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Tired of Looking at It: Mt. Tom 9-13-08

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Tired of Looking at It: Mt. Tom 9-13-08

Postby MooseTracks » Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:44 pm

"So where is Mt. Tom, exactly?" I asked Tom last fall before I moved to Bishop. He rolled his eyes and laughed, telling me to do my homework and get back to him on its location. I was pretty embarrassed when I pulled out the map to find the great mountain staring intently at me from out of town. Since then, when I pull out of my driveway in the morning, I turn to the right and wish my boys (Tom, Basin, Humphreys, and Emerson) a good morning. And now I've watched the seasons pass on Mt. Tom's steep slopes and ridges: seen it disappear into winter storms and emerge with its blanket of snow; examined Elderberry Canyon and its avalanches; stared longingly at the grand North Ridge as it marches to the sky from Pine Creek Canyon.

Saturday was the day to see the view from the top down.

I had heard not so good things about the road into Horton Lakes, and since I was on my own (and didn't want to get stuck like at the Mono Craters a few weeks ago), I decided to head into Pine Creek Canyon and start from there. Rick Kent had told me about the beauty of Pine Creek, with its carved, towering walls of granite , so I was eager to explore a bit. I parked at the Pine Creek and Gable Lakes trailhead and headed south and, well, up, from there. The trail gains about 2200 vertical feet within the first 2 miles, paralleling the cascades of Gable Creek hundreds of feet below. I was trying to avoid descending to the creek, only to crawl back up the rocky and rotten slopes of the east side, so I stuck on the trail until it reached 9600ft, crossing at a meadow guarded at its head by Four Gables. Unfortunately, the plot didn't work: I ended up sidehilling across loose rock and dirt as I backtracked to the gulley, the rock above me on the ridge was chossy and breaking apart in my hands, and the face above the gulley kept cliffing out. So I wandered back down to the mouth of the gulley around 9400 ft and finally entered its enclosure.

Slot canyons are cool: it was shaded as I scrambled up the rocks, the low rumble of water rolling somewhere under the stones. I stepped cautiously over remnants of the mines above me until I reached a fork where a lovely trickle of water tumbled, offering a cold drink on an otherwise dry day. Although I could see a trestle high above the top of the gulley to the left, I headed right up the cascade and to the ridge above. After scrambling up the broken rock, an excellent exercise in touch balance (don't pull on anything!), I got a full view of the west face of Mt. Tom towering another 3000 ft above me. I trudged up the ridgeline until I hit... a road . No really: the road that apparently connected the Hanging Valley Mine to the Tungstar mine is quite clear still, so I added a mine tour into the peak bagging for the day. I headed across the sandy flats to the ruins of the Hanging Valley Mine and scouted around a bit, finding rusted out parts , carts , pipes, and tires from the not-too distant past. The collapsed mine shaft frame and the silt collector (??) creaked a bit in the breeze, so I found a nice spot out of falling range to eat lunch and ponder my last stretch of climb to the summit.

A direct approach seemed the most timely and would spare me a good bit of slogging up the loose rock and scree of the west face, so I essentially beelined it up to the ridge. It's mostly Class 2 with a few Class 3 moves if you want, definitely not spicy-dicey and lots of cool windows to gaze south doen to Horton Lakes, the west side of Basin Mountain, and into the Bishop Creek Drainage. After 2 hours of work I topped out as the Sierra fell away to the Owens Valley floor almost 10,000 feet below. Once again, the breeze stopped, and I was standing on top of the world. Smoke from the Tehipite Valley fire decreased the view somewhat, but besides the view from Brewer at the heart of the Sierra, I have to say that Tom has one of the best views up here. I perused the register , laying back among the rocks, savoring the summit. After an hour, I had to once again will myself to leave the comfort of the sun and rock and start the slog back down.

I tried staying on scree as much as I could, but the majority of the west side is just loose rock that has to be carefully picked through in order to descend. I angled down the gulley directly down (W-NW) from the summit, halting half way down to sidehill over to the Tungstar Mine . More ruins , great holes, and abandoned equipment presented themselves to pick through, and the cart (which I presumed to be what would ride on the trestles) creaked eerilie as I walked closer. I backed off quickly when I found there to be a huge hole under the cart! I dropped back into the gulley and proceeded down, choosing my route even more carefully since a fall on rusty parts would mean a tetanus shot (ouch). I knew I was headed to the slot that had been on the left hand side of the fork earlier in the day, and at first it was a simple task of stepping down, stepping down, stepping down.

Slot canyons suck: I always get a bit nervous when I see the walls closing in, and this was no exception. All at once I was standing atop a 25 foot waterfall with what looked like some good Class 3 along the right hand side. After I looked at it for a moment, I decided to attempt the downclimb and, without thinking, tossed my poles to the base of the cascade. As soon as I let the second one fly I wanted it back: my poles were committed, but what if I got stuck and had to climb back up? Oh well, those are new poles and I'm not leaving them there. So it was a little dicey but not as bad as I thought, and some good hand and foot holds presented themselves. At the bottom of the fall I grabbed my poles and headed down again, only to see a big chockstone ahead. Son of a ... !!! I really didn't want to climb all the way back out of this beast (I really just wanted to go home at this point), so I scanned the walls, spotted what looked like a short up and over . Just like the morning, though, the rock was friable and sandy. Careful steps and a few whimpers and I was below the stone and falls, and I could see the fork with the cascade just ahead.

I emerged into the Gable Creek drainage about 30 minutes later, after filling up with water from the trickling cascade above, and having to go up/over or around two more waterfalls. A short scramble on the west side brought me back to the trail , and the GPS was unnecessary once the beer-dar had been activated. I strode down the final 1500 feet to the TOF, waiting patiently at the trailhead. My friend Ashley had been by and scribbled a note ... in the dust on the back of the TOF. Yup, time for a wash. As I drove down the winding road out of Pine Creek, the full moon hovered above the North Ridge of Mt. Tom. Maybe I can convice some of the guys to try that this winter...

A few other moments from the day:






Rest of the pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.

-L :cool:
"Why do I climb? Quite simply because the mountains and I had to meet." - Colette Richard


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Re: Tired of Looking at It: Mt. Tom 9-13-08

Postby Lewis » Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:59 pm

Hey Laura,

When we saw your car at the TR, I thought of toilet papering it, (like I did to Snowys on Towne) but I figured you would punch me like you did when we met on that last topix trip in OV.

Too bad you didnt run into Alan and I, we could have showed you a trail that went down from Gable Lakes trail to the canyon bottom and on up the other side.

Mining pics, you have a couple of the items incorrectly named;
The "Silt Collector" is actually a "Tungstenator", these can be only found at Tunsten Mines,
The "Trolly Car" is actually a "Microincabulator", a very rare find indeed.

Let me know if you have any other artifacts you found ID'd, I have helped Snownymph ID things she has come across in the past.

"I'll hike with anybody,....... I'm not proud"

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