Date Tuesday, October 11
Time 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
3921 E. Bayshore Road
Palo Alto, CA
Program Terry's Excellent Adventure
(with apologies to Bill and Ted)
Presenter Terry Cline
Fulfilling a long held dream, Terry Cline went in August to climb in the French and Swiss Alps. His goals were to get an introduction to the mountains that inspired him to become a climber some 45 years ago when reading about their pioneering climbers, and to climb a few of the classic mixed routes. He learned what he deep down already knew — one cannot do them all in even one lifetime, let alone in a few weeks. Climbing with well-known guides Martin Moran and Dave Kenyon, he spent a week climbing in the Mont Blanc Massif out of Chamonix (and huts above) and a week climbing in Switzerland's Valais region while based in the village of Evolčne. After that, he spent 10 days hiking and sightseeing around other Swiss mountain areas. In this slideshow, Terry will share his experiences and the things he learned traveling in these two very different mountain meccas. He can’t wait to go back and continue working on that lifetime check list.
Terry on Rochefort Ridge
FROM THE CHAIR
Last month, I put out an appeal for help; Terry Cline, Arun Mahajan, and Aaron Schuman answered the call. Thank you three so much. We have a great October meeting with Terry Cline, showing his incredible trip to the French and Swiss Alps. In January, Arun will present his amazing Himalayan adventure. I am still committed to rebuilding the club with renewed vigor once my work assignments slow down.
I won’t be at the October meeting (In the North Cape, South Africa), but will be here for the November 8 PCS elections. Right now, I am running again as your chair, Arun is there as Vice-Chair, and we’re looking for a treasurer to fill that slot. Terry continues as Mountaineering Chair. Our November 8th meeting will be a potluck at the PCC, no planned agenda or speaker, just hanging out and talking about summer climbs and climbs to come. It coincides with what is perhaps the most important election of our lifetime - please get out and Vote!
Thank you, Aaron, for your kind offer to host the PCS Festivus at the Whitman clubhouse on December 13. We’ll share a potluck, slides of summer climbs, and enjoy getting together with our fellow mountaineers.
On January 10 2017, Arun will present his exciting First Ascent in the Himalaya. On a personal note; I am going to retire in Q2 2017. Rumors of my worklife continuing, are greatly exaggerated (thank you Samuel Clemens). When I have some free time, I plan on leading lots of trips, encouraging others to do the same, and looking for new leadership to carry the flame forward. Eventually there will need to be a new chair, since in my retirement life, I am planning on exploring other, challenging horizons around the world and won’t be here in California to support the PCS. New leaders, we need your help!
Happy Trails, Lisa
FROM THE EDITOR
I am happy to report that the PCS is still very much alive, and our trip reports in this issue of Scree reflect the wonderful diversity of our group.
Take time to read these reports from Arun Mahajan and Debbie Bulger to find out what PCSers are best at!
PCS TRIP CALENDAR
I am sad to report that "There are no published events to display at this time."
Travels in Paradise: Climbing in the Indian Himalaya in Kashmir
August 1 - 21, 2016
In this expedition, we failed to summit the planned peak, but got a consolation prize by doing an alpine style ascent via the north face-direct of a different peak and it was a first ascent too, we think. In the process, we had three breakdowns of our vehicles, we got to spend time in Leh, did some rock climbing, and as an added bonus, got to see the Dalai Lama speak.
First, the failure:
We had booked a permit with the IMF to climb Hagshu in the Zanskar region on the main Himalayan crest in Kashmir, India. At 6550m this is one of the hardest 6000m peaks in the Himalayas and has seen only four or five legal ascents thus far with the second last one
winning the Piolet D'Or in 2014 (Marko Prezlj). I was already feeling out of my depth when I met the leader and guide, Luke, in Leh. We were to go into the ancient kingdom of Zanskar in Kashmir. A two-day road journey got us past Kargill and over the windy and dusty Penzi La to the small road head in the village of Ashkow. We were three climbers and Luke. The other two were K and L, a European power couple working in fancy corporate roles in the UAE, both very nice and friendly. Also we had a Laison Officer, three Sherpas, a cook, a helper boy from Ashkow and a sirdar as well. It took us 2 days on a very pleasant and beautiful up-valley walk to get to a small meadow adjacent to the place where the river spurted out and where we set up BC.
