After getting home from the Portal last weekend, I busted out the maps and started looking, scheming, and planning what the next adventure would be. I had an inkling to stay north, having been puttering around the Portal for what seems like the last 6 weeks (wait, I WAS puttering around the Portal for the last 6 weeks
). After I called him about the traverse between Muriel and Goethe peaks west of Piute Pass, my buddie Paul suggested a long loop around and above the Hilton Creek basin above Rock Creek. Well, okeedokee!
Some notes from the day:
1.) Paul and his friend Charles Irving drove up Friday from lala land, getting into the Moose Lodge late. So I let them sleep until 0430 before rousting them out of bed. We didn't get to the trailhead
until about 0630 and off we went. It was a gorgeously warm morning, and we decided to leave crampons in the car, take ice axes. I was also in trail runners, carrying my boots as Steve Larson had done the week before on LeConte. Beautiful views of the Rock Creek Area
on the way out.
2.) The hike into the Hilton Lakes is a cruiser
as it climbs to the big plateau around the base of Patricia Peak
. We finally hit snow above 10K, right around the outlet to the lower lake
, guarded from above by Mt. Huntington. The mossies were out in droves, too, but I was able to manage a few moments
on the rocks in the sun.
3.) From here to Stanford we followed the obvious drainage
above the Lakes and finally taking us above treeline. Most of the area was melted out, but what snow there was left was firm and easily walked on. Although I did still manage to find a few Moose-traps out there (read: posthole to thigh!). A nice snow-tongue
extended to the top of the head wall to gain access to the east ridge of Stanford, and the snow was soft enough to kick steps
(my boots were still in my pack).
4.) We got a bit off course
(read: too far to the left) above the frozen tarn
, where we had CAREFULLY restocked our water, finally traversing back to the east ridge
and up to the east summit
of Stanford. From there it was all about boulder hopping! Views were magnificent down into the Pioneer Basin
, and stretched all the way to the west-side (Hello, Fresno!!
5.) The ridge
between Stanford and Morgan (N) is long, kind of like the Big Willie Bowl stretched out in a line. Primarily Class 2, no real exposure to speak of. There are fantastic views down to Steelhead Lake
and the McGee Creek
drainage, north to Ritter/Banner, even Dana! There was also a very high concentration of what I call page-leaf granite
here, thin sheets of rock piled next to one another in sharp edges. You never do know if this is going to crumble under your feet or not!
6.) We kept moving, and Morgan really didn't seem to get any closer, but we didn't have much choice, either! There was one 'escape route'
, but the rest of the ridge just fell away to either side. The final bump had some interesting looking slabs
on the right, which we weren't real hot about; traversing below led to a cornice
on the opposite wall, so no go there; so it was around to the left and some nice little Class 2-3 to the top. Paul wanted a break, so I asked how long he was going to hang out so I could go tag the high point a few hundred yards to the north. "That's a Pile of Junk
!" proclaimed Charles, but I went anyway! (Interestingly, when we looked at it the next day, it is quite a prominent high point!) As the guys followed the ridge to the saddle and on up Morgan, I straight-lined it across the bowl
and met up with them on one of about 1000 false summits. Finally we made it, and were treated to late afternoon sun views
from the top!
7.) Well, we knew we were coming out in the dark. With a long way to go we headed down the east slopes of Morgan: at first picking our way down the talus
, the gradually getting to ski some scree and looser rock. Beyond the lower moraine
was the MOST PERFECT SAND DUNE
IN THE SIERRA!!! I somehow mustered the energy to run/jump/fly on down, what fun!! (yes, Tom, I was yelling, 'Hui!!!!') We dumped into Davis Lake at dusk, watching the setting sun warm
the rocks in all directions. An almost full moon
hung bright above us, lighting our way as we climbed back up from the Davis Lake Basin.
8.) I had my headlamp on, but didn't turn it on until almost back to the car. Moon shadows were cast everywhere, and the trail is obvious. The air was still and quiet, warm, and soft as we chuffed along. I finally flicked on the light as we were back under the pines. We arrived at the TOF around 10:30 p.m., WAYYYY past my bedtime! So we waited for cold brew
until back at the Moose Lodge (around midnight) before crashing into dreamless sleep.
9.) Slept in Sunday and hit the Petite Pantry
for breakfast, which really does have the best breakfast in B-town! We were too tired/it was too late to start anything that was on Paul's list, so we instead cruised up to the Obsidian Dome
north of Mammoth and puttered around for a few hours. Nice views
back to the Sierra and north to Mono Lake from here! And to top it off, what else is good for tired legs and aching backs but a SOAK
! We hit one of the hot springs by the Green Church for a bit and the finally headed for home.
A few other moments from the weekend:
It's pumice, guys...
Rest of the Stanford-Morgan (N) traverse pics are here.
Rest of the Obsidian Dome pics are here.
Another fantastic weekend: thanks, Paul and Charles, for some great company (NO MORE WHINING!)!!
From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb hard, be safe!