Wanting to clear out SPS's Secton 23 for some time, I finally got to it this past week (10/13+/99). I intentionally waited until Fall to avoid crowds, bugs, snow, high water and to enjoy the Fall colors. Several web reports and beta from Rob Langsdorf was helpful, but I found the best information from Richard Carey's archives which he had generously provided. I also had the Yamagata guidebook, which was of some use.
Round Top; Caples Lake 7.5' : By far, from the top down, looking all around, there is no easier way to the summit than from Woods Lake. It's a virtual trail to the summit. Park at the picnic area near the lake, then walk back through the campground towards its west side and the trailhead that goes past the Lost Cabin Mine. Continue on good use trail southeast of Round Top Lake towards the saddle between Round Top and The Sisters. Once on the summit's crest, stay high and proceed east, dropping down perhaps 50' on cruddy loose pebbly rock then across a gully and back up into the short and easy section of class three to the summit. Ken Olson and his (class three rock climbing) dog Buster joined me for the hike and an hour on the summit. 2 hours up, 1.5 down, 5 miles RT, 2150' gain.
Mokelumne Peak; Bear River Res. and Mokelumne Peak 7.5' : The hike is trivial compared to the drive in to the Tanglefoot TH. Maps didn't match reports/guides or USFS road signs. I took carefull directions, mileages, GPS "tracks" and UTMs on the drive out and will eventually post (somewhere, perhaps in .pdf) the details. The hike is mostly on trail and the (cross country portion) brush is not as bad as reports would have you believe (or perhaps those authors don't know what "real" Southern California brush is like :> ). Fortunately, the spring alongside the trail was flowing and I took full advantage of the cool water. I left the trail at UTM 750753E 4269207N staying about 300' below and south of 8626' and heading towards the saddle between there and the summit seemed easiest. Be careful not to miss the trail on return from the summit, I walked right over it before realizing I'd gone too far. I saw no one else on the trail or at the trailhead. 3.2 hours up, 2.75 down, 13 miles RT, 3700' gain.
Stevens Peak; Carson Pass 7.5' : this isn't an SPS peak but I had an extra day while waiting for my friend Brian Smith, we did Highland together. Stevens is a straighforward hike/climb a couple of miles north of Carson Pass and I took the simple class three route as noted in Pete's guidebook. Later that day, I went to soak in Grover Hot Springs, just west of Markleeville (email available at the local library in town). The springs are $4 and are open from 2 to 9 PM.
Highland Peak; Ebbetts Pass 7.5' : Brian Smith drove up from LA to do this peak with me. We took the Noble Canyon trail (per RLC's advice) and this worked well. No need to drive west to Ebbetts Pass if coming from Markleeville. The trailhead is 1.4 miles west of the Silver Creek campground (3rd switchback), parking for perhaps four or five cars. Take the trail south to the 7860' contour, then head east up the ridge to the saddle, turn south and stay on the west side to avoid cliffs. It was a clear, windy, cold and enjoyable day. 4 hours up, 3 down, 9 miles RT, 3650' gain.
Disaster Peak; Disaster Peak 7.5' : Again with Ken and Buster along, we enjoyed another perfect-weather day. The standard ascent takes off from the end of the Clark Fork Road, Disaster Creek trailhead. After hiking 2.5 miles north, you'll arrive at/near Allen's Camp. A faint/ducked trail heads/starts southeast from here at UTM 259000E, 4259060N (thanks RLC and I verified his UTM as accurate). The trail does clearly intersect the main trail (at the aforementioned UTM) but is faint here and there, especially since so many "belled" cattle graze in the area down low. Higher up, it's easier to follow. We took this trail to where it intersects the 8800' contour and then headed NE towards the summit coming/curving at it from the east/southeast. On descent, we found a higher trail that seemed plausible and despite Ken's cautioning, I decided to take it. Well, about 0.5 miles later, it was heading too hard north (going where we couldn't determine) and I/we aborted the choice and recovered by going hard cross country west/southwest to rejoin (eventually) the main trail. Not quite a "disaster" and I needed my navigational skills tested anyway. 4 hours up, 3.5 down, 9 miles RT, 3600' gain.
