University Peak

25-May-57

By: Pat Meixner


From The Sierra Echo (Vol I, No. 3), June 1957

UNIVERSITY PEAK (13,588'): May 25-26, 1957
Ldr: Bud Bingham; Ass't: Rich Gnagy

Pat Meixner

On Saturday morning about 22 people started the pleasant 4 mile climb from Onion Valley to Slim Lake. Eight others who climbed Independence Pk. just south of the valley joined us later. The snow level was down to 9,000 ft. and Slim Lake was completely frozen over. The early arrivers in camp found nice dry rock ledges to sleep on; the others camped on snow. The day was perfect - blue skies crossed by an occasional cloud, warm sun and hardly a breath of wind. Beautiful snow fields rose to meet the rugged ridges of University Peak.

In the afternoon a group of eager beavers decided to do some practice snow climbing. Soft snow provided good step-kicking conditions. We climbed till we reached the top of a ridge which gave us a view of the routes to the summit of University Pk. To the north and south the snow laden peaks shown in white splendor. Beautiful puffy clouds touched the horizon. It was then that Vergil Lewis, Alan Smith, Bob Weekly and I decided to go to the top that same day. The climbing was wonderful. We had gone quite a way when Vergil got sick. We were sorry to see him turn back. The rest of us went on. The snow along the ridge to the summit was soft and the exposure was hairy! And (at) 150 ft. from the top with only a 30 ft. gain in elevation we were stopped for lack of a rope. With no handholds on the smooth rock to our left & soft snow on steeply sloping rock to our right it was too dangerous to go on. If you slipped, there would be no chance for an ice axe arrest. So we retreated - but we would be back. We arrived at camp at dusk. Glissading was soft, wet and no fun at all.

On Sunday, 24 people made the climb of University Pk. Of the group from the Saturday attempt, only Alan Smith went up again. Vergil Lewis still didn't feel well. Bob Weekly had a case of snow blindness and I had a blistered face. The people found the climb easy, for we had kicked steps almost to the summit the day before. The weather again was perfect. Rock climbers Harvey Hickman, Bill Sanders and Don Clarke supervised the use of ropes and pitons at the point where we had turned back on Saturday. Everyone reached the summit. Although Al Smith suffered no ill effects on Saturday, he found the climb on Sunday costly when his camera tumbled into obscurity. Glissading on the way down improved as the descending climbers used the same slide routes. All were in camp in the early afternoon.

After lunch, the group began to lurch out to the cars on soft snow, occasionally sinking in up to the hips.

Everyone agrees it was a very successful trip. With the climbing of University Peak, we acquired 5 new members in the Sierra Peaks Section. Welcome to Peter Hunt, Alan Smith, Ralph Merten and his two sons, Kenneth and Philip.

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Note: This trip was part of the second year of officially scheduled SPS trips. University was scheduled for the first year, 1956, but the group-while camped at the Kearsarge Lakes-decided instead to climb Mt. Gould and Dragon Peak. That trip was reported in the September 1956 issue of Southern Sierran.


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