CARDINAL MOUNTAIN (13,397'), STRIPED MOUNTAIN (13,179'), GOODALE MOUNTAIN (12,772'), MT. RUSKIN (12,920'), MARION PEAK (12,719') July 3-7, 1981
With none from the north to climb with, I had signed up for another Sierra Peaks Section trip. I was only one of two under 50 to do this set of peaks, but my youth showed on the pace. It is admirable that so many seniors do not allow age to stop them from enjoying the high mountains!
Driving down U.S. 395 solo the afternoon before, I captured the usual afternoon vista from Sherwin Grade viewpoint. I was conserving film, shooting only about 3 rolls of 36 exp. Kodachrome on this trip. I had been doing so many High Sierra peaks this summer, the views all began to look the same.
Driving my 44 mpg wagon up the dirt road to the Taboose Pass trailhead, I arrived at 6 a.m., the meeting time, to see the group packed up and ready to go. I rushed along getting my stuff in order to not delay the group. We had a long climb to get up the Taboose Pass trail, and with even a peak to climb.
This trail climbs some 6,000 feet of gain, and with the peak, stands as my foremost gain in a day, some 8,000 feet, albeit with no corresponding descent. My pack weighed about 45 pounds, with a big sack of bread rolls, Lipton's soup, and small cans of meat to spread on the bread rolls for my meals. As of then, I did not boil or treat my water. I drank directly out of streams, and had no big problems to then. Thus, I could do with only two canteens.
I hiked ahead of the group, taking several photos, as they would allow this. The Angeles Chapter rules state that you do not get ahead of the leaders. I am a capable navigator, and hiker, so could be trusted with taking care of myself. There is only the one trail to the pass, so you can't get off route easily.
We came to the pass by about 1 p.m., and quickly made ready for the first peak, Cardinal Mountain. It lay only about 2,000 feet more above our camp at the pass, so made a quick easy scramble. We ran into a ranger descending the slopes, the fellow who had set the time record on Mt. Whitney from the Portal, about 2 hours and 12 minutes or so.
Reaching the top, it felt great to being in such good shape. I shuttered the views, and marveled at the fitness of this SPS group, all seniors aside from one other younger person.
Back to camp, we had our dinner, and most retired shortly. Getting up at an early hour again, we prepared for a double climb, Striped Mountain and Goodale Mountain. It was a scenic view of Striped Mountain, easy to see how it got its name. I shot only a few slides of the view, saving for only better photography. We climbed way down and began to ascend the next peak, Goodale Mountain. This peak has a sharp summit, with some class 3 scrambling to do. Since it was a small rock on top, it was too awkward to get many photos. I believe that I simply touched the top of the highest rock, and then signed the small register.
Descending, I snapped a few photos back toward the sharp summit, and then we scrambled down to our camp. The signs marking the pass made for a photo op, and then we headed down into the South Fork of the Kings River to make a quick camp.
The next morning, carrying our packs up an old, unmaintained trail, we came to our new base camp at Ruskin Lake. We had a nice sight of Arrow Peak, one that I "need" to this day.
Taking our day packs, we climbed up the west side of Mt. Ruskin, another class 3 peak. The leaders led nicely, and then stopped to set up a belay. I went ahead to see the knife edge to the true top. I gasped, as huge boulders had to be crossed, and if one of them tipped over, however improbable, all would go over into infinity. I gamely stepped on each precarious-looking large rock, and they stayed steady. I reached the summit and began shooting my views. Great to be with a responsible group to climb this one! Solo, I may have turned back, or put myself at some seeming foolish risk.
The others came up, and I saw how this is a coveted peak. Climbing back down, I snapped a photo of some sky pilot, or polemonium. Then we were down to the lake where we had set camp. I did some photography, and had more soup and bread rolls for dinner. I saved weight with just a tarp, and not my usual 8 pound tent. The summer weather, this early in July, was to be perfect.
With another early morning start, we took the Cartridge Pass Trail, little used except by game backpackers. Our goal this day was the remote Marion Peak. Over a slight pass, we dropped down to circle around to the west, and then took a cross-country route for the peak. We were all acclimated and in great shape, so the hiking went easily.
The top came up fast, and I enjoyed capturing the views. I now try to record the entire panoramic view, but I felt I could save film and money by abstaining from having, on film, every detail. If necessary, I could return to shoot even more photos. I never suspected that things would go as they did, with the local hikers having no or only slight interest in what we were doing.
On our return, I discerned a shortcut, by the map, to get back to camp. I proposed this to the leaders, and they agreed to check this out. Later, I was to be credited with finding this pass, and it was named, "Pete's Col," in my honor. We saw no cairns or registers to mark this class 3 col. I took pictures of the Columbine wildflowers that graced this point.
Now all we had to do was to climb the 1,000 feet or so to get back to Taboose Pass, and then it was all downhill to the cars. We maybe shifted camp in preparation for an early return to the cars, and then the drive home. We made good time back, and I took only a few photos, with some fennel (?) to take note of, along the trail. This plant leaves tiny stickers in you as you rub by it, the only case I have noted in the Sierra.
Some had chilled beers waiting in the icy cold creek as we came to the trailhead, and I liked this strenuous exercise. I had lost some weight, and sure felt like Superman! I could think to then climb anything!
It was back to work, and I then had no problem leading my double life, as clerical worker and peak bagger. I was to go out continuously this summer, and almost every weekend I did some peak bagging. One of my best summers, my elation was tempered by the general disinterest of the local climbers. At best, they made only the basic emblem, while I zoomed on with peak after peak. The organization in the Southland makes the difference. Hundreds of committed climbers in the Los Angeles area, compared to my abbreviated advanced climbing section in the Capitol City. I figured that I'd have this going once we became established, but the nature of this local Club chapter saw to the demise of all such peak climbing locally, and the superb ops to explore, enjoy, and protect, were to disappear forever.
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