By: Rick Chval
This excellent peak, above the South Fork of Bishop Creek, offers the energetic climber a fine day of variety and a beautiful third class arete leading to an outstanding view of the Eastern Evolution Peaks, the Palisades, Mt. Goddard, and the Black Divide (among others).
Having time in our schedule for a one day trip, this peak seemed to be a natural. The route is easily accessible via the Treasure Lakes Trail with the added advantage of being able to drive to the 9700 trailhead at South Lake. From where the Treasure Lakes Trail disappears just beyond the largest lake in the chain, we followed the stream across intermittent boulders and snow to lake 11,586, and then to the head of the cirque basin above. From here, we decided to forego the obvious loose class 2-3 chute leading to the top of Johnson, and opted, instead, to work our way up and out of the cirque via a path-of-least-resistance scramble (class 2-3) to a point just to the right of a prominent gendarme on the ridge above the tarn at the end of the basin. Gaining the ridge top, we contoured around the shoulder of Johnson to a small bench just below the West ridge of the peak. This bench offers a fine view of the Southeastern sand slope on Gilbert. From here, the summit area of Johnson is visible just a scant 800 vertical feet away. The ascent from the bench begins on easy class 2, passes a false summit on the left, and finally gains the west arete. Some creative 3rd class route finding (generally staying to the right side of the arete when in doubt) leads to a spectacular, exposed, four-foot wide. 40 foot long "catwalk" which leads to some easy boulder scrambling and the top.
After a nice 45 minute stay on the summit, we decided to descend the aforementioned loose chute back into the cirque from which we started. The descent was pleasant and we enjoyed the simple mountaineer's reward of a nice "sand glissade' to the bottom. We were back to the car at 9:00 p.m. after a great day and a fine peak.
The participants were myself and Jay Risner. This was a big day for Jay. as he did a wonderful job climbing his very first Sierra peak.
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