By: George Wysup
3 leaders (Gary Schenk, Pat Arredondo, and George Wysup) with 2 participants (Mary Jo Dungfelder and Stephanie Gylden) met at Kearsarge Pass trailhead at 6:30 Friday morning, Aug 26, 2005. The weather was perfect— nary a cloud and moderate temperatures. There was considerable haze from some prescribed burns in KCNP.
George and Pat had car camped at the east trailhead (9100’) for Kearsarge Peak, very near Onion Valley. This is a fine camp site because the steep dirt road requires high clearance AWD and few know about this. Gary and MJ had stayed at The Portal. Stephanie materalized out of nowhere.
THE HIKE IN TO EAST LAKE
George led the bunch, starting at 6:50, at an energy-saving pace (as fast as his old legs could carry all that weight) and with recuperative breaks, to the pass at 11760’. Then we merrily scampered down the trail, past Bullfrog (Jeremiah was one— Joy to the World!) Lake, down the steep JMT to Lower Vidette Meadow, continuing down to Junction Meadow (8200’). We were watching the roaring Bubbs Creek on the way, seeing it get bigger with the Vidette Creek influx and knowing that East Creek would add to the flow before our crossing.
The crossing was obviously passable, but the creek ran deep and swift enough that a dunk was certainly possible. Using 2 poles per person made the crossing uneventful. This allowed us to take 2 welcome breaks, one on either side of the creek. We then continued the 3 miles and 1300’ gain up to East Lake, arriving at 5 p.m., where we found several nice campsites and but a single occupant— A friendly fellow from Wausau, WI. I immediately took a liking to this guy because he said I looked 50 years old.
I noticed that I had forgotten my GPS, which would have been very helpful on the Brewer climb.
We set up living quarters, ate, and prepared for the morrow’s effort. A brief scout indicated that the creek crossing should be eased by a network of drift logs at the lake outflow. The trip reports were a bit sketchy, but one group said they made the summit in 5 hours, which seemed reasonable because the distance on the map looks to be just a bit more than 3 miles each way with about 4100’ gain. It turns out that this is somewhat of an understatement. Stephanie told of a WTC group that took 15 hours.
Pat had a helpful trip report by Bob Burd with a photo and a route line drawn on it.
Stats for today’s effort: 13.8 miles with 4000’ gain, 3700’ loss.
THE BREWER CLIMB
We set out on the great adventure at a few minutes before 7 a.m., having set a turn around time of 1:30 p.m. I began crossing the logjam, noticing that the darned logs were very slippery with the morning dew on them. I slipped, gaining a wet boot and a scrape on a hand from the incident. The west bank area of East Lake is a swamp, the terrain consisting mostly of ancient deadfall with large holes between the logs. We negotiated that with success, intending to follow the ridge line shown on the map. It was immediately apparent that the 20 meter contour interval on the map masked considerable detail. The route finding was mostly accidental and the resulting path twisted between the 2 handrail creeks bounding the ridge. The good news was that there were frequent spots to replenish our water supply.
Finally we climbed above the obscuring forest and could see our route to the peak (with some question marks). The route was more torturous than we had initially thought. We found a few “feel good” ducks, but the path was unmarked for the most part. In retrospect we should have added a few ducks to kick down on the return.
We crossed an area of gentle slabs, moistened by snowmelt. Gary filled a bottle, noticing later that he was giving a ride to a wriggly critter that he named “Walter”. [After Walter bagged the peak, Gary tossed him back into his home. Walter seemed unfazed by his adventure, but it was hard to tell for sure.] We attained the ridge, where it was necessary to climb a tricky route through the broken up boulders. Some of us questioned the “2nd-classness” of the route, but later we decided it was more likely class 2.14 than class 3. We continued climbing, looking for the place to turn left to attain the south face. We spotted the summit (the roundish one on the right, not the pointy one on the left) as the time hit 1:30. Cheating a bit on turn around time, we continued (after all, it’s an emblem peak), figuring that we could make it back with no problem before dark hit us at an anticipated 7:45 p.m. We reached the summit at 1:45 or so, and headed back at a bit after 2.
The route down through the “class 2” wasn’t much quicker than the route up, and I managed to miss a left turn. Now I was wishing I had my GPS and that we had placed more ducks. We reached the slabs, dropped Walter off, and continued along what we thought was the route. Mostly we were correct. Then we reached a point where further progress demanded rapelling, which is beyond the scope of an I-rated trip, plus we had no ropes. So we retraced our path for a considerable distance in the dimming daylight until we found a familiar spot and some ducks. Phew! I thought we had a chance to make it out before the moonless darkness descended on us.
Alas, we too soon ran out of sunlight with about 500’ of descent remaining. Breaking out the headlamps we probed a variety of paths, the depths of which our LED headlamps were unable to penetrate. We could hear our south handrail, Ouzel Creek. The first several paths proved to lead to places that repulsed our continuing. Finally we found a route that went. I noted that, based on my altimeter, we should now be very close to the lake. Gary, in the lead, tossed a rock to a responding splash. Yep; the lake. We made our way north along the shore through the swamp, finally reaching the logjam at the lake outlet. Figuring that negotiating the jam might lead to injury we just went down the creek a few feet and crossed the knee deep rushing water to the camp. The weather was blessedly warm, so there was no hypothermia issue at all. The time was approaching 10 p.m. We had equaled the time taken by the WTC group, but most of our time was spent on the downhill, not the usual statistic.
No one seemed terribly interested in cooking dinner.
Stats: Who knows, but perhaps 9 miles with 4400’ gain/loss.
The trip plan was to include a climb of the unspectacular Mt Bago. As we breakfasted we decided that we were, collectively, too fatigued and out of gas and mentally bonked to want to do that. We opted to extend ourselves to hike out on Sunday, beginning shortly after 9 a.m. Which we did— dragging very slowly and painfully to Kearsarge Pass by 5:30. We reached the cars in daylight, but barely.
Stats: the reverse of the trip in.
A late but tasty dinner at Pizza Factory replenished us for the late and traffic-free drive home.
Kudos (a herd of African antelope) to young Stephanie, whom I had never before met. She was a game climber; strong and skillful and without a whine. She fit in well with this very compatible group.
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