Red and White and Hot

28 Jul 1991 - by Steve Eckert

Hoping for time to sneak in a second peak [Red and White Mountain], we left the cars at 7:30 on a surprisingly warm morning. Despite previous grumbling, the heat and persistent mosquitos soon made it seem that a pre- dawn start might have been better. The McGee Creek trailhead (south of Convict Lake) is on the Mt Morrison topo, but the bulk of our route was on the Mt Abbot map.

The head of the group reached the campsite at Big McGee Lake (10,500 feet) around 11:30. When the tail of the group failed to show up, several went back to find that Hayden had passed out (!) briefly, apparently due to altitude sickness. (He recovered later, and went on to bag the peak the next day.)

After a long wait and lunch, some of us attempted Mt Crocker via the southwest saddle (11,800 feet). Choosing a promising gully over the scree to our far right was a mistake: Having to choose between hard snow or class 4-5 rock, plus a few raindrops, convinced us to turn around several hundred feet below the ridge. (Scree routes to the west would have worked.) Aside from some good boulder calisthenics, all we got out of the afternoon was a chance to patch up a good size gash in Meredith's arm (2 down, 6 to go).

The fun part started the next morning, with a 6:30 start: Too warm for sweaters but with a calm breeze pushing back the bugs. We went up the trail to just below Little McGee Lake, then angled just to the left of the 12,300 foot bump north of the peak. Isherwood was on a roll, setting a good pace and route. A knife ridge lead to the darker summit mass, which has a number of class 3 options on the east side. Just over 3 hours from camp, we were rewarded with a calm, sunny summit. By the way, Red and White is black on top.

Betting on the route, we dropped back down to the saddle northeast from the peak, then turned east down a scree-filled gully. Staying to the right of a rocky cleaver, we scrambled down onto a snowfield suitable for standing glissades. We picked up a trail near the small lake at 11,200 feet, and skirted around the north side of Big McGee Lake back to camp.

We broke camp and left around 1:30, with a cheap REI thermometer reading 80 in the shade. Of course it got hotter during the 3 hour hike back to the cars, producing our third casualty from either heat or dehydration (the author skipped dinner in Lee Vining, but recovered after Highway 120 took its toll).

Our group included Chris Cramer, Steve Eckert, Mike Hayden, Bill Isherwood, Cecil Magliocco (leader), Mike Meredith, Charles Shafer, and Paul Vlasveld (co-leader).

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