Gray Peak via Grayling Lake

22-24 Sep 2006 - by Nick Pilch

Andrew Wirkus, Dan Grey and Tony Rullan and I set out Friday morning for Grayling Lake from the Mono Meadows trailhead. We got a late start and were off around 9AM. We followed the trails towards Ottoway Lakes. The water in Illilouette Creek was pretty low at the crossing point. I got only the bottoms of my boots wet. After around 6 miles, we got to the crossing of the Clark Fork of the Illilouette Creek around lunchtime. Note that many maps get this wrong and show the wrong drainage or just one drainage crossing the trail at this point. The 7.5 minute map is correct.

After lunch, we headed first up along the Clark Fork drainage and then swung south a bit to pick up the Red Creek drainage which we followed, on the south side, all the way up to Grayling Lake (~8700'). To our surprise, another group was there. We camped a little ways up the ridge from them.

The route is about 6 miles on trail, 4 miles x-country and a little over 2000' elevation gain.

There had been much discussion of the best approach to Gray Peak (11573'). Secor calls the western ridge class 3. However, we had been warned against it by the inimitable Bob Suzuki, who said that some sections were totally exposed. A posting in said that the south face was also doable. I was holding out hope for this approach. There's something of a saddle to the east of the summit and a scree pile below it looked climbable and that had some vegetation growing on it.

Dan stayed at camp and 3 of us started out at 8. It is only a couple of miles as the crow flies. I decided we would hike up to the second drainage, the one that starts right below the south face, and have a better look. When we got there, the aforementioned scree pile looked good to me. We reached it and began to climb, but soon found out that the "saddle" contained a bunch of notches and chutes leading up to the them. We started our class 3 scrambling and I randomly picked a chute and we climbed to explore. Reaching the top of one notch, I looked straight down the other side at an almost vertical drop. However, I could also see that one could probably climb down to the southeast face from other notches. I backtracked to the next notch to the west and from that one we were able to climb down 30 feet and then start up the scree to the summit. The next notch to the west would have been perfect I think. The GPS reading on the east side of the notch was N 37 40' 16" W 119 25' 05.4". Andrew was on top first, followed by Tony and then myself.

Looking at the topo map again, I think straight up the south face is probably doable too, but looked intimidating at the time.

Seemed like the topo map shows the eastern peak to be the summit However, a altitude reading showed the western peak to be 20' higher. We hung out at the eastern summit, and Tony and I hiked over to the western summit and I added our names to the summit register there (further confirming it to be the actual summit). The weather was clear, the view was grand, with all of the Sierra crest in view to the east, and Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Mt. Starr King to the west.

After some food, we hiked back down the southeast face and walked on the eastern side of the Clark Range ridge up to the next saddle right above the big lake at 10425'. We hiked down to the lake, got our toes wet and then headed back to camp down the main Red Creek drainage. We arrived in camp around 4:15.

We hiked out the next day. Started around 8 and arrived at the cars around 1:30.

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