By: Frank Sanborn
From The Sierra Echo (Vol. 1, No. 6), December 1957
On Saturday, Nov 2d, thirty hikers gathered at Shake Public Camp, near Balch Park, in Sequoia National Forest, to participate in the Sierra Peaks Section hike to Summit Lake. The gloom was thick among the giant Sequoia trees and some sleet was falling as Frank Sanborn led the group up the trail at 8 a.m. Chuck Miller, the assistant leader, stayed with a rear guard of eight fellows who climbed Mt. Moses. The Merten and Austin families were with us, with their mountain-wise children. Dennis Austin, age 7, carried his own full-size knapsack. Most of the group had covered the seven miles to camp and were eating lunch around a roaring fire at Summit Lake by 2 p.m. It was bitterly cold there at 9600 ft. when a sudden blizzard struck, accompanied by thunder and lightning.
It was obvious that we had to get out at once before the trail was too deeply buried by the heavily falling snow. Therefore, after hurriedly repacking, Frank led the group back out to the cars. The trail was very difficult to follows and darkness didn't help any, but we all reached our cars by 8 p.m.
Bud Bingham and Graham Stephenson got out first, using chains, and notified the Sheriff's Office in Porterville that most of us were stuck. The Austin children were taken out to the ranger station at Springville. The rest of us who had chains attached them and tried to get out, but three cars skidded into a ditch, forcing their ten occupants to sleep in them Saturday night. Sunday morning three deputy sheriffs arrived in a four-wheel drive vehicle and towed the stranded cars out of two feet of snow. The sheriff's men then proceeded to Shake Camp and helped the remaining cars which were stuck because of dead batteries, lack of chains or deep snow.
No one was hurt in this incident, for which we all are thankful. We did come perilously close to being snowed in the back country, however, which highlights the fact that hiking into the Sierra in November is rather risky. It is my opinion that in the future, no knapsack trips should be scheduled into the Sierra later than October, regardless of favorable weather forecasts. We were all lucky this time.
Note: This is one of the legendary early trips of the SPS, and it prompted the Section to be more cautious in scheduling fall backpacks into the high country. This trailhead was particularly troublesome because the road out gained elevation before descending to a lower level. The Moses climb does not appear in any Echo index because of a lack of route description.
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