Mount Thompson, Point Powell, Mount Haeckel, Mount Wallace
By: Nile Sorenson
A convenient class 3 route to get all 4 in two days
Mount Haeckel and Mount Wallace are typically climbed as a pair, as are Thompson and Powell. Climbing the latter two late in the season can mean running into hard ice in the north facing chutes. A common approach for Haeckel and Wallace is from the Echo Lake drainage. This is a different drainage than the common approach for Thompson and Powell. Some parties have camped at Blue lake, doing one pair of peaks the first day and then doing the second pair the next day. This requires lots of travel back and forth in two almost parallel drainages.
An alternate route to Powell, described by Secor, from the Echo Lake area goes up a class 3 chute heading up from the Powell glacier. This chute is very steep, quite loose, and almost always icy later in the season. Last October, I discovered a route across the ridges dividing the two drainages that I could not find documented. If done late in the year after the snows are gone and the ice has receded, this route avoids the problem approaching Powell across the Powell glacier, so no ice axe or crampons are needed. It does, however, require packing very light and fast since you are moving your one night camping gear with sleeping bag, stove etc. over the ridge.
From Sabrina Lake, hike easy trails up to the drainage just below the outlet from Echo Lake. At 11,200 ft. is a very pretty area with lots of streams and camping spots—a good place to camp. With an early start from the cars, this camp can easily be made by mid morning. Drop your gear, and climb Wallace and Haeckel approaching from the east above Echo Lake. There is a class 4 route up the east face of Wallace. It appears on the map that this route would save some distance. DON’T do it. This class 4 route is VERY loose with rotten rock. It will not save you any significant time over going around the north side of Wallace and climbing the class 2
talus between Haeckel and Wallace. Once on top of Wallace, traverse over to Haeckel, (some low class 3). Then go back to camp. With good time management, one should be into camp for a relaxed late afternoon and nice dinner.
Get an alpine start the next morning packing up all your stuff since you won’t be coming back this way. Head South-southeast up the slabs toward UTM 550123. The rocky slabs are easy climbing. Do not be tempted to get out in the moraine to the east. It looks easy on the map, but it is a talus nightmare. Stay in the west area of the lateral moraine coming off the Powell glacier until you are directly west of a prominent saddle, UTM 557118 on the ridgeline off to the east. It has a defined chute leading up to it. Now cross the moraine and head east toward this prominent chute and saddle. The moraine is large talus and somewhat tedious but it will go faster than you think. When you reach the base of the chute, ascend good class 2 rock to the saddle. It is an easy climb.
Upon reaching the sandy saddle, one can see the Thompson-Powell glacier and the col between the two peaks. Descend east down the chute for only about 20 yards, then start traversing south. Don’t be tempted to descend the chute directly down to the east—you will have big trouble and end up on cliffs. As you traverse south-gradually descending, you will encounter a nice class 3 crack system which leads diagonally down to the Thompson Powell glacier and drops you out on the flat part of the glacier below the northeast chute of Point Powell.
From here you can go up the chute to the col between Thompson and Powell or chose to take the class 3 northeast chute direct to plateau. This latter will most likely have ice in it so you may decide to go up over the col. After crossing the col, drop most of your gear so you can now climb Point Powell and Thompson without carrying your sleeping bag, etc. On the south side of the col there is a nice ledge system that heads south west that leads you to the gully leading up to the Powell plateau. Thompson is just to the east.
Once you bag them both go back over the col and head for the ledges west of Sunset Lake. Follow the regular route descriptions down to Baboon Lakes and then out to the trailhead.
Four good peaks and two good days with lots of beautiful country, and a bit of exploring in places where no one goes—that is what the Sierra is all about.
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