Accordingly, I got up at the usual time and did not get hiking until 9:51. Up past both lakes, passing the first on the north, the second on the south. The slope up to the saddle is not as bad as it looks, although there are sections of shifting large talus. Not visible from below is a chute diagonalling right from the top of the fan . Going up, I followed this to within 100 feet of a steeper section and then exited left on ledges, encountering only a little 3rd class up to the crest. Proceeding north, I found the normal exit from the chute, just north of a large brown gendarme. There were signs of activity, with occasional footprints visible. Easy scrambling on the west side of the ridge led north to a point where it became clearly harder than 3rd. I dropped 50 feet without finding any easier terrain. It appeared that it was possible to drop several hundred feet and continue contouring to the north. This appeared to take too much time, so at 1:30 I turned around and was back in Onion Valley at 4:30. Very few mosquitoes. Shorts and T shirt all day. The "trails" up to the 2nd lake are much more like "use" trails.
So, any hints. Is it correct to stay high near the crest or was my guess at the big drop correct?
Mark Adrian adds:
Sue Holloway and I did this as a dayhike w/Gould, very nice loop BTW. From the ridgeline, where there's some minor 3rd, I recall we headed north, staying pretty level and passing a gendarme on the west and a false summit on the east until you get to a large WNW facing gully that drops off of Dragon's summit. From here, we contoured NNE on some cruddy cl2/3 to a small notch, where we encountered a sling and the 20 or 30' horizontal "flake" to the summit. RJ states poor handholds and that and the sling kind of spooked us for a few moments. But, taking the lead, I easily walked the boot-wide "flake" to the summit, Sue then followed without hesitation and we determined there indeed were adequate handholds despite the exposure. On return, it was just as "easy" and we continued S along the ridge (with some 3rd) to Gould, then to Kearsarge Pass and out to Onion Valley, where, we met you and Lori for CKing and Gardiner later that week.