A few minutes before 6 Sunday morning I drove to the parking lot at Mosquito Flat, at the end of Rock Creek Road. It was a few minutes drive from my rented cabins at the Rock Creek Lodge Resort. The other participants, Eddie Sudol, John Zazzara, Bob Bynum and Pat Ibbetson were already making final preparations. About a half hour later we set off on the trail leading to Mono Pass. Shortly after we started we encountered a large buck mule deer with several points.
We followed the trail for a couple of miles until we reached the fork that lead to Ruby Lake. I thought it would be best to go around the lake on the south side, since it was shorter but the majority decided to go around the north side instead since it had less snow. This was a mistake that cost us about 20 minutes, due to some bush-whacking and bouldering.
An easy snow slope led us to the next lake-Lake Mills I believe. This time I went around the snowier southern side and fell behind the others who found a use trail on the northern side. As we puffed up the snowy drainage John chattered on and on as if we were sitting at a bar having a beer. John is in great shape. He told us about a guide he recommends - John Fischer. Lo and behold a few minutes later we bumped into John and one of his clients sitting on a rock next to one of the still- frozen Treasure Lakes. It must have been 10 or 11 a.m. and the sky was overcast. We wore our rain gear since it was hailing on and off.
John had just finished belaying his client up and down Abbot. He did not think it was advisable for us to continue because of the unsettled weather. But the day was young and ther rat was gnawing so we decided to continue and bail only if the weather got worse.
We put on our crampons (all except Bob; due to a communication error he thought they would not be needed even though John had an extra pair he offered to Bob at the car) and hiked up a broad slope to the north couloir. John, Eddie and Bob took the lead, following a track of fresh prints. Pat and I fell behind. We ascended a few hundred feet on good snow that was 40 degrees at most. At the point where the couloir narrows and becomes much steeper, we stepped onto the rock on the right. I sat, took off my crampons and waited about 15 or 20 minutes for Pat, who was feeling ill. There were prints in the snow leading up the narrowing couloir from where I sat. The snow was at least 50 degrees near the top and according to Secor the rock above it is low class 5.
When Pat arrived we did our best to follow the route of the others up to the ridge, which was a couple hundred feet above us. Following carins we zigzagged and carefully climbed over sand, scree and rock ledges and boulders until we attained the ridge. We moved south toward the notch below the summit as the other three descended from the peak. I expected a quick class 2 scramble to the top and was surprised when Eddie informed us that there were several class 4-5 moves ahead. This was a alarming, especially to Pat, since we did not have a rope. But I figured that since they had gone up and down so quickly, it couldn't be that hard. Luckily I was right.
Eddie was kind enough to lead me over a knife edge and the difficult moves beyond it. This knife edge was about eight inches across at one point, with a sheer drop of several hundred feet on the left to Treasure Lakes and thousands to the right to the Fourth Recess. The three or four tricky exposed class 3 moves were exciting but not bad. After that we had a class 1-2 scramble and were on top.
The sky had cleared a bit and the view was a typically wonderful Sierra panorama. Mt. Gabb was an immense triangle to the west. From our angle it was hard to tell it has a class 2 route. The Fourth Recess, immediately below us to the northeast, was the most impressive sight, surrounded by steep walls and studded with pristine lakes 3,000 feet down the ridge. We had originally planned to climb down this ridge and up to Dade, but it was already late afternoon. The others had left us as we summitted. John and Eddie hurried off and did Whitney, Muir and Morrison on the following two days.
The hike out was uneventful but took forever. I glissaded ahead of Pat and found myself constantly waiting. He felt a little better but not 100% and when it got dark he took off his glasses and moved even slower (this was supposed to be a day hike and he had brought only his prescription sunglasses). We got out unbelievably late and crashed at the cabins.
Pat left on Monday morning and I spent the rest of the week relaxing with my family in the Rock Creek area and also visited Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bridgeport, Bishop and Bodie. We hiked, fished and rode horseback to a couple of the Hilton Lakes. Thanks to the PCSrs who recommend the Rock Creek Lodge resort as a good place for a family vacation-you are right!