THOMPSON PEAK (9,002') 2X July 2-4, 1983
Developing a new leader for the Climbing-Knapsack Section, I had taken Rick along for a few climbs, instructing him on peak climbing up to class 3. We did a few more peaks together, and he deemed himself fit enough to lead Sierra Club local chapter trips. His bent was for some lifelong female companionship, which he secured later. In this spirit of mountaineering, he was to lead a few joint trips for and with the Singles Section, securing a larger pool of participants.
Meeting the morning of the trip, a Saturday, we carpooled from town and drove up to Weaverville, CA, for lunch. I was to be reminded of the exclusionary intent of many such people, with tables filled at a burger joint, and me then sitting alone. Being the assistant leader, I had to swallow my dignity and take up the rear of this group, from our start at the Canyon Creek Lakes trailhead.
One hiker had been allowed along, even though the trip was then up past the wilderness quota, 25 people, then. Apparently counting correctly was not a specialty of the leader. I had to approve the extra participant, as she had come all this way. It may sometimes be smarter to allow for no-shows, as often happens. If we ran into a ranger, as we did, I just had to presume that he would not bother, or be strictly counting!
The hikers marveled at the sight of the
distant peaks. The Trinity Alps is a true alpine range, with icefields
or glaciers of sorts. We backpacked up the trail,
and I was well in the rear, with a slow overweight hiker who had
tagged along to bag a grudge peak, for some of them. On my initial
climb back in 1975, ice axes were required, along with class 3
ability. I thought the peak was a cream puff, and would have rather
rock climbed on the Stonehouse Buttress.
But that may have been out of my ability, even back then.
The group failed to wait at the only trail junction, so the slow hiker began to take the wrong way. No map or compass training for such people, despite this one being an avid participant on such trips. I made the correction, and we caught up with the group close to our base camp. In the meantime, we saw the beautiful sight of the Canyon Creek Falls, in addition to the stately forest. Some wildlife in the form of a deer showed itself to me.
The leader picked a camp after suggestions by the wilderness ranger, and we set up our tents or laid out tarps. We had dinners made separately, with plenty of time to lounge about. One hiker put his tent at the top of a nearby falls. It was granite terrain, with snowclad summits about us.
I slept well, as I knew this was my Heaven. Familiar with the geography, it was an easy matter to hike up the heavier snowpack, this year, and bag the peak.
The next day, we hiked up past the Canyon Creek Lakes, and spotted this fallen tree at the bottom of an avalanche chute. We had a log over the raging creek to cross, and thank our lucky stars that no one fell into the rushing water. We had almost continuous snow, and the leader led up the canyon, punching steps in the rather firm snow. He chose a route on the right side of the slopes, not the left as was logical. I had to inquire about his route-finding, and then we went more for the true peak. Some of the hikers had no ice axes or crampons. I had to advise them that they might be in jeopardy due to their lack of gear and skills. I don't order hikers down from the peaks, as they are mostly grown adults, and are left to their own judgement on what to do and bring along.
Gaining the main ridge to the top, it was steep with harder snow. The leader did a good job of kicking steps, with some hikers turning back due to approaching clouds. They failed to have rainwear, a basic on all climbs, for me. Some sharpened sticks to use for possible self-arrest. It was obvious that hazardous conditions were developing for some of this group. The leader had allowed people to come along without either sufficient experience or gear. He seemed to hold in disbelief that any such climbing could be that dangerous.
We finally reached the top, myself dutifully
trailing the slow hiker. She asked for a boost up the summit block,
easy class 3, but with some arm strength required to pull oneself
I began to shoot pictures, and I was distracted by other hikers, and inadvertently tried to change film without rewinding the roll. Fortunately, I lost only a few frames, and reshot the summit views.
With our time up here, other hikers began
to get bored. One did a highly exposed step, showing his daring
and foolishness, even as we had a rope of sorts along. Others
descended to a lower, brushy viewpoint, preferring their own company.
Then, it was time to head down. We had only to get back to camp. I had a nice time glissading, and others slid down the snow as best as they could manage. One hiker hollered in delight as he headed for a rock gap in the snow, and I had to try to stop him from jumping it or falling in. Some of these hikers have poor judgement. Another hiker had decided to do a rock climb, without asking permission, approval, or any such thing. I stood below him, suggesting repeatedly that he shouldn't be doing that. In other peak sections, he'd be banned from activities, as if he miscalculated and fell, that would require aborting the climb for the subsequent rescue and evacuation. Instead, he gets hailed as a hero. Well, the chapter!
I fell through some low snow bridges near a creek under the snowpack, though it was only a slight error. The others followed another hiker a bad way, but they had better luck with the snow. We recrossed the creek on the log, and shortly came back to camp. None were in the mood to pack out from such a gorgeous place. We built a campfire, and enjoyed the summer night.
We packed up the next morning with lots of time to hike back the 10 or so miles to the trailhead. I liked the trees, and saved some film since the overhead sun was not great for light. A rattlesnake showed itself close to the trailhead, and, mercifully, with no one to pick it up or destroy it.
I recall driving through a parade on main street, Hwy. CA 299, back in Weaverville, as it was the holiday. So gladly, we had led them safely and successfully, and with our extra hiker. Driving home went well, with no complaints to hear of.
Rick led some other holiday backpacks or peak climbing trips, with White Mountain Peak, Eagle Peak, the highpoint of the Warner Mountains, and Mt. Patterson, the highpoint of the Sweetwater Mountains. One of the most successful and popular chapter leaders, he later found a mate and retired from peak climbing. I remained in touch for a few years, and we climbed Oreana Peak, in February, 1992, as a cross country climb from his abode in Nevada.
Out of such less usual peaks to do, he had stayed mostly away from the Sierra. I went on to continue bagging peaks, and despite the chapter ban, retain my interest and skill level with whomever I can find to do this.
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