Mount Bradley, East Vidette, Independence Peak
By: Steven Thaw
On Thursday, August 26, 1993, after the seven hour drive to Onion Valley, I embarked up the Kearsarge Pass trail at 3:00 PM. For climbing Kearsarge Peak take the Golden Trout Lakes - Dragon Pass trail. This rocky trail leads up the right bank of the waterfall via switchbacks and over to a level meadow area at 11,800'. With the creek running through the little valley, the southwest facing gully with a 30' tall rock pinnacle as sentry halfway up the talus and scree slope is the most direct passage to attain the 12,000' summit ridge. A noble peak to the west with Class 3 terrain offered an overview of the Golden Trout Lakes. Returning to the saddle, the Class 2 walk-up Kearsage Peak was a short gain of 598'. Retracing my route to the car by 8:00 PM, this "warm-up" climb of 3,468' was a splendid way to survey part of the next day's itinerary.
By 6:30 AM, Friday, August 27th, I strolled around to the Robinson Lake trail, About midway up, at 10,000' a sandy use trail draws straight up towards Independence Peak (11,744') with some Class 3 flavoring for the last 100' to the tdp, a gain of 2,642'. A pleasant morning !
Brief moments to ponder the central gully falling to the south east to Pinyon Creek for 3,744'! The Class 1 to Class 3 prance and dance among wild flowers, sand and loose rocks brought me to a meeting with a superb mountaineer, Mr. Odocoileus Hemionius. This swift climber was traversing the mountainside in mere seconds. He honored me with a fine climbing lesson, a true wilderness friend. His subsequent disclosure of the south by south-west ramping shelf at this 8,000' tree-dotted area over a small hill provided a look up the Pinyon Creek Canyon and the north-east crags, gullies and peaklets of Mt. Bradley. This summit is not seen until after arriving at the 12,000' northern sandy plateau from the valley south-east of Center Basin Crags. The west end of the Mt. Bradley summit ridge (13,289') holds the register, a gain of 5,289'. Gazing south, west and north, three possible gullies down to Center Basin presented some Class 4 starts. After contemplating and reviewing with scrutiny, I chose the center gully starting at the summit. The 2,114' descent to enchanting Golden Bear Lake was still sunny. Dark gray thunder sky mountains soon swarmed proudly to surround the south rim of this basin, then west, then north, and finally east. Glorious! Around the lakes, hopping granite stepping-stones, strolling along the meadows to the forest of the tree people, through the pristine flora, the John Muir Trail was met. The sight of East Vidette towered in the distance at 12,350'. Lightning and thunder from above signaled the rain comets along Bubbs Creek. Crossing this most eloquent music maker near the 10,320' mark, I climbed the hillside south-east of East Vidette to the South Cirque with meadow and talus friends. Shelter was taken for more than an hour next to a 12'x20'x10' deliberately place boulder of granite with a fine composition of compassion and texture.
At 4:30 PM, onward and upward! Summiting two smaller peaklets, a Class 3-4 traverse south to north, perches the climber at the top. At 6:00 PM, after a gain of 2,036, this mountaineer down climbed the east-side gully to the music of Bubbs Creek once more by 7:00 PM. The John Muir Trail brought me downwards to Vidette Meadow at the 8:00 PM sunset. The silvery moon smiling over peach colored Center Peak, the shining silver light guided the way through the shadows of the tree people and the trail to Kearsage Pass by 10:00 PM. The starry view of the mountain scene I knew by our own bright star was felt with respect, humility and wonder - a sublime holy land!
The gain of 2,223' from Vidette Meadow to Kearsage Pass (11,823') brought a view to the east, and switch back after switch back of a moonlit path to Onion Valley. Arriving at the car after 27 miles at 11:28 PM, it was orange drink and Chips Ahoy! This day totaled approximately 12,190' of gain, and about the same in descending - a total of at least 24,380'.
Sunday, August 29th, Don and Ursula Slager, and I climbed Mt. Gilbert, a "cool-down" gain of 3,250', concluding my mountain Saunter John Muir style.
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