Hagshu. Photo by Arun Mahajan
On the first evening on the trail to BC we managed to climb a three-pitch route on a rock wall near camp and this took out the kinks on our climbing techniques. Luke and I climb in the US whereas K and L in other places. On the day we got to BC we also set up a fixed rope and made sure that we had our jumar-ing technique down. After a rest and planning day, we set off to our ABC. We had nearly 50 pound loads and it was hard and slow going on the rolling and unstable dry glacier and then on a wet one that was all ice with crevasses criss-crossing it. Despite struggling for over five hours on that awful stuff we had only gained 300m to get to ABC at 4600m.
It was wet and snowing and cold, and after a while the Sherpas came down. They were looking to maybe fix a good route to Camp 1, which was at 5100m as per our planning. But getting to C1 needed two glacier traverses between which was a steep section of dark scree underneath some over-hanging seracs of the upper glacier systems. Then there seemed to be a bench, which was basically a large serac field with flat spots. The Sherpas reported that not much was safe there. Camp 1 would have placed us just under the east ridge, our proposed route. The night saw rain and snowfall and a lot of sounds of crashing and falling rock/seracs, completely spooking K, L and me.
Getting to ABC. Photo by Arun Mahajan
The next day morning Luke came to our tent with the news that we would have to wait out the bad weather. At that point we asked if we could wait till noon and if no improvement, walk back to BC? Then, would we still be able to salvage this trip and climb something else in a different region that was possibly drier, all this at an added cost off course.
Luke thought that this would work and so we stumbled back to BC again with heavy packs that afternoon. The next day we walked out with the intention of getting back to Leh and the staff coming back later. We got a late start on the driving and a sleepy driver whom we tried to keep awake by speaking to him in Ladakhi and Hindi. Half way to Kargill, we got a flat that we all
helped replace in the dead of night on the high mountain road, very surreal scenery too. We made it safely at 1am to Kargill.
The next day, with a better jeep and a better driver, we got to Leh in good time. However, a few hours later, K announced that he had to head back to UAE the next morning for family reasons leaving only two climbers and Luke on this trip.
We hung out in Leh that day and on the next made a road trip to the Khardungla Pass. At 5100m this is India's highest driveable pass. We even climbed a ridge there to get to 5400m and had a wonderful time with some exposed class-3 climbing.The staff arrived that night from Hagshu with our gear.
The next day we went in two vehicles to a different region of Ladakh, the Changtang, which has the incredibly beautiful Tso Moriri, as its center piece. We had a flat along the way as well, but other than that we were fine, and the previously arranged horseman also arrived. The next day we got to our base camp in about five hours with the idea of attempting a peak in the foreground by its north face.
Our Peak. Photo by Arun Mahajan
The foreground of that peak was the east ridge, a scree pile. BC was at 5500m (I think). The next day we decided to go for the peak itself, as opposed to doing an acclimatization peak first. We were walking at 5am, each with a pack containing layers, technical gear, 2 liters of water and some power bars. We were expecting to be back in about 8 hrs. We were wrong.
Luke was well acclimated and L was very strong and had been disciplined about taking Diamox, so I knew that I would be the slowest and the weakest at altitude as I had only been to 5400m thus far on the trip and have never taken Diamox and obstinately refuse to do so (to my undoing). We followed a stream up valley and soon the glaciated north face came into view. We circled a tarn and then went towards the west and put on crampons and roped up. Luke identified a route from below and it would probably lead directly to the summit or the west ridge, very close to the summit.
Start of our route. Photo by Luke Smithwick
The icy terrain got steep soon and here we started the pitched climbing. Luke led, belaying me and L on separate ropes. We had chosen a
couloir and a rocky buttress. "Five pitches Luke?" I asked. "Maybe seven at least", he said. We were both wrong again. It turned to be 14 or 15, all of it mixed climbing with Luke unleashing an amazing array of anchors adapting to the terrain, using screws, ice-axes, cams/nuts etc. It was mixed climbing all the way and we all were using two ice-tools. Technically this was not very hard. Maybe AD or AD+ and the angle about Scottish grade II or III but when the first pitch is at 19600 ft and you do 14 after that, you feel it.
Luke leading a pitch. Photo by Arun Mahajan
Luke was relentless and we averaged 30 mins per pitch. To me this was an object lesson in high altitude climbing. Finally at about 4pm, Luke announced that we were on the west ridge and the pitched climbing was over. It had been eleven hours by then. The beautiful summit seemed just a few meters away and we put away the second rope and got onto one rope; Luke walked slowly with L and me behind in order. We were all very tired, even Luke, and we traversed three humps on the beautiful sinuous snow ridge before Luke called for a break. All my food was gone. It was 5 pm and the altimeter
read 6437m (21118 ft). Luke offered me a Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate bar. Few things have ever tasted better!
