In the Eastern Sierra

29 Jun 1998 - by David Harris (view roster page)

Craig Clarence and I spent the past nine days in the eastern Sierra. At Big Pine, the snow level is mostly continuous above 10,000' and the lakes above 3rd lake are still frozen. The south fork has a tremendous amount of snow and the high peaks look nearly unclimbable on account of 2 feet of unconsolidated snow on every moderate angle surface above 12,000'. At Lundy Canyon in northern Yosemite, snow is continuous above about 9000' and the 20 lakes basin at 10,000' is still almost entirely frozen. The Lundy Pass trail is covered with a steep, hard north-facing snow field; ice axe or crampons are required.

We climbed the Moongoddess Arete on Temple Crag, involving 5 60 meter pitches of easy climbing and 13 shorter pitches on more difficult rock. There was ice in many of the shaded cracks. The rock is quite good and the route is long, strenouous, and hideously exposed. I have great respect for everyone who's led this climb!

We also explored a seldom-climbed route up the NW ridge of Mt. Gayley. This is the ridge of Gayley seen on the skyline looking up from 3rd lake; it starts right at the camping area on the edge of the Palisade glacier. Secor rates the climb 5.2, grade I, but the climb involved 8 or 10 60 meter pitches and was at least 5.4 on the route we took. Getting onto the ridge from the glacier involves a loose pitch (rather like the rock of Glacier Notch), but the remainder of the ridge is very solid and enjoyable. The route remains on the ridge except at a steep step above a notch, in which we traversed left onto the face and back for two pitches; these pitches had a good deal of snow on ledges and would probably be easier in later season. We didn't see any record of climbers on the ridge in the past fifteen years. We found the climb very enjoyable and would recommend it to those who enjoy long, relatively easy fifth class ridge climbing. We'd hoped to combine the climb with the Swiss Arete, but Gayley took too long and the Swiss Arete still had a significant amount of snow.

From Convict Lake, we climbed Mt. Laurel. We never could reconcile Secor's descriptions of the class 2 trough and class 4 gully with what we actually saw; we climbed the obvious couloir from the inlet end of Convict Lake directly to the summit. It was mostly covered with snow and just an exercise in step-kicking, but involved some exposed 3rd class climbing on congealed sand and mud where I roped up and placed pro for a pitch. The route was otherwise enjoyable; I'd recommend it only when covered in consolidated snow.

Craig climbed Excelsior from Helen Lake above Lundy Canyon. He reported being on snow the entire way from the 10,000' lake and found it a very enjoyable ski descent.


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