In the weeks prior to the trip we spent time planning the trip, investigating route choices and snow conditions. Thanks to the mountaineering committee members Arun Mahajan, Kelly Mass, and Peter Maxwell for helping make this an official Sierra Club Mountaineering trip which included the use of ice axe and other necessary climbing gear. Also thanks to David Harris for providing crucial up to the moment information about snow conditions on the summit.
There are 2 trailheads leading to Frypan Meadow, from which both peaks can be climbed, Lewis Creek and Deer Cove. We chose Deer Cove because it has no major creek crossing. Another big advantage for Deer Cove is that it is on Forest Service land not on the National Park and thus requires no permit. We could have saved the time and hassle of getting the permit and started on the trail earlier, but I wanted to be as legal as possible. So we got a permit.
After setting camp in Frypan Meadow we headed for Kennedy. We immediately lost the Kennedy Pass trail under the snow, so we continued cross country. A long and tiring climb up the Southern ridge brought all but me to the summit. I stopped 500 ft short of the summit, too tired to continue. Clouds were drifting in and out, but I was able to snap a few pictures of the group climbing up to the summit. We were back at camp by 8:30 PM exhausted from the 7,500 ft elevation and the 14 mile hike, half of which was done with full packs, the other half kicking steps through the snow. At camp we meet Kai Wiedman and Dot Reilly who were also going to attempt Harrington the following day.
The partly cloudy weather of Saturday was replaced by extremely warm Sunday. Temperature on the summit were in the mid 70. And the sky was mostly clear. Snow line was at about 9000 ft. with patches down to 7500 ft.
We started late on Sunday to allow everyone a good rest after the long day we had on Saturday. (Dee stayed back in camp nursing bad blisters.) The unmaintained trail to Grizzly Lake disappeared under the snow after about a mile and we continued cross country trying to follow the trail path as best we could. Harrington's impressive summit block came in to view. We could see 2 sets of steps in the snow. One set going to the South ridge which we assumed belong to Kai and Dot. The other set going to the North ridge which we assumed belong to David Harris and his girl friend (Laurie Price). We followed the steps to the North ridge up the wide snow couloir to the saddle between Harrington and the snow hump just to its North. This seemed to be a reasonable class 3 climb if the rock was clear. But the wet snow, which covered all but a short wet section of rock, made it a bit more interesting. Ice axes were used for self belay. Self arrest was almost impossible as Ahmad demonstrated on an unfortunate, but harmless slide.
Once on the saddle we examined the ridge going up to the summit. There was snow accumulation in several places, it was hard to see how it could be climbed. Bob Suzuki took a belay and started to pass the first snow field, but he quickly found a way on solid rock, and we all followed unbelayed. As we were climbing we found that the climb was not too bad. Snow did cover some of the route making the climb a bit more challenging, but never harder then a high class 3. Some of us used ropes for belay at several places, but it was not strictly necessary. Almost at the top, Steve, Arun, and Karon made some exposed moves using snow for hand holds. But Jim was able to kick steps right through the snow, and the rest of us followed the more protected rout.
On the way down El Nino snow pack treated us to some great glissading. I estimated we glissaded some 2,000 vertical ft in several runs. The longest was continues for about 500 ft. We got back to camp after 6:00 PM, packed up, and headed to the trail head. Unfortunately, it was 10:30 PM when we got to the trailhead, too late to drive all the way home.
Participants: Steve Eckert, Dee Booth, Arun Mahajan, Karon MacLean, Jim Ramaker, Bob Suzuki, Ahmad Zandi, Ron Karpel (scribe!)
Contributed by Steve Eckert, with a pdf plot of their locations
Download the Waypoint+ data below as a GPX file for your GPS.
Datum,North America 1983,GRS 80,0,-1.6E-7,0,0,0 RN,1 ,GILROY TO HARRIN RP,D,GILROY, 37.000365258,-121.5658021811,06/16/1998,11:14:16,101-152 GILROY RP,D,15299 , 37.082215465,-120.2065552119,06/16/1998,11:14:21,152-99 RP,D,FRESNO, 36.725106240,-119.7924651392,06/16/1998,11:14:26,99-180 FRESNO RP,D,180WYE, 36.724081636,-118.9553100709,06/16/1998,11:14:37,180-GENERALSHWY RP,D,CEDAR , 36.789929868,-118.6729324702,06/16/1998,10:59:26,CEDAR GROVE 4660 RP,D,DEERCV, 36.804166698,-118.7160194758,06/16/1998,11:04:26,DEER COVE TRAIL RP,D,TRLJCT, 36.854624665,-118.6976303346,06/16/1998,11:14:50,GRIZ ONLY NOT FRYPAN RP,D,FRYPAN, 36.850805283,-118.6948997620,06/16/1998,11:15:00,FRYPAN MDW BEAR BOX RP,D,KENPAS, 36.876270176,-118.6604119185,06/16/1998,11:12:20,KENNEDY PASS RP,D,KENNED, 36.879011393,-118.6682117824,12/31/1989,00:00:00,KENNEDY 11433 RP,D,GRIZLY, 36.864672304,-118.7215823773,06/16/1998,11:12:29,UP GRIZ LK IN RP,D,HARSAD, 36.872252227,-118.7327564601,06/16/1998,11:13:07,HARRINGTON SADDLE RP,D,HARRIN, 36.870058180,-118.7336201314,12/31/1989,00:00:00,HARRINGTON 11009