Clyde Minaret, Volcanic Ridge
By: Erik Siering
Norman Clyde's namesake peaks are fun. Clyde Minaret, like Norman Clyde Peak, is a fine climb; I look forward to Clyde Spires. Nile Sorenson and Randall Danta ably led our eager SPS group up Clyde Minaret via the Rock Route. Participants were Matthew Richardson, Dan Richter, Asher Waxman and myself. Volcanic Ridge was a solo outing. A great weekend was had by all.
Saturday morning, we departed from the Devil's Postpile ranger station. Nile and Dan had shuttled the group and gear from the remote overnight parking area. Great news: the bridge across the San Joaquin River has been rebuilt. No early morning chilly wading awaited us! We hiked the pretty trail along Minaret Creek, arriving at Minaret Lake by noon. A shimmering set of falls is passed en route. Our elapsed time was a casual 4.5 hours for the 7 miles and 2600' gain. Camp was on the north side of the peninsula that juts into the lake. There is also a fine shaded site on the north shore. Randall, Asher and Matthew lazed in camp. Nile and Dan headed off to scout the route beyond Cecile Lake.
I scaled Volcanic Ridge. This aptly named massif looms over Cecile and Minaret Lakes, and offers outstanding views of the Minarets and nearby Banner and Ritter Peaks. I followed the grassy slope east of camp, turning north to reach the apex (1600', 1.5 miles rt). It is frequently climbed. The decrepit full register is stored in a rusted tobacco can. Volcanic Ridge has a clear view of the principal routes on Clyde Minaret. Nile and Dan were not set on the ledge leading the Rock Route, but it was evident from my perch and could thus be identified from camp. A large, steep snow tongue, extending below Staff's Route, bisected the ledge stretching across the chutes.
We set to happy hour after our sorties. The highlights were Randall's Portobello mushrooms, Matt's TJ Greek Dolmas, and Dan's Gruyere cheese. We turned in early for our alpine start the next morning.
Sunday morning wakeup was 03:30, and we departed by 04:30. A drainage led to the snow beneath the Clyde's SE face. We cramponed up to the red rock outcropping. We skipped the traditional start of the ledge traverse, and followed rock to the central snow tongue. Dan's step-in crampons were not adhering reliably to his boots, so he added straps and then tied into a rope between Nile and I as a precaution for the steep snow traverse to the ledge. The snow was still agreeably firm, although it was softening perceptibly. Nile measured the incline to be 48 degrees at the ledge.
We dropped our hardware here, and turned the comer to the Rock Route. The chute comprises roughly 800 feet of pleasant 62 and 63 scrambling, passing right of the prominent gendarme. Loose rock is averted with care. We crested the ridge, going up or to the right of a final short chimney. Thereafter, we rapped down the short 10' 64 step in the ridge, and scrambled to the summit. We were on top at 09:20 for the gorgeous view.
On descent we belayed the step, which has solid holds. We rapped off the ridge (40' or so) past the chimney, while Nile retraced his traverse to the right. We expeditiously downclimbed the chute, clearing the many old rap anchor runners as we went. The ledge at the snow was attained in 1.5 hours.
The snow tongue had softened, but beneath the surface it was still quite firm. We belayed with our two ropes to a more reasonable, <40 degree slope. Randall downclimbed the slope after the others. On hindsight, it would have been quicker to belay the snow crossing to the other side of the ledge and continue on rock to the base of the SE face. We traversed the slabs overlooking Cecile Lake to our previous snow slope, which we glissaded to the drainage. The rest of the walk out to camp was uneventful, but for Dan's brief tangle with the willows. We were at camp at 13:20. Nile graciously acceded to my request to depart in my usual haste, and I reached my truck at 16:00, the others by 17:30.
Our weekend had been very fortunate... on the trail out, I encountered a party of twenty-four (!) mule riders, their twelve (!) pack mules, and two packers. They were ascending to Minaret Lake, churning the trail relentlessly. We'd just missed their company in camp. This underscores the obscenity of the current Sierra wilderness management.
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