Although school had already started, I had agreed to continue working for the USFS as long as the survey crew was in the high country. On friday after my drunk professor finished his unintelligible lecture, I headed up to Huntington Lake and then slowly drove up the twisted grade to Kaiser Pass which, at almost 9,200 feet is the highest road on the west side of the Sierras. I passed the Whitebark senic overlook and then drove up to 9,700 feet. At this point the Dusy OHV trail was getting rough enough that I could hike faster than I could drive it my passenger car so I carefully turned around and parked. By the time I was packed it was already 6pm. Not only did I have to carry enough camping gear and food for three days, but I also had to bring along all of my supplies for work, including a giant stack of the notorious government forms.
I set off along the Dusy, searching for any signs of the cultural materials I was getting paid to locate, which kept my pace at a below optimal speed. Instead of taking the trail, I hiked cross country down to the meadow below Mt. Givens and then followed Lakecamp Creek down to the lake (meadow...) and then went east through the forest to Mallard Lake. From here I went south over the summit peak 9,680+ and then over benchmark 9,477. At this point it was dark, and the forest was growing ever thicker as I lost elevation. Once I found the creek it was easy hiking until one of the lenses in my glasses popped out. I arrived at Ershim Meadow an hour late, but felt great. The following day we recorded a prehistoric site I had discovered on a previous trip and then surveyed the entire Lakecamp Meadow complex, hiking almost 40 miles in the process.
The following morning we awoke as the sun's first rays came over the ridge to the east and finished the inventory of Ershim Meadow, where we camped. When finished we made arangements for the drive home. Some how I ended up driving home Hubert Switalski (Hubbie) to Bakersfield. The rest of the crew hiked out to Badger Flat along the CRH Trail while Hubbie and I headed due north on a cross country path that would put us on the all too familiar Dusy. During the course of the hike I learned that Hubbie had never actually been to the top of a real mountain. Although he had hiked up some hills in his native Poland he had only seen pictures of alpine environments. When we reached the meadow I had somehow talked Hubbie into hiking up never ending southern slope of Givens. He was extremely enthusiastic and sped ahead, unknowning of pain that afflicts those that run up 1,500+ ft slopes at high altitudes. Five hundred feet fromt the summit he was pooped. He waited in the shade of a large tree while I trudged up to meet him. After some pressuring (it was my car after all...) we continued up our route, staying on the small ridge to the east of the striking pinnacle rising from the slope, judging our progress by how high above us the pinnacle was. We continued on at my slower pace.
Without notice we were standing atop the ridge, with a false summit within throwing distance. Hubbie, extremely curious ventured towards the blocks. I followed. His reaction to the view of the entire San Joaquin river basin was all the birthday present I could ask for. He took what seemed like a million photos, and then had a well deserved break. We were well ahead of our assigned end of tour time, making excellent time up the tedious slope. We still had 300 feet to go, but the easy sandy flat was child's play compared to the talus and brush we had just tackled.
At the top was a pile of enormous car-sized talus blocks so we ditched our packs (which included our 10 pound sixty second popup tents provided by uncle sam) and went up. Standing next to the highest was a solar powered radio repeater, the one we had been using for the past few months. The view from the highest peak on Kaiser ridge can only be described as unbelieveable. So many times I've hiked up to the top of west-side peaks only to find that the view consisted solely of lodgepoles and the odd fir or juniper, but not this one. From the top we could see the small cirques on the north side of Givens. They aren't of the same caliber of those found in the Palisades, but there you can't see half of Yosemite and an endless evergreen carpet thousands of feet below.
The brownish granite of Merced Peak and the clark range and the Hooper peaks was interupted by two giant black monsters, Lyell and Ritter, both still covered in snow unlike the lower surrounding peaks. To the west we could see the impressive pyramid of Kaiser Peak, seemingly rising abrubtly from the nothingness of the San Joaquin Valley. Huntington Lake's sky blue waters stretched from the edge of the summit plateau off into the horizon, where the hanging valley abruptly ends. From our vantage point atop the westernmost peak in the john muir wilderness. We could see over half of the Kaiser Wilderness.
The views were non stop. Although we couldn't see Florence Lake, all of Edison Lake, the Silver Divide were staring us right in the face. Back south we could see all of the peaks from Humphries to Darwin to Goddard all the way to Spanish Mountain. The most impressive view however was that of the Dinkey Lakes wilderness and companion portion of the John Muir, which he had almost surveyed in its entirety.
We had to get going so we headed down. Unlike the gentle slopes we had hiked up, the west face of givens is comprised of the same enormous blocks found on the summit. Tired from the ascent, we went down extra slow, careful not to hurt anything, as there would have been hell to pay should we get hurt while climbing on the job... Once down we took another look at the meadow, this time looking more carefully at the high probability areas than I had done two days prior. Once we were confident that there were proabably no sites at that altitude, and certainly no activity by the elusive Alpinus Bovinus Californicus we were on our way. I carefully planned the route back to included every peak between us and the car, sometimes taking the longer way just to bag the peak. Although these 10ers are insignificant from the south, their glaciated north faces are quite impressive from the north.
We finished off the day with a gut wrenching drive back down to Academy and then the long bring drive to Bakersfield. As it turns out, our climb didn't cost us any extra time because we took straight line paths the whole way, avoiding the many curves of the Dusy. All in all, a great way to cap off your birthday when you have to work.
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