Mount Muah, Cartago Peak
By: Patty Kline
I led this hike over the 4th of July weekend with Jim Fleming. Jim joined the SPS in the early 80's and is one of those animal hikers who politely held back his pace for the mixed crowd of this trip.
Our group of I I started hiking at 8:30 am at the very end of the Horseshoe Meadow Road about 250 miles above Lone Pine. This road head is at 10,000 feet with plenty of level tree covered areas. We started on a trail common to both Cottonwood Pass and Mulkey Pass, turning left or south in less than 2 miles to cross Horseshoe Meadow towards Mulkey Pass. There was some snow on the north slopes of Mulkey Pass, but nothing like outdated ranger reports of 5-6 feet of snow in 200% normal snows we had in the winter of 1998. We continued on the undulating forested trail, which became the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at Mulkey Pass. We turned left or east into Ash Meadow after 7 miles from the road head to look for a campsite. About I mile into the meadow was a strongly flowing stream entering the meadow from the north, which probably only exists in early season in a moderate to heavy snow year. There were lots of level, dry camp spots away from the meadow and under trees.
After arriving at camp at 3:00pm and setting up tents, 8 of us left for Muah, 1,000 feet above the meadow and 3 miles round trip. it was basically class I with a little class 2 near the 11,0161 top. Pleasant thoughts came to mind of Dave Dykeman, who had finished the SPS list on this peak on July 18, 1987 in honor of his 55th birthday. There were 66 people on top for that joyous occasion. We got back to camp at 6:45 pin in time for a mosquito attack and my traditional community happy hour with prizes for the best appetizers.
Sunday morning we left about 7:30 am for Cartago, in retrospect too late for our group. We got the legendary Cartago the easy way; avoiding a 7,000 foot grunt that fought brush from the desert floor. It named by John Baptiste Daneri, who probably had in mind the town of Carthage. The city was defeated by the Romans in the Punic Wars. They completed their pillage of the city by sowmg salt in the soil so nothing would ever grow there again. This is indeed reminiscent of Cartago, the town.
The totals for the day were 14 miles on and PCT trail and 6 miles cross country. We started at 10,000 feet with Cartago at 10,480+ with a lot of ups and downs. After hiking about 7 miles south on the PCT, we cut off the trail when we could easily see the floor of Death Canyon 200 feet below. We then dropped down to the maw of this forbiddingly named canyon and headed N 15 to climb out of its eastern end, following the the stream of Death Canyon. It, was still quite a trot to Cartago Peak. It is the south most pinnacle, and away from the big one. You can barely make it out one the horizon. There are many pillars of rock 100- 150 feet high, set in sand and surrounded by beautiful golden barked trees. Jim Fleming got the peak on the first try, no GPS used. Jim found a route on the west side with some high third class. He shouted for the rest of us to come, and within minutes all 8 of us were on top. The UTM for the summit is 012203. No rope was necessary or worth taking. Those enjoying the summit, in addition to the leaders, were Will McWhinney, Bill Siegal, Rich Gnagy, Bonnie Harvey, Mars Bonfire and Ron Norton. All of us knew we had a long hike back and would get to camp after dark. Sufang Chen, a very strong hiker, was having foot problems and waited for us where we cut off from the PCT into Death Canyon. When we got back there at 6:00 pm she was gone. Fortunately she drew arrows in the trail pointing her way back to camp. Rich and I were in the back, letting Jim and Will take the rest back when we found Sufang waiting for us on the trail. She said her feet were killing her, and she would go back to camp on her own. I, of course wouldn't hear of this in the biting cold of the frozen Sierra night and told smutty jokes to keep her going. I thought the embarrassment would drive her on. The next day on the hike out she had the whole group laughing with her Chinese smutty jokes, which by the way use no profanities. We laughed for about 4 hours straight. I guess I didn't embarrass her at all the night before. Nine of us had a great dinner at The Pizza Factory in Lone Pine after the trip was over. Those on the trip were, besides the leaders, will McWhinney, Bill Siegal, Sufang Chen, Rich Gnagy, Bonnie Harvey, Mars Bonfire, Ron Norton, Ray Soucy and Kathy Cheever. It was a fun trip and a great group.
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