Morning rain showers made Steve Cochran and I beat a hasty retreat from our camp spot at Saddlebag Lake. We drove to Lee Vining and took refuge in the Mobil Station restaurant. I had been eager to sample the cuisine at this establishment, having heard that it had the best food on the East Side, and we were not disappointed.
My omelette was light and fluffy, filled with cheese and other fillings that you can select yourself from an inspired menu. The fried potatoes were delicately seasoned with paprika, garlic, and another unidentified but delightful spice. And the whole wheat toast was hot and perfectly prepared. Even Steve's "two egg" scramble was masterful; it filled his plate. Storm clouds over Mono Lake furnished a dramatic backdrop, while the waitress and short order cook-cum-world class chef provided witty repartee. Truly a delightful place to dine, the Lee Vining Mobil will soon be in German travel guidebooks as a "must see" destination along with the town of Bodie. If it isn't already.
Started our hike at the Glacier Lodge trailhead under inauspicious weather conditions - rain, heavy at times. But it had mostly cleared by the time we reached Third Lake.
Friday July 19th:
Did an acclimatizing hike up Temple Crag via Contact Pass. There's one pitch of low-5th class right at the pass. Peter Croft figured prominently in the register; he apparently does the Grade IIIs and IVs on the North side of Temple Crag as we would a stairmaster workout. Steve and I scrambled back down to camp, then carried our gear up to the tarn below the Palisade Glacier.
Saturday July 20th:
The couloirs on the Northeast side of the Palisades are melted out early this year. Bergshrunds are significant; you might want to have ice screws and even two ice tools for the U-notch, V-notch, or Clyde Couloirs if you do them later this summer. We had intended to climb Starlight via the Clyde. But one look at the icy bergshrund made us reconsider, as well as lose bladder control.
We cramponed up to the base of the Underhill Couloir (also known as "Loosy-Goosy"). There was little snow in it, and we made our way up the crumbling gully until we felt compelled to rope up. After a few pitches traversing up the left wall (being careful not to pull out the holds) we were on the ridge.
A lot of 3rd , 4th class and several belayed 4th / low 5th class pitches later we had made it up the ridge to the base of the summit monolith on Starlight Pinnacle, the top of which was perhaps twenty feet above us. This is the sort of bouldering problem that you would turn away from, if you hadn't invested six hours getting to that point. I insisted on protecting it as best we could by throwing part of the rope over the shoulder of the Bottle, and anchoring it down on both ends, so that I could tie a prussik on it and secure it to the rope I trailed on the way up. This was probably not necessary; the climb up the monolith is straightforward and this extra protection did not constitute full protection anyway. We both made it to the top of the pinnacle and got lowered down in succession. We had a snack as we looked through the register. I was impressed that the PCS got a party of seven climbers to the summit on July 14th.
The descent was tedious; we did a few rappels but mostly downclimbed that which we had climbed, the leader placing protection on the way down. For a few hours the weather looked grim as thunderheads built up to the West. And for a few minutes the rocks "sang" with static electricity. But it never did rain on us. Three rappels in the Underhill brought us back to where we had first roped up. The melted-out glacier had stayed so icy that we kept our crampons on most of the way back to our camp below the tarn.
Sunday July 21st:
Hiked out yesterday in windy conditions. We had lucked out on the weather for our summit day. Drove back to the Bay Area. Alas, time did not permit us another Epicurean adventure at the Lee Vining Mobil Station, but I fondly look forward to another visit.
Steve Wilson adds:
aka: Whoa Nellie Deli - www.thesierraweb.com/tiogagasmart/
Item #1 on the menu: Fish Tacos - To Die For!
3X this year and counting! I know this place has been mentioned before in various trip reports but it is worth mentioning again.
Jim Curl adds:
I've had the fish tacos and didn't think that much of them. They were pretty to look at, but weren't worth the nine bucks in my opinion.
Down the road just a bit, on the north side of Lee Vining, is a small, less expensive alternative to the Mobile Station. You're likely to see locals picking up their food there along with the various tourons, climbers and other riff-raff.
It's called Mono Cone, and yes they have soft-serve cones. They also make wonderful grilled chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, and a number of other well prepared items. They don't have a website or a chef or mango-pinapple-plum salsa, but they make tasty food at a reasonable price.