Summit. Photo by Luke Smithwick
Now we had to head back down the snowy east ridge. But the descent on the snow presented no problems as the angle was gentle and as soon as the snow ended we got off the rope. The steep talus called me to be very attentive and by the time I got to the river, it was already dark. Luke had gone far ahead but we could see his headlamp and the lamps of BC where Phunsock must surely have soup ready.
Finally just past 8 pm, L and I stumbled into the cook tent greeted by
our reduced staff of Phunsock (cook), Khunsang (sirdar) and Gomba Sherpa. I could not eat anything, i
was so tired. Just maybe a few bites of dal-bhaat and
a couple of bowls of tang. Sleep never came that night and I got muscle cramps
in my legs. The next day, we thought we had to walk out so we camped at the
road head. But the next day the jeeps came to take us out. We got a breakdown
again, on the road to Leh, but found a creative
As for the summit, there was no evidence of anybody having been there and to our credit, I imagine, we left none either. No cairn, no prayer-flag to mark our presence, just our footprints in the snow and perhaps the top of a gel-packet
that the wind carried away before our tired reflexes could catch it. Maybe those few crumbs of Cadbury's Dairy Milk will forever mark that we were there!
We remained mostly in our rooms the next two days but the trip was not done with us yet. We found out that the Dalai Lama was in town and speaking in a stadium, so we went there and got to see him from a distance and gaze in wonder at the simple faith and devotion of the Buddhists for their great and simple leader.
The next day we flew to Delhi but since we had a few hours before our flights home (me and L, Luke was staying put in Delhi), we all went to Raj Ghat, the memorial to another great man, Mahatma Gandhi.
Pyramid Peak (S) 12,777'
August 18 - 26, 2016
Taboose Pass never was easy. Somehow it got a lot harder since the last time I climbed it in 2008. The trail starts in the desert at 5400' and for the most part steeply climbs up to the pass at 11,352' before descending to the John Muir Trail.
When Richard Stover and I started hiking on the desert, all the wildflowers were dried and dropping seeds. As we ascended, we started walking back the season. At about 8000 feet we inhaled the strong smell of mountain pennyroyal. Next there was fireweed in bloom. Ripe currants and elderberries adorned bushes.
That night we camped at 10,300 feet on Taboose Creek. Almost 5000 feet of gain. Only 1000 feet to go!
Only 1000' to go. Is there supposed to be a trail here?
The next day after a very late start (I was wiped), we faced the last 1000 feet in two 500-foot segments. Staring up at a heap of talus I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually we got to the top: Taboose Pass with its expansive views and the boundary of Kings Canyon National Park. The trail leveled off and gradually headed downhill.
As we descended the west side of the pass, we encountered six large bucks browsing on willows. One with 10 points looked big enough to challenge the alpha male next year. The other five had 8-point antler racks on their heads. They were definitely National Park deer and ignored us for the most part.
These bucks do not find people particularly threatening.
Ahead we could see the incomparable Bench Lake, perched high above the south fork of the Kings River. No one else was there.
Bench Lake is perched high above the south fork of the Kings River. Behind it you can see Arrow Peak, which we climbed in 1996.
This was our second visit to Bench Lake, and we were the only campers the first time as well. I am surprised that this special lake is not visited more often. Looks like good fishing, great swimming and secluded campsites. But most folks are busy on the Pacific Crest Highway rushing either to Yosemite or Mount Whitney. We camped near the west shore.
Looking back at Taboose Pass from Bench Lake. It's about 5 miles away.
West of Bench Lake we hiked up the lovely valley and paused at a crystal-clear lake. Richard was trying to photograph a frog near the shore. I was looking across the lake when a strong wind came up and created a 5-foot high water spout behind Richard. “Oh my God!” I screamed. Then, instantly it was over. Richard missed it.
We started up “Arrow Pass” a crosscountry approach to Pyramid Peak. With full packs the climb was difficult. We correctly aimed for the southern notch. We had ascended this route in snow 20 years before when we climbed Arrow Peak. Part way up it became obvious to me we should have been farther east. The notch looked too far. The lyrics to Kenny Roger’s song, “The Gambler” kept cycling in my head, “Know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, Know when to run. . . .”
