This was a peak climbing trip by SMS members Susan Loftus (Livingston), Craig Conally accompanied by Susan Conally, and myself. We had stable fall weather and there was a good chance of climbing this challenging peak. It is a mountaineers peak on the SPS List. I always wanted to climb it since it looks so impressive when skiing along the San Joaquin Ridge.
We met on Fri, 10/1 at Agnew Meadows on the Devils Postpile Rd 2.5 mi beyond Mammoth Mtn. At the high point of the road, Minaret Summit, one had already a fine view of the Ritter, Banner and the Minarets. The trail from Agnew Mdws crosses the San Joaquin River and leads to Lake Ediza. We made basecamp for two nights at the western end of the lake. The scenery was beautiful and there were no mosquitoes but frost at this time of the year.
On Sat, 10/2 Susan L., Craig and I headed up toward Iceberg Lake and Cecile Lake. Between the lakes we ascended a ridge toward the east face of the mountain. Our plan was to follow the class 4 Rock Route which starts near a steep gully on the eastern ridge. Climbing this gully lead us into class 5 terrain. So we retreated and climbed up the snow field to the left (south) of the ridge. The snow field was steep (>40 deg) and frozen stone hard which is typical in late summer/fall. We had no crampons and ice axes and even with that gear it would not be safe to cross steep ice. At this point Craig turned back.
I explored the upper egde of the snow field and the rock and found it possible to ascend in the gap or "schrund". It was a mixed rock and snow climb with some chimneying. At the upper end of the snow field it was possible to traverse on rock to the east ridge and to join the Rock Route. There was lots of exposure on the ascent but my rope was not needed on the upclimb. Luckily we had perfect weather and there was no other party above us. We carefully ascended the steep face and reached the summit ridge. From then on it was an easier climb to the summit which we reached by noon. Susan was a bit tired from all the excitement but happy to have made it. We happily signed the peak register of this peak, which does not see the crowds.
After taking pictures, eating and drinking and relaxing the nerves it was time to start the descent. This is often harder than the ascent. At several places Susan asked for a belay which felt safer. We returned via the same Rock Route with variation near the snow field. We squeezed through the "bergschrund" between rock and snow field and got a bit wet and cold but it was the safest way to descend. By late afternoon we were happily back at camp after an exciting day of climbing.
Next morning we hiked out. Looking back we saw the reflections of the Minarets in Lake Ediza. It was a great feeling to have been on its highest point. The fall colors were in full swing and we enjoyed to see the many yellow aspens near the San Joaquin River. It was a great outing with fine friends.
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