University Peak via University Pass | High Sierra Topix  

University Peak via University Pass

Topics related to peak bagging, rock climbing and bouldering in the foothills and high country of the Sierra Nevada. Be sure to also check out the Information Booth forum category to learn from / see if you can contribute to a profile for High Sierra 13'ers, 14'ers and cross country passes.
User avatar

University Peak via University Pass

Postby orbitor » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:05 pm

Decided to take this route because it's the shortest other than climbing the north face. After going up and down it, just want to warn others about what to expect. University Pass definitely belongs in the crimes-against-humanity category with Thompson-Powell Col and other such monsters. It is the worst combination of loose, steep and crappy slope I have ever climbed. There's absolutely no redeeming factor for it. One in my team who was above me dislodged a rock that missed me by inches. Between four people, we sent tons of rock, gravel, sand and related matter down the east side. On the way back, I found myself surfing on increasingly large and loose masses of rocks I was generating by simply using gravity. I fell on on my back a couple of times, with the worst being an uncontrolled ride on top of the pile for a few feet. Luckily it stopped quickly. For a few seconds, it felt like riding an avalanche and it was terrifying. By the time I reached the bottom of the slope I was almost ready to cry.

The south slopes of the peak must be surmounted via an exhausting slog. We contoured as much as possible, then had no choice but to go straight up. It was like climbing in molasses, at altitude. Occasionally we would hit patches of solid rock, only to discover more sand above them. Getting to the summit was managed only by brute strength and lots of yelling and cursing (more effective in a foreign language) for motivation. University has some great views as advertised, but boy what a horrible climb. Never again by way of the pass - which is actually just a col. Hauling a full pack over this aberration should be reserved for pure masochists; do not even think about it if regular hiker applies to you.
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
http://www.sierramountaineeringgroup.org



User avatar
orbitor
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:38 pm

Thanks for the post because a number of casual peak baggers are not aware of this. It boggles my mind that this route has been recommended as the go-to class 2 route for University Peak for so long (many decades now) when a vastly easier route exists over the north shoulder going up from Bench Lake.

In the early 70's I didn't even make it to the steep part of the University Pass route, for I tired of the time-consuming boulder hopping section near the bottom. Sometime around then, perhaps on the same trip, my dad and I viewed University from the top of Mt Gould and noticed what appeared to be an easy class 2 route up University from Bench Lake, that, to this day not listed in any guidebook I know of. In 1976 my dad and went back to University with our memory of what we saw from Mt Gould and the climb from Bench Lake went exactly as expected. Pretty much standard class 2 scree and talus. Not horrendously loose or steep or tedious and easy route finding. The only mildly tricky part comes near the top: it is low class 3 (on huge talus blocks and slabs) to finish via the ridge but if one wants very badly to keep the route entirely class 2 one can sidehill to easier slopes on the southern or western flanks to finish the climb. I have posted details of this route on an earlier thread, and the route description is also online at climber.org in the category "Corrections to Secor".(http://www.climber.org/Secor/)
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby orbitor » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:05 pm

giantbrookie,
Thank you for mentioning the alternate route. I wish I had known about it before taking University Pass. One of our constraints was that we only had one day for the climb and had to return the same evening, so we needed to pick one of the shorter routes. Since I read that navigation can get tricky high up on the north face, and that going off-route can result in some class 4 terrain, I decided to take the pass. What a struggle that was. It took us 12 hours to cover a little over 9 miles to summit and back. This while trying to outrun the storm. Incidentally, about 600' below the summit we ran into a larger party who had come up the north face and were going down the pass. We didn't see them again, so they must have descended the same loose crap we did without any significant injuries. One in my group was so affected by the close calls on the slope below the pass, he gave up on the summit, dropped down into Center Basin, picked up the JMT and returned via Kearsarge Pass, adding an extra 13 miles and 3000' gain just to avoid the pass. There is absolutely no reason to use this route in climbing University. What a terrible mistake propagated by Secor.

More disconcerting is the fact that Bob Burd plans on going over University Pass on Day 8 of this year's Sierra Challenge (Friday, August 23). I would horrified to be on that slope with more than three other people. A few dozen are signed up for the Challenge. If all climb to the pass at the same time or within short spans of each other, there are bound to be some incidents were people get hurt. The same applies for the descent. I just hope they are all careful.
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
http://www.sierramountaineeringgroup.org
User avatar
orbitor
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:04 pm

The thing about the "alternative route" (Bench L. to N. shoulder) is that it is not only technically easier and safer than the "standard" route, but I suspect it takes less time, too, because the terrain is so much easier, so it is perfectly suitable as a dayhike.

