Mt Ruskin

5 Sep 1999 - by Richard Hughes

Driving from Ventura, Alice met Patsy and me, driving from San Diego, at the Two Sisters restaurant in Inyokern at 9 pm on Friday night. We tossed a coin and Patsy called it that Alice drive. This turned out to be a fortuitous choice since we had brought the Buick and we had already learnt, on the 4WD roads outside Las Vegas, that the Buick doesn't handle poor dirt roads with anything close to aplomb.

The Taboose Creek trailhead was packed so we retraced our path a little and camped off the side of the road. Saturday morning after breakfast and returned to park at the trailhead. An L.A. Sierra Club party of six were just starting up the trail as we arrived. They left in tight formation and that was exactly how we always saw them. Quack, quack, just like little ducks in a row. These guys (one gal) weren't waddling though. They kept up a good pace throughout the weekend, consistently starting ahead of us.

It took us eight hours (including a lunchtime nap) to reach the pass. Although there were no mosquitos, the tiny biting flies were rather irksome. We camped at the first lake west of the pass, just below the Sierra Club group.

Next morning Patsy woke me up at 6.30. We set off at 7.45 or so, headed west towards Kings Canyon. At the junction with the Johnny Muir Trail we headed north for a little ways and then uphill to the south west. We filled our water bottles from a rivulet of water coming off Mt. Ruskin and gazed in awe at the east ridge of Ruskin. Ruskin, Ruskin, wherefore art though Ruskin? I had brought my GPS, with waypoints set from TopoGPS!, and it was pointing us into the head of the cirque. The Hell with technology. Give me the map. Okay, so *this* is the east ridge and that's Ruskin. The only reason we were at the base of this particular ridge was that Mark Adrian had told me that this must be our priority peak. "Be sure your priority peak is Ruskin's east ridge, the ENTIRE east ridge". In all fairness he did go on to say that, "You can get on it via high 3rd from about 100 yards from its eastern terminus" but we forgot about that part. After two false starts, the second involving an awkward mantle, we figured this was going to take too long. That and Alice was screaming, "You guys are nuts, this isn't third class". We worked our way down and a bit further west. Hee hee, it was much easier here.

The ridge was spectacular all right. A grand, arching edge of granite that swept up toward the summit. Just shy of the summit we were brought to a halt by a seeming impasse. On the left a ledge with a thousand foot sheer drop and on the right another ledge with another thousand foot drop. All in all, the right hand looked easier and I traversed out on a narrowing ledge. A ledge that narrowed from four inches to nothing and then back to half an inch. Fortunately there were good finger locks in a higher seam. Patsy and Alice didn't like the look of this at all. I went back and Patsy went off to explore the left side. Nope, that doesn't go for sure. "Now how do I get back?" This looked like a good lunch spot to me. But instead Patsy and Alice both went off to explore the right side and each climbed a separate route, Patsy a flake with decent footholds and Alice a fist jam crack. I followed Alice and in short order we were all three on the summit. The register held evidence of ascents by luminaries that included Ron Hudson, Mark Adrian, Steve Eckert, Dennis Richards and others.

After retracing our steps along the ridge for a ways we dropped down a scree slope to the south and traced our way back to the trail. We reached camp half an hour before the Sierra Club group (they had left half an hour before us). They were still in characteristically tight formation but were now moving very lethargically. I wonder what they had done? We never did find out.

Next morning we broke camp at 10 am and got back to the car about 5 pm. We cooled both heels and beer in the stream before setting off on the long drive home. All this just in training for next weekend's adventure.


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