John Muir Trail Peak Bagging

31 Jul - 20 Aug 1997 - by Craig Clarence

Too Tired to Climb It, Too Close to Pass It Up"

David Harris and I decided to take a long walk this summer. The JMT, if followed 100% on trail, is 211 miles long. We took a few scenic and not-too-scenic detours, making our mileage total closer to 250; we still found this to be a pretty mild pace over 3 weeks. Lack of food and motivation kept us on the trail most of the time, but along the way we managed to climb

Columbia Finger July 31
Donahue Peak August 1
Mt. Izaac Walton August 4
Mt. Reinstein August 8
Saddlehorn August 11
Mt. Ruskin August 11
Arrow Peak August 12
Fin Dome August 14
Mt. Clarence King August 15
Mt. Cotter August 15
Mt. Gardiner August 16
Mt. Hale August 20
Mt. Young August 20

Following is a description of 3 climbs, which do not have descriptions in Secor or Roper. The other peaks above were climbed using Secor/Roper descriptions, without incident.

Mt. Reinstein and the Goddard Creek Canyon

After walking up Goddard Canyon, we climbed Mt. Reinstein, which was easy class 2 from Martha Lake. Then the real fun began. David, whose cross country ideas got more "creative" as he became delirious from insufficient calories, came up with a decent down the drainage south of Mt. Reinstein to the Middle Fork of the Kings River. Unknown territory, several thousand foot drop, at least 10 miles. I was powerless to resist.

This canyon is unnamed, but contains Goddard Creek. The first 6 miles or so are rough but OK, compared with what faced us below. The last 3 miles before the Kings River contained extremely heavy bushwacking, through chest high manzanita and thorn bushes, often forcing us to stumble down in the now raging creek. This route involves heavy losses of skin and morale, and I can't think of a good reason for any human being to be there.

Traverse from Saddlehorn to Mt. Ruskin

This is a fun 4th class traverse on good rock. Saddlehorn is the impressive spike of rock seen to the west from Taboose Pass, and as we were camped directly beneath it we had to give it a try. Climbing Saddlehorn itself involved a few short pitches of solid 5.4ish rock on its east side. The ridge from there was all 4th class, as is curves around from Saddlehorn south to become the north ridge of Mt. Ruskin. We were forced off the ridge a few times to keep the route 4th class, but the climbing was straightforward and we simul-climbed most of it to the summit of Mt. Ruskin. Both summits took about 7 hours round trip from our camp by the headwaters of the Kings River beneath Saddlehorn.

Traverse from Mt. Clarence King to N and S peaks of Mt. Cotter

After an uneventful climb of the South Face of CK, we decided to try the traverse south along the ridge to Mt. Cotter. This ridge looks very dramatic from 60 Lakes Basin, with several deep notches, but we had the rest of the afternoon and though it might go. By staying on or near the ridge, we managed to summit both the N and S summits of Mt. Cotter. The climbing was 90% 3/4th class, never got above the 5.3ish range, but was hideously exposed the whole way. It also involved 2 short rappels to get around the 2 largest notches on the ridge. We were back in camp by 4pm, after starting that morning at 6:30am.

This traverse was extremely fun, quick, and the rock was good. It also avoids the class 2 scree-fest of the easy route on the south side of Mt. Cotter. The traverse and summit marked another of a remarkable string of climbs done by Hiep Nguyen (he had walked in to climb with us for the weekend), who climbs only in Teva sandals and in most cases refuses to use a rope for climbing or rapelling. You have to see it to believe it.

See also: John's Ruskin report

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