I wouldn't blame Secor for the 'standard' route because that route has been a "standard" for decades dating to the first edition of the Sierra Club Climber's Guide (Hervey Voge--or is that the first edition, circa '60's). This was carried along into the Andy Smatko totebook edition of the early 70's (1972?) and then the Steve Roper version of the climbers guide as of 1976. For some peaks further from trailheads, I am not surprised that easy routes go unnoticed (such as my class 2 route on Mt Maclure, for example, which is also not listed in any guidebook), but I'm shocked at the north shoulder route on University because much of this route is actually more visible from Onion Valley than the "standard" route is. Another shocker is the E. Ridge route on Mt. Conness which is class 3 by guidebook route, but class 2 with some adjustments that are very obvious hiking out of Saddlebag, but similarly not in the guidebooks. Similar to the University Peak north shoulder route, if more people knew the details of the "easy" version of the Conness E. Ridge, it would become the most popular route on the mountain, owing to its accessibility and ease of dayhiking. The difference between the Conness situation and the University situation is the more popular Conness variants are not so bad, whereas the popular route on University is terrible. See "Corrections to Secor" and note that the listings are by peak and by alphabetical order of peak name. http://www.climber.org/Secor/
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby orbitor » Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:15 pm

giantbrookie
Would you be able to send me details separately on your routes up University, Conness and Maclure? I want to make a friend aware of the University route so he doesn't have to go up the pass like I did. As for Conness, I would like to climb that mountain either next month or in the summer of 2014, so any information is useful. Thanks!
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
http://www.sierramountaineeringgroup.org
User avatar
orbitor
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:49 pm

orbitor wrote:giantbrookie
Would you be able to send me details separately on your routes up University, Conness and Maclure? I want to make a friend aware of the University route so he doesn't have to go up the pass like I did. As for Conness, I would like to climb that mountain either next month or in the summer of 2014, so any information is useful. Thanks!


I'm not exactly sure where I have this on a computer because it was quite some time ago (10 years ago, I believe) when I did a "data dump" and wrote up some of my hand written notes in the back of my Roper guide and entered them on Climber.org on "Corrections to Secor" http://www.climber.org/Secor/. I'll probably get my old descriptions off of climber.org and upgrade them a bit, if necessary. Please PM me with your email address, so I can send some of the materials by attachment. The route descriptions don't have annotated photos because all of my old photos (Conness, 1972&1975; Maclure 1975; University, 1976) were old prints or 35 mm slides that I do not have in digital form. Someday I should probably do that. In any case, PM me with your email address and I can send you some stuff when I dig it up.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby KathyW » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:08 pm

There has been some confusion between University Pass and the "shortcut" pass, which is looser. I think it stems from photos that were labeled incorrectly in Secor's book.

I've been over the shortcut pass and found that terrible on the way up, but easy on the way down. I don't know how University Pass compares to the shortcut pass, but I've heard it is better. The best nontechnical route up is probably the North Face.

Shortcut and University Pass: http://www.summitpost.org/university-pa ... the/111155

Rocks being knocked down are always a concern on any Sierra slog - slogging in large groups increases the danger of someone being hit by a falling rock.

It seems that the heavy rains that caused the flash flooding last month washed some of the scree off the slopes that used to be great fun to scree ski down (awful to go up); so now they are more difficult to go down.
User avatar
KathyW
Founding Member
 
Posts: 347
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:19 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby orbitor » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:24 pm

University Pass proper was horribly loose. I do not want to think of much worse the Shortcut Variation is. The two are easy to distinguish on the way up, but trickier on the way down. Bob Burd made the mistake of taking the shortcut on the way down in SC 2002, resulting in not too fond memories. The Shortcut also seems to hold snow/ice longer, though I doubt that was the case this year. Everything seemed bone dry in the drainage of Independence Creek. The stream itself was running strong above Robinson Lake, after which it disappeared below mounds of scree. I do not recommend either of the chutes. University Pass is incredibly unstable for the last 500' of slope; the more people travel it, the crappier it'll get, until someone really gets hurt.

The best non-technical route up University is the one described by giantbrookie. It avoids the more technical parts of the north face, is easily accessible from Bench Lake and is short.
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
http://www.sierramountaineeringgroup.org
User avatar
orbitor
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby KathyW » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:38 pm

Secor's North Face Route is Class 2 except for a small amount of easy Class 3 near the top, and it sounds like the same route G. Brookie is describing. What Secor says: "Climb the slabs east of Bench Lake, and pass Lake 11360 ft+ on its eastern shore. Continue up scree and talus on the left side of the North Face....."

The Direct North Face is more techincal, but not the regular North Face Route Secor describes. You can still end up on some loose crap and shoot loose rocks down on climbers below if you are not careful, but it is better than going up via Robinson Lake. Best not to be in a large spread-out group.
User avatar
KathyW
Founding Member
 
Posts: 347
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:19 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby orbitor » Tue Aug 20, 2013 4:09 pm

giantbrookie's description says: "From Bench Lake go south and ascend a broad scree and talus chute to a gap in (or a shoulder on) the northwest ridge. This chute reaches the ridgecrest above the point where the ridge of the Kearsarge Pinnacles and the Sierran crest meet. One can then follow the northwest ridge, staying south and below the ridgetop cliffs to minimize the difficulties. As one nears the summit, it may be possible to circle all the way around to the southeastern flank of the summit rocks to keep difficulties at strictly 2nd class. When we climbed the summit rocks we ended up doing the final approach approximately from the south and we encountered a few low 3rd class moves on very large talus and slabs."
This to me doesn't sound like the same thing as Secor's north face route and very likely it is not, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered to submit it as a correction to Secor. The NW Ridge from Bench Lake gets my vote for best route up University and it'll definitely be first choice if I consider climbing the peak again.

