Last summer I admired the sheer face of Mt. Morrison from Highway 395 each time I drove by Convict Lake. I attempted it solo in March, but my experiment with step-in crampons on Merrill Wilderness leather boots proved a failure and I chose a bad route up steep icy snow. Correcting involved loose third class rock which seemed a poor risk solo so I backed off to return another day.
Another day came in June. I moved down to share a condo in Mammoth Lakes with Craig Clarence for the summer. The local phone and electric companies were slow about connecting service, so I had nothing to do Wednesday morning but go climbing. The brilliant red sunrise and chickadees singing outside my window rousted me from bed in time to drive all twelve miles from my door to Convict Lake and begin hiking at 7 am.
I took the route Secor describes up the hanging valley east of Morrison. The bottom six hundred feet up a steep streambed were much bushier now than in March and got unpleasant in places, but otherwise the going was steady and straightforward to the small, highest tarn under the east face of Morrison where I took a break after slightly more than an hour of walking.
In March, I had erred by staying too far right. This time I went straight up the face. Secor describes the face as bowl-shaped. I never matched what I saw with his description, but the going was easy on loose second class ledges and ramps. The climbing was never badly exposed. It looked like any of dozens of routes would go up the face, perhaps encountering easy third class in places. The cliffs at the top looked forboding, but an obvious notch proved to be easy second class up to the ridge, which I traversed to the summit a little before 10:00. From the top are good views of the Convict Creek region, including Laurel Mountain above the dramatic colorful cliffs and Mt. Baldwin and Red Slate to the south. Peak 3735 just north of Baldwin also has a dramatic face. The day was sunny, warm, and cloudless, perfect summer weather.
I descended directly from the summit for a while, following a pleasant use trail. Eventually it rejoined the face, which was tedious to descend. Since it was still early, I continued southwest across the valley toward Mt. Aggie. Secor only comments that Aggie is second class from the southwest ridge; it turns out to be second class from all directions. The ascent was very tedious on small sharp fragments of rock that slid on each step. The views of Morrison's face were impressive, especially due to foreshortening, but other sights were much better from Morrison. Aggie must not get much attention because there was no register to be found on the summit. I can't particularly recommend the climb, but if somebody does it they should bring a register. As far as I can tell, the only claim to fame the mountain has is that it is labeled on the skyline map at the scenic vista right before 395 descends to Bishop. The name isn't even listed in Place Names of the Sierra Nevada. [Ironically, shortly after this trip report was written but before I got my modem out here, Aaron Schuman & co climbed Aggie too!]
Morrison was a satisfying and enjoyable climb. It was easy and safe to solo and is low enough to make a good early season trip.
I'll be spending the rest of the summer in Mammoth Lakes. PCSers looking for a place to stay or a hot tub are welcome to visit--send me email to check if I'll be around. Also, I'm looking for company on strenuous mid-week daytrips or overnights.
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