Southern Sierra in Spring

29-30 Mar 2003 - by Will Mollandsimms

Leaving my home of San Luis Obispo on March 29th my mom, Judy Molland, and I headed east to enjoy a weekend in the Southern Sierra. After driving for more than three hours we turned on Canebrake Road and headed toward the Lamont Peak Trail. Soon we crested the saddle on the road and parked at the very well marked Lamont Peak trailhead. After a short lunch we headed up the trail at about 2:45 in the afternoon. Although it was promised that the trail would be improved later in the year, for the time being it was indistinct at best. We followed the outline of a trail up the ridge that leads to a highpoint southwest of Lamont Peak. After reviving our legs from the car coma they had been in we were able to get up the first third of the trail, which is quite steep, without much difficulty at all. From here one can see Lamont Peak clearly to the northwest. We traversed along the backside of numerous high points that litter this ridge and continued in a northwestern direction towards Lamont peak, following some pieces of pink tape that had been placed on trees as markers. We went down to a small pass and then back up it losing the trail numerous times. Not that it matter though as route finding is very easy. Going up the final ridge there is a very intricate system of cairns which lead to the summit. The last fifty feet of Lamont peak offer some very nice scrambling and boulder hopping. We got to the summit with the sun still rather high in the sky and a rather cold wind blowing at us. We admired the view and scoped out tomorrows objective of Sawtooth peak. We didn't spend too much time at the top, as it was quite cold. After being the forth party to sign the register that year we headed back to the road. We went back down the trail and were back at the car by 6:15 as the sun was setting. A perfect hike for the timeframe we had. We drove farther down the road and camped at the thoroughly deserted Chimney Peak Campground.

The next day we got up at the crack of 7:30 and were ready to go by 8:30. We set off for Sawtooth via the PCT. The PCT is .2 miles from the campground and as one would expect is in very good condition. We walked up the PCT for about three miles until we got to a saddle where the PCT turns right in a southern direction. From here we went to the north up a few hundred feet of loose scree, rocks and sand that was most definitely not pleasurable. After fighting our way through that mess we got to a plateau where it was possible to see the peak of Sawtooth. From here we followed a ridge that originally goes in a northwestern direction, but then turns going nearly due north. This ridge goes all the way to the summit without any downward sections or drop-offs. The going was not overly steep and was on firm sand that was not only pleasant to walk on but did not slide under your feet. The start of the ridge is very clear of anything other than trees. Farther up the ridge there is brush, but nothing at will make the going overly difficult. After going up the ridge at a rather leisurely pace we reached the top of Sawtooth peak. The views from here are magnificent with Spanish Needle and Owens peak directly to the South with Olancha Peak and Whitney area to the north and the Mineral King area and Kaweah's to the northwest. All the high peaks were snowcapped, which gave the area even more aesthetical value than it already possessed. After spending more than an hour on the summit eating lunch and admiring our surrounding we descended back down the ridge and through the most undesirable section of sand and scree. We got back to the PCT and hiked out. The weather was absolutely perfect for this day with the temperature in the high sixties and a very slight breeze.

The next day we arose at 6:20 and drove back to San Luis Obispo so my mother could catch her fight back to Washington D.C. and I could go back to school (sigh). Alas we all have to live our other lives as well.

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