Mount Chamberlin, Mount Hitchcock, Mount Newcomb
By: Igor and Suzanne Mamedalin
We were looking forward to this 4-day excursion into the Sierra; with the continued population explosion in the Southland and the accompanying traffic, weekend trips to the Sierra now appear less and less inviting each year. By leaving Orange County late we managed to avoid most of the 4th of July extended weekend traffic. On the radio waves we've discovered a pleasant addition to Owens Valley .. IROQ, from Inyokern to Mammoth, you can now listen to continuos classic rock music by means of a series of radio repeaters (albeit at different frequencies) along 395.
Thursday at 7 AM sharp eight peakbaggers met in Cottonwood Pass/Horseshoe Meadow hiker parking lot. This being a low snow year no ice axes or crampons were required. We promptly hit the trail and were lounging at the pass in no time. Whiffs of smoke from a 'controlled' burn southwest of the pass drifted by followed by USFS helicopter making its rounds to ensure that the fire was still under control. We continued on at a leisurely pace arriving by 5 PM at a fine camp site with a bear box at the crossing of the Rock Creek. The nearby backwoods ranger cabin is not inhabited on a regular basis. That evening R. J. Secor joined our group at the camp site as planned.
Friday morning we all crossed Rock Creek and followed the trail north out of the Rock Creek drainage to the level bench east of Mt. Guyot. From here we followed a gentle long ridge that runs just west of Perrin Creek to Mt. Chamberlin. At the foot of Mt. Chamberlin, Ann Kraemer turned back due to high altitude sickness. Everyone else easily gained the summit via the southwest slopes and looked on toward Mt. Newcomb. While running the ridge between Chamberlin and Newcomb we came across a few cool 3rd class moves and also needed to drop at least 50 feet on the south side a couple of times before reaching Mt. Newcomb. From Mt. Newcomb we dropped directly via a talus, scree and sandy ledge route to the lake at the headwaters of Perrin Creek. With fine warm weather and plenty of sunlight left, many of us put on our birth suits and took a refreshing dip in the lake. Cleansed. we regained the gentle ridge west of Perrin Creek and arrived in camp with plenty of daylight left to cook and socialize.
Saturday morning several participants chose to spend a leisurely day sniffing flowers in the adjoining meadow while the rest of us set out to follow the long PCT trail north toward Mt. Hitchcock. About 7 miles down the trail after wading across Whitney Creek and just short of the Crabtree Ranger Station, we crossed Crabtree Meadow and followed an unmaintained trail into the Crabtree Lakes basin. Before the first lake we left the trail and headed up the sand slopes of Mt. Hitchcock. Erik Siering raced ahead oblivious to the 2 steps forward and 1.99 steps back terrain; Bob Wyka and I trudged straight up to the ridge and followed it to the summit reaching it by 3 PM; while RJ and Patti Kline trailed behind following a diagonal across the side of the mountain. On the descent I urged Patti to abandon the summit quest in order to return to camp before dark; however, summit fever had already overcome her and she signed out along with RJ to continue their independent bid for the crown of Hitchcock. Bob, Erik and I raced back to camp arriving there before sunset; RJ returned to camp by 8:30 PM after guiding Patti back onto the PCT trail; and, Patti, victorious and proud of her accomplishment, ambled into camp by headlamp around 10:30 PM. We celebrated her achievement and fed her soup and other hopefully tasty leftovers.
Sunday everyone broke camp at their own pace and headed back over Cottonwood Pass to the cars with Suzanne and I sweeping at a leisurely pace. The trek out proved to be quite an adventure for Terry Turner. First, she accidentally squirted potent bug juice directly into her eye which caused excruciating pain and promptly corroded her contact lens. Bruce Turner provided first aid by first dowsing her eye with water from our canteens and then holding her head beneath a nearby waterfall until the chemical stew was washed out of her eye. Then, along the lengthy trail Terry's boots blistered her feet and severely impeded her progress; at Chicken Spring Lake, Suzanne gave Terry her boots (a size larger) and proceeded to walk out wearing my camp sneakers (3 sizes larger). The sight of Suzanne stomping down the trail in flopping oversized sneakers elicited many a comment from passing hikers and packers.
Everyone arrived at the parked cars by 5 PM safely and continued on their homeward bound journey. We thank everyone for making this a very successful and enjoyable adventure and we thank R.J. Secor especially for assisting on Saturday's hike (since Suzanne was too busy sniffing flowers).
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