Mount Powell, Mount Thompson

3-Jul-99 (Private Trip)

By: Mirna & Greg Roach


This was a relaxing three day trip over 4th of July weekend. The first day Mirna and I hiked up to the Baboon lakes from the South Lake trailhead where we spent the afternoon fishing and relaxing.

The distance is about 4.5 miles and 2000 feet elevation gain from 9000 to I 1000 feet above the level of the sea. The second day we climbed the peaks, and the third day we hiked out.

The Mt. Powell (elevation 13,360+) on the SPS list is not the same as the Mt. Powell named on the U.S.G.S. maps. The SPS Mt. Powell is 0.4 miles northeast of the U.S.G.S. Mt. Powell is located on the eastem edge of the Mt. Thompson 7.5 minute map at UTM 557115. This fact has caused some confusion in the past. In referring to Mt. Powell in this article I am referring to the SPS Mt. Powell. We were up early 4th of July morning and climbed up the canyon from Baboon Laketo Sunset Lake. We stayed on the west side of the canyon and climbed up a gully with snow in it, instead of following the stream coming down from Sunset Lake. This kept us high above Sunset Lake and avoided the boulder fields near the lake. Many sun cups were encountered in the snow fields above Sunset Lake as we climbed up to the col between Mt. Thompson and Mt. Powell.

Two years ago, I had climbed Mt. Thompson on a Sierra Club trip, but we did not climb Mt. Powell because we went over the wrong saddle at the Col between Mt. Thompson and Mt. Powell. There are two chutes on the north side of the col; the easier 2nd class route is the chute closer to Mt. Powel - the one on the right as one approaches from Sunset lake. This I will call the Thompson-Powell Col. The chute on the left is much steeper at the top and involves about 30 feet of 5th class climbing on the south side. Once on the south side of the col stay well below the ridge leading up to Mt. Thompson. In fact, the peak is more easily climbed by going up the southwest side of the ridge.

Mirna and I decided to climb Mt. Powell first this time. To the right (west) of the Thompson-Powell Col is a huge snow chute which goes up the north east side of Mt. Powell and ends on the plateau near the summit. This was a low snow year and the chute was icy in places and full of loose rock higher up, but it went and soon we found ourselves on the summit of Mt. Powell. We enjoyed the view of the Sierra in the morning light. Both Mt. Powell and Mt. Thompson are located on broad plateaus. Like many of the Sierra Peaks they have steep northern and eastern faces and much gentler slopes coming up from the south and west.

Now over to Mt. Thompson. We did not feel like climbing back down that loose icy chute so we went southwest on the plateau and descended on the eastern side of the plateau. This put us on the south side of the Thompson-Powell Col at about 12,400 feet elevation. From here we climbed up the south west side of the ridge leading to Mt. Thompson.

Actually we got into a chute which leads to the Mt. Thompson Plateau. The peak is a large pile of rocks at the north end of the plateau. We descended back down the southwest side of Mt. Thompson to the southern side of the Thompson-Powell Col then over the col and back past Sunset Lake to our camp.

It felt good to be able to spend another night in the mountains and not have to rush back to civilization. Sometimes I think too much emphasis is placed on getting into the mountains "conquering the peak" and getting back to civilization. The peaks are not conquered - they were there before we were and will be there after we are gone. Finding the real beauty of the mountains comes from learning to live in them and with them on Nature's terms. More times should be spent becoming one with nature. Oh well, maybe I'm just slowing down as I get older.


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