They are unstoppable. Our plan was to start at 5035 foot Cedar Grove, camp Saturday at 8600 foot Upper Tent Meadow, and summit Sunday morning. But since we arrived early at Upper Tent, I polled the team, and the decision to continue to 10473 foot Grouse Lake was unanimous and enthusiastic. When we reached 10300 foot Copper-Granite Gap, not far from the lake, I asked if anybody wanted to make a detour to 10785 foot Mount Hutchings, and even though we were almost out of water, everybody wanted to visit the peak.
Hutchings was a short, enjoyable scramble to a high point with a stunning view into Kings Canyon. The highest rock challenged us with a six foot nearly vertical face. It was studded with plenty of half inch deep hand and foot holds, but it threatened us with an awkward landing if we should fail to grab those rungs securely. Some members of the group only looked admiringly upon the summit block, but you should still consider them to be successful ascenders of the peak.
Since from the summit of Hutchings, we had an unimpeded closeup view, we scouted the route up Goat Mountain. Everybody took a turn using the topographic maps and the compass, getting practice correlating the printed page with the scenery. I decided that Sunday we would take a route going northeast from Grouse Lake to the low point on the south flank of Goat Mountain, then turn north and follow the ridge to the summit.
We descended to Grouse Lake, dined, slept under the starriest sky that ever hung over the Sierra Nevada, woke up to sleeping bags covered by frost, and tried out my route up Goat.
And now it is time to play "two truths and a lie." Guess which one of these three statements is false:
The top of Goat Mountain, on a clear morning, offers one of those unlimited Sierra Nevada vistas that we have all come to love. We admired Goddard, North and Middle Palisade, Split, Brewer and Thunder Mountains. We told each other many nearly truthful stories about our adventures on the peaks that we now saw.
We had spent three hours climbing Goat, but we hurried down in one hour so that we could temper the midmorning heat with a plunge in Grouse Lake. To answer your predictable questions:
Back on the trail to Cedar Grove Road's End, we plummeted into the canyon at (according to my altimeter) 2300 vertical feet per hour. The air got denser, hotter and dustier with each step we took. We could handle the temperature, because we knew we could get soft-serve ice cream at the soda fountain at Cedar Grove. Much to our dismay, they no longer serve ice cream! Don't they know that ice cream is the Eleventh Essential? "If you're really desperate," the server gloated, "there's ice cream 17 miles up the road at Kings Canyon Lodge." We *were* desperate, and we were going that direction anyhow. The Lodge has a grubby hunter's bar, with unchained growling dogs and moth-gnawed mounted trophies, but they now possess the ice cream monopoly on upper highway 180.
Fortified, we drove back home. Scott and I carpooled with Jeff, picking him up in Gilroy. Back where Jeff's 1971 Pontiac LeMans was parked, we were irritated to discover that over the weekend, a thief had removed one hubcap and the lug nuts from one wheel, but apparently had been frightened off before he could steal the tire. Jeff couldn't drive home with the wheel all wobbly, and there is nowhere to buy spare lug nuts at 10:00 pm. A parade of Gilroy lowlife characters watched as Jeff popped off his other hubcaps, removed one lug nut from each wheel, and fastened the tire with the cannibalized lug nuts. With four mostly secured wheels, Jeff was at last able to drive home. We avidly disrecommend Murray Avenue in Gilroy as a carpool rendezvous spot.