Mt. Ansel Adams

4 Jul 1997 - by Jim Curl


Thu, 3 July: Left Tuolomne Meadows at 9am. Hiked up Rafferty Creek and over Vogelsang Pass (a little snow). Turned left at the Lewis Creek trail and camped 0.5 miles before Lyell Fork of Merced, near a waterfall, at 6pm. Approximately 17 miles. Mosquitos were terrible all the way.

Fri, 4 July: Left camp at 8:30am, hiked down to Lyell Fork and then followed slabs and an intermittent path through bogs and forest up to the lake below Mt. Ansel Adams. Crossed river at lake outlet. Climbed easy snow couloir left of north face for several hundred feet. Then took steeper branch (40 degrees) up right until easy to exit left onto rock. Loose 2nd and 3rd class led straight up to summit (12:45pm). Retraced route down, except dropped straight into main couloir instead of the steeper right fork. Back at camp by 6pm.

Sat, 5 July: Left camp at 9:30am, retraced path back to T. Meadows by 6:45pm.

Mt. Ansel Adams: 11,700'
Approximate total trip distance: 42 miles
Total elevation gain (via Avocet): 9500'

Participants: Cecil Ann, Debbie Benham, Jim Curl, Dot Reilly


Now, for those of you without jobs, or plenty of time in spite of being employed, here is the usual boring blather...

Friday morning, as we turned the corner to head up the Lyell Fork of the Merced, I looked up to catch my first sight of our objective, Mt. Ansel Adams. "A spectacular peak in the Yosemite backcountry" I had written in the description -- in truth, I had no idea what it looked like, and I figured it for the hulking mass behind an attractive fin-like peak far to the right. But upon examining the topo, I was surprised and elated to discover that this lovely steep sided peak that I thought was obstructing my view was in fact Mt. Ansel Adams.

Our little cast of characters, Cecil Ann, Debbie Benham, Jim Curl, and Dot Reilly, had set out lazily at 9am on the previous morning to attempt a repeat of Kai Wiedman's July 4th trip of the previous year. We even carried a copy of Jim Ramaker's write-up to guide us along. We headed up Rafferty Creek, over Vogelsang Pass (a little snow), down past a lovely cascade, and then left at the Lewis Creek trail. Jim's trip report proved very useful, although we thought the mileage was a bit overestimated as we passed by the mosquito infested camping site where last year's group had paused their first night. We pushed on to where they moved camp on their second morning, in a forested area near a waterfall, several hundred feet of lovely slabs above the Lyell Fork. The Clark Range stood out in front of us, glowing in the evening light. At 6pm, the mosquitos were already at their worst -- DEET, raingear and finally a retreat into the tents were our only defenses. Just as well, as the 17 or so miles of trail left us tired.

Without thunderstorms to hurry us (not a cloud in sight all weekend), we casually set off Friday morning to climb the peak. We were surprised to find a pretty well-trodden path up the drainage and we passed several developed campsites. A momma bear and her three tiny cubs forced us to detour slightly, but the trillions of mosquitos kept our pace up through the boggy lowlands. Cecil spotted a bald eagle flying over the marsh -- perhaps the same bird sighted on last year's trip.

The river didn't offer us any crossing opportunities, but it didn't seem any advantage to be on the right side anyway. We kept focused on our pointy peak and moved pretty easily over slabs, bogs and through forest. Electra Peak, a rather plain diminutive bump sandwiched between higher points, seemed like a dud from our angle. In contrast, the pyramidal Rogers Peak demanded our attention.

Upon reaching the lake below Mt. Ansel Adams (where we crossed the river), we looked up right at the easy snow slopes leading around to the south side. This was the route described in Roper and Secor and seemed completely reasonable at this point. By what powers of intuition and mountain savvy had Kai decided to ignore this and head up the couloir on the left? It seemed, like several other ascent possibilities, that it might go at class 3, but it certainly wasn't obvious. There was a short debate about trusting Kai versus Secor... and then we headed left.

We more or less followed the Wiedman route up the peak. We climbed part way up an easy snow couloir left of the north face until it split. Then we continued up a steeper narrower snow tongue to the right. As our feet began to slip up higher, we exited left onto the rock and climbed several hundred feet of fractured second and third class rock straight up to the summit. A nice climb.

We enjoyed a beautiful, warm, lazy hour of peak gazing, with views of Lyell, Rogers, Ritter, Banner, the Minarets and the Clark Range. It appears that Mt. Ansel Adams has more visitors than we thought -- about a dozen parties signed into the register last year. The register also noted that Ansel Adams had originally photographed this peak and was later in the second ascent party.

A quick scramble west on the summit ridge didn't reveal any obvious line down the south side. So we more or less retraced our steps, knocking off a lot of loose junk on the way. Rather than head back down the steeper snow tongue, we dropped off right into the main couloir. As I set off on one of the longest standing glissade rides I've had, Cecil and Debbie belted out one of the longest mountain duets I've heard. Pretty good voices, I must say.

On the hike back, I worried obsessively about our sloppy bear bagging job and those four bears we had seen earlier. My stomach already felt dangerously empty with 17 miles of hiking between camp and the road. I kept running ahead and losing my companions. At one stream crossing, they seemed stuck at a point I had lept across. So, like McGyver, I whipped out a roll of duct tape and a Swiss Army knife and constructed a suspension bridge for them. My bear anxiety was wasted energy as usual, and we feasted that evening along with the mosquitos. Sometime around 11:30pm, I set off a few Red Devil "Piccolo Petes" to celebrate the holiday.

We started out late and lazy Saturday morning with Vogelsang as our target. But when we got there, the bugs were so bad that we ended up deciding to leave. Debbie wanted badly to stay, but we outvoted her. Had the mosquitos been allowed to cast votes, we would never have left. Dot already had a counted 58 mosquito bites on one side of one of her legs -- it looked like she had chicken pox. An incoming hike we passed near Vogelsang looked at her legs in horror and asked "Are those from...MOSQUITOS??"

We were back at the cars before 7pm and were able to enjoy a leisurely return home the next morning.

To file a trip report, please fill in the Report Entry form or contact the webmaster.