Mount Tom

9-Mar-97

By: Doug Mantle


I fear the Young Turks have arrived. Turk #1, Greg Colley, wanted to lead his first provisional. "How about August?" , I inquired. "No, it should be a Winter trip. "Well, Cirque? Gould?" "Too easy, I was thinking of a major ridge, from Owens Valley direct, ice tools; crampons; y'know? Say, MT, Tom's North Ridge.

So we were launched. Not wishing to appear laggardly, I planned, I felt, enough training so as to keep up. I went to 22,000' on a month long trek in Chile. It wasn't enough.

The North Ridge of, MT, Tom soars north to south 8,000 feet from Pine Creek. Dick Beach pioneered the route in the sixties. No one had done a winter ascent. Until now.

We met about six miles up the Rovanna road on Friday, March 6; joining up with Turk #2, Brad Jensen,. formerly "Mr. Nice Guy" to Greg's "Mr. Wise Guy".

Two minutes into the affair, we thrashed through some HPS - quality nettles, splashed across a mildly horrifying creek, donned heavy plastic boots, and aimed straight up the steep, 1,200' escarpment for the ridge, amid old snow right down to the 6.000' level.

From there the ridge dips and climbs repeatedly. Our leader stayed mainly on the east side, punching steps in the unnerving, spreckles - sugar snow, After a mere four hours, we were allowed a break, Yes. To eat, and thereby lighten packs, Greg said. Yet, as I lumbered along like a man birthing a caboose, I envied the lunch-sack-like bundles they carried, But they did have our tents. And stove. And shovels. And repair kits. And avalanche transceivers. And probes. And crampons. I did carry the pot. at least.

We pushed up about 3-1/2 miles and 5.000' of gain on Friday, finishing at the high end of a thick pine forest. From camp at 11.000' we figured we could summit the next day (2-1/2 miles, probably 3,500' allowing for dips).

An advantage to hiking with Turks is you can stop early (4:00), diga great platform, and relax in their big Megamid. You can get up late too (left at 8:00 a.m. the next morning) You could also observe the Comet as compensation for a very late venture outside the tent.

Saturday was breathtaking, Greg and, at times. Brad. kicked up that darned spreckles stuff then class two through cliffs of rock, now mainly on the spectacular ridge itself, with occasional stretches of ice hard wind pack.

One break at 10:00-o'clock, then the final hidden bumps fell away for a 12:00 summit. It felt like cheating to bestride so high a summit in such a marshmallow world. Elderberry Canyon swooped below us; the views swirled from Dana to Telescope to Whitney - a spectacle perfectly, suited for a long lunch hour.

Three and a half hours back to camp, a leisurely, happy hour outside, then back into the Megamid. The Turks were acclimatizing for Mt. McKinley in May. I was recouping, and glad not to have to trudge out.

Sunday (late. of course) we did trudge out, well before noon. Early enough for the Turks to head on up to Mammoth. I lacked even the oomph by then forWilson. The new order has arrived.


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