Cartago Peak, Mount Muah
By: Igor Mamedalin
We advertised this spring climb in the Southern Sierra as an 'introductory' SPS outing. Enough people believed us and at one point we had over 33 participants signed up for the trip. Saturday morning, after a fine breakfast at BJ's in Lone Pine, Ron and I showed up at 7 AM sharp at the Lone Pine Ranger Station to pick up our individual permits. To accommodate the large number of participants, two permits for 15 each were surreptitiously obtained after listening to the obligatory 15 minute video on the Sierra wilderness and hiking etiquette. The latest tip on the preferred method for dealing with used toilet paper is to pack it out .. don't bury it or burn it.
Arriving at the Horseshoe Meadow road end a couple of minutes after the appointed 8 AM departure time. The leaders found 28 eager participants champing at the bit ready to stomp the trail. Dark gray clouds accompanied by intermittent drizzle discouraged two participants and their dog from leaving the cozy confines of their vehicle. Hence, at 8:30 AM, a throng of 26 hikers along with two dogs headed down the trail toward Ash Meadows. Heading across the Horseshoe Meadows and up to Trail Pass we joined the Pacific Crest Trail. Six to seven miles later and after a couple of ups and downs we reached Ash Meadow. While the tail end of the Chinese dragon was catching with the head end, the leader ventured into the meadow to find water. Potable water was found about 1/2 mile east of the where one first sights the meadow from the trail; at the western most end (1 mile from the trail) of Ash Meadow there was enough water to form a running gurgling stream. We decided to camp at the 1/2 mile point on the northern edge of the meadow.
After a leisurely lunch at our campsite, we headed for Mt. Muah which lay directly northeast of our campsite. Only 18 participants showed interest in the peak. Less than an hour from camp the first bunch of climbers led by Suzanne gained the summit amid flashes of distant lightning and peals of thunder. With electricity in the air everyone hastened to sign the register and vacate the summit for safety. All that started from camp made the summit, for several summiters, Mt. Muah became their first Sierra peak. We appreciate the WTC, and its BMTC predecessor, for generating such summit fever among: each successive generation of hikers and climbers!
Returning to camp, everyone headed for their camping stoves to partake in the 'gourmet' wilderness experience. Extravagant dishes were prepared and presented to Ron Jones for his seasoned judgment. Darrell Lee won the 'wilderness gourmet' crown, along with a bottle of fine wine, with his fresh chicken fetuccinni entree prepared from raw ingredients right there at the 10,000'+ camp spot! Mountain House and Richmore .. we're putting you out of business. We appreciated everyone's enthusiastic participation in this contest .. there were many good dishes prepared and presented to be enjoyed by all.
Sunday morning. fourteen hikers set out for Cartago Peak following the Pacific Crest Trail until almost due west of the peak. From that point we traversed the headwaters of Death Canyon regaining the crest with some expert navigation help from Greg Roach. Once on the main crest, we gained the Cartago summit plateau only to be baffled by at least a dozen 50 foot summit of relatively equal height. After climbing one false summit. Ron and Greg found the true summit with a register at the southeast comer of the plateau. Everyone, including one dog, climbed the correct summit block and then headed back to camp by retracing the steps of our approach. About two miles from camp the clouds caught up with us and amid thunder and lightning hail fell covering. the surrounding hill sides with a fine white coat. Arriving back in camp, drenched, by 4 PM we were greeted by Jim Kilberg and a few other participants that stayed back that day to enjoy some exploration in the camp's locale.
After breaking up the camp in haste, everyone headed back down the trail toward the cars. Along the way the clouds receded and the sun broke through in time for a fine sunset. Tired and exhausted, the group slowed its pace sending the more energetic participants on out toward the cars. The leaders along with the stragglers arrived back at the parking lot in the dwindling twilight recounting and recalculating the exact mileage covered that day .. was it 18 , 21 or 24 miles? From the sign out sheet left at the cars, we determined that everyone had safely returned from the wilderness and proceeded to head down the hill for dinner at BJ's in Lone Pine and a long drive home. Many thanks to Suzanne and Ron Jones for assisting and to everyone for making this a successful and enjoyable trip.
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