and headed down. The downclimb was a series of rappels in the chimneys and a lot of careful manoeuvering through the wet rocks. By late afternoon, we were back at the trailhead. North Cascades National Park is not among the most visited National Parks; however, for an aspiring mountaineer it is the Mecca of Alpine Climbing:  some of the best American mountaineering legends have honed their skills in the peaks and glaciers of this hidden gem. Climbing in the midst of such stunning beauty, in the company of one of my dearest friends, I could only be extremely grateful to this life.

Upper Curtis Glacier and Hell's Highway





Hey climbers - looks like a great season for climbing.  I have done a few trips, but this year I am very busy with my job and lots of business travel. But I intend to get out there soon. 


We had a strong El Niño that delivered lots of rain, but high temperatures kept the snowpack



 low, although still better than last year. In April 2015, the snowpack was 5% of normal; in April of 2016, it was 87% of normal.  This strong El Niño is now predicted to turn into a La Niña this fall, but there is now so much variability in weather that little can be said with certainty.  But really good news for our beloved Sierra, biological biome!


I hope to see you all out there. Happy Trails, Lisa





We are still very short on trips, but I'm delighted to bring you Rakesh Ranjan's report from North Cascades National Park, and Debbie Bulger's reports from Mammoth Peak and Mt. Johnson. Be sure to check them out!






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.



Thompson Peak (8,994'), Sawtooth Mtn (8.887') Mt. Hilton (8,933')

Location: Trinity Alps Wilderness, N. California

Dates: Aug 12 - 15

Level: Class 3 with possible snow travel

Leader: Daryn Dodge


A strenuous backpacking trip, consisting of dayhikes to the peaks from a basecamp:

– at least 14 miles RT with backpack, and 15 miles with daypack. We’ll likely camp south of Canyon Creek Lakes and climb the peaks from one base camp. You must be in excellent physical condition and comfortable on CL3 rock.





There are short Class 3 sections on Thompson and Sawtooth.  Hilton should only be class 2 Peak. Please provide a climbing resume, or a list of your recent hiking/climbing and conditioning experience. Please email daryn.dodge@oehha.ca.gov for trip details.





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.


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




Mammoth Peak, 12,117'

June 17, 2016


Debbie Bulger

Photos by Richard Stover


How many times have I driven past this attractive peak near Tioga Pass and not stopped to climb? I was always on my way to another peak. Well, this time Richard Stover and I stopped to climb it.




We left Santa Cruz the morning of June 16 and felt very lucky to bag a lovely tent site at Tioga Lake late Thursday afternoon—only $10.50 for us old geezers. It was below freezing that night.

Up early, we stopped at the TPR for coffee and scones, then drove to the Mono Pass trailhead. There were two long tree branches people had left at the trailhead. We figured they would be useful for creek crossings, so we took them.

Our first challenge was to cross the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River. We were glad we had the walking sticks since the river was up with lots of snowmelt. Then we had to cross Parker Pass Creek.


As we climbed higher, we encountered more snow


Higher up there was lots of snow, which slowed our progress. We used the staffs as ice axes and kept climbing. In that magical space of half rock and half snow we spotted a White-tailed ptarmigan with its exquisite camouflage. These birds are built for cold weather with fully-feathered feet.


The Ptarmigan's spring coat offers excellent camouflage


Debbie uses a hiking staff instead of an ice axe as she nears the summit


To reach the summit we had to power through a cornice. Then from the summit we had wonderful views of surrounding peaks including Dana and Gibbs, Lyell and Maclure and Cathedral. Buffeted by strong winds, we could see Kuna Lake below still frozen over.

On the return hike we flushed a huge hare, so big I thought it was a fawn at first. The creeks were even higher on our return, but we had our surf booties to help us cross. We returned the hiking staffs to their spot at the trailhead.




Richard Stover and Debbie Bulger on summit of Mammoth Peak with Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs behind them


Mount Johnson, 12,871'

June 19 - 21, 2016


Debbie Bulger

Photos by Richard Stover


Mount Johnson. We climbed the left skyline a bit around the corner


When Mike Johnson’s mother and sister heard that Richard Stover and I were planning to climb Mount Johnson to honor Mike’s memory, they gave us some of Mike’s ashes to scatter from the summit. Mike was a ranger with Inyo National Forest and a former Peak Climbing





Section (Sierra Club) member who followed his dream and moved from San Jose to Mammoth Lakes in the high Sierra in the early 1990s. Eventually he became a seasonal ranger. Sadly, Mike died at the age of 55 from cancer.

Richard and I always made it a point to stop at the Mammoth Ranger Station to get our wilderness permits and visit with Mike. Often we would have supper together after a climb. Mike loved meeting seasoned climbers and novices alike and talking about the wilderness. One day he excitedly showed us a photo of himself with well-known mountaineer Barbara Lilley who had come in for a permit.


The day after Mike’s memorial gathering on June 18, Richard and I drove from Mammoth Lakes to the South Lake trailhead and backpacked into the Treasure Lakes area. There was a lot of snow. Above Lake 10,668 the trail was hidden by snow, and we had to hike carefully because in places there was water running under the snow. Such conditions require care to prevent plunging through the rotten snow and injuring an ankle or falling into an under-snow water flow.We camped on the last bit of exposed dirt at about 11,200 with a fine view of Mount Johnson.


Our campsite on the last bit of exposed dirt before Mount Johnson. Good thing we have a small tent!


Before setting up camp, we hiked up to Lake 11,320 to see if there was any dirt or running water, but found only sun cups and frozen vistas,





so we backtracked. Early the next morning we donned crampons and started hiking toward the upper lakes and the southeast slopes of Mount Johnson.


Debbie crampons up the slope toward Mount Johnson


A note to future climbers: the summit is the leftmost tower. We made the mistake of climbing to the ridge on the right thinking the summit was out of sight. From the ridge it was either third class rock or a 50-degree snow slope, so we downclimbed to easier terrain.


Then we climbed up again but were once more faced with third class rock or very steep snow. I started up the rock. Richard chose the snow, but partway up switched to rock. It was not easy.


Richard climbing up Mount Johnson


Finally we reached the summit where we spent more than an hour, first perusing the register where we saw Mike’s signature from 2007, then scattering Mike’s ashes and taking photos.


Leaving a remembrance of Mike in the register


Richard and Debbie on the summit. Camera is looking east, toward Bishop


Then down. By that time the snow was mushy. We faced into the steep slope and kicked steps in the increasingly unstable snow. Once off the peak we gingerly picked our way over the softening snow back to camp.

The next day we packed out. Below the snow line there were campers and anglers galore.






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


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