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Mount Williamson

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Mount Williamson

Postby orbitor » Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:19 pm

TITLE: Mount Williamson

GENERAL OVERVIEW: Mt. Williamson is the 2nd highest summit in California and the 6th highest in the Continental U.S. In contrast to its parent Mt. Whitney, Mt. Williamson sees far fewer ascents, perhaps because none of the routes are trivial and also because all require arduous approaches. The peak lies to the east of the Sierra Crest, giving it a striking appearance when viewed from Owens Valley. Views from the summit are nothing short of amazing, ranging from Mt. Whitney to the Palisades. Mt. Williamson is one of the 15 SPS Emblem Peaks.

CLASS/DIFFICULTY: The main route from Shepherd Pass and up the West Face is Class 2, with a Class 3 section called The Chimney. The Southeast Ridge from George Creek is Class 2. The Northeast Ridge from Shepherd Creek is Class 4-5. Various technical routes up the north face exist, including the classic Long Twisting Rib, as well as an eastern approach via Bairs Creek that is more suitable for snow climbs.

LOCATION: John Muir Wilderness in Inyo National Forest. View Mt. Williamson on HST Map.

ELEVATION: 14,379 ft. (NAVD88) or 14,373 ft. (NGVD29).

USGS TOPO MAP (7.5'): Mount Williamson

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: The main route starts at Shepherd Pass trailhead west of Independence (elev. 6350 ft). A well-maintained trail follows the drainage of Symmes Creek for a few miles, then begins a vigorous climb over many switchbacks to crest a ridge and drops down into the Shepherd Creek drainage. For the rest of the way the pass the trail follows Shepherd Creek in a southwest direction, gaining elevation steadily. After Anvil Camp, the trail passes the treeline and enters a talus zone, winding its way through an increasingly desolate landscape to the base of the pass. A series of switchbacks (the upper ones can hold snow until late in the season) is used to gain the pass at elev. 12,050 ft. After 10.5 miles and 6300 ft. total of gain in the approach, the climbing route begins. Following a gentle slope SE leads to the top of the Williamson Bowl, which sits between Mt. Williamson to the east and Mt. Tyndall to the west. The Bowl must be crossed in order to access the chute on the West Face. There are several ways to do so, but the easiest seems to drop down to the two western lakes and bypass them on the eastern shore, then angle east toward the chute. The correct chute is identified by a landmark called the Black Stain - a section of rock darker in color due to snowmelt runoff. The chute is not completely visible from below, but scrambling toward the Black Stain and staying on its right reveals the route. Climbing in the chute is class 1-2, loose in the lower half and increasingly blocky and full of big boulders higher up. A couple of steeper sections can be overcome via easy class 3 moves. The chute ends at the base of a headwall, elev. 14,000 ft. The only way to overcome the headwall is to get into the large crack system and work one's way up it. This section is called The Chimney and is about 60 ft. high. There is some exposure, but careful placement of limbs and attention to holds makes quick work of it. The chimney opens on the wide plateau at the base of the summit. From there, one last class 2 scramble finishes at the summit, where expansive views in all directions reward the effort. The route is reversed on return, with special attention necessary when descending the Chimney and then in the chute, where parties should spread out to avoid kicking rocks down on those below. Approximate stats: 29 miles, 10,100 ft. total elevation gain.

PHOTOS:
Negotiating the final switchbacks leading to Shepherd Pass, which is the lowest point on the ridge
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Mt. Williamson (left) and Mt. Tyndall (right) from Shepherd Pass
PHOTO BY PAT HADLEY

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Descending into Williamson Bowl. The route goes by the edge of the lake on the right, staying off the bumps in the middle.
PHOTO BY PAT HADLEY

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The West Face from Williamson Bowl. The chute is not visible from this vantage point, but the Black Stain (first dark spot on the right) is the landmark to aim for.
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From the base of the scramble, the Black Stain is obvious, as is now the chute above it (center).
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View down from the chute (photo taken on descent).
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Negotiating The Chimney (photo taken on descent).
PHOTO BY PAT HADLEY

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Final talus slog to summit.
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Mt. Tyndall and the High Sierra to the WNW from summit. The two lakes in the foreground are in Williamson Bowl.
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View south from summit: Mt. Whitney in center, Mt. Langley and Lone Pine Peak to its left, on the right and closer Mt. Barnard and Trojan Peak.
PHOTO BY PAT HADLEY

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orbitor
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