Super duper Hooper (and Senger)

2-6 Jul 2001 - by Debbie Bulger

Mother Nature gave us fireworks for the 4th of July. We had planned to celebrate by climbing Mt. Hooper, but she had other plans. We left camp at Sallie Keyes Lakes at 5:30 a.m., but it was already raining before we reached the saddle southeast of Hooper. So we enlisted the help of a whitebark pine who offered to hold our climbing gear until the next day and retreated to camp. It started hailing 30 seconds after we got into our tents.

Two days before, Richard Stover, Dick Simpson, Ann Baxter, 4-legged backpackers Baxter and Secret, and I (Debbie Bulger) had taken the 8:30 a.m. ferry across Florence Lake and packed up to base camp at Sallie Keyes Lakes. On July 3rd Richard, Dick and I climbed Mt. Senger. According to Peter Browning (Place names of the Sierra Nevada), Mt. Senger is named for Joachim Henry Senger, one of the four founders of the Sierra Club. There is a mountain named after John Muir, but so far as I know, none for the other two founders, Warren Olney and William D. Armes.

Mt. Senger is a wonderful climb. Enjoyable and easy with a spectacular view. No scree. No one else had signed the summit register in 2001.

On July 5 we tried again for Hooper, hoping that Mother Nature would cooperate. We picked up the gear at the whiteback pine and ascended easy class 2 slopes to the summit block. I was glad I had brought a 50-ft rope and especially thankful I had brought my climbing shoes.

Even so, I'm no Bob Suzuki or Jim Curl. Richard belayed as I went around to the "easy" north face. It's rated 4th class and quite exposed. I chimneyed up between two large rocks. Standing on the top of the northernmost one, I hesitated. I placed a #6 wall nut for insurance.

I have climbed much more difficult routes, but on the other hand, I was top-roped. The move before me was easy, but on the other hand, help was a very long day's hike away. I was glad I was out of sight of the guys, so they could not see my indecision.

I silently spoke to myself, echoing the words of my ASI climbing instructor. "Place your foot as if you expected it to stick and stand up on it. Go girl, you can do it." And I did. I was on top! No one had yet signed the register in 2001. The clouds were building. I signed in. Neither Richard nor Dick wanted to come up, so I had Richard lower me using the 7mm loop in place on the south side. Once down, I went around to the backside to retrieve my piece, and we quickly descended to Marie Lake for pancakes.

Yes, pancakes. The Pancake Man was camped at Marie Lake (named for Hooper's daughter). Word of his presence had reached us for days. Garvin Heath, a Berkeley graduate student, had gotten the idea from a couple he met while hiking in Tasmania. They had served pancakes to hungry hikers, and now Garvin was doing the same. At his own expense he had hired packers to haul in supplies to a spot near the Hilgard Branch of Bear Creek: a Coleman stove, 50 lbs. of pancake mix, two huge storage drums, gallons of oil, an assortment of toppings including real maple syrup, not to mention his personal gear. His friends helped him carry everything (in three trips) to the south end of Marie Lake where he set up under a blue tarp, hung out a sign, "Peripatetic Pancakes," and proceeded to give away pancakes to hungry hikers on the JMT. Did I say "give away," perhaps I should have said, "cooked to order."

Pancakes and good conversation. What a deal! When we arrived, Garvin had been at the grill for a week and a half. He estimated he had served about 900 pancakes so far and was looking forward to using up his supplies before he completed his two-week stint. We were happy to help him out.

Afterwhich we scurried back to camp before the rain began again in earnest. And hail. The next morning we hiked out.

The wildflowers were at their peak. At times the perfume from the lupine was overpowering. Besides all the usual suspects, there were many that I had to look up after I got back to the truck: white schoenolirion, which grew side by side with the familiar California corn lily; western bistort, sporting a white pom pom atop a long stalk, Sargent's catchfly; the cute, mouse tail ivesia with its fuzzy leaves resembling mouse tails; Drummond's thistle; narrow-leaved owl clover; Bigelow's sneezeweed; and Copeland's owl clover.

All in all, a scramble/climb super-de-duper-de-booper, special deluxe a la thrilling Mt. Hooper.

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