Mt. Stanford (north) to Mt. Morgan (north) Traverse

29-31 May 2004 - by Dee Booth

Over Memorial Day weekend, Arun Mahajan, Rick Booth and I, Dee Booth, went to Rock Creek and the Hilton Lakes trailhead to make the Stanford to Morgan traverse. There are two trailheads, one just before the Pine Grove campground that does not appear to have any parking and is not well marked, and the one across from Rock Creek Lake which is well marked and does have parking. We chose the latter trailhead and by 9:55 AM were walking up the trail, reaching our destination at 1:30 PM after a leisurely four mile hike in. We made our camp at one of the Hilton Creek Lakes at about 10,300 feet. It is an idylic setting with a beautiful lake, lots of trees and several good flat spots for camping. The trail was mostly free of snow until the switch backs leading up to the lake.

At 5:50 the next morning we were walking towards Lake 10,353. We did not follow the drainage but instead climbed the hill above it and skirted it on the south side. From the inlet, we followed the drainage trying to stay close to the creek to avoid unnecessary elevation gains and losses. The drainage ends at a headwall where we took a moderately steep, snow covered slope on its east side up to the saddle. We stayed above and north of the tarn that drains into Lake Stanford and proceeded up Stanford's moderate, snow covered eastern slope. Once in the rocky bowl you finally see the summit. I had difficulty distinguishing it from the rest of the ridge line but it is northwest of the false summit that you see in the drainage. At 10:40 AM, we reached the summit.

At 11:15 AM we started out on the ridge to make the one mile traverse to Mt. Morgan. The route is obvious and stays class two most of the way with some class three. We stayed primarily on the crest of the ridge especially for the snow covered areas. At 2:05 PM we reached a pinnacle on the southern end of the broad saddle between an unnamed peak (3953 meters) and Mt. Morgan. From here we descended to the saddle and up the rocky slope to the summit of Mt. Morgan. I was pleasantly surprised to find the rock on this slope solid and the footing good. Morgan has two high points with the northern most being the summit. We got there at 3:25 PM.

The descent went easily down a gully just south of the summit. The rock here was also solid but we opted instead to glissade down a long snow slope. Where the snow ended at about 11,300 feet we went south, crossing over another snow field into the next drainage. We continued down a long sandy slope into a wooded area. As we descended steep slopes to Davis Lake, we kept moving south. Once at the lake we picked up a use trail which led us to the inlet between Davis Lake and Lake 9852. The 7.5 minute USGS map shows a trail beginning at this outlet and continuing up the switch backs to our camp but we never found this trail. Instead we got into the drainage leading up to the lake at which we were camped and followed it until we met up with the trail we had taken in the previous day. By 7:15 PM we were back at camp after a seven mile loop and total evelvation gain of about 4,300 feet.

From flipping through the summit registers, it doesn't appear that this route is climbed often but it is among the finest I've done in the Sierra. The rock is solid, the route finding easy and the scrambling fun. Even the descent was straightforward and fun

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