Mount Starr King
10-Jun-94 (Private Trip)
By: Wayne Norman
(The editor would like to take this opportunity to thank Bill Oliver for his excellent article on climbing Mt. Starr King. The article and his slide presentation were of tremendous benefit to us on our climb.)
Why won't the Park Service put wilderness permits out in a night pickup box, like the forest service does, so backpackers and climbers can get an early start on the trail? Why ask why?
The Wawona Ranger Station opens at 8. By the time we picked up our permit, made one last pit stop, drove to the trailhead, resorted our climbing gear (a perverse ritual) and hit the trail it was 10 am. Far to late. We would be thankful later for the long June day. As we were leaving the parking area at Mono Meadows we noticed a truck parked next to us had a Rockreation sticker on the window causing some speculation as to how many other climbers we would see on this trip.
It was 100 degrees in Fresno and almost 80 on the trail· as our group of three made its way to Mt. Starr King, making us wish we had started much earlier. We dropped our packs around 12:30 and after lunch amused each other trying to hang our food. (The ranger at Wawona asked us to report any bear sightings or incidents. We didn't see any bears on this trip.)
We headed for the peak well after 2 P.M. The weather was still hot and we soon realized we hadn't brought nearly enough water for the climb. Faced with the choice of being thirsty or going back to camp to get more water, losing altitude and time in the process, we decided we were going to be thirsty.
Our route was the South East Face. The approach from the west was to head for the saddle between the middle summit and the southern summit. A fire in 1991 burnt away a lot of brush, making our approach straight forward and relatively brush free. Once at the aforementioned saddle we went north over the middle summit and down to the saddle between the middle summit and the main summit. From the saddle we followed the route as shown on the Jan-Feb 1994 ECHO front cover. Mark Calkins led the first pitch, then I followed cleaning the route and trailing a rope. Mike Wolfe was the third man up. When Mike made the ledge, I handed the rack to him and he led the second pitch and again I cleaned the gear while trailing the second rope. It was fun climbing on quality Yosemite granite instead of the crud so many of the rest of the peaks in the Sierra are made of.
From the top of the second pitch it was a short walk to the summit for the prerequisite photo's. The summit register showed a group of climbers made the ascent the pervious day and we found nice new slings left on the route, saving us the need to waste our slings. We spent about half an hour on top before heading down. The rappels went smoothly and we were soon heading back to our camp, racing the sun, tired and thirsty. We made camp about 7:30 grabbed our water filter and raced to the stream to quench our thirst.
The next morning we packed up early to beat the heat and hiked back to our cars. The most amazing part of our trip was we didn't see another person the entire trip. A true rarity in Yosemite.
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