Eagle Scout Peak, Mount Eisen, Lion Rock, Mount Lippincott, Mount Stewart
By: Bob Wyka, Allan Conrad
666...That' s what this trip was turning out to be one week before the scheduled start: 6 days, 6 peaks, and 6 people. Fortunately, with two people dropping out the next week I could breath a little easier, or could I? The four of us, the leaders, R. J. Secor and Matthias Selke (Matt) met at 07:30 at the Mineral King Ranger Station. We quickly found out that the localized fire, now 3 weeks old, had descended onto the trail to Glacier Pass and no permits were to be had. The ranger apologized for not calling (all the other groups going over Sawtooth were called) and helped us to secure an alternate permit for Bearpaw Mdw. (We calculated that this diversion added another 20 miles to the trip.) She also warned us (repeatedly) about the bears is 9 Lake Basin and convinced us to rent a portable bear canister from her. We reconvened at Crescent Mdw and started hiking toward Bearpaw C.G. at 11:20.The trail was quite scenic, but warm due to the south facing slopes it traverses. Streams were plentiful as was shade. We made camp at 17:20.
Day 2 saw us reach 9 Lake Basin in under 7 hours where we set up camp just NORTHWEST of the lake at 10,400+'. We climbed Mt. Stewart that afternoon (3 hrs r.t.) using the SW sloping ramp noticeable on the 7.5' topo that tops out near the south ridge of Stewart. The gain is about 500' on this ramp.
Matt took off on his own to climb Big Kaweah the next day (06:30) while the rest of us headed for the Big Arroyo and Eisen, Lippincott. We followed R. J.'s guide for Eisen which went well until the leader didn't heed to Al's concern about climbing the wrong headwall and we found ourselves too far south on the south ridge. We lost at least an hour recovering by running the ridge (some easy 4th class in spots) to where the "diagonal, right ascending traverse to the south ridge" intersects. To avoid confusion the words "located above the small upper tarn" should be added to the following route description: "Go up and left of a water- stained headwall, located above the small upper tarn, and make a diagonal, right-ascending traverse to the south ridge of the peak." We summitted at 13:00.
We took the correct route down back to Little Five Lakes contouring at 10,400' to the basin SE of Lippincott. Following the East Ridge from 11,600' found us in 3rd and some 4th class especially as we approached the summit. The SE slope is a better class 2 route. We only stayed a few minutes on the summit as by now it was 18:30 and we still had to get back to 9 Lake Basin. We passed by the lake at 10,295',made the trail by dark and camp at 22:15. So far no bears.
Matt describes his day as follows: On Sunday morning, I hiked down the Big Arroyo to climb Big Kaweah. After the junction near the cabin, I went up the High Sierra Trail to the highest point of the trail south of BK, near a dry pond. From there, the peak is clearly visible. The seemingly interminable talus slopes were climbed in a little less than three hours from the trail. After spending 1.5 hours on the summit, looking at the Sierra Crest with Mt. Whitney, Mt. Williamson, the Palisades and even Mt. Bitter on the horizon, I decided that I had not climbed enough talus for the day, and so I dropped down nearly 1000' along the west side of the ridge connecting BK with Second Kaweah, and then scrambled up nearly 1000' to the summit. The register on 2nd K turned out to be a rusty can, with a business card from a Santa Fe employee named E. C. Pierre who climbed the peak- in 1924. A notebook- had been placed by Carl Heller in 1961; about 45 people have visited the summit since then, often on traverses from Bilko Pinnacle. I was back- to 9 Lake Basin camp by 18:30. By the time the rest of the group was back- from Lippincott and Eisen I was already asleep, dreaming of large quantities of meat, cold beers, etc.
The fourth day R. J. left us to climb Black Kaweah. Ugh-another trip to the Big Arroyo. Matt rejoined the leaders to climb Lion Rock. By now we pretty much decided that the extra 20 miles was going to impact our goals and it was apparent that Triple Divide was going to be the sacrifice. R. J. and I didn't need it, Al also needed Glacier Ridge and Matt needed everything in Cloud Canyon so it was an easy decision. We had a leisurely start at 09:45 and headed for the west Lion Rock Pass. We entered the NE Chute and not finding a Class 3 exit we kept following the chute until its end at 12,200'. Al scouted ahead and found an entrance into the broad slope near the summit described in the South-Southwest Slope route. The following changes to the Northeast Chute route in R. J.'s book describes our course: Enter the NE chute and continue up the class 2 until it tops out (this is the same elevation as the saddle between the two peaks of Lion Rock, noticeable to the SE). Contour around to the right, traversing a rib, and enter the broad SSW slope. Climb up the Class 2 slabs until the S ridge is attained and an easy up to the summit. We summitted at 13:15 and were back to camp by 16:00 (with an hour on the summit). Still no bears.
The last morning in 9 Lake Basin we packed up and dropped our backpacks near Kaweah Gap while we climbed Eagle Scout. Eagle Scout was a fitting peak for our last one of the trip as it has one of the most impressive views of all the peaks in the Big Arroyo. We spent over an hour on the summit before descending and reclaiming our packs for the afternoon hike back to Bearpaw Mdw. The cameras came out again as we passed by Precipice Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra. This section of the High Sierra Trail is also quite impressive. It was evident that a lot of work and dynamite went into constructing the trail some 60 years ago. That afternoon we made camp at Bearpaw and this time we actually saw a bear wandering around the unattended campsites. With the food in the plentiful bear boxes we had no problems that night.
We got an early start the next morning. Being first on the trail I saw plenty of bear tracks along the trail almost all the way to Crescent Mdw. We all made it back to the cars by noon. We had great weather, minimal mosquitoes (none at 9 Lake Basin), and a great congenial group of intrepid climbers.
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