Mount Harrington
(An Odyssey)

5-6 Oct 2002 - by Aaron Schuman

As we descended into Frypan Meadow, a doe stepped in our path. She was mortified to have encountered an entire herd of dangerous humans. I said "Hello" as reassuringly as I could. Still, she did what does do, and as a doe does, she did. She was gone.

A lone hiker sitting on the Frypan bear box thought I was greeting him, and replied with a greeting of his own. He told us of escaping the flatlands of Ohio in a desperate search for some topographical relief, and how he was now starting a week of stamping up and over and down the Monarch Divide. And we told him our story:

Call us Charles Schafer, Fi Verplanke, Greg Johnson, Bob Plant, and Aaron Schuman. We arrived in this wilderness Saturday at dawn, with the intent of visiting the eagle's roost of Mount Harrington. We hiked up the Lewis Creek trail, having lunch in this very spot at Frypan Meadow. We continued up an unmaintained trail to Grizzly Lakes. We noted, as others have before us, that the trail was moved after the 1953 map was printed, but that the more detailed 1978 map is right. Graybeards still in possession of the old fifteen-minute quadrangle should get in step with the times. [Webmaster's note: A GPS track log showing the 7.5' quads are also wrong is in Steve's 2010 trip report.] It was chilly as the sun dropped into Kings Canyon, and we worried about our equipment freezing up during the October night, but when rosy fingered dawn massaged our eyelids on Sunday, it was already warmer.

With greatly lightened packs, we skipped up from the lake to the Monarch Divide, and got our first look down into the Gorge of Despair. The canyon fell off so steeply that we couldn't see Tehipite Dome or the Middle Fork of the Kings River at the bottom. We traversed west to the base of the peak. Some previous groups have been intimidated by the steepness, but others have crowed about the secure footing and abundant handholds. We persisted, and without encountering any major obstacles, quickly arrived at our Olympus. It was still early, and so we lingered a while, admiring the view that stretched from the Great Western Divide up to the Palisades.

Charles wanted to explore a more direct route off the summit. He found (or forced) a previously undocumented unroped descent through the apparently bare south face into the main south drainage. I had to promise Fi that if need be, Charles would finish raising Fi's children. She was greatly strengthened by my reassurance, and completed the descent with the courage that every tough mountain woman needs.

We reassembled our gear at Grizzly Lakes, then continued, still encountering neither hikers nor beasts until we stopped to sit at Frypan Meadow. We sent our young Ohioan on his path, doubtlessly hoping that he will grow up some day to be just like us. And since the afternoon would not wait, we resumed our stampede through the dust back to our trailhead at highway 180.

It was a fabulous trip, with stimulating climbing, marvelous scenery, pleasant companionship, and sunny weather. The only thing we found to regret was that Mike McDermitt couldn't join us. Mike, who still needs to finish the last 300 feet of the climb, keeps anonymously submitting my trip reports to the Bulwer-Litton writing contest. He's the biggest fan of my fiction. I wrote this prose with him in mind.

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