Saps Climb Mallory Instead

20-21 Jul 2003 - by Debbie Bulger

I knew something wonderful would happen on this trip when the day before the hike in to camp we found the singing tree. As is my custom, I drive to the eastside and sleep at altitude before heading for a peak climb. When time allows, I like to explore a geologic wonder that day. So Richard and I were hiking around Obsidian Dome, book in hand, when we heard, not saw, the remarkable lodgepole pine. It was singing.

It must be baby birds, but they were not visible although the tree had several holes in it about 30 feet up. From my daughter, the wildlife biologist, I have learned patience. She spent one summer mapping birds' nests near Mount Shasta.

Richard sat on one side of the tree and I on the other. After about 15 minutes, I spotted the parents. Two Williamson's sapsuckers. The male with a red chin and black and white body, the female in a different barred pattern in brown.

The next day hiking into Meysan Lake, we talked about our plans to climb Lone Pine Peak. That's right, we climbed Mallory by default. We had planned to climb Lone Pine Peak but if the truth must be known, we went up the wrong chute.

The hike into Meysan Lake is hot and seems much longer than it is. For most of the way, the trail is a considerable distance from the creek. We met two separate parties of day hikers who were exhausted and looking in vain for a lake.

We found a nice campsite on a bench overlooking Meysan Lake and went to sleep to the sound of rock fall. Not a good sign. The next morning we left at 7 a.m. to climb the steep chute across the lake.

Scree is like childbirth. You forget how difficult it is between times. Otherwise you might not do it again. When we reached the top of the chute we noted that some had climbed the very unstable chutes going up peak 3985 to get to the Lone Pine plateau, but we declined remembering the rock fall sounds of the night before.

It was an easy choice. After resting and exploring the plateau east and south of Mallory, we climbed this peak named by Norman Clyde in 1925, a year after the Everest climber was lost. The view from the top is terrific, especially that of Russell and Whitney. The summit is composed of big blocks, a trifle airy. I did not see a summit register, although I checked several possibilities since several of the blocks are roughly the same height.

On the way down we chose the snow-filled east slope (p. 60 in Secor). It was quite steep, and we had a fast, and at times scary, glissade. The black and blue mark on my leg is almost faded where I bumped myself during a self arrest.

Back in camp we duly noted the correct chute by Grass Lake lower down on Meysan Creek. I'll be back. On the hike out we were rewarded with another avian treat: a Red-naped sapsucker.

Will the real saps (I mean sapsuckers) please stand up.

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