Ben and I have been climbing the routes in Moynier/Fiddler's book "100 Sierra Classics" for about three years now, and are down to a few remote climbs and to those some might consider "death routes." With 2 passes and lots of mileage, we had always skipped over Clarence King as being too remote for a weekend trip. Ben had Monday off, so we decided to give it a try over three days.
Unfortunately, Ben could not leave Friday night so we were faced with another alpine Orange County start. At least the traffic is good at 3am. Leaving the trailhead at Onion Valley around 10am, we arrived at Rae Lakes at 4pm, punching over Gould Pass along the way. Climbing Gould Pass is very similar to actually climbing Mt. Gould, and we found it to be MUCH more difficult than just taking the trail over Glen Pass and Kearsarge Pass, which we did on the way back.
David Harris and I had climbed the South Face of Mt. CK a few years back while we were hiking the John Muir Trail, and I clearly remember thinking the east face of the mountain looked like a serious rock climb. It did not turn out to be so. We climbed the entire face in 3 pitches, simulclimbing everything except a small section of the corner Moynier/Fiddler describe as 5.8+. To me 5.8+ translates into 5.9, which is exactly what we found: a near perfect 15 foot hand crack in the back of the corner. We topped out in 1 1/2 hours, had a little excitement getting up the summit block (which we thought actually had some of the trickiest moves of the day), and then ambled back to camp at Rae Lakes. We were surprised to find on the way down that someone had stripped the South Face route of all its fixed rappel stations.
Getting back to camp relatively early, we decided to pack up and get one pass out of the way that afternoon, camping that night at the first lake on the other side of Glen Pass. It took about 3 hours to get the rest of the way out the next morning. This trip was the first I've done using no water purification (simply because I forgot the iodine), and was mildly surprised that I did not get sick considering much of the water we drank was from lakes along the John Muir Trail. I am now pretty much a believer in the theory that giardia (in the HIGH Sierra, at least) is solely a marketing ploy by water filter manufacturers.
For those looking for a technical challenge, this route may prove disappointing, and hauling in a full rack and 10mm lead rope turned out to be overkill. We felt this route could safely be climbed (by a solid 5.9 leader) with a half rope and small alpine rack, maybe single Camalots to # 2 and a set of nuts. It is also short enough that the long drive and approach made us feel a bit cheated; there are many finer climbs in the Sierra that can be approached with much less time and effort.
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