Two Times 12,000' In Mineral King

16 Oct 2004 - by Nathan Holcomb

This dayhike was inspired by the write-up Richard Vasser submitted in 1995, after his Mineral King double.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...the most annoying noise one can hear is that of an alarm-clock waking your sleepy ass up at 3:am. At least I could take comfort in the knowledge that the terribly rude, albeit self-induced disturbance was for a leisure day, and not work. Leisure being a subjective word because we are the suffer lovers. After adorning my porous mountain-wear, I sat down to a blandly delectable breakfast of cup o' noodles, chicken flavor. It is October 16, 2004 and I want to bag at least one more peak before the rains and snow fall this year.

From Visalia fast forward two hours, and I am pulling into a dark, empty, spot in the Eagle Lakes trailhead parking area in Mineral King. It is now 6:am and I am sitting in my car and delicately thrusting a Power Bar "chocolate flavor" and a Monster energy drink down my esophagus. Headlamp-check, camera-check, GPS-check, leaky Camelback-check...seems I am ready to roll!

I hit the trail with wild eyes at 6:15am. My headlamp was needed for only 30 minutes and it soon found a home in my pants pocket. The first few miles of the Franklin Pass trail are relatively flat and I was storming like a banshee. I've discovered that my hiking style is such that I prefer hiking quickly with about a 1-2 minute rest every half hour, instead of resting on the hour or two hours mark for 10 minutes. I reached the junction with the Farewell Gap trail at 7:30am and then Franklin Lake at around 8:30am. I savored a turkey and pastrami sandwich with some salt & vinegar potato chips on a rock overlooking Franklin Lake. Before I grew comfortable I was up and at em' again. My progress was beginning to slow through the switchbacks leading up to Franklin Pass. I achieved the bloody pass at around 10:15am and took a nice break. This was the last I recall looking at my watch until I reached the summit of Rainbow Mountain.

No rest for the wicked as I soon found myself walking toward the base of Florence Peak 12,432'. I knew that Franklin Pass lay at 11,800', and that most of the climbing had already been done with only about 600' more to gain. I must say that I had more fun scrambling to the top of Florence than I have on any of the other nine peaks I had climbed to date. The class 2 route described in Secor is completely workable if one chooses, but I was having more fun than is natural when suffering, and I thus opted for a more aesthetic weave and tried to keep my route class 3 as much as possible. I know that was a terrible run-on sentence, but I'm not an English teacher and you're still reading anyway ;) One more thing about the route up Florence, I would advocate this peak for novices like myself who are interested in practicing class 3 with class 2 escapes. The views from Florence Peak are breathtaking. You can see most of the peaks in Mineral king, the Kaweahs, some of the Sierra Crest, and a geologist would love the rock around here. There are several competing highpoints on Florence and I ended up climbing them all, I'm neurotic in only that way. I spied Rainbow Mountain from Florence and she beckoned, I'm not one to keep a lady waiting ;). I much prefer ascending to decending, but nevertheless made it safely back down to Franklin pass.

Rainbow Mountain is not particularly attractive from any direction and one has to wonder why certain peaks get names and others do not. Oh well, this one has a name and my attention at the moment. Hiking back down the Franklin pass trail to about 11,500' I then angled diagonally toward the peak, much as Richard Vasser did in his 1995 trip report. The climbing on Rainbow was much less fun as the scree and boulders were intermittent. The peak was eventually gained and after signing in and taking some photos I looked at my watch. 2:00 I knew I would not be hiking out by headlamp despite the short fall days. I tried descending the direct route as Richard did, I ended up getting caught in the cliff bands that he warns about unfortunately. They were luckily only a minor inconvenience, and with a few exposed moves I was safely below them.

I plunge stepped down the scree to the trail and found a nice, comfy, hard and pointy rock to sit on. I emptied the debris from my shoe and devoured a granola bar. After a spell I was upright and I turned my motor on. I cruised past Franklin Lake and flew by the Farewell Gap trail junction again. I cut at least a mile off my return mileage by taking use trails instead of switchbacks on the way down the Franklin Pass trail. I arrived back at my Kia at 4:45pm making for a 10.5 hour day. Richard Vasser states in his write-up that the mileage for this route is 19 with 5,400' elevation gain. I am gonna have to just go with that but maybe lessening my personal mileage to 18m.

This was a very satisfying double for two peaks over 12,000' "Florence 12,432', Rainbow 12,043'". Want to see my pictures from this hike...check here:

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