Painted Lady

11-12 Oct 2003 - by Reiner Stenzel

This Painted Lady is not the butterfly but a named Sierra peak, formerly known as the Colored Lady or the Pyramid. Since she is not mentioned in trip reports on or the SPS Archives, this one may fill the gap. She is very pretty, easy to climb, and rewards her visitors with great views of the Rae Lakes area in Kings Canyon N.P. But not being on the List she is neglected by most SPS'rs. Since our scheduled SMS trip died due to lack of participation I decided to solo her. On Fri I left LA by lunchtime, got a wilderness permit in Lone Pine by 3:30pm, hiked from Onion Valley to Golden Trout Lake from 4-6pm. The plan was to go XC via Gould Pass to the Rae Lakes area. There was not a soul at the popular Golden Trout Lakes. Sunset and full moon rise were beautiful. But the next 12 hours were spent in a bivvy to escape a cool breeze of the fall night.

On Sat I was up by first light and hiked out at 7am. At the NW end of Golden Trout Lake a chute leads up to an open cirque. To the west is an easy sandy slope, which leads to Mt Gould. Keeping right (NW) of the high point on the ridge leads to Gould Pass (3820m, 11,920',UTM 11 377038E 4071681N, NAD27). There is an unmarked wooden post at the pass. While the eastern approach is trivial the west side of Gould Pass is a steep chute filled with loose rocks. It leads to an unnamed lake (3650m), which is bypassed on the south side. Continuing west one passes between two further unnamed lakes (3580m). It is best to stay to the right (N) of a ridge that extends north from Peak 3912m. This avoids unnecessary talus hopping. The Painted Lady is now in clear view. It has pretty bands of red, white and black rock. The north and east face is steep but the ascent from the south end and along the ridge is easy. I climbed a chute in the red rocks to reach the ridge. Following the ridge the rock changes to white, then black. Strictly following the ridge involves some minor class 3 moves but these can be bypassed on the class 2 west side. I summitted at 11am and searched in vain for the peak register. While collecting rocks for a cairn to place a new register I uncovered an old plastic container with two sheets of names in it. The Lady has lately not been visited by Sierra Club'rs. The views from the summit are excellent (3694m, 12,126', UTM 11 375218E, 4072634N, NAD27). Just north of the peak is the entire chain of the Rae Lakes. One can see an occasional hiker on the John Muir Trail, which climbs from the lakes up to Glen Pass. Fin Dome sticks out. Of course, the big peaks are in clear sight: Clarence King, Gardiner, Cotter, Dragon, Black, Pinchot and in the distance Split and the Palisade Range. The north side of Rixford is quite impressive. After taking many pictures I descended at noon and headed back to Gould Pass. Forgot to mention the radio towers on the Gould ridge and the debris that the constructors dumped into the chutes (aren't we supposed to carry used TP out?). The best way to climb the 1000' gully filled with loose scree and talus is to stay close to the rock walls. By 2pm I was back at Gould Pass, an hour later at camp next to Golden Trout Lake. I packed out and headed leisurely down taking many pictures of the pretty fall colors. At 5pm I was back at the car and after a 4-hour drive back at home. It was a fine hike in the fall.

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