On Saturday Sept 22 at 7AM, Ric Rattray (writer), Tony Stegman, Charles Schafer(trip leader), and Bob Evans(co-leader) met at the Maxson Meadow trailhead near Courtright Resovoir to start a long hike into the west side of the Sierras and climb Mt. Henry. The one way distance of the hike was around 14 miles and thankfully the elevation gain was contained to about 2000 ft. For about the first mile, the trail follows or is on a forest road, which begins at the gate to the Maxson trailhead parking lot. The trail leaves the road on the right at a large cairn. Use of a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle could save about two miles round trip. The remainder of the trail was a long slog on a relatively easy trail most of the way. We all hiked from about 7:30 AM until 3:00 PM where camp was established in the rocks along the south east of Lower Indian Lake(el. 10,000ft.). We were happy to get here and see good water as the streams along the trail were all dry with the exception of one that had marginal water quality.
We contemplated attempting Mt. Henry Saturday afternoon to save the time on Sunday and get out at a reasonable time. While scoping out the routes we soon determined that what we originally thought to be Mt. Henry was actually peak 11994 to the south. It was determined that climbing that afternoon would probably have us coming back to camp in the dark and therefore discarded. Also getting home before midnight on Sunday night didn't some to be part of the PCS charter and may even be discouraged. So we had a leasurely afternoon, ate an early dinner and discusssed photograghy amoung other items. If anyone didn't know both Charles and Bob are photography buffs. They both packed SLR's and Bob packed a tripod for 14 miles and then to the summit. That is what I call hardcore.
We could not determine which way we would go up Mt. Henry in the morning and decided that such decision would be made after getting closer. With climbing both the summit and hiking out planned for Sunday we planned a start by 7 AM. Fortunately we arose to a pleasantly warm morning at 6AM and were hiking by 7:00. We hiked up to Turf Lakes and then decided to head east up to the south ridge by skirting to the left of an obvious outcropping near the low point of the ridge between Mt. Henry and point 11,994. Once to the ridge we had to traverse below ridgeline on the far(east)side before climbing to the summit. As we approached the summit it became clear that a west ridge approach would have been more direct and we determined that as the most expedient way back down. The summit was reached about 9:30 AM. This summit sits atop the LeConte Divide and allows unobstructed views of the eastern side of the Sierras across Evolution Valley. This is definitely somewhere that I had not previosly considered going, but am glad to say I did.
Some time was spent relaxing on the summit while snacking and taking photos. It was soon time to start our trip back to camp and the 14 mile hike from there back to the cars. The descent of the west ridge and back to Turf Lakes confirmed our earlier observation and we made good time back to camp. We broke camp quickly and hiked out arriving at the cars around 6PM.