From the Manzanar Historic Site, we drove 2WD vehicles easily to within 1/2 mile of the George Creek Trailhead. We bushwacked up George Creek, camped at 9500 feet, climbed the couloir into Trojan-Barnard Bowl, climbed both peaks and hiked out on Day 3.
Day 1: George Creek TH, 6300 ft. to 9500 ft. campsite, distance 4 miles through heavy brush.
Day 2: Campsite 9550 ft. to Trojan-Barnard Bowl, Climb Trojan, then Barnard
Day 3: Campsite 9550 ft. to George Creek TH 6300 ft
May 3, 2007
We camped overnight at Onion Valley, outside of Independence, CA, to acclimatize. The campground was closed, but we used our bivis for a windy night's rest. During the night, winds went up to 30 mph, temperatures dropped into the low 20s, and 2 inches of snow fell. Present on this trip were Lisa Barboza, Lee Kenyon, Frank Martin, and Dimitry Vz from San Diego.
Day 1- May 4, 2007:
We woke to find our world changed, with snow on our bivi sacks, the roads and the cars, and us with no chains! We elected to move down as soon as possible and got packed up and moving by 6:30 AM, encountered no ice on the road down (but lots of rocks from slides).
We tried the route from the Onion Valley road (Foothill), but soon ran into impassible streams that we didn't want to negotiate with our 2WD low clearance vehicles. We turned around and took the Manzanar route, which we found to be much easier. We turned off of HWY 395 just before Manzanar Historic Site onto 14S01, turned left onto 14S02 just past the site, and then turned right on 14S03, which leads directly to the George Creek TH. Directions to the Manzanar route to the George Creek TH can be found on climber.org. The road is easily negotiable in 2WD vehicles to within 1/2 mile of the George Creek TH.
George Creek Bushwacking Directions:
Once at the TH, you enter a grove of Quercus kelloggii (California Black Oak). There are about 6 big trees, and these are surely old-growth as they are quite large. You won't see a trail. In fact, it will look quite hopeless Do not cross to the south side of the creek. It's best to stay on the north side of George Creek, and treat the stream crossing judiciously. You will eventually cross the stream 5 times. There is no rock-climbing on this route. There is another route higher up on the south side, where you do cross a low CL3 notch, but we didn't take that route.
To find the use trail, move about 100 yards through moderately thick brush, staying as close as possible to the canyon bottom and close to the south-facing slope. Before long, a trail will appear that will wind up to 50 feet up the south side of the canyon and then wind back down into the canyon bottom. It is a clear use trail, although not well travelled. Follow this trail, staying on the north side of the creek until it gets to be impassible. The canyon will narrow, and you will reach a bend. The distance is approximately .3 mile to the 1st Crossing: At this point, cross over to the south side of the creek and you will find a new trail. Keep going about .5 mile until you get to a low waterfall (less than 10' high) in a stand of Jeffrey pines and White Fir; at this point cross over to the north side again (2nd crossing). You will be in a thick stand of trees and you'll find a large tree that has fallen across the creek; almost immediately after the 2nd crossing, use this to cross over to the south side again (3rd crossing).
After this, you will stay in the creek bottom along the trail for approximately 1 1.25 miles, and you will come to a narrowing in the trail. There will be a 50 foot high cliff on the south side, brushy in the creek bottom and open sagebrush higher up on the north and south sides. At this point there is a faint use trail on the south side of the creek and you will want to go above the cliff, about 100 feet above the creek bottom. Once on the trail, the terrain will open up to sagebursh, and occasional pine trees, making easier going. This use trail will wind up and down and is quite obvious, and will go on for approximately .4 miles. Eventually, there will be a deepening stand of trees ahead and then cross the South Fork of George Creek (4th crossing). After this point, proceed NW thorough a stand of pines, and willow, and eventually, after another .5 mile, you will cross the North Fork of George Creek for the last time (5th crossing). The crossing is close to a granite glacial erratic boulder, about 20 feet cubed with black stains facing the creek. It is the only large boulder evident. Cross to the north side as close to that as possible. You will now pick up another use trail. We continued up the north side until we reached an obvious campsite in a stand of Foxtail pines. There are several good campsites there and the creek is about 200 feet way. If you're going to climb Williamson, it is advised to keep climbing to the 12000 foot level, where there is a stand of Whitebark pines and good open camping spots along the creek above a bench. But we were climbing Trojan and Barnard, and this campsite is a good spot to make that attempt. It took us 6 hours of climbing and bushwacking to get to this campsite at 9600 feet. The weather was cold and windy, low clouds, and we were in our bivi sacks early for a 6:00 AM Start.
Day 2-May 5th, 2007:
We started shortly after 6:00 AM in weather that could best be described as cloudy. In fact, we were in a low cloud and it was snowing on us! After briefly discussing our options, we decided to begin our climb and monitor the weather closely. We all agreed that we wouldn't be climbing any peaks while in this thick cloud cover. This is what the weather looked like when we started:
We climbed through brush onto good styrofoam snow with no postholing up to to a small lake (Junction), and waited for the clouds to clear. We were'nt going anywhere until we could establish a good, visual route, although we knew our precise location with GPS. After 15 minutes, the clouds disappeared and we saw the couloir we were about to climb Amazing!. The clouds came and went, but we started climbing as we had clear weather 1/2 of the time. We climbed the 1400 foot couloir to 12,400 foot bowl elevation on good crampon snow, to the Trojan-Barnard Bowl, arriving at 11:30 AM.
Mt. Trojan 13,880 feet.
Once in the bowl, we decided to climb Trojan first as it had snow couloirs that could melt out during the day (although the temps never went above 45 all day). We used a CL2 route on snow to the right of the middle couloir, summiting Trojan at 12:45PM. Fantastic views all around.
Some of our party wanted a rest, and we stayed on the summit for about 1 hour, enjoying the views, watching the clouds come in and out. We descended back to the bowl, arriving at about 3PM.
Mt. Barnard 13,990
I wanted to climb Barnard, so while the others graciously waited in the bowl, I climbed to the summit of Barnard and back in about 75 minutes. No register was to be found, although there was a small cairn. By this time, the weather had cleared considerably, the sun had come out, and I had a great view of north side of Mt. Whitney. The climb up to Barnard is a CL2 talus hop with a clear and easy route. The traverse from Barnard to Trojan could be done, but it appears that there is some CL3 and there isn't much of a reason to do so.
We went down the couloir's north side in sand and gravel, avoiding the soft snow and arrived at camp at 630 PM. After a hearty and well earned dinner, we sacked out for the night.
Day 3-May 6th, 2007: Campsite to TH
After a 730 AM start, we essentially followed the same track back to the trailhead, took waypoints, and got back to the cars at 230 PM, and drove back to the Bay Area, arriving in San Jose at 10 PM.
All said, a great trip, although we left a George Creek-to-Williamson trip for another climbing trip.