By: Matthias Selke
A nice, warm late October week-end was in the forecast, and a large storm was due to arrive the week after, so why not drive up the 395 to Bishop and do one or two more Peaks to end the season? My wife Xin and I were not the only SPSers heading to the Sierra that week-end: at the Inyo County Museum in Independence we ran into Erik Siering and Paul Graff who were admiring Norman Clyde's photo collection.
The next morning dawned cloudless, and by 9 am (staying in a motel in Bishop does not help in getting an early start) we were hiking up the Bishop Pass Trail, and then the Treasure Lakes Trail. Mt. Johnson was supposed to be the goal, for it is the lowest peak we "needed" in the Bishop area. There was snow down to 20,000 ft. The snow was initially not very deep, but it was enough to make us lose the Treasure Lakes Trail for awhile. After regaining the trail, we reached the two lower lakes by 11:30 am, and enjoyed a lunch as well as the snow-dusting on the peaks. Because it was almost noon, Xin felt there is no hope to get the peak and decided to return to the car, but she allowed me to hike on and try to get a peak I "needed". So I walked southwest through deep snow toward Mt. Johnson. Just before the base of the east side of the peak was reached, it became clear that the peak was not possible for that day. Huge talus blocks covered with several feet of fresh powdery snow made every step risky and unpleasant. Disappointed, I looked around: in front, the southeast face of Mt. Johnson was looming; to the right (west), the cirque leading to Treasure Col was branching off. Treasure Col did not look appealing, either, the chute was covered with fresh snow. On the right side of this cirque, there is a talus slope leading to the ridge that extends from the first Treasure Lake to the Sierra Crest near point 12640+ (on the 75 min topo). This south-facing talus slope was snow-free. There appeared to be a feasible notch in the Sierra Crest near where the aforementioned ridge meets the crest. This might be a way to do Mt. Gilbert, so why not give it a try? Hence I scrambled diagonally up the cl. 2 talus (and some sand) aiming for the point just below and southwest of peak 12640+ where the ridge meets the Sierra crest. The only difficulty were two minor ribs consisting of cl. 2-3 slabs with good holds just below peak 12640+. Crossing the Sierra Crest where the ridge meets it turned out to be trivial; the notch is class 1-2. From the notch, the plateau south of the summit of Mt. Gilbert was in plain view. All that was left to do was an easy walk along western side of the southeast ridge of Mt. Gilbert. The snow was not very deep, and the summit was reached by 3 pm. The deep trench of Le Conte canyon as well as the Palisades were beautifully illuminated by the late fall sun.
The descent was uneventful, except far a slip on.; some snow-covered talus. The parking lot at South Lake was reached in darkness, and Xin was happy to see me alive, with one more peak off the list.
This appears to be the easiest route up Gilbert from the east, and there is no need for an ice-ax (in summer, no snow or ice would be encountered on this route). Hence this route should be appealing to anyone who wants to lead the peak on an official SPS trip and who does not want to go through the hassle (?) of leading a restricted trip. To my knowledge, this route has not been described previously (neither Secor's book nor Roper's guide contain it), so it seems useful to give a brief summary here:
From the lower Treasure Lakes, walk up southwest, toward Mt. Johnson. At 11280+ ft., a tarn is reached. To the right (west), the cirque north of Mt. Johnson opens up. Walk up along the right side of this cirque, past some huge talus, until it if possible to go diagonally up the talus slope on the right (north) side of the cirque. Head for the point where the ridge decending room the lower Treasure Lake meets the Sierra Crest, near Peak 12640+. Two minor ribs near the Sierra Crest are passed without difficulties. Stay less than 100ft. below the top of the ridge until you reach an obvious notch in the Sierra Crest just southwest ofPeak 12640+ . Cross the notch, descend less than 100 ft. on the other side, and follow the western side of the southeast ridge of Mt. Gilbert to the summit. A nice route that can easily be done as a dayhike.
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