I climbed Bear Creek Spire and Mount Dade out of Rock Creek/Little Lakes Valley in the Eastern Sierra as part of a couple days of adventure running over the 4th of July weekend. The lakes below 11k were unfrozen while the lakes above 11k remain partly to mostly frozen. With the onset of warm temperatures, snow conditions are changing rapidly. We timed the morning light perfectly with some great reflection shots and then ascended up to the head of the valley where solid snow begins just above Gem Lakes. The snowpack heading up to Cox Col from Dade Lake was nicely consolidated and the steeper slopes were great for cramponing (crampons might not be necessary with boots, but we used trail runners). The view from the summit pinnacle of Bear Creek Spire was as amazing as I had recalled from four years prior. After Bear Creek Spire we traversed along the west side of the crest and found a steep, loose gully to take us into Dade Bowl on the east side of the crest. I ascended to the summit of Mount Dade with some distasteful post-holing on the upper snowfields but the great views and glissade down the Hourglass more than compensated. I soaked in more great views from Treasure Lakes all the way back to the trailhead; 10:15 roundtrip.
Many more photos here.
The North Cascades are the most rugged and wild mountains in the contiguous United States. They are heavily glaciated and often difficult to access. I have been climbing in the North Cascades for many years and the breathtaking scenery never gets old. Here are some adventure run ideas I have for the Cascades this summer:
- Westside Northern Pickets Traverse: From Hannegan Pass to Diablo Lake, this year’s route through the Pickets is even more remote and rugged than last year’s Luna Cirque Traverse and passes underneath the towering walls of the Southern Picket “fence.” The terrain is arduous and challenging so the Westside is only traversed a couple times a year, if at all. Intense summit names like Challenger, Fury, Terror, Crooked Thumb, and Phantom manifest the difficulty of reaching this fabled region and there is virtually no evidence of human impact.
- Redoubt and Spickard: I visited this spectacular area near the Canadian border way back in 2004 in a climb of Mount Redoubt via Depot Creek. I’d like to return and climb Mount Spickard at some point since the summit has one of the best views in the entire North Cascades.
- Isolation Traverse: A high traverse through the seldom visited region between Snowfield Peak and Eldorado Peak with views of the rugged McAllister Glacier cirque.
- Wonderland Trail: This amazing 94 mile loop around Mount Rainier has been on my radar for a few years and it is definitely something I hope to do someday.
The spectacular High Sierra features almost limitless opportunities for exploration. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to visit many places in the “range of light” but the gorgeous views and memorable experiences keep me coming back for more! Here are some adventure run ideas for the High Sierra for this summer:
- The Whaleback and Big Wet Meadow: One of the most remote spots in the entire range, it takes 18 miles just to reach Big Wet Meadow in order to get a glimpse of The Whaleback, but I hear the views of the sheer granite cliffs and meadows are magical. A trip here would be a good opportunity to climb peaks on the Great Western Divide, including Milestone, Midway, and Centennial.
- Dusy Basin and North Palisade: A trip over Bishop Pass to Dusy Basin provides an awe-inspiring view of the West side of the Palisades group of extremely rugged peaks. Last year I climbed Mount Agassiz and Columbine Peak. Next time it would be nice to climb North Palisade, the highest point in the Palisades at 14,248 ft.
- Palisades Circumnavigation: A complete tour of the Palisades Group including passage through five high passes: Scimitar Pass, Potluck Pass, Thunderbolt Pass, and Jigsaw Pass.
- Benson Lake Loop: A big loop (over 45 miles) out of Twin Lakes down to a large alpine lake with a full fledged beach and then up the spectacular Matterhorn canyon with great views of Sawtooth Ridge. This aesthetic loop has a nice chunk along the PCT. I visited the beginning and end of this loop last year on my run of the Crown Point Lollipop last year.
- Hamilton Lakes and Kaweah Gap: Last year we visited this spectacular section of the High Sierra Trail and climbed Mount Stewart. This area has tremendous views and the magnificent amphitheater of rock walls of the Valhallas surrounding the Hamilton Lakes has been likened to a little Yosemite Valley. It was also great to visit Precipice Lake, location of Ansel Adams’ famous photo “Frozen Lake and Cliffs.” The only difference is that the entrance to this place is 16 miles from the nearest trailhead. The views were so amazing that I plan to return this year and climb a different peak, perhaps Eagle Scout Peak or Lion Rock. As a run, the High Sierra Trail from Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw camp is very enjoyable and runnable stretch of trail.
- Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: The view of Arrow Peak from Bench Lake is one of the classic views in the Sierra. It’s quite a slog to get back there via Taboose Pass, but it looks like it will be worth it!
- Lyell and Maclure: I climbed these peaks in 2008, but look forward to returning for a faster time. The first several miles along Lyell Canyon are mostly flat and smooth running.
- Great Western Divide Traverse: One of the most remote and rugged areas in the High Sierra. These peaks form a spectacular skyline from the Sierra Crest. There are many options and routes up various peaks.
- Russell-Whitney-Muir: Fun scrambling up Russell and the north face of Whitney on this very aesthetic loop of the Whitney region.
- Mount Langley: Another great trail run up the southermost fourteener in the Sierras and one of the highest trailheads at over 10,000 feet.
- John Muir Trail: 222 miles from Whitney Portal to Yosemite Valley, the JMT is one of the most famous trails in the world. At the very least, I’d like to cover significant portions of this trail that I have not already seen to prepare for a future speed attempt.
When I climbed Alta Peak in September I knew that I had to return to see the spectacular view in the winter. Alta Peak is located in Sequoia National Park in the Southern High Sierra and is accessed from Wolverton. Winter Alta Peak is actually a different point along the ridge from the traditional summit at the end of the Alta Peak Trail. In fact, Winter Alta is slightly higher than Alta Peak (11,328 ft vs 11,204 ft). Moreover, the route to Alta Peak is significantly different in the winter. While the summer trail crosses Panther Gap to the southern slopes, the winter route stays to the north side of the ridge and ascends to Pear Lake (the southern slopes are steep and prone to avalanches). Pear Lake contains a ranger station that is used as a ski hut in the winter. From Pear Lake, ski opportunities abound in every direction.
The ascent to Winter Alta is straightforward from Pear Lake climbing moderate snow slopes around the rock thumb named the “Matterhorn” to more gentle slopes above and concluding with a couple hundred vertical of more moderate slopes before the summit is reached. The view from the top is truly amazing, and unlike the Alta Peak trail in the summer, the vast majority of the breathtaking vista appears at once. This awe-inspiring vantage includes Mount Brewer, the Great Western Divide, Black Kaweah, and peaks around Mineral King. You can gaze down into the forested canyons of the Middle Fork Kaweah River or the expansive undulating snow tundra of the Tablelands region. The San Joaquin Valley is also visible although on this day it was shrouded by a fog and stratus layer at the 3,000 ft level. The approach, ascent, and summit views in the winter are truly beautiful and well worth the effort required to get there. I will definitely be returning for further explorations of the vast Tablelands region out to Big Bird Peak. Enjoy some photos from the climb (click for larger version). The complete album is here.
Many more photos from the trip here!
A recap of 2010 adventures runs; from coast to crest, this past year was an amazing mix of scenery! Click on the name of the adventure for a link to the blog entry or trip report. The adventure run recap for 2009 is here. I’m looking forward to 2011 and already gathering ideas for another fantastic year of adventures!
Big Sur Coastline
Summit shot on Mount Shasta
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
Hamilton Lakes and the Valhallas
View from the summit of Mount Brewer
Barney Lake and Crown Point
Dusy Basin with Winchell, Thunderbolt, North Palisade, and Isosceles Peak
- Alta Peak – Sequoia National Park, September 25, 2010
Great Western Divide from Alta Peak
On Saturday, I hiked up 11,204 ft Alta Peak in Sequoia National Park with Joel to help acclimate for the Rae Lakes Loop adventure run the following day. Alta Peak has a spectacular view of the Great Western Divide which was a bit hazy on this day due to the nearby Sheep Fire which has been burning since mid July. It took us 2 hours to hike the 7 miles to the summit from Wolverton. After an hour on top enjoying the views, we headed down with a stop to photograph the beautiful alpine trees below the summit. I also stumbled into a friend from Rice University who was hiking up the mountain by coincidence – it’s a small world! We were back at the Wolverton lot 1.5 hours after departing the summit. The trail up Alta Mountain has a relatively gentle grade for the majority which makes it a great trail run. I will definitely return to Alta Peak in the winter and/or spring to soak in the 360 degree view in clear conditions and with a coat of snow over the peaks. The area around Alta Peak is also relatively accessible in the winter for some great backcountry skiing opportunities. More photos here!
