Mt. Harrington (Almost) (11,005')

30 Jun - 1 Jul 2001 - by Mike Mcdermitt (view roster page)

Saturday morning, sitting down in the office to spend a few hours catching up on things, I find the speakers attached to my computer don't work. Why come to work on a Saturday if I can't listen to new music on the internet? Outta here! But it's 10am already, what to do this weekend? Out come the maps. Hmmm.... never been to Kings Canyon. Mt. Harrington appears to be the only Class 3 peak within possible reach from KC in a day. Already mostly packed (the benefit of not fully unpacking from prior trip), I throw backpacks in the car (still not sure if a dayhike or an overnight), add 1 1/2 gallons of water, a lunch and a dinner and some road food and I am off just before noon. I love California. But seriously...

The Deer Cove Trail trailhead is just outside of Kings Canyon National Park on National Forest Land on Hwy 180. It starts at an elevation of 4,400'. On arrival, mine is the only car in the parking area. After dining and packing rapidly while dodging mosquitoes, I hit the trail at 7.30pm on a clear warm evening. The trail is easy going. By 9pm it is pretty dark and I luckily find a nice place to bivy on the nose of a ridge, a very open spot, having gained about 1,600' and 3 miles. The night was extremely pleasant: cloudless, no breeze just a mild flow that kept the air fresh, temp maybe got as low as 60, no mosquitoes. In the morning I pack a daypack and am hiking by 6.45am. Pass signed trail junctions to Choke Creek and then Burns Meadow. Reach Wildman Meadow (now a bog among trees with some camping areas) then signed junction offering choices of Grizzly Lakes and Frypan Meadows. I make a left to Grizzly Lakes. Another signed junction soon after offers the same choice. Now I am on the Grizzly Lakes trail. The trail has apparently been worked on recently, as it was very easy to follow the entire way to Grizzly Lakes, unlike as describd in several prior trip reports. At about 9,800' where the trail crosses a small ridge and starts down to Grizzly Lake, Mt. Harrington quite obviously comes into view, about a mile away. I leave the trail and head cross country northeast towards the bump just north of the peak. From the base of the ridge at about 10,400', gaining the ridge appears difficult but with Cl 3 moves I find a way up to the lowpoint between Harrington and the bump to the north of it (Paul Magliocco's route posted on climber.org is longer but easier). I then climb around the backside and south a few feet onto a bumplet. At this point I am a few feet away from the very impressive 300' finlike summit block, with a vertical east face and near-vertical west face. Hmmm....it is immediately obvious to me that the rest of the way is beyond my (current) ability to safely climb alone. It being noon and being crystal clear to me that I have made the right decision, my thoughts move on to lunch and contemplation of the spectacular view from the 10,700' bumplet. Even with the view in some directions blocked (unlike the summit): University and Bradley to the east, Great Western Divide, Kaweahs; Tablelands and Mt. Silliman in the west. A perfect view of the west side of the Palisades, looking incredibly close though actually 20 miles away, Agassiz south to Middle Pal or Norman Clyde.

I start back down at 12.30, reaching my bivy spot and pack just before 4pm, and the car just after 5pm. After picking up dinner at a Subway in Fresno I headed back to the Bay Area and was home at about 11pm.

Trip Stats: 6,300' net gain (add 300' for peak), about 23-24 miles round-trip. Some water available at Deer Cove (5,600' and 2 miles in) and then none reliable until the trail crosses the East Fork of Grizzly Creek at about 8,200' and about 7 3/4 miles in) and then at Grizzly Lakes. Based on my elapsed time coming down, the Tom Harrison map seems to have its mileages for the Deer Cove and Grizzly Lakes Trails correct whereas Secor seems to have several mileage sections wrong. The Deer Cove trail is nicely switch backed, so that a steady pace can be readily maintained, however the Grizzly Creek trail is mostly steep with a few flat sections. The section from Deer Cove to Wildman Meadow is relatively open due to the fire, which offers nice relief relative to hiking through viewless breezeless forest, also pretty with lots of new green growth. Although there were plenty of footprints I saw no one. It was hot coming down in the afternoon.


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