An Important Letter From Our Chair, Lisa Barboza
Life presents changes; we all go through them. I have been assigned to travel to South Africa to work on the MeerKAT radio telescope in the remote Karoo Area, high desert. Eventually, there will be over 120 of these and they will plumb the depths of space. I am being sent there as a kind of Inspector General. While all of this sounds like a great adventure (Think - lots of great climbing in the Drakensburg range - and who wouldn’t want “Safari Sundays”?), it does present a problem.
I will be away on assignment in South Africa, with very little visibility. Because of this, I won’t be able to fulfill my duties as the PCS Chair.
As a result, I am calling for early elections. I will be asking for a nomination committee to be formed.
I have given a lot to the section, as Vice Chair back in 2007, Chair in 2008, and Mountaineering Chair from 2009 to 2015, and then as Chair in 2015 and 2016. But times and people change. I can’t honestly give this job the attention it needs for the rest of the year.
We need people to step up.
Thank you, Lisa
FROM THE EDITOR
It seems that we are at an important junction, one that will determine whether or not the PCS will continue in its present form.
It's clear that many of us love climbing and mountaineering and will continue to pursue our passions, regardless of what happens to our club.
But unless someone steps up to lead the PCS, it will no longer exist in the amazing way that it has.
I can continue to be the Scree Editor, but don't have time to lead the PCS.
Over to you, fellow climbers!
PCS TRIP CALENDAR
I am sad to report that "There are no published events to display at this time."
Mount Izaak Walton, 12,077'
July 11 - 16, 2016
Photos by Richard Stover
After driving to Lake Thomas Edison from Santa Cruz, Richard Stover and I caught the 4:00 p.m. ferry and hiked a bit before setting up camp. As we sat in the boat during the crossing, we noticed a few plumes of smoke coming from the forest on the north side of the lake. The boatman said the fire had been reported that day.
The next morning we soon joined the throngs of people on the JMT/PCT. I must have completely looked my age as I trudged up steep steps on the trail in the heat. As I encountered a middle- aged woman who no doubt is a kindergarten teacher when not backpacking, she exclaimed, “Well, look at you. You’re doing great.”
Elderly woman hiking on John Muir trail
It was a relief to leave the trail at 10,200 feet and proceed east through a notch to the lovely glacial valley that was to be our home for the next four days.
Our lovely glacial valley
That night we went to sleep serenaded by Pacific tree frogs.
These guys serenaded us every night. Pacific Tree Frog.
As I was feeling a bit out of sorts, and Richard had not slept well since his mattress had a leak, we decided to take a layover day and explore our valley. We moved camp to Lake 10,800' and repaired the mattress. The U-shaped valley is exceedingly beautiful with no signs of human passage or camping. The rocks embedded in the pea gravel substrate seemed like they hadn’t been moved in thousands of years, so difficult were they to pick up.
But all was not pristine. To our dismay we discovered, even here, balloon ribbons and balloon remnants.
The next day we had a glorious climb of Izaak Walton. Only 30 years younger than Shakespeare, Walton is best known for his book extolling fishing, "The Compleat Angler," published in 1653.
It was a fun, easy climb with only 1,200 feet of elevation gain from our camp. We hiked up grassy ramps from our lake, balanced on sun cup ridges on two short snowfields, then ascended second class terrain until reaching the third class summit rocks. It was an easy scramble with very little exposure.
Easy scrambling to the summit
Debbie on the summit of Izaak Walton
On the summit we were greeted with an incomparable view of peaks in every direction and the names of old friends in the summit
register. Looming large are Red and White plus Red Slate Peak. To the southeast are Hilgard, Gabb, Abbot, and Mills. Even Ritter and Banner are visible to the north.
What a view! Debbie and Richard on the summit
As we rested in camp after the climb, we saw plumes of smoke rising to the southeast beyond the ridge. The fire had grown. By supper time our valley was filled with smoke. “What should we do?” we pondered. Should we stay at our safe lake with almost no trees or head back to the Vermillion Valley Resort?
We decided to stay and enjoy the valley. We botanized, discovered an underwater spring in our lake, examined various aquatic insects and more frogs/toads. There were flowers we don’t see often: Mouse Tail Ivesia, Muir’s Ivesia, and Dwarf Lewisia.
The tiny Arctic Willow is only a few inches high
You have to get down on your hands and knees to see the tiny Dwarf Lewisia
Lake 10,800', where we camped, sheltered many wonders, but thankfully no fish. This high lake supports the federally threatened Yosemite toad and Pacific tree frogs that we were lucky enough to observe.
The threatened Yosemite Toad What great camouflage.
The next day we hiked down the valley then down to the trail by a quite easy short cut over slabs and open forest. The downhill was not excessively steep. Surprisingly there were few other hikers. One coming our way told us the fire was contained.
Back at Lake Thomas Edison the next morning, we observed the firefighting operation from the ferry. A red helicopter hovered within feet of thelake surface, sucked up water and dropped it on the flames and smoke. Quite a sight. We
were back; we were safe. Unfortunately since VVR was feeding 125 firefighters, menu choices were limited. We had some canned custard in our car, which we shared with some JMT through-hikers.
Birch Mountain, 13,602'
July 29 - 31, 2016
Photos by Will Molland-Simms
The forecasted high in Bishop on July 29 was 106 degrees. As our merry band of three (Will Molland-Simms, Stephane Mouradian & Alex Sapozhnikov) pulled into White Mountain Ranger Station at 7:30, the cool morning was already rapidly giving way to a stiflingly hot mid-summer's day and we were eager to hit the trail before the heat became oppressive.
With permit in hand, we joyfully puttered up McMurray Meadow Road until we reached the intersection of the Birch Lake Road. The road was passable for only the first quarter mile or so, as level terrain soon gave way to large rocks and other impasses. With a high clearance 4wd one could probably make it nearer to the trailhead but we were fine starting where we did. By 9 we were off in the 80-degree heat that had already found its way to the 6500-foot level of the Owens Valley’s east side. The trail goes through a wet meadow before fragmenting a bit into several OHV and cattle tracks. A careful study of the map steered us in the correct direction, and soon we were on the main trail heading up and away.
The trail to Birch Lake is continuously uphill, with one small downhill push about three quarters of the way to the lake. Here you will find your first water source since the trailhead, as well as a nice meadow to take a break at. The trail past this section is quite difficult to follow, and we were forced to sidle through boulders and wildflowers until we reached a shallow bowl before the lake. We had read previous trip
reports that recommended going high to get to the lake, but we opted for the low route and boulder-hopped up the creek on its north side before finally popping out at stunning Birch Lake. We found some protected camping spots and set up our tents in what turned out to be quite a windy afternoon (Birch Lake is a windy spot!). Now, well above 10,000’, the heat of the Owens Valley and the hot walk up were nothing more than memories and we went to bed early in hopes of making at least two summits the next day.
Sunrise before the summit push
July 30 broke warm and clear with overnight temperatures not even making it down to the 40’s at our campsite. We head off early with The Thumb our first objective for the day. We sidled up and around the lake on its South shore, connecting with the top of the moraine that led down from the cirque above. After following the crest of the moraine to a small creek and tarn, we pressed upwards over slabs and alpine vegetation to a snow-filled gully that guided us to the correct chute towards the Thumb. We had heard that this chute can be filled with snow until mid-season and were prepared with ice axes, but they were not necessary. Enough snow had melted that a clear path could be found leading towards the summit. After making the top of the chute, it is quite obvious where the summit is and it’s just a simple stroll up to the peak.
The view from the summit is tremendous, with neighboring Palisade peaks, glaciers and lakes seemingly a stone’s throw away.
Summit of The Thumb
We stayed on the summit for about half an hour before decisions had to be made. I decided that Bolton Brown, which was a little over a mile away, would be a fine next objective, while Stephane and Alex were more motivated to get up Birch Mountain. We decided to split up, with Alex and Stephane heading to Birch and myself heading to Bolton Brown. If all worked out well, we would meet up again at the saddle between Birch and the unnamed peak to its west and climb Birch together.
Off I went towards Bolton Brown. At the low point in the ridge between The Thumb and the unnamed peak to its south there is a nice break in the jagged cliffs that flank this area, and passage can be obtained to the backside of the ridge. After dropping down, it is a simple boulder hop, albeit a bit annoying with the undulating terrain, to get to Bolton Brown. Ascending the slope to the west ridge of Bolton Brown was, again, a nice 2nd class boulder hop and the summit provided fine views and an old summit register that went back to the 70’s.
