The snow was thin almost all the way to Hwy 120, and Joan went in the drink at 7700' crossing the stream near the Snow Creek Ranger Cabin (no real harm done, but it WAS exciting). In the interest of shorter distance, Stephane and I stormed straight up to the 8200' contour, involving some skidding on slabs with 6" snow cover but no real danger. This may not have been the best route for those less experienced... enough said. We all made it, and struck a straight line along the ridgetop in open tall trees.
The views should have been stunning, but were reduced to merely impressive (in my opinion) by a growing haze. By mid-afternoon, the sun was weak and the distant views were poor, but we still snapped pictures of Half Dome from many angles and elevations. Briefly cresting 8600', we re-connected with the trail (and the beaten path of others who took the long way 'round). We reached camp at about 5pm (well, some took a bit longer) and variously dug into tree wells for shelter or set up tents on the road itself. At 5000' of gain in 10 hours, this was the tallest day some had ever done with a backpack.
Sunday morning it was 17 degrees, and we left camp at first light (6am) for what some were predicting would be a 4 hour round trip to the peak. Heck, only 2300' and under 6 miles, shouldn't take long eh? We'll just crampon up and slide back down, no problem. Heh. It was about 4 hours of trudging through breakable crust with sugar underneath before we reached the summit, followed by close to 2000' of glissading if you owned an anti-friction glissade sheet (or postholing and cursing if you didn't). Pat proved that he could ski even crud, but it took about 1000' before conditions improved and he reliably linked turns.
For data on Mt Hoffmann, like elevation and a topo map, see http://www.climber.org/scripts/SierraPeaks.cgi?REG+22+14
About 800' below the summit, we were quite surprised to meet Jim Curl skiing up solo... he had left the valley around 4am, and was going to summit around 11am. Not bad for 6700' of gain, half in snow! He did mention that our fine tracks had saved him some navigation time, and he was travelling very light. He stopped to rest on his way back down as we broke camp. Somehow Stephane and I wound up back down at the Snow Creek bridge ahead of him and Pat, proving that skis are not always faster than pointing snowshoes straight down the hill and stomping away.
I didn't see Jim below the snowline, where he was changing back into trail shoes, but the last of our group got to the cars at 7pm, and 4 of us stuffed ourselves at the Pavilion Buffet before heading home. The only bad traffic of the weekend was, believe it or not, at 11pm when we were stuck in stop-and-go traffic between Tracy and Livermore.
It's melting fast! Get out and enjoy before the mosquitoes hit.
PS: Pat wanted me to say that his ice axe did a great job of holding his tarp in place, but it and the crampons were otherwise useless!
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