Ian is not a Given

2-4 Feb 2005 - by Steve Eckert

Here's the panoramic view from Mt Ian Campbell. Click on this image for a much larger pop-up:

But back to the beginning! The weather had been very bad, then it had been very good, and I wasn't sure it would be good until I could round up a group and find a free weekend, so I went solo mid-week. There were other reports for Kaiser Peak (north of Kaiser Pass) so I went south.

I parked at the Eastwood Sno-Park, as far as you can drive toward Kaiser Pass in the winter, and walked up the groomed snowmobile trail (the summer road) to the pass. There's one significant shortcut where you can follow a power line and cut a switchback (as described in the Kaiser Pass driving directions file where you'll also find waypoints for trailheads), but other than that it's a slog carrying snowshoes.

From the pass, it's a short walk on packed trail to the end of legal snowmobile territory at the White Bark Vista Point. Finally (at 2pm) I needed snowshoes. The next 1.5 miles took me 2.5 hours as I learned that only the windslab within 50' of the ridgeline was walkable. Down by Huntington Lake it had been somewhat solid in the trees, up by Kaiser Pass it had been somewhat sticky in the sun, but around 10k it was slippery powder, breakable crust, or windslab.

Sunset was colorful and early:

I camped at the saddle just north of Mt Givens (about 10k) by a rock outcropping. It's been over a year since I was out solo, and nothing beats the quiet solitude of camping on a ridge in the middle of winter. I didn't bother with a snow cave, but I did set up my bivy bag in case the wind came back.

Up with the sun, I was soon on Mt Givens (10648') admiring the peak-spotting scope that looks like a fancy high school shop project built from a brake drum. About half a dozen people sign in per year, but the glass-jar register is broken.

Down the other side, across a trackless expanse of ridge, and up to Mt Ian Campbell (10616') got me to my second goal a full 2 hours ahead of my turnaround time. I had told people that I might not make it to either peak, and Campbell was especially "iffy" depending on snow conditions, but with an early start it was no problem.

That's me, on Ian Campbell's mini-summit:

I phoned in my revised climbing plan and snow conditions, then headed back over Givens to camp. It was more work to sidehill in the now-sticky fluff than it was to climb back over the peak.

I decided to return via Rancheria Creek instead of Kaiser Pass, something I heartily recommend to future travellers. It's all "downhill", but the powder was deep and the trees were thick below 9k so it's not a cake-walk. I parked for a second night on somewhat of a clearing so I could enjoy the late sun, then spent half of a third day hiking on down to the car. Since the creek runs all year and the trees were thick, I searched for (and found) the old road (at about 8.4k) which sidehills back out to Kaiser Pass Road.

There were no tracks anywhere except snowmobiles. Four of them illegally drove up to Mt Givens' summit between my two visits but I never saw them. On the lower part of my walk out I ran into a guy who's participating in a survey of Martins to see if the motorized traffic affects where birds will live. Later I learned you can rent a snowmobile at Rancheria Enterprises for $190/day or $275 overnight, but I think snowshoes were just fine for me. It's all easy terrain, suitable for intermediate skiing if you don't mind breakable crust.

The big surprise for me was the vast sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada - all the way from Lyell to Goddard!

"There were no tracks anywhere except snowmobiles. Four of them illegally drove up to Mt Givens' summit between my two visits but I never saw them."

Harlan Suits responds:

I would encourage anyone who has encountered snowmobilers trespassing in areas that are closed to them to report the incident using the Snowlands Network guidelines: http://www.snowlands.org/pages/take_action/report_conflicts.htm [link updated 2009]

I personally have encountered illegal snowmobilers or their tracks in Lassen Volcanic National Park (twice), Yosemite National Park (near Tower Peak), Desolation Wilderness (twice), Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. It's a real bummer when you slog into a winter wilderness for unspoiled solitude/to ski a peak and you find the highest peaks in the area trashed.

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