About 8:30 a.m. we began our way northbound, flanking Sonora Peak to the west. The first mile was a pleasant walk across high meadows and two tiny streams. Before we knew it we were at St. Mary's Pass. North of us the trail continued northward in a broad arc following the wide northern ridge of Sonora Peak. The vista reminded me of the view from the trail to Uncompahgre Peak in the San Juans, with Stanislaus Peak substituting for that fine fourteener. We crossed more high meadowland where a couple of streams still barely flowed. The trail petered out at a saddle in front of the peak.
We hiked down to the base and directly up the south face, which was covered in dirt, sand and scree which got steeper and more difficult the higher we got. By that point, a few parties numbering over a dozen climbers had converged. Surprisingly, two guys who looked fit enough retreated after encountering the class two rocks on the steepest section, just before the peak. But the rest of us slogged on and just after noon we were all on the 11,233 foot summit, which has an ammo-can register.
One of the guys we met on top was Pete Yamagata, who claims to have climbed over 1100 peaks. He runs a fine website full of excellent mountain photos. Our view from the top was excellent. A few miles south of us we could see Leavitt Peak, which is much more impressive than I imagined; it's a typical high Sierra mountain, complete with a glacier and still-snowy couloirs. All day the air was clear and warm. Even on the summit the gentle breeze was never chilly.
After consulting the free topo I had printed from the Topozone website, in order to avoid most of the class two rock and the steepest scree, I suggested that we descend to the southwest and traverse the south face to get back to the trail. We were back to the car around 3:00 p.m, which means we had hiked about a mile and a half per hour, including rest stops. Greg and I left Rich at Sonora Pass after we cleaned up a bit, rested and enjoyed a cup of Rich's coffee.
Stanislaus would be a fine peak to climb with snowshoes or skis in the winter. It's also is a fine beginner's peak, a little more challenging than some of the other easy North SPS Peaks, because one has to cross a high pass and do some real class two climbing to get to the summit. On the way out we could have climbed Sonora Peak, but it's not an SPS list peak and since Rich and Greg had both already climbed it, we decided against it. I plan to hike it some day with my wife and two girls. Thanks to Greg for driving me in his Ford Exploder (complete with killer Firestones) and to Rich for joining us.
I ascended Leavitt peak last weekend (Labor Day) in the wonderful fresh snowfall at the pass (knee deep in spots, but averaging 4-6 inches) and I broke trail in the snow up to the summit. The white powder arrived as if the Lord had throw a switch on 1 September 2000 changing the previous day's 80 deg weather to the 30's. We bivied on the snow in 25 deg temps. It was a pleasure to enjoy such wonderful weather with Tony and Greg, compared to that colder, wet and snowy but still nice weekend.
We met a guy named Rick on the summit who claims to have done the first ascent of the Bear Creek route up Mt Williamson *many* years ago and so far has remained credited with that FA. The photo I took of him atop Stanislaus is on my website. It is a clip from several hundred megabytes of video from my camcorder. I have lugged it up the class 1-2 peaks lately since the weather has been so nice.