The Southern Sierra is such a beautiful area, and the Hooker Meadow trailhead is very special. Over Memorial Day weekend Richard and I decided to complete the trip we had planned to do in April but postponed because of the heavy snow year. We reached the trailhead about 12:30 p.m. on Saturday May 28 and began hiking at 1 p.m..
The gentle grade passed through open woodland following a branch of Jackass Creek. In less than two hours we reached the green expanse of Hooker Meadow (8,400 feet), aka Hooker marsh this year. We decided to set up our tent there amid patches of melting snow instead of continuing on to Albanita Meadows as we originally had planned. We barely had time to set up camp when we had to take refuge from the daily thunder storm.
At 4 p.m. all was clear, and since we had about four and one half more hours of daylight, we decided to go for Smith (9455 ft), the easier of the two peaks. Although there was plenty of snow above 9,000 feet, we didn't need the ice axes we had brought. At the summit we spent some time figuring out the route. We had left our guidebook back at camp, so were not sure which granite monolith was the summit block-so we ended up climbing both. The summit blocks are fun third class climbing.
It was almost dark by the time we got off the peak, and so we returned to our campsite by compass, stopping for conversation and banana bread at two campfires along the way.
The next day we took off cross country for Crag Peak (9515 ft) and managed to reach the summit block in time for the afternoon thunder storm. We spent about an hour under a huge boulder while the gropple fell around us. Luckily most of the storm was to the south, so it wasn't particularly dangerous. The ascent of Crag was tedious because of the abundant manzanita. We followed the route described by Jenkins in Exploring the Southern Sierra: East Side. However, it would have been much easier and more direct if we had come up the manzanita-free talus directly under the peak.
The summit was exciting-a knife edge ending in a few feet of exposed third class rock. Richard learned to belay just for the occasion. I know some of you super climbers would have done it without a rope, but I want that insurance. I straddled the knife edge and bun walked across, set a piece of pro for safety then climbed up. I had to unrope for the very last part since we had brought only a 7 mm, 30-foot length of rope, adequate enough.
We came down the talus directly to the south of the peak. However, we made an error by following too far south the old Albanita trail skirting Finger Rock. We should have retraced our cross country approach route from the Crag-Finger saddle. As a result, it was dark when we once again arrived at Hooker Meadow on a moonless night.
I have resolved to sew reflector tape on the top of my tents. You guessed it, we spent more than an hour looking for our tent among the trees and fallen logs. To top it off we discovered we had first arrived at Hooker almost exactly where our tent was-great navigation, lousy tent finding.
All in all a great trip with good sound granite and two fun climbs.