Mt. Brewer, South Guard

28 Aug 1999 - by Scott Sullivan

This trip got off to an ominous start when we drove through a spectacular thunder and lightning storm at night along highway 395. Past Lone Pine we left the storm behind and the weather seemed clear over the Sierra. We parked at the Onion Valley trailhead and went to sleep under clear skies. At some time later, a light rain began to fall. Soon it was pouring rain and thunder and lightning was all around us. Once again it was a spectacular storm.

By morning the storm had blown through and we awoke to clear skies. Just as we were about to leave, a backpacker asked for a ride to Whitney Portal where his car was. He and his partner were planning to hike there, but the storm had scared them. He claimed the weather forecast was for four or five more days of thunderstorms. This could not have been more wrong, we would not even see a cloud for the next three days.

Elena and I left at 7:30 for an uneventful hike in to East Lake, arriving at 4:45pm to bear stories from the previous night. Once again our timing was excellent and there was no sign of the bear while we were there.

We left at 6:15 in the morning, staying between Ouzel Creek and the stream to the north. We saw occasional ducks and the route was straightforward. We hopped on to the north side of the east ridge and followed this toward the summit. A few hundred feet below the summit, where further easy progress is blocked, we traversed on ledges to the south face and then up to the summit. The climb took 5 hours over pleasant and solid class 2 terrain.

After an hour on top, we headed down southwest toward the group of small lakes northeast of South Guard Lake. Before reaching these lakes, we headed up the northwest side of South Guard, reaching the wide flat ridge northeast of the summit. From here it was a quick, easy jaunt to the summit, where we arrived at 2:30pm. The traverse from Brewer had taken 2 1/4 hours.

After a half hour rest, we were ready for the tedious descent down Longley Pass. The top section is sandy and goes very fast. However, the terrain becomes boulder fields with a little bushwacking as you get lower down. We passed both Lake 11455 and Lake Reflection on the northwest sides and arrived back at camp at 7:15pm.

We left the next morning at 7:30 and reached the truck by 4pm. A ranger stopped us on the east side of Kearsarge Pass to check our permit.

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