We all carpooled together and arrived at the Onion Valley trailhead at about 8:00 am. By 8:30 am we were walking up the trail to Kearsarge Pass. Our route took us along both sides of the Kearsarge Pinnacles, through Vidette Meadows and up to Wheel Barrow Camp at about 11,200 feet, on the west side of the JMT, in the last grove of small trees, just below Forrester Pass. It is about 11 miles in and we arrived there at 6:00 pm.
This is a lovely, large meadow with a stream meandering through it. Apparently the bears consider it idyllic also since we were visited by one at about 10:00 pm. It rattled some pots and, in return, we threw rocks. Grudgingly, it left.
The next morning at 7:00 am we left camp and walked south up a low angle hill onto the moraine just below a rock structure that resembles a nuclear reactor. An error in reading the map had us staring perplexed at what was not Mt. Stanford trying to determine where the east arete was. Charles figured out that Mt. Stanford was really west of where we were across an undulating boulder field and up to another moraine. At 9:00 am we were heading up the broad chute or face south of the east arete as described in Secor's guide.
At the bottom the route is primarily loose talus and sand with some areas of solid rock, closer to the top the rock is more solid and the climbing quite enjoyable. The chute is very wide so most routes up it go well until you approach the top where the chute subdivides into two gullies. We had to move in to the left gully when the climbing appeared to exceed third class.
A few hundred feet below the summit we crossed a sandy slope and over to the north side of the east arete and continued up. At 2:25 pm we reached the summit which affords a nice view of Milestone, Midway, Table and Thunder to the southwest and the Palisades on the northern skyline. Surprisingly, we were the first party to sign the register in 2003.
On the return trip we did not cross the moraine as we had on the way in. Bob suggested we take a gully running north from the base of the chute and follow the ridge east back to where we could easily walk back down to the meadow. Walking in the snow filled gully was easier than walking on the moraine. This is a good route to take on the way in as well since it avoids crossing the boulder field and moraine.
On the way out we met two rangers who inquired about bear activity. Bears are a big problem in this area so if you go, take a bear canister.
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