Army Pass and Exciting Spring Weather

20 May 1997 - by Rich Calliger

I spent 5/17, Fri-Sat-Sun AM with Aaron S.'s PCS Olancha team climb on a picture perfect climb of Olancha- and finally having a few extra days on my hands, I extended my East Side trip through Wed. 5/21.

I went up solo to the Cottonwood Lake area. Having to drive around the road-closed sign started my second peak climbing portion off a little nervously. I was anticipating the bad weather we had discussed on the Olancha climb, and then a subsequent gate-locking occuring, "trapping" me inside. Oh-well, I figured the gate would have to be opened eventually the next day as the campsites were being opened. The weather prevented me from scouting the Whitney Mntrs route as planned.

So after bivying at the deserted and rainy trailhead I proceeded Monday early at 6AM and Tues to summit two smaller peaks before attempting Langley Tues afternoon. Halfway up Langley the storm hit, a relatively "wild" spring one came rolling in---maybe 40 mph winds, but certainly not "gale force" although at times it seemed that way as the snow and hail were driven into my face. Plenty of with lightning, about 4 inches of hail (1/4-1/2 " diameter) rain and snow mix fell...

The thunderboomers reverberating all over the mountiains was simply awesome and fantastic- and scary at times-- but I had descended to 10000 feet and watched and listened in wonder at Mother Natures' awesome force and power roll and bang and reverberate around Army Pass and Langley as it got completly obscured for the rest of the day.. and into Wed (I understand from Mike R that you could see the Sierra's socked in from the Bay Area (or at least the top of Diablo?) ) I took temporary shelter in the doorway of a storage shed at the Golden Trout Area which was currently populated by a group of Senior high-schoolers from Ojai I believe. They group I spoke to were also enjoying the storm from our relatively safe vantage point. I had not enjoyed such a display since my Colorado trip last year.

As the clouds thickened and dropped down to 9000' I stayed a while to enjoy the cold weather-- and then started down fast as the winds picked up in severity...

Travel Note:

I understand it was also blowing hard enough in the valleys south of Lone Pine, then to Tehachapi and Bakersfield as well, that several sandstoms popped up and allegedly caused a fatal accident on I5 near Coalinga... so I stopped and spent the night in a motel and had a well-earned soak in an hot tub to loosen up the muscles before going to bed early-- as with climbing ("conquering" George Creek finally, but unfortunately not summiting) Williiamson the previous weekend I think I had put in over a 15,000 foot gain but later figured nearer to 20,000- (6000 on Williamson, 6200 on Olancha, 7800 on Cottonwood Peaks/Langley) and a 50 mile week and I was absolutely positively dead tired.

On the way home the next morning at the Coalinga-I5 interchange I saw two *burned* vehicles on I5 being hauled up and trucked away-- whether or not related to the sandstorms I just wondered.


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