I have been to the Palisades twice before but never via South Lake so I figured this would be a great opportunity to see Bishop Pass and Dusy Basin. I started at around 6:30 am and headed up the nice trail, coming across spectacular reflections in the tarns near Long Lake. I continued up through more lakes and then the final switchbacks up to the pass. From the pass, I headed up the talus slopes to the summit of 13,891 ft Mount Agassiz. The talus was not very loose helping to make relatively fast time up the slope, arriving at the top 2:40 after beginning at South Lake. I spent nearly an hour on the summit snapping photos and chatting with a couple from Bishop who arrived at the summit 30 minutes after me. The views in the morning sunlight were amazing! Check out many more photos here.
Eventually, I got going again and made quick time back to Bishop Pass and then into Dusy Basin. Part of the appeal of climbing Columbine Peak is the traverse across Dusy Basin, famous for its alpine lakes with views of the sheer walls of Mount Winchell, Thunderbolt Peak, and North Palisade towering above. I picked a route across the Basin and took many photographs of the lakes near Isosceles Peak, which is aptly named. I continued on through boulders and slabs to Knapsack Pass where I began the climb up Columbine Peak. I went up the arete directly from Knapsack Pass which proved to be more difficult than the advertised class 2/3 climbing for a sustained period (almost until the summit). I found out on the descent that the easier route is on the south side of the ridge, but some class three climbing is still unavoidable. To get to the easier route, follow a use path around the base of cliffs towards Barrett Lakes/Palisade Basin from Knapsack Pass. At the point where a gully is crossed begin heading up and the easier route is apparent (gravel and talus). Taking this route on the way down saved some time and energy and I was happy to not have to down climb some of the sections I had done on the ascent.
Columbine Peak features the best view of the west side of the Palisades subrange and a great vantage point of other surrounding peaks, Palisade Basin, and Dusy Basin. The return trip through Dusy Basin was just as spectacular and I stopped to take many photos. Once atop Bishop Pass I jogged the remainder of the way back to the trailhead at South Lake, arriving 9:26 after beginning. This is a fantastic area and I hope to return soon for more photography, climbs, and adventure runs.
Many more photos here!
Crown Point (11,346 ft) is located in Northern Yosemite and has a commanding 360 degree view of the surrounding region, including Sawtooth Ridge and Matterhorn Peak. Access is via Twin Lakes and the Hoover Wilderness outside of Bridgeport so Sonora Pass is the preferred driving route. The area is characterized by numerous lovely alpine lakes set amidst Sierra granite. I have been interested in this area for awhile so it was great to finally see it and I already have ideas for more extensive travels into the heart of Northern Yosmite for the next time.
Peeler Lake, with a sapphire blue color, is located on the Sierra Crest with dual outlets on either side – one flowing to the Great Basin and another to the Pacific Ocean via the Tuolumne Watershed/Hetch Hetchy. I took the Robinson Creek trail about 9 miles to the north side of Peeler Lake and then headed cross country traversing around the granite shores and then ascending the north slopes of Crown Point. Crown Point has great views of Tower Peak, Kerrick Meadows, Sawtooth Ridge, and the deep blue Peeler Lake. From the summit I descended towards Rock Island Pass where I picked up the trail, eventually rejoining with the Robinson Creek Trail after passing through a magical basin of lakes ranging in color from blue to teal. Total mileage was about 22 miles in 6:45. More impressive was the fact that I drove from the Bay Area that morning, departing at 5:30 am! Dozens more photos of at least a half dozen alpine lakes, including Barney Lake, Peeler Lake, Snow Lake, and Crown Lake, are located here.
Dozens more photos here.
Mount Brewer is an impressive peak located on the Great Western Divide in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Due to its location west of the crest, the summit provides amazing views of the Southern High Sierra including Mount Whitney, the Palisades, the Kaweahs, the Kings-Kern Divide, and the Great Western Divide. Likewise, its prominent summit is easily recognizable from many points in the region.
The elevation gain from the nearest trailhead, Road’s End at Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon, is substantial with the starting altitude at 4,600 ft and the summit at 13,570 ft. The climb entails about 7 miles of trail followed by an equal amount of off-trail travel including copious talus hopping, some brush, marshy bogs, and granite slabs. The route passes through the gorgeous Sphinx Lakes region with a string of high alpine lakes. The climb itself is straightforward with mainly class two and three scrambling. The roundtrip took 12:45 with an hour on the summit to enjoy the gorgeous views, which later became hazy as smoke from the Sheep Fire rose out of Kings Canyon. More photos here.
More photos here.