Iron Mountain in Third Person Singular Present Indicative

13 Aug 2000 - by Eric Beck

Eric had been reading the guidebook and studying the map and was puzzled why people climbing Iron Mtn went way around to the east at Anona Lake or further around to the west at Iron Lake. It appeared to him that there was a straightforward route from the broad saddle between Summit Meadow and Staircase Meadow, gaining the long ridge which meanders south and then east from the peak. Eric would learn why people did this.

Saturday morning he left frosty Devils Postpile. At 9:30 am he was on the saddle mentioned above and soon was making easy progress along the ridge toward point 10171 ( 15 minute ). He is congratulating himself on his cleverness and is thinking that he will easily make it home in time for the football game at 5:30. His complacency soon gave way to some unease as he was forced off the ridge to the north, traversing on shifting talus through an area of light colored rock. As he is getting closer to point 10821, his unease is replaced by concern. He is now forced to the south side of the ridge and is soon confronted by a 400 foot step. It looks very loose and like it could be fourth class. He starts up, first diagonalling up and left and then back right. It is very loose. Additionally, the strata is downsloping with lots of sand and gravel. He is not pleased. He perserveres, though and makes his way through this section. From 10821, the ridge to the peak is fairly straightforward, although the metamorphic talus is not nearly as stable as granite.

Eric is on the summit at 12:30, the second person this year. The ammo box register is in good shape; bears have not been signing it.

Eric does not want to descend the step south of 10821. He conjures up a plan to drop south from Iron and then implement a descending coutour to the southeast and then east, eventually picking up the trail.

The descent down to the meadows is easy and he is soon sidehilling. Eric hates sidehilling and is now wondering what he is doing. Why did he use the word "contour" as he formulated this plan. The sidehilling is very sandy and often brushy. After a while, he is in thick forest with no visibility and struggling through deadfall, repeatedly getting out his compass and trying to convince himself that as long as he heads east, he must hit the trail. The progress slows and he is becoming concerned. He may now be in territory never before visited by humans. There are no landmarks. After what seems to be a very long time he does pick up the trail, in just about the spot he had imagined.

He is back at the saddle where he left the trail at 5:30 and by now quite tired. Fortunately it is all downhill with the exception of the 400 foot treat near the end climbing out of the King Creek drainage. Round trip stats: 18 miles, 5000 feet, 12 hours.

If Eric had taken the time to read Beth Epstein's writeup from the SPS archives he would have noted that an ascending contour to the west from the broad saddle would have gained point 10821 easily.


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