Mount Davis, Electra Peak, Rodgers Peak
By: Matthias Selke
The seven Lucky participants - leader Dave Dykeman and co-leader Nancy Gordon, RJ. Secor, Barbara Cohen, Erik Siering, Al Conrad and Matthias Sellke, - met at 7 am on Friday, Sept. 16 at the trailhead at Agnew Meadows . The "High Trail" was chosen as the route to Thousand Island Lake, and quickly the group marched northward on the trail contouring along the slopes of San Joaquin Mountain. After just an hour, a squirrel high up in a fir tree tried very hard to hit the author of this article with a huge cone and missed only by a few inches. Undeterred by this, the group hiked on, enjoying the views of Mt. Ritter, Banner Pk. and the Minarets along the way. After meeting a cute owl on a tree branch near the trail, the group reached Thousand Island Lake by noon; a lunch- break was called. It was then decided to hike on to Thousand Island Pass and to try to climb Mt. Davis from there. Packs were dropped at the small lakes near the pass two hours later, and the group started to ascend the long but rather gentle slope extending all the way from the northeastern cliffs of Mt. Davis to Thousand Island Pass. A couloir leads to the summit plateau from where the slope ends at the cliffs of the northeast face. In spring this couloir is probably a fine moderate snow climb, but this late in the season, it turned out to be bare ice.
Undeterred, the group tried to climb along the rock to the left (south) of the couloir. At first, class 3 ledges with lots and lots of loose rock led up toward the summit plateau, but eventually, steep rock stopped progress. Climbing to the top of the buttress to the left of the rock also did not help: a deep notch less than half-way up the buttress ended the attempt Mt. Davis for the day. The weather looked threatening and about eight or nine snow flakes were counted by the group. We climbed almost 2000 ft. back down to Thousand Island Pass and made camp there. We would hence try to do all peaks the next day.
The wake-up call sounded at 5 am the next morning, and at 6 am, before sunrise, the group started to move across the easy slopes north of Thousand Island Lake to North Glacier Pass. The weather looked a bit better than the previous day, although there were still lots of high clouds. From North Glacier Pass, we moved northward, across the easy southwest slope of Mt. Davis, with Erik and the author dashing ahead. The summit of Mt. Davis was reached by 9:30. From this summit, we could see what was ahead of us: several miles to the west is Electra Peak; connected to this by a long ridge is Rodgers Peak to the northwest. Between us and Electra Peak, there was a valley over 2000 ft. lower than our elevation. Luck was on our side, as we discovered a direct route to the floor of the valley: the first chute on the west face south of the summit of Mt. Davis is loose class 2 (the chutes further south on the west face appear to be blocked by cliffs). This chute led to tallus, and then steep slabs and grass led to the floor of the valley, at the south end of Lake 3119 m., above Twin Island Lakes. We then hiked almost due west, up a broad slope north of the east ridge of Electra Peak. Slabs led to the cirque immediately northeast of Electra Peak. We climbed up over class 2 talus to the east ridge of Electra Peak and hiked up a few hundred feet to the top. We summited by 2:30 pm. We admired the unusual view toward the west side of Mt. Ritter from the summit, but quickly had to move on to get the next peak. We down climbed to the same cirque northeast of the summit of Electra Peak, and then contoured north (at an elevation between 11,800-12,000 ft.) below the ridge connecting Electra Peak, Peak 12~73' and Rodgers Peak. Eventually we had to drop down to 11,600 ft. just south of the east ridge of Rodgers Peak. This descent was over very unpleasant loose gravel and scree; the author actually took a short involuntary slide down this slope, together with lots of gravel. The climb up toward the east ridge of Rodgers was a bit more pleasant. This ridge was reached a few hundred feet east of the summit. An easy talus slope leads to the top from there. There is no class 3 rock encountered on this route. This peak sees very few ascents each year; however, there is a nice view from the summit. Everyone got all three peaks, and for the author, it was the first time that he did three SPS peaks in one day.
By 6 PM, we were descending down the east slope; over 6,000' gain were behind us, but there was still a long way to camp, and only 90 minutes of daylight. Less than halfway down the broad east slope of Rodgers, we moved left (north) and discovered a chute that leads down and left (west) diagonally across the north face of the peak. This chute, which is not visible from below, led to some class 2-3 slabs covered with loose rock which led to the unnamed lake northeast of the peak. From this lake, we descended eastward, past some icy snow fields to the upper Marie Lake which was reached in complete darkness by 8 pm. Luckily there was a bright full moon. But the south side of Marie Lake is blocked by steep snow and vertical rock. So we had to contour over to the north side of this rather large lake. The north side of the lake is also blocked by cliffs, but ramps and ledges above the shore provided a route. A rib descending across the face to the lake was surmounted, and eventually, the top of the hill north of the lake was reached. Ugh! From there, talus and slabs led to the north shore of the lower Marie Lake - a sigh of relief was breathed by everyone. The night was not particularly cold, but a bivouac would not have been something to look forward to. The east end of lower Marie Lake was reached by 10 pm, and a brief search along the southeast comer of this lake finally led us to the trail leading to the John Muir Trail which would lead to camp. Camp was reached by Erik by 12:20 am, 15 min. later by RJ. Secor and the author, and another 20 min. Later by the rest of the group. Ugh! Ugh! But of course getting these three remote summits was worth the effort of this almost 19-hour-hike!
The next morning, by the time most of the group was still in the sleeping bags, Erik signed out and dashed off to Agnew Meadows (or to climb more peaks??). The rest left by 9:30 am, hiked down the River Trail (considerably shorter than the High Trail, and more shade), and made it to the cars by 2 pm.
All in all a great death march, with a great group of intrepid climbers: Special thanks are due to Dave who did a tremendous job leading this difficult cross-country route, especially the hike down from Rodgers Peak and back to camp in the dark.
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