Gregory's Monument, Midway Mountain, Milestone Mountain, Table Mountain

10-Aug-96

By: John T. Dodds


Climbed Milestone, Table and Midway mountains and Gregory's Monument on Milestone Basin Peakbag Odyssey. A Sierra Club National Backpack Trip led by Terry Flood.

Thursday, August 8
Picked up Karen and Jeff at the Oakland Airport--their plane was 5 hours late.-- we got to Onion Valley at oh dark thirty and crashed.

Friday, August 8
Up at 9 AM. Our agenda for the day consisted of getting from Onion Valley to the Symmes Creek roadhead, perhaps a 10 mile drive. For diversion, we walked up and down Lone Pine's main drag a couple of times and saw everything there is to see in Lone Pine. That absorbed a couple of hours. We stopped at the Whistle Stop in Independence for a late lunch and took sandwiches for dinner. We started hiking from the roadhead at about 4:45 PM and got to the top of the 53 switch backs at about 7:30, for a cold dry camp.

Saturday, August 10
We were moving about 7:30 AM for the Pothole where we met the rest of the group and the packer who brought up the commissary on mules. The weather looked terrible so we hung out at Anvil Camp for a few hours until the packer and some ancient vagabond passed through. The plan was to pick up the commissary, then continue over Shepherd Pass and on to the John Muir Trail at Tyndall Creek. This meant a 6,500 foot day. Some folks just wern't up to it so we camped at The Pothole.

Sunday, August 11
Traveled from The Pothole to upper Milestone Basin.

Monday, August 12
Climbed Milestone Mountain (13,641 feet). Milestone is a spectacular spike visible from all over the Sierra and was a great climb done under the pressure of threatening weather. It's class two until the last 200 feet or so then its mostly class three. The top of the spike is really quite roomy and the view is wonderful. I would love to have spent more time on the peak but we wanted to get below the class three and below as much talus as possible before the deluge. The rain started around 2:30 and cleared off by happy hour.

Tuesday, August 13
Climbed Table Mountain (13,630 feet). We were threatened by rain all morning and four people turned back. But six of us pushed on for the south face hoping for a window in the weather. While looking for the fabled class three route to the Brown Stripe, we got a little off route... It took at least an hour to recover and it was 2:30 in the afternoon by the time I crested the lip of the table. I was really motivated to sign the register and very much intimidated by·the still threatening weather So I stashed my lightening rod (read on), put it in high gear and motored across the table. It took me 17 minutes to cross the almost mile length of it from south to north--fully 5 minutes ahead of Carlton and Bond. the second and third persons to arrive (both significantly older than I.). I didn't think I could move that fast at that altitude (or any other altitude for that matter!). Later on. young Dr Howard Cohn, in describing our climb, first uttered his now famous quip-

...and then the Old guys buried us in their dust.

The weather detoured around us and we drank in the view for 3/4 of an hour. The view was magnificent from Goddard to Olancha, from Giant Forest to the Sierra crest, and Brewer and Thunder in direct line with each other.

Wednesday, August 14
Climbed Midway Mountain (13,666 feet). A totally uneventful climb: glorious day, few clouds in sight, gorgeous view. This was the one climb where we never had any threat of rain and the one peak Hillery climbed. Maybe she really is clairvoyant. Having previously climbed Midway, Bond stayed in camp. We bribed Nancy Sue to keep a weather eye on him as we did not care to have our tents go strangely bump in the night. She performed her task well. No problems reported.

Thursday, August 15
Traveled front upper Milestone Basin to Lake South America. The weather was clear and beautiful as we hiked and after we pitched our tents, it rained cats and dogs. Fortunately I pitched my tent in the lee of about an 8 foot rock outcrop, thus it did not blow away. Still, the rain blew horizontally under the tent fly and got between tile tent floor and the footprint ground sheet. Calendar for this winter: patch my tent floor.

Friday, August 16
Successfully climbed Gregory's Monument (approximately 13,950 feet). This being Chef Daren's Pancake Breakfast Day, we got off to a rather late start to climb Mt. Stanford(13,966 feet). We kept a close watch on the weather, as it was quite fierce looking immediately to the south of us. At about 50 feet below Stanford's south summit, Gregory's Monument, my aluminum walking stick started to sing to me. Quicker than William Tell, I pulled the thing out of my pack and threw it on the ground all in one motion, and continued up the peak. After a few minutes of fooling around on the class three move on Gregory's north side we decided to postpone our climb for a while, and headed down. As we re-crossed Gregory's high point, I noticed Jerry's hair was beginning to stand on end; Terry reported he got a shock he won't soon forget, and I heard crackling and zinging around me. Later on, Karen said she heard a humming sound on the peak. And it started to snow big wet snowflakes--something to do with the static electricity extracting the moisture from the air (help, you physicists!!!). I retrieved my walking stick and carried it by its strap on my finger tips, about two feet from my body, with the tip close to the ground. It never happened but I fully expected it to be shot out of my hand just like Jim Arnes on Gunsmoke.

We went down a couple of hundred feet and ate some lunch while waiting for the weather to clear. It never did that day, so we decided to save Stanford for another day. The weather got only worse- 2:30 started a three hour medley of rain, hail. thunder, and lightning. Terry and Jeff then ran up Cal Tech Peak just for fun.

Saturday, August 17
Traveled from Lake South America to The Pothole.

Sunday, August 18
Left reality behind and traveled to the roadhead. We stopped at The Pines, a traditional cowboy restaurant in Independence and feasted on sliders and fries (a nautical term- as the ship rolls, the well lubricated' patties slide off the griddle...

Peakbaggers:
Terry Flood, Daren Reid, Jerry Axelrod, Howard Cohn, Karen and Jeff George, Carlton McKinney. Nancy Sue Pearlman, Hillery Royer, Bond Shands, and me. John T. Dodds.


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