MT. McDUFFIE (13,271'), BLACK GIANT (13,330'), CHARYBDIS (13,091'), AND THE HERMIT (12,360') August 28 to September 1, 1980
Preparing for this SPS trip over the Labor Day weekend, we were to start early before the holiday crowds came about. This was in the true style of the SPS, a multiple peak bag, in the remotest areas of the High Sierra.
I met the rest of our group of eight at the Lake Sabrina TH, and we began our first day backpacking over Echo Col. We passed the various lakes, Dingleberry, Topsy-Turvy, Moonlight, and then, Echo Lake. This day was to be a strenuous 12 miles with 4,000' gain, but we were all screened and thusly experienced climbers.
The leaders did a great job taking us over the Col, and then down the western side of the Sierra Crest. Echo Col is a class 3 pass offering a more direct route to the peaks that we wanted.
Connecting up with the John Muir Trail, we backpacked a bit further, off-trail, to find a secluded base camp to start for the peaks the next day.
Our day's climb of both Mt. McDuffie and Black Giant was to go well. Looking at the ridge that makes up the route to the top of McDuffie, we had our doubts in the guide directions. It looked pretty severe, and some gasped. I had my faith in the leadership, and we were taken to the start of the ridge. It turned out that it wasn't too bad, and we made the top in good time. I liked the views down into Enchanted Gorge, and about the area, then we had to get down off this first peak. The leader took a route to examine a more direct route down, but this was ill-advised. We had to climb back up to the ridge side, with some steep terrain and exposed moves required.
Then it was to more level areas, and the hike to the top of nearby Black Giant was easy. I liked the flowers still growing in the rocks, and we sauntered back to camp in the lowering sunlight.
Our next day, the third day out, we were to ascend Charybdis. This was another class 3 climb, but went surprisingly easy. The view was nice, again. Nobody went over to bag the Three Sirens or Scylla, so that would be left for another trip. We hiked back to camp, and took it easy.
Our fourth day, we packed over Muir Pass to get to a base camp in the Evolution Basin. The mosquitoes were fierce passing Wanda Lake. We already had repellant or heavy clothes on, as it was a bit chilly, this late in the season.
Dropping packs, we crossed over a small ridge to drop down and make our ascent of the Hermit. The summit block entails a short, vertical, hoist up, using a rope, and one of the climbers did the 5.4 lieback on the side of the monolith. I snapped photos of the view, looking right down Evolution Valley.
Having a scree run down, we again crossed over the small ridge and back to our camp. This would be our last night in the wilderness, and we normally eat up our remaining food, and have a talk about ourselves, if needed for the company.
The leaders chose to climb over what they called, "Hungry Packer Pass," as it empties down to Hungry Packer Lake. This required some slab climbing, and then some short class 3. The weather had been perfect this whole time, and I probably wished that I had more film. I don't recall anyone else taking pictures, but the photo ops weren't that great, with no clouds or drama.
Aside from one group headed for the Ionian Basin, we had seen almost no one these whole five days. On getting back to the Sabrina TH, some people I knew from the local group were leaving from their regular holiday weekend climb of some peak. Small world! I had everyone in our group pose for a nice shot. I made prints to mail to everyone, as snapshots cost only about 10 cents per reprint, then.
I motored home without problem, the long drive being part of the fun and glory. These peaks helped on my list accomplishments, and improved my outlook on doing the "impossible," by many hikers. With lots of class 3 climbing, and fifth class available, the locals would not be able to do any of this. Some of them disallow any such activities. For their experts, "it's not something that you do." Indeed their best, by them, failed to climb even a day peak with some class 4 routefinding. Some cannot even do any class 3!
Rock skills do help in exploring much of the High Sierra, and sticking to trails is for the novice. With a good team, you can get to the top of so many of the peaks, and safely back. The SPS has a "Mountaineers List," by which it is seen of your capability and skill level. You do have to prove yourself, and it is much better than the local chapter view, that everybody goes, and the trip tailored to the weakest, then. It's beer and pizza for that chapter forever, since it is declared a prerogative that all must be accommodated. So, they climb nothing anymore, but the rest of us Club members still bag the highest and hardest peaks!
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