A Splendid Time on Split Mountain

9 Jul 1995 - by Charles Schafer

The clouds looked ominous, but what the heck, we'd come all this way so we might as well go a little further. Of course it was still Friday night, so there wasn't much question at this point, but this was a theme which would be repeated over the weekend.

Saturday morning the seven of us (Bob Suzuki (Co-Leader (and the one who did all the work)), Jim Gardner, Jim Ramaker, David Harris, Eddie Sudol, Arnie Martelli, and yours truly Charles Schafer) met at the point where McMurray Meadow Road meets Glacier Lodge Road, and transferred everyone into two 4-wheel drive vehicles for the trip in to the trailhead. We expected some route-finding difficulty and were not disappointed. We'd just passed McMurray Meadow when we crossed the two fords mentioned by Secor, then continued on what looked like the main road. However, there looked to be another road off to the left which was not mentioned. Things deteriorated from here as the road continued south, then east, then into what looked like a sandtrap. Another road (actually more of a pretend road) had been spotted just before we came onto the sandtrap, so we backtracked to it (actually we double-backtracked since we missed it the first time back). This whisper of a path disappeared pretty quickly, so we continued back to the two fords and followed the other road, which turned out to be the right one. From here, the route description helped a little (we saw the two road signs mentioned), but at one point Secor talks of turning here, then turning there, when all we did was follow the main road. That part was not too hard. Finally, after two hours, we reached the trailhead.

We quickly set to the trail, which really isn't hard to find if you know where to look (or read the big sign on the board at the trailhead) and ignore the maps which are in error. The trail climbs some 4000 feet in a distance of 5 miles or so, so it is steep, and there are also some sections which are soft and loose (usually at the steepest parts), so the climb to camp was not one of my fondest memories. We did arrive at Red Lake at about 3:00, however, without incident. Its worth adding that the scenery at Red Lake makes an abrupt departure from the high desert chaparral that we saw most of the way up, and becomes downright pretty. We hit no snow until we got to Red Lake, and it was spotty there, with the lake almost completely clear of ice (in contrast to a trip report of 3 weeks earlier).

We found a campsite in a sheltered area completely clear of snow, and got our tents and bivvys set up just in time to get out of the way of a hail/thunder storm which had been threatening for a while, and which finally let loose but good. All of us, that is, but the two determined warriors who set out to conquer Mt Tinemaha. They got dumped on pretty thoroughly but still managed to make the summit, and returned to camp about three hours later. After some bustling about with dinner, most of us turned in early.

We awoke at 4:30 the next morning, and were moving by 5:45 except for one of us who decided to go for Tinemaha, instead. We were able to climb a few hundred feet without snow, but then moved onto snow fields for the climb up to the headwall north of Split and the headwall itself. The snow was actually pretty soft, although well consolidated, so travel was relatively easy with no need for crampons. In fact the headwall looked as though there might be a lot of loose rock under all that snow, so I was pretty thankful. It was here that the clouds seemed their most threatening, looking very dark and ominous off in the distance, while the lighter ones overhead dropped a few showers on us. We persevered, however, and once on the ridge the showers stopped although the clouds in the distance continued to threaten. From here it was straightforward boulder hopping with a few snow patches to the summit. And what a glorious summit it was! There were magnificent views all around, and everything to the west was covered in a mantle of white. The summit itself was pretty impressive with a steep drop-off to the notch, then the south peak rising up sharply on the other side.

We spent longer than we probably should have at the summit, savoring the view and the accomplishment, but then made up for it with a lot of glissading back to camp. We got down in no time at all, and wound up back at camp at about 1:00 or 1:30. It took about an hour to pack up, and then we were on our way down to the cars. Several knee pounding hours later we were back to the cars and headed for the Sizzler in Bishop to celebrate. It was late by the time we got back home, but it was worth it!

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