Gabbro Peak

11-12 Jul 2019 - by Debbie Bulger

Four of us, my daughter Suzie, her friend Nathan, Richard and I set off for East Lake from the Green Creek trailhead for a three-day backpack. Suzie and Nathan were planning to fish; Richard and I wanted to climb Gabbro Peak. Gabbro is an igneous rock similar to basalt but with much larger crystals since it has cooled slowly.

As we hiked we were delighted to see recent work by beavers that had chomped down several large aspen trees. These industrious creatures were once considered non-native, but recent research has shown they indeed lived in the Sierra and benefit the environment. We could see Gabbro in the distance as we hiked toward East Lake where we would camp.


When a group of 18 fly fishers passed us followed by a humongous pack train loaded with gear, we decided to camp on the opposite (west) side of the lake in order to have some privacy.

This year the creeks were up from the heavy snow. I was glad for the extra help with stream crossings.

The mosquitoes were numerous so we wore headnets much of the time. Suzie and Nathan caught fish for supper.

The next morning Richard and I left camp at 6:30 a.m. and followed an unmaintained trail part of the way to the peak. Much of the way was covered with snow. Indeed, the fishing crowd across the lake were supposed to camp at Gilman Lake higher up the trail, but the horses could not get there because snow covered the trail.

Since snow blanketed the easier approach to Gabbro via a saddle, Richard and I chose the talus on the east face. The going was tough since the way was steep, and the talus was just the wrong size: difficult to walk on. When possible we chose blockier routes for easier going.


The snow patches posed more issues, since we had neither trekking poles nor ice axes. Instead of crossing one steep snow slope, we chose the safer option of kicking steps straight up, then traversing in the gap between the rock and the snow.


As we neared the summit, the terrain changed to blocks of easy to moderate third class.



And we were there: A cairn but no register on top. There was a wonderful bird's eye view of East Lake below, and with Richard's telephoto lens, a small orange piece of Suzie's tent 2000 feet below nestled in the trees.


To the west Virginia Peak dominated the view of northern Yosemite National Park.


We decided to return to camp via the saddle hoping for a quick snow slide home. Not so quick it turned out. First we had to clamber down the talus. Even with a brace on my left knee, my joints protested.

Finally snow and a good glissade.


We could see trail segments below beyond a small tarn. Surely it will be easy once we are on the trail.

But it was not to be. More steep snow which was dicey to cross without an ax or pole so we dropped down a hundred feet to rock. At one point we were "cliffed out" until we decided we could safely traverse hanging on to small Mountain Hemlock branches. Then up 200 feet to what I was sure would be easy going on the trail.

But no again. Debris flows had created gullies to cross and more snow patches made progress slow. I was becoming worried since I had told Suzie and Nathan to expect us by 2 or 3 p.m.

Unknown to us at the time Suzie had hiked toward the saddle about 4 p.m. and spotted us with her binoculars. When we finally made it back to camp at 5:30 p.m., Suzie and Nathan were expecting us. While we were climbing, they had hiked up to Gilman Lake and caught some more fish.

We hiked out the next day after a leisurely breakfast. Richard and I were heading south to Bishop for another hike, and Suzie and Nathan headed for some hot springs.

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