View from top of Bolton Brown
Getting to Birch from Bolton Brown requires dropping back down the way I came up and then ascending a truly dreadful sand and scree slope that provides access to the large, sweeping plateau west of Birch Mountain. This was easily the most annoying part of the day as the sand was, well, sandy and required great effort at nearly 13,000 feet to ascend at a 40-degree angle. Despite being only about 500’ of elevation, it was brutal and I was happy to leave that behind.
Across the plateau I want and, serendipitously, when I got near the Birch saddle I heard a hoot and a holler and there were Stephane and Alex! They had arrived at the saddle about five minutes before I had!
After happily meeting up with them and recounting our stories of the last couple of hours, we traversed as a team along the north side of the mountain across many ribs and chutes until we came to an obvious large chute that seemed like a good spot to ascend and obtain the ridge. Up we went, our bodies feeling a bit weary after what was becoming a long day. More 2nd class boulder hopping led up to the ridge, still about a quarter mile west of the true summit. Along the ridge we went, finally getting the summit of Birch after yet more boulder hopping.
We enjoyed the summit for about half an hour and admired the Owens Valley, nearly 10,000 vertical feet below us. From the summit we
walked down the ridge about 100 yards and found a long chute that descended nearly 2,500 feet to the moraine far below. It may look a bit dubious, but this chute was an excellent decent route and quite speedy. After yet more boulder hopping across the moraine and back around the lake we made it back to camp, happy to be done with boulders for the time being.
July 31st dawned again clear and warm and became progressively hotter the more we descended towards the Valley.
By the time we reached the car, it was already 90 degrees and by the time we left Schats Bakery in Bishop after lunch, it was triple digits. We did not care about the heat though. We had had a fine weekend on the east side and managed to summit a few fine peaks.
Mount Pinchot, 13,495'
August 24 - 29, 2016
As a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of my first backpacking trip (in April of 1966, up to ski in Mt. Washington's Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire), I decided to ambitiously go for Mt. Pinchot, on the Sierra crest in Kings Canyon N.P. Rather than struggle up Taboose Pass
from the east side, I chose to do the longer, but more interesting, west-side approach from Roads End at 5100' way down along the South Fork of the Kings.
Starting off solo on August 24 I made camp in Lower Paradise Valley (6-1/2 miles, +1400') before dark. Then the next day (in the company of many Rae-Lakes-Loopers) I made it up another 2000' to the busy camp next to the famous Woods Creek bridge at the junction with the John Muir Trail. On up (in the company of many JMTers, one of whom turned out to be a friend of my son & his wife!) to a high camp. This was at an 11,100' lake about 1/4 mile east of the JMT, where it bends northwest toward Pinchot Pass. Surprisingly, I was totally alone at this camp for 2 nights.
On August 27, I followed the valley north, around the east side of Mt. Wynne, past a nearly dried-up high lake, to reach a 12,200' plateau below the desired East Ridge of Mt. Pinchot. This Class-2 ridge-climb is best done as close to its crest as possible, where the rock is fairly solid. However, the lower half of the ridge has a number of small "pinnacles" on it, leading to awkward moments such as "which way do I try to traverse around the side of this pinnacle?"
This often meant getting onto a steep slope of fairly loose rock for awhile. Anyway, the upper half of the ridge was very pleasant, even though its gradient was steeper. During my wonderful view-filled lunch hour on top, I found two PCS-trip listings in the 12-year-old register: in July 2010 -- Lisa Barboza (her SPS #188), Louise Wholey (her SPS #220), & Stephane Mouradian (all 3 former PCS chairs!); and in August 2011 -- Aaron Schuman & Chris Prendergast. On descent I tried to avoid the lower half of the ridge, by going south onto a steep slope of incredibly loose hand-sized rocks -- NASTY.
Later, during a great evening in camp by the peaceful lake (frosty the next morning!), I realized that the 8400' elevation-gain (granted, it was spread out over 4 days or 70 hours) was the largest such gain I had ever experienced in the climb of a single mountain. In fact, there aren't very many (or any) other Sierra peaks where this much gain is even possible on a standard climb. Next day was a 4200' descent on the JMT & the Woods Creek Trail to camp at the crowded Upper Paradise Valley (where my neighbors were a pair of Stanford students). Then 10 more miles back to the Roads End (my old body getting sore all over), and a drive home by 9:30 pm on the 13th anniversary of my retirement, a day earlier than I'd planned!
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