Royce Peak and Merriam Peak

27 Aug 2000 - by Aaron Schuman

As we stood on the summit of Royce Peak, we watched nearby Mount Humphreys raise its spiky head like an angry mountaineer with a bad haircut, while all around the tall thunderclouds rivalled Humphreys in rage and fierceness.

We had left Pine Creek trailhead on Saturday morning; Phyllis Olrich, Alex Sapozhnikov, Joe Budman and I. We hiked the long steep trail up to Pine Creek Pass, then tramped over to our camp at Middle Royce Lake just as the sky unleashed its fury. It was a torrent. We were washed away.

At dawn on Sunday, we started up our mountains under threatening skies, filled with pessimism about being unable to reach our destinations. But the weather held.

We clambered up the slick, hard, suncupped snow slope to the gap between Royce Peak and Merriam Peak. Ski poles served us better with ice axes on that surface. We stowed gear and clambered up scree and easy talus to the summit of Royce. Still concerned about the weather, we hastened down to the gap and then climbed the shorter and rockier slope of Merriam. At the summit of Merriam, we began to feel more secure, so we lingered for a few minutes to marvel at the sight of the central Sierra crowned with cloud.

We returned the way we came. We descended our snow slope with a combination of standing glissade, mogul jumping, and painfully bouncing on our fannies. We struck camp and made the long hike back to the trailhead, returning just as we ran out of daylight. The rain finally returned, and we drove home on highway 395 with the windshield wipers beating.

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