Mount Williamson (Via Bairs Creek)
By: Tom Sexton, Bob Rockwell
Friday morning found Bob, Tom Sakai, George Duffy, myself and, in the nick of time, Ray Vakili and Dave Powers, ready to explore this alternate route to Williamson.
Bob had asked around Ridgecrest and found some locals who said this trip was one of their favorites. We got some cryptic information that was of some value, but mostly we found the route finding minimal and the hike to camp uneventful.
We experienced none of the infamous brush and bramble fighting that George Creek is famous for. In addition, we never had to cross the creek until we reached the snow (where it was completely covered).
We switched to snowshoes for the last section into camp, which we made at about 10,300 ft. The winds were really howling and looking up towards the summit we estimated 50+ mph winds coming across the crest. We found what protection we could and set up camp hoping for better weather on Saturday.
Saturday the clouds were still streaming across the crest but we decided to head on up and see how it looked. This proved to be a good decision (even though I had my doubts) because as we crested the SOUTHEAST Ridge the winds died and the weather turned beautiful. We were all on top by noon and as we watched the clouds coming in from all sides, we gave up looking for the register and headed to camp. We were in camp by 3:00 or so and out a few hours later. Thanks to a strong and interesting group and a great route, this proved to be a excellent trip. Special mention goes to Ray for spending a windy night on uneven snow in a bivy (or 2??). Thanks particularly to Bob, I learn something from him on every trip.
Route information: Take the George Creek road to the split and go right toward Onion Valley. Go about a mile or two through a gate and take the immediate left for about another mile. Sorry if this is vague, but I didn't check my odometer - it's real obvious and hard to miss, both roads are well traveled. Parking is limited at the trailhead so you may have to improvise.
From the cars you pick up a use trail about 10 yards away and follow it (always on the South side of the creek and high up) for 1,000 feet or so. You may spot some trail markers (ducks) along the way.
This will put you at a short headwall that you climb by utilizing a ledge and a 3rd class crack that puts you through a small notch. You can pick up the trail again but it's less obvious, here again, you may see some markers. Whether on the trail or not stay relatively high up on the S side. The going is easy.
Eventually, the route joins the creek, this year it was all snow and presented no problems, I can't: vouch for it during a dry year. We followed the snow and at an intersection of several gullies chose to go right and as I mentioned we then traversed around toward the main bowl.
This was based on what looked to be the best snow climbing, you can opt for one of the left gullies and still get where you need to be. As I said, the route finding is not difficult .
The headwall at the top of the bowl is steeper than George Creek but it goes well towards the right (again, it's obvious) and is a nice snow climb up to the SE ridge.
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