Black Hawk; Emigrant Lake and Sonora Pass 7.5' : Being late season, I obtained permission from the Kennedy Meadows' staff to park at the Resort's lot. This saves about 0.5 miles (each way) from the hiker parking area (where you can overnight camp). Just beyond the Resort, the one mile dirt road to the wilderness boundary is gated. I later learned from an "old timer" that the gate can be locked at any time and the lock is controlled cooperatively by both the Resort and PG&E. So, one best walk the extra one mile (each way) to avoid being locked in. Anyway, I got an early start, 6:45 AM, in near darkness. I followed Steve Eckert's report to the "sandy meadow at 8800' ". Past the wilderness boundary and two bridges, there are two intersections to get to this point : one) don't take the spur to that heads east to Kennedy Lake (instead hike past the PG&E shack to the south) and two) turn east/left at the "T" intersection to Saucer Meadow - the signs here are "broke" and are lying on the ground as of this writing. Inspecting Steve's suggested route, between snow slivers and uncertain terrain, I opted not to take "one of the class two defects". Instead, I took RLC's advice and continued another 0.5 mile or so past Sheep Camp towards UTM 263920E, 4233660N to cross the creek and go south to the ridgeline. From here, an interesting variety of slabs, boulders and "tunnels" head SW past two false summits to the real summit (a black, rounded "bump" akin to what you'd expect to find in the desert). I spent on hour on top admiring the rare views of the area northwest of Yosemite NP. I saw no one all day along the trail, nor did I see any airborn black hawks. 4.5 hours up, 3.6 down, 19 miles (+/-) RT, 4000' gain
Stanislaus/Sonora : From Mary's Pass trailhead a mile or so west of Sonora Pass, this good trail leads north to the base of crumbly Stanislaus's summit block's SE/E side, rated high class two. On return, I did Sonora (higher, better views, but a sloggier and much more popular climb) from the MP trail. 5 hours round trip, 10 miles, 3500' gain. Looking around from Stans' summit, I had to question how Disaster made the SPS list. Other area peaks seem much more impressive or at least, not quite so lame.
Finally, my passion, range highpoints : Ricky Mtn. Just west of Bridgeport is the New Range. Don't ask me how the BGN stuck a range in here, but, there it is on the 7.5' maps. Anyway, Ricky Mtn is a controversial highpoint because the range bleeds into several nearby ridges off the main Sierra. From the summit, aesthetics dictate it is a viable range highpoint and it works for me. Even if not, the hike is a good workout through beautiful pine and aspen forests. You can see the peak due west of Bridgeport, it's got a distinctive "nipple" as its summit.
It was a great week in the northern Sierra. Fall weather can be cold, days a bit short, but it's an ideal time to stow the backpack and crank out some good long dayhikes while enjoying the comforts of car camping.
Anyway, the SPS list is shelved for the season, now it's desert time!
Aaron Schuman wrote:
> Wanting to clear out SPS's Section 23 for some time, > I finally got to it this past week
Too bad! You could have frolicked over that glorious land, exalted in it, savored it, delighted in it, fallen in love with it, communed with your creator in it, rubbed its soil into your skin and washed off in its lakes, seen it in a way it has never been seen before. Instead, you cleared it out like a cluttered basement.
Mitch Miller adds:
I have a pretty good feeling the reasons you state are the reasons Mark got into this and stays in it. I, for one, haven't lost sight of my original reasons for taking up peakbagging, which is much easier to say in a short space and time than all I would really mean, and you state. It is a carrot on a stick, and along the way we enjoy the journey, then talk about the game like many would speak of other solo sports in which they keep score. But the Sierra beats the hell out of any golf course. Mark didn't clear it out like a cluttered basement, he cleared it out like sinuses. Aahhhhhhh....
Mark D Adrian replied:
Well, actually, "cleared" is a bit blunt. In reality, I suspect most SPSers take several trips to do what I've done in a week. I "lived" there for that time/week rather than bolting in and out. It's a matter of style and I only took one "bath" so I figure I "rubbed its soil into my skin" pretty well (let's not go there). I also enjoy the long sleeps at night and tuning into the moon's cycle and "feeling" the days grow shorter. Also, these peaks are great for soloing, especially Black Hawk since it's so remote and the challenge is compelling. Part of peakbagging for me is not only to experience the beauty of wilderness but to also accomplish the goal of climbing a peak and returning safely under your own self (or group) reliance. I think the intensity of these experiences is individual. Some people prefer new peaks every outing (like me) while others are content repeating peaks or lists indefinitely. In any event, while it may seem to you (and others) like I simply run in and out, there's more to it than that for me. I enjoy the scenery, the isolation, the distancing from distractions and re-prioritization of life while I'm in the mountains. Every time I return from a multi day trip I need to reacclimate to "city" life. Time takes on a different pace when I return, so the impact of climbing goes beyond just the act of completing a list. The list is an objective that gives me structure and focus. I figure the SPS list is (or should be) a comprehensive selection of the "better" peaks in the Sierra, or is at least a starting point. RJ's book certainly has many more peaks to offer than "the list". So, yes, perhaps my "basement" is cluttered with peaks, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
Keep in mind that area 23 is a lot longer drive for me than for those in the Bay Area. I consider it a good return on investment if I climb one peak for every 100 miles I drive. I climbed nine new peaks and drove 1200 miles, so, not ideal, but it's close. We could get into the politics of burning gas and polluting the air so we can get to the mountains. I try to minimize that impact, but I don't pretend to be a saint. I've never known any climber to stay at home because of self-imposed quotas. Anyway, that's all off topic here anyway.