It was almost 2 p.m. “OK,” I said, “We’ll go back to Bench Lake and tomorrow to Lake Marjorie and climb Mt. Wynne.” We started down. We crossed the huge drainage in order to descend the easier ridge.
I looked up. The pass didn’t seem so far this time. “Let’s do it!” (I recommend following the ridge, which we didn’t.)
What was reasonable at first soon morphed into difficult. Very large blocks, then horrendous scree and sand, which slid with every step. We topped out at 5:15 p.m.
Richard climbing Arrow Pass. We could have avoided some of this talus if we had taken the ridge.
Getting down the other side took another two hours. We set up camp at the first lake below the pass just before dark, cooked supper and collapsed into a deep sleep. Luckily I had planned a layover day for the morrow. We bathed, moved camp a wee bit closer to the peak, and rested. And it rained. Fine except our tent zipper didn’t work. Always prepared, we used clothespins to close the fly. We would climb Pyramid tomorrow.
Up at 5:45 a.m. we started hiking at 6:30. We found a ramp leading to the long southwest ridge replete with secret deer bed sites. We scrambled along easy third class on the ridge.
Debbie on the southwest ridge. The summit can be seen 1000' above on the upper right.
About 1000 feet below the summit, Mother Nature had other plans for us. A storm was on the way. We looked for shelter, found an alcove with rock walls on three sides, and had just enough time to roof the cubby with our emergency space blankets, using rocks, a bit of line, and the useful clothespins.
Just as we finished it started hailing. Soon the ground was white with small round bits of ice. We watched the show for three hours, made ourselves snow cones, ate some lunch and waited. Finally it stopped and we bailed.
Debbie disassembling bivy after the storm. Note the rainskirt!
We descended the easy west face, which I decided to name the “bear route” since there was lots of bear sign (scat) there. I had inadvertently left my rain pants in the tent, so I constructed a “rain skirt” out of a plastic bag. The tiny Pacific Chorus Frogs loved the weather and were out in force.
The next morning we left camp at 6:30 a.m. and climbed the bear route to the west ridge, a much shorter route than the long southwest ridge, and we gained the summit by 11:15 a.m. And what a view! Arrow Peak to the north, Clarence King to the South.
There was no register book and only the top of the aluminum register cylinder. We left a small notebook in a plastic zip bag. In all we spent about an hour and a half on the summit.
Richard photographing me on the summit.
On the way down, just above our previous day’s shelter site, it started to graupel (soft hail). This time we donned our rain suits and kept hiking. We reached our tent at 5:30, stowed our gear and got into our sleeping bags just before the rain picked up. Instead of cooking in the rain, we just went to bed without supper.
The next morning was clear. We dried out everything, brewed a full pot of tea and had a big breakfast. We even washed our socks and patched my sleeping bag, which was leaking feathers. There was time to enjoy our valley, admire the Foxtail pines, Western azaleas, and interesting water grasses before we left to climb back over “Arrow Pass.” This time we took the easier ridge to descend to the lake on the north side where we found mima mounds and other interesting landforms. We hadn’t seen another human in five days.
However, the next morning we encountered eight people resting at the junction of the Bench Lake Trail and the JMT. We first saw two women, possibly mother and daughter, from the San Francisco Bay area. The older one was wearing a full leg brace, sort of an exoskeleton.
When I noticed it, I remarked, “You have a leg brace!” in surprise. She responded, “The doctor says I need a knee replacement, but I already had the permit.” What moxie!
As we approached Taboose Pass, a Golden Eagle buzzed us. Then on the east side of the pass we saw another pika. We stood silently for 10-15 minutes as the little cutie repeatedly poked its head up to see if the way was clear.
The American pika makes its home in high-altitude boulder fields. It is threatened with extinction due to global warming. Higher temperatures can cause it to overheat and die.
That night we camped at our previous site on Taboose Creek. We could now see the Owens Valley, and it was smokey. We reached our truck at 5:15. it wouldn’t start, probably because of the intense heat for 9 days. Perhaps I should have been worried, but I wasn’t. I figured we could always sleep at the trailhead and deal with the problem in the morning. After all, it would be the weekend and new people would be arriving, perhaps one with a satellite phone. Our cell phones had no reception.
Luckily, after about an hour Richard was able to start the truck, and we were home free.
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