Route: East Ridge Trailhead: Mongomery Reservior
I met with Tony Bulik at a Park-n-Ride at 5:15 am on July 24, 1999. We were at the trailhead on the west side of Montgomery Reservoir north of Alma by 7 am. We accidentally met a fellow named Jim Brock that Tony had met a few weeks before on a climb of Crystal Peak. His goal for the day was also Clinton Peak so we hiked together. We left the trailhead shortly after 7 am. The route follows a jeep track for 4 miles from 10,940 feet to 12,168 feet at Wheeler Lake. Most of the elevation is gained in the last mile. The road is extremely rough in spots with large boulders and narrow distances between them. Not passable by anything but an occasional Jeep. The runoff is still in full swing and the road serves as a creek bed and mudhole in many places leading to wet feet and to off road passages through the willows.
We reached Wheeler Lake in less that two hours and then decided how to attack the summit. We headed west from the northern end of the lake, traversing an occasional snowfield, and ascending a series of benches to the bowl below Clinton, McNamee and Traver at an elevation of 13,300 feet. There is a lot of water rushing down this drainage, many alpine flowers and some fantastic views of the north side of Lincoln and Democrat. Saw several ptarmigan, one with chicks that pulled the old broken wing trick to lead us away. There is a good solid snowfield that leads 550 vertical feet directly to the summit of Clinton Peak. Tony and Jim followed this route. I bailed out after about 300 feet feeling that it was getting too steep and finished the climb on the rocks to the east of the snowfield. Tony and I had left our ice axes in the car feeling that trekking poles would suffice for any snow work. Not a good decision. We reached the summit at about 10:30.
We signed the register which was a couple of pieces of paper in a plastic peanut butter jar. It had been there since 1997 and we were the first people to sign in '99. Some really black clouds were moving in over Democrat so we decided to scuttle the plans for McNamee and Traver and hit the snowfield for a quick descent off of the summit. We pretty much backtracked our path, keeping on the south side of the drainage this time until we cut back north down to Wheeler Lake to avoid some cliffs. It rained lightly and we were back to the trailhead by 1:40 pm and back to town by 4 pm. The weather never did really turn bad on us. We think Jim must have been the good luck charm!
A very interesting hike and we met no one after we were past Wheeler Lake. Didn't even see any footprints in the snow. Found some boot soles that looked like they had been left by a miner over 100 years ago. The upper basin is very beautiful and there is still some great snow climbing.