The twelve of us met at the parking lot at the end of Mineral King Road on Saturday September 29 2001. That was Leader Aaron Schuman, Noelle O'Sullivan, Evelyn Fluckiger, Fi Verplanke, Shree Mazumbar, Linda Sun, Rebecca and Steve Eckert, Mike Mc Dermitt, Siva Sankaran, Kirsten and Stephane Mouradian, Co-leader and scribe. 12 people originating from 7 countries!
The plan for this trip was to go camp at Franklin lakes on Saturday (5.6 miles, + 2750') and summit Florence Peak Sunday (1.8 miles, 2100'). Saturday being a fairly short day, we had a leisurely departure around 8:30am. Siva had a fever at the parking lot, he hiked 30 min and made the reasonable decision to turn around.
The golden aspens in the bottom of the valley reminded us that October was almost there. Skies were bright clear though and the mid-day temperatures must have been well into the 70s. Franklin creek had a reasonable flow but the creek in Farewell canyon was completely dry above the Franklin Lakes turn-off.
Lofty ideological discussions were going strong in the back of our longish line and they kept the group going, while making the world a better place. It was warm and several people talked about swimming in Franklin Lake. We got there around 1:30pm (including a 1 hour lunch), and Fi and Evelyn found the "middle" bear box on a ledge above the lake. Franklin lake has one box just below the dam, one (the "middle" one) one half mile east of the dam 100 ft above the lake, and the third one = miles from the dam and 200ft above the lake (see the GPS coordinates).
As we were setting up camp, the wind was starting to pick up. Evelyn was actually the only one who stuck to her words and jumped in Franklin, while the rest of us set up camp and relaxed in this beautiful spot. Steve suggested Tulare Peak (11,654') as a short trip. Evelyn, Steve, Mike and myself, crossed the lake at the dam and diagonaled up along the South West facing shore while staying below the cliffs. As soon as the cliffs ended, we turned South West and went straight up for the ridge. It was mostly loose red rock and sand and got steep near the ridge. We then walked the ridge South and reach the summit around 4:20pm, or about 1 hour after leaving camp. There were a couple registers. One contained a 1985 Yvon Chouinard signature, mentioning "good corn snow", meaning he probably had more fun than us coming down. No one had visited the peak since 1999. We modestly printed in the register than ours was the first climb of the year, the century and the millennium, no less. Amazing what oxygen deprivation can make you feel like!
Did I mention the wind? It had shifted and gotten stronger by the time we got back to camp for a lively diner. The wind grew even stronger through the night.
We had an early start the next morning: everyone was up in the windy cold darkness at 5:30am and we were on our way at 6:40am. We followed the trail to Franklin pass, then headed south along the ridge up Florence. It is mostly class 2+ boulders in our opinion. We stuck south and straight up the ridge to the summit. The ten of us got there at 9:40am, 3 hours from camp. The weather was comfortable and it was clear in all directions. Views included the Kaweahs, Whitney, Olancha, Goddard. We probably spent 45 min up there savoring our achievement, the views, the sunshine and chocolate.
We came down more or less the same route although we noticed the terrain is a little easier along the Eastern side of the ridge. Steve took off and leaped up Rainbow Mountain (12,043 feet), coming straight down to camp along Rainbow's South West facing slope.
We saw another 8-10 deer on the way back which probably brought the total to about 20 for this trip, and that was with a group of 11 people if that is any indication of their shyness.
We were back at the cars by 3:30 pm and found Siva in a recovered state. To my question whether it was her first PCS trip, Noelle replied "The WHAT trip?" which clearly answered it. Evelyn was new to the club as well. This was a fairly large group for my first co-lead, with experience ranging from 1 peak to tons of peaks. Everyone stuck together, bonded and nobody whined. Great trip everyone!
GPS coordinates taken by Steve Eckert: