WHALEBACK (11,717'), GLACIER
RIDGE (12,360+'), CENTENNIAL PEAK (13,255')
August 28 to September 4, 1992
Being a California Mountaineering Club activity in the earlier days of its existence, I left home early to tour Boyden Cave, and then met the two other game peak climbers at our designated meeting spot. We left two cars at Road's End, and then carpooled up to the hike start, at an obscure, remote, trailhead, off the western Sierra slopes.
Hiking over Marvin Pass (9,080'), we had quite the ways to go into this portion of the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Scheduled as a 12 day trip, we carried ropes and some hardware. Hardly had we climbed two or three miles up the trail when a strap on a brand new backpack, used by one of the climbers, tore loose. I had my sewing kit, so stitched up the break and saved the poor fellow from having to cancel.
Going eastward on good trail, at a good pace, we decided to camp by Sugarloaf, a small peak or rock that the others readily climbed. I stayed in camp, resting for the bigger peak goals.
We backpacked along at a nice clip despite the loads, along mostly rolling, forested terrain, and then came to Wet Meadow by mid-afternoon. I was awestruck at the sight of the Whaleback, a peak we were going to climb the next day. We camped higher, near the base of the start of the climb, up its west side. I was enjoying being back in the High Sierra wilderness. Camp life was as I liked it!
The next day, we scrambled up to the peak
ridge of Whaleback on its south end. The guidebook was wrong,
and we climbed to the right of the ridge, not on it's left (west).
That could have gotten deadly! I needed a rope on one short ledge,
and my ability level fell somewhat in the eyes of the other two.
There was one suspect rock hold that I would rather have some
protection for, as we did have a rope along. The peak is rated
only class 3, but it often is good for me to refresh my skills
compared to the more active, other two, climbers.
We found an easy way up the upper east side of the peak, and soon came up to the top. I snapped many photos of the views, and I did some pictures of ourselves with my handy flash unit. The register was a bit interesting. We left the top, then with plenty of time. We found an easier route down, and I was glad to have this fearsome-looking mountain safely done.
Getting some light snow overnight, I had my quart thermos bottle, and always made orange cappuccino the evening before, to have it hot and ready as soon as I woke up. We moved camp a bit up the hill.
The other two left to climb Triple Divide Peak, one I had done just a year before. I lazed about, and backpacked some downed wood, from below, for our campfire that night. The leader, in a bad mood, criticized me (I was doing as requested) for what may well have been an illegal fire, being that campfires were prohibited over 10,000 feet. There was no wood where we now were, but I had carried up enough for a light social op. I was to leave such a poorly diplomatically skilled leader, but not till after another few camps together and another peak attempt.
Another night passed. With more ambling over slabs and broken rocks, we topped Glacier Ridge, with its class 4 summit block. I sure enjoyed snapping so many photos of the view! This is the heart of the High Sierra backcountry, and few get to see any of this! I'd climbed most of the major peaks in view, and maybe in the years to come, surmised that I might bag several more. But it was to be my fate to leave this all for other peaks in other mountain ranges, it seems, presently.
We shifted camp, up past Colby Lake (10,595'), then to Talus Lake (11,485'). The plan was to traverse the South Ridge of Table Mountain, never done before.
Starting in the early morning, we scrambled up a likely ridge, but I had my doubts. We passed a small lake. The route didn't look real easy, and I haven't been climbing, at that level, for many years. It started to snow lightly, and approaching some steeper rock, I signed off and turned back. I snapped some photos from my high point, and rested to savor the view. I was never to hear of how they did, except for a tale about a lot of down and up climbing.
Back to camp at Talus Lake, I rested awhile and began to think. Tired of the leader's mild jibes, others told me later that he was like that. I left a sign-off note on his tent, and left the trip. Backpacking back down to Colby Lake, some fine trees grew nearby. I thought about solo-bagging the big peaks here that I needed. There is some tricky class 3 on one of them, I am told.
Only one other camper was nearby. This was the best solitude that I had have from this time. I made my dinner, and wanted better food.
The next day, I hiked toward Colby Pass (11,960'). I got a look back to Colby Lake. With a fairly short scramble from the pass, I bagged the easy, nearby, Centennial Peak. I had heard of this newly named summit, and knew it was only class 2 at most. The name commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the National Park. I read the summit register, and snapped so many photos of the views. This was a great moment for me, but being my last big solo of such a remote High Sierra summit. By some, perhaps, lack of claims, I was credited with a new route, however easy and obvious. With a view north to Colby Lake from about Colby Pass, I hiked back to my camp and saw fit to pack out.
Backpacking out north, I took the trail down the hill to Scaffold Meadow. Having a nice lonely camp, I still had to climb some 3,000 feet to get over Avalanche Pass (10,080+'), then back to my car at Road's End, though all on good trail.
The next day, I did that, with some effort. New to me was the sagebrush with aspen trees, here on the western slopes of the Sierra. I declined bagging the peak, here, and hiked this trail down back to the trailhead. I ran into two other peak climbers I knew, and we had a short chat.
Feeling good to doff my pack after my eight days of backpacking, I motored off to enjoy the sunset light on the Kings River Canyon, seen from the highway. I made sure to let all know I had hiked out safely enough, and that was the end of that.
This apparently cements my reputation and tendency to sign off, climb alone, then pack out solo. I can take only so much, and now seem to be excluded from many trips run by these people. The other two had their own company, and I would never leave someone alone in the wilderness. Although, at least in winter, the minimum group size is three people, I saw no big problem with their safety. They were highly experienced climbers, and more hazard was on my end.
So pleased to have done what peaks I could, it seems that I may never bag these other peaks that I might well have, if not for my leaving the trip. The Los Angeles people seem to have more power over participants, and aging now, may just have to leave my High Sierra climbs as that. The goal is to have fun, and this is all taken as such extreme misery by most hikers in Northern California. Carrying over 50 pounds to start, my shoulders sure felt the weight. Attending a few more backpack peak climbs in the following years, I may have to adopt the common, local club views, and depart from doing these challenges. But, I am sure grateful for the opportunities to climb together, and if the people in charge of such lately presumed outdoor groups say the Hell with all that, so goes them!
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