Mt. Harrington

8 Jun 1997 - by David Wright

Kelly Maas (leader), Debbie Bulger (co-leader), Helena & Rick Verrow, Alex Keith, David Wright, and Bob Bynum

The morning light shone strongly in the parking lot as we each puttered with our pre-trip rituals. Lacking only a Johnny Reb cap and a deer rifle for that "Deliverance" look, Rick slouched in a lawn chair and evaluated his travelling companions. Debbie showed off her new 4WD truck, which towered over my Saturn like a grizzley over a schnauser. Bob launched into a long-winded explanation of why he had been unable to carpool with Debbie. The rest of us donned our own unique hiking garments and annointed our skin with sun block. Kelly began began expounding again the theme "Travelling light is travelling right", and, inspired, we delved into our packs and discarded food, clothing, cooking gear, rain gear, and miscellaneous other moldy items from the recesses. Personal bests in the category of lightest pack were achieved by three of us.

The 9 miles and 5000' of elevation change from the Lewis Creek trailhead to our campsite at Grizzley Lake passed without incident and only a modest amount of griping; 8 hours after starting we were lazing by a roaring stove. We had a splendid site on the east edge of the Grizzley Lake basin with plenty of flat spots, and trees for hanging food. It's only drawback was that water was about 100 yards away.

Low hanging clouds blew away shortly after dark and the crescent moon provided a fine spectacle as it set behind Mt. Harrington. After moonset and the end of twilight the Milky Way stretched across the sky with a splendor that has long been lost to lowland dwellers. The great starcloud in Scutum drifted slowly arcoss the southern sky, and southern latitude stars normally hidden by horizon haze flickered and danced above the distant peaks. The stars of the Summer Triangle, Vega, Altair, and Deneb, burned holes in the blackness. Those of us who were light sleepers and distained tents could view this show all night long simply by opening our eyes.

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning we started off at 7:30. Kelly led us up the basin to the saddle between Mt. Harrington and Hogsback Peak (which is quite worthy of it's name). The ridge leading to Harrington had a 100' high lump in it (which we bypassed on the way down), after descending this hump we crossed on the crest of a short snowfield and arrived at the summit spire of Harrington (11,005'). The snow here was quite hard, and a slip at this point would have been unpleasant, or worse, depending on whether you fell off to the left or to the right. Fortunately the snowfield was no more than 30 yards long, and then we were at the summit spire. This is the portion that Roper describes as a "short but enjoyable class 3 climb" and for once he was right. The granite was solid, the ledges were wide, and millenia of erosion had produced lovely lumps, knobs, and other, more fanciful, shapes to serve as handholds.

In less than 1/2 hour we were all on the summit, where we did the usual things. Ours was the first group to summit this year, but as Harrington has little to dietinguish it from hundreds of other 11,000' peaks, perhaps the correct observation is that it was climbed as recently as last July.

On the descent we turned right at the snowfield and avoided the 100' lump at the end of the ridge. The way we found to get down we could probably not have climbed, but there were undoubtably other routes that were doable, and these would provide a more direct and stimulating ascent.

We were back in camp by 12:30, and after throwing everything in our packs we headed back down and arrived at our cars by 5:15. Since everyone summitted, and only a modest amount of blood was shed by stick and stone injuries, and the person who fell in a creek didn't drown, the trip was judged to be a great success, and Kelly was toasted at dinner.


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