It goes without saying that this mountain should not be climbed in large groups on any of its routes. A group of 4 or less which can spread out is acceptable.
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
http://www.sierramountaineeringgroup.org
User avatar
orbitor
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

University Pk: N. Face (Clyde) vs N Face/NW ridge (Wakabayas

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:39 pm

Here is a bit of a clarification of the difference between the class 3 N. Face Norman Clyde route, as described in Secor vs the class 2 N. Face/NW ridge route described by me in Corrections to Secor on Climber.org:
Both routes have the same starting point at Bench Lake, but diverge markedly beyond lakelet 11360+. The traditional N Face route listed in Secor is well east of my route and in fact is described as finishing E of the summit on the NE ridge, whereas my route hits the crest of the NW ridge well west of the summit at an elevation of 12800 or a bit higher.
Note the key difference is embodied in the following description in Secor (2nd ed. p.142)
"Continue up scree and talus on the LEFT side of the north face to the summit ridge. A short traverse along the NORTHERN side of the summit ridge leads to the summit block." (my emphasis added). Those are the key statements. Left side of face is read as left as you are climbing. This means the eastern side of the north face which the opposite side of the face that my route goes up. The northern side of the upper NW ridge is the last place you'd want to finish a non-technical climb as it is really vertical. In contrast there must be benches that allow a non technical finish on top of the north side of the NE ridge. The NW ridge difficulties are passed on the SOUTHERN side.

A few additional notes about the N Face/NW Ridge route: What this route amounts to is an Onion Valley approach to the "northwest side" route in Secor, including the Starr variation of the "northwest side" which is the NW ridge accessed from Kearsarge Lake. The key is that the northwest side route listed in Secor and the Starr variation (NW ridge) are described as per an approach from Kearsarge Lakes which is not at all convenient for someone wishing to dayhike University from Onion Valley. I think the Onion Valley approach to the NW ridge qualifies as its own route owing to the fact that it doesn't connect with the NW ridge until you're at an elevation of ≥12800 feet at which point one has completed most of the climb.

A bit of additional historical perspective:
Secor describes the Norman Clyde N Face route in detail, whereas the Roper (1976) guide reads "North Face. Class 3 via an inconspicuous route." Now that's old school, which is why old school peak baggers were accustomed to working out their own routes.

Voge/Smakto (1972) describes the N. Face route as follows which additionally emphasizes how different it is from my route:
"Route 3. North Face. About class 3. First known ascent by Norman Clyde, prior to 1928. From the group of lakes at the northern base, at about 10500 feet (Slim Lake) climb up a steep, rocky slope, several thousand feet in length, to the EASTERN end of a knife edge which can be followed to the summit with comparative ease." Note that the Secor description would also put the finish point on the eastern end of a knife edge instead of west of the summit as per my route.

Note that Roper (1976) listed the northwest side as Route 1.
"Route 1. Northwest side. Class 2. From the upper Kearsarge Lake proceed southeast and climb to the low gap west of the peak. Next, either climb the west ridge to the summit (class 2-3) or walk around a bit onto the easier southwest slope." You can see that the Roper description covers the northwest side as well as it's Starr variation.

In fact the description of the NW side route is also listed as route 1 in the 1972 Voge/Smatko edition presumably because this was the first ascent route (same reason it's route no.1 in Roper) and the description is similar to that in Roper but with a bit more detail. This description was very important to me as I planned the N Face/NW ridge route from Mt Gould in the early 70's because I had seen what the south side looked like and part of the NW ridge was sharp crested enough so that I didn't know whether it was a difficult knife edge or not. Accordingly, knowing that a route could be finished class 2-3 via the NW ridge or class 2 if one bailed southward was what I needed because I could see from Mt. Gould that it would go all class 2 up to the crest of the NW ridge at ~12800 but I couldn't see beyond that.

Anyhow, I hope this all is helpful to peak baggers wishing a quick hike to University from Onion Valley. I hope this clarifies any confusion about the difference between the N Face/NW side/ridge route and the North Face route listed in various guidebooks.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: University Peak via University Pass

Postby KathyW » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:05 pm

seems kind of like splitting hairs

It's just a matter of which side of the summit you're on when you hit the ridge south of Lake 11360, but I'm sure I'm missing something in the description - not that unusual for me to not get it. Is the reasoning to hit the summit ridge west of the summit to stay more on the Class 2 and avoid the nice solid Class 3 on the easterly side?

Oh well, Class 2 chutes in the Sierra are typically loose slogs - it's always a pleasant surprise when they are not. Lots of loose crap except when covered with snow.
User avatar
KathyW
Founding Member
 
Posts: 347
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:19 pm
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Peak Bagging / Rock Climbing / Bouldering



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests