The Lewis Creek trail is fairly steep with an overall elevation gain of 5400 feet over 9 miles to Grizzly Lakes. At this time of year water is hard to come by, though the trail wasn't totally free of water sources. We all hiked at our own pace and waited at trail junctions for everyone to regroup. Parts of the trail (most it seemed) were very sandy so we left a cloud of dust as we trudged on. There were some fall colors as the foliage began to change, though nothing as dramatic as New England or the eastern Sierra. Just past Frypan Meadow Vishal met up with a lone hiker named Paul Wilms. Originally from Belgium Paul is a very experienced hiker/climber and he and Vishal decided to try to climb Harrington on Saturday, rather than camping at Grizzly Lakes and climbing Harrington on Sunday with the rest of us. After doing some reconnaisance Paul and Vishal decided against climbing Harrington Saturday since it was getting late and the peak was still a distance away. We invited Paul to camp with us so our merry group of six hiked on. Grizzly Lakes is not much of a lakes in the Fall. The water level is very shallow with a lot of sediment. Over night the surface of the lake froze. Bob Evan's filter clogged as he filtered drinking water. We managed to find a nice camping spot close to the "lake". Only two of us brought tents while the others slept under the stars ( there was some concern that it might rain). After a lot of clouds passed through the sky cleared with a nearly full moon and many stars brightening the evening. It was completely quiet - no wind, no scampering of bears, no buzzing of flies.
On Sunday morning we woke at 7:00AM per our plan. By 8:00AM we were headed towards Harrington. It's a fairly steep hike to the base of the peak. We all took our own path. Pat, Bob and I decided to go straight up, while Vishal and Paul took an easier route to the east and John split the difference. I struggled a bit getting up one sheer wall but with assistance from Pat I managed to get over the hurdle. We all met up at the base of the peak, just below the final 300 foot Class 3 section. I decided to wait there while the rest of the group climbed the peak. I've become a lot more comfortable on rock, but I'm still a bit shaky. In retrospect I regret not climbing the peak since the hand and foot holds were described by all as terrific. As I hung out I watched a fire burning to the northeast. Apparently it was a controlled burn but the amount of smoke generated was quite a bit.
The gang of five loitered on the summit of Harrington for a while enjoying the views of the Grand Dike, Silver Spur, and the Palisades in the distance, and then made their way down one by one. They were the first group to sign the register since October of the previous year. Why more climbers don't bag this beautiful peak is a mystery to me. Paul and Vishal lingered longer enjoying the warm sunshine and the views. They made a plan to climb Kennedy Mountain on Monday so weren't in any hurry to get back to camp. The rest of us arrived back in camp and refueled, rested and broke camp. An hour after arriving the four of us headed down the dusty trail. Going downhill is tougher on the legs than going uphill, so I longed for an M.C. Escher-type experience where I could get back to the trailhead without going downhill. Dream on! Near Frypan Meadow we took a right turn and headed down the Deer Cove trail as we had planned. It was as steep and dusty as Lewis Creek but the views were better. Further down the trail we had a nice view of Harrington as well as a rock formation called the Grand Dike. In addition, there was more colorful foliage. We made good time hiking out - Bob and Pat turned on the afterburners while John and I hiked at a more moderate pace. It took all of us less than 4 hours to hike out.
After cleaning up and changing clothes at the trailhead we all decided to meet at the Woolgrowers Basque restaurant in Los Banos for dinner. We were all very hungry so it was a struggle to wait until Los Banos to eat. The wait was worth it, however. The food at the restaurant was as plentiful as it was delicious, all for a modest price. We were soon back in Sunnyvale going our separate ways and looking forward to another successful Sierra peak climb.
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