San Joaquin Mountain

30-Sep-00 (List Finish)

By: Ron Hudson


San Joaquin Mountain is good for a list finish because it is easy (class one), has area suitable nearby for a large party and camping, and has superb scenery from its summit. On Sept. 30, 2000, 24 climbing friends met at Minaret Summit near Mammoth Ski area. The weather was clear and warm. At 9:00 a.m. we then proceeded to walk the six miles along the ridge from the parking area. This ridge area, along the Pacific Crest Trail well below, is one of the best in the Sierra for wildflowers - along the many streams and wet areas down there that drain out of the rock and meadows.

As we hiked along, fellow peak climbers reminisced and related long past and recent experiences as well as talked travel and current happenings. The aspens were displaying their fall colors: yellows through reds in the views below. We also basked in the spectacular vistas of the Minarets, Ritter and Banner and many lakes including Shadow, 1000 Island, Garnet, and Ediza. Lively discussions ensued among us, as we had much in common. Some of the people were there whom I climbed with more than 20 years ago, for example, I met Mary McMannes on a 20s and 30s Singles trip I led to Yosemite in the late 70s. And Don Sparks and I led a trip to Iron Mountain in July 1976.

I had been high up on top of the ridge twice before, when I took advantage of its skiability in the wintertime (starting from the Mammoth Ski Lodge), but both times a snowstorm defeated my attempts. I had considered other routes for the list finish, particularly from Deadman Creek to the east, but the ridge would be the simplest for a potentially large group. I apologize to those who may have missed the trip, because I did not announce the trip far in advance and to everybody as widely as I should have; it was not even an official SPS activity. But I had other conflicts in a busy summer for me.

As we stopped for each rest it was not easy to start again in distraction from the congenial conversations and world-class natural splendor and peace. As we got to Two Teats, less than a mile from the summit, we picked up one additional person who had somehow missed us. The group was now 25 people, and one dog, (belonging to Igor and Suzanne). We then spread out somewhat on the final steep summit slope, but we all waited close to the top for the final action.

At that spot I contemplated the significance of the moment, the realization of a multi-decade goal, completing the ever-sacred list of the 247 most significant peaks in the Sierra Nevada of California. I tried to relate my final hurdle of the mere 50 feet remaining to the hundreds of thousands of vertical feet and thousand-odd miles traveled in the 40 years I had been climbing Sierra peaks. I approached slowly, and as I finally stood at the summit I yelled out to the visual feast all around in celebration. In tradition, we hugged, kissed, photographed, shook hands, drank champagne, and ate goodies.

Adventurous and lively discussion continued to be shared by all as we sat there in the balmy shorts-and-sleeves weather. Bruce Trotter, a botanist, gave me a copy of the book he had prepared. In addition to this newest completor, there were four other list finishers including Barbara Sholle, Don Sparks, Steve Eckert, and Rich Gnagy. And others present very close to the finish with only a few peaks remaining -Greg and Mirna Roach and Pat and Gerry Holleman. As we proceeded back many stopped at Two Teats and walked up the east Teat and/or climbed the short third class section for the west (lower) summit.

We got back to the cars at Minaret Summit around 4:30. David Underwood helped by driving the rough 4WD road back up the ridge for two miles to pick up one of our group wh had a painful heel. Next we made a short drive to a nice spot I had selected, in the open "dispersed camping" area about three miles NW of Mammoth Town. It was a great spot for our group, with ample flat area, protected by trees yet still open to the sky, and with existing fire ring and plenty of wood. Those who needed to could make a ten minute detour to town for purchases. The tables we brought were set out and then loaded with the potluck delights for a feast. Th scrumptious dishes included quesadillas, sushi, hummus/ pita, Caesar and bean salads, couscous, wok chicken and veggies, BBQ chicken, and great cakes and cookies for dessert.

Around the feast and campfire many more mountain moments and meetings were mentioned and reminisced upon. I had the (dirt) floor while I related some items I had compiled from my Sierra Peaks (spreadsheet) list and notes. They include:

First peak: Half Dome 1960 - trip with my Uncle
Most unsuccessful: State - 3 tries to get; San Joaquin - 3 tries to get
Longest Day: Norman Clyde (unsuccessful) 23 hours
Bivuoacs: Henry, Sill, Norman Clyde
Worst bivvy: Sill - no sleep, couldn't got out of the wind and wet
Longest trip: John Muir Trail in 9 days with Whitney at end
Prettiest: Lake Ediza, View from Mt Goddard
Best Flowers: High trail from Agnew Meadows, Cliff Creek Mineral King
Coldest: Morgan South in winter - below zero at night
Wettest: Hilgard , Dunderberg, Emerald - I was completely soaked
Memorable: seeing the northern lights from Norman Clyde, electricity buzzing and later lightning on McAdie
Most dangerous (loose rock): Devils Crag, Temple Crag (Moon Goddess Arete)
Most frequent: Whitney 10 times
Second most - Williamson 5 times
Number soloed: 54
Number led or co-led: 104
Done more than once: 114
Most in one year: 40 new + 7 repeats - 1984
Most adventurous: Enchanted Gorge (1967), Williamson Creek to Williamson Division Creek to Colosseum, Middle Fork Kings River Canyon
Easiest: Lamont
Most in one day: 4 - Joe Devel , Pickering, Newcomb, Chamberlin 1988
Most extreme trip: Palisades traverse - 5-14ers - T'bolt, Starlight, North Palisade, Polemonium, Sill - light weight in 4 days/3 nights from trailhead
Unusual: cached some food near Taboose pass in 1983, recovered it in 1995 and it was mostly still good.
Organized Groups I did peaks with: UCLA Mountaineers ('65 - '68), Westwood Ski Club ('71 - '73), West LA Sierra Club, SF Valley Group, RCS, BMTC, SPS, PCS, SCMA, CMC
Animals: Cougar on way to Mt. Kennedy. Big horn sheep on Muir Trail - Rae Lakes

After my tales, the group listened intently while Dave German and Judy Rittenhouse told of their recent survival adventure where they spent 4 nights in snow caves with bad weather on Mr Ranier. Participants (all made it to the summit and party) not already mentioned include Paul Graff, Keith Martin, Barry Holchin and Karen, Murray Zichlinski, Cathy Reynolds, Bob Suzuki, Dave Sholle, and Bruno Geiger.

And the inevitable question - what next? Yes, I'll continue in the Sierras. Maybe not so intently but I want to still do technical climbs, and new and exploratory routes. Thanks to all those who accompanied me on the various trips over the years. And to John Muir and the others who kindled and keep alive the mountain and climbing spirit and wilderness ethic.


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