Moses and North Maggie

How Not to Climb Them

June 20-22, 2005

By: George Wysup

Michael Gosnell is a strong hiker and climber, and is serious about the SPS List. Despite that, he suggested that I accompany him for a June weekday trek to bag Moses and North Maggie. Perhaps that is because I have all this time on my hands and I like to plan trips. In fact, I often try to think too much and over-plan trips. This turned out to be one of those times.

We invited some others along and succeeded only in inducing Rudy Fleck, another strong one, to go. I was hoping for another elderly and semi-disabled slug with whom I might be able to keep up. Not to be.

I began the planning by reading some archives and studying the topo map. The reports were typical in that most of the detail involved who went and how much fun was had by all. What I really wanted was more detail on the routes that go. A friend who climbed these last year offered that their direct assault of the north ridge to Moses was a bit hairy. George Toby’s report had the best Moses information, saying to go from the north, then go back south about 300’ below the ridge until directly below the summit, then go up. He also implied the existence of a better and more direct route that they took on the return.

A report told of backpacking into a nice campsite about a quarter mile before Long Meadow. I reviewed the route on the map and concluded that this was about a 5 mile backpack with maybe 800’ gain, round trip. From this I figured that day hiking both peaks and sleeping in the campground was more reasonable than backpacking. One minor advantage of this is that a permit is not needed to hike in Golden Trout Wilderness. Well, here’s what happened.

Monday about noon we departed the LA-LA land and, after a so-so Mex dinner in Springville, arrived at Shake Campground at 6500’ elevation in Mountain home State Park. This is a very nice campground with all amenities except showers, and the price is most reasonable (gratis). The area is beautiful, abounding with large sequoias, and the wildflowers were a welcome bonus to us amateur botanists. I did notice that the campground was located in a slightly different spot than shown on the map. And that the trailhead was not quite in the right place.

We set out early the next morning for (hopefully) the summit of Moses Mountain (9331’). The trail undulated much more than the map had indicated. After hiking about 2.6 miles we came to Redwood Crossing, the trail’s first crossing at 6600’ elevation of the north fork of the middle fork of the Tule River. The swollen waters rushed mightily and were far too dangerous to wade. We pondered this situation and looked about for a reasonable ford. There is a sequoia log crossing the river, which we were able to use for the crossing. The log sits at an inclination of about 18 degrees, but its 4 feet or so diameter is large enough that even the roaring river about 20 feet below did not scare us unduly. Had the log been wet, as with an afternoon rain on our return, crossing on it would have been disastrous.  But the weather was perfectly dry with no clouds. No problem. We marched onward, expecting to find Long Meadow. We finally found the meadow about 3/4 mile past the location shown on the map. The meadow is at about 7100 ft elevation and, disturbingly, there were patches of snow there.

Just past the meadow, the trail crossed the Tule again. This time there was no convenient Sequoia log to scamper across. I did not like what I saw one bit. Michael and Rudy saw this as some sort of challenge. They saw a narrow spot in the channel and collected saplings with which they created a sort of bridge, not a very solid one, but a bridge. The both danced across this to the other side, using other saplings for balance. They beckoned for me to follow. Easy, they said. My brain thought otherwise and I invented excuses not to cross. I was already tired, I said, and I’ll slow you guys down, and this isn’t even an emblem peak, and I have my camera here and I’ll just do some nature photography on the way back to camp. Come on, you can do it, they said. Maybe, I said, but I think I have a pulled groin muscle. And my bad back is hurting.

So they went on and I moseyed back. There were indeed some flowers that deserved recording in digital memory. I found what I think is the campsite mentioned by Mr. Toby. It looks like a fine spot and is located at waypoint (NAD27 grid 11S)   E0350455   N4016115 at elev 7040’. As I neared Redwood Crossing I noticed the signed “ Hidden Falls” trail heading south. I explored it and found that it followed the east side of the river for 0.8 miles, with minimal undulations, and ended at a parking spot (6000’ elevation). Normally, this would be a far superior starting point to Shake campground, but at this time there was much water crossing the road, which was slippery with a coating of algae. This spot is reached by a drive of about 2 miles from the Shake campground road.

I relaxed with a couple of brews and a good book in my camp chair and Michael and Rudy returned at about 4:30 p.m., with smiles on their faces, signaling success. Here is what they reported:

They followed the recommended route, which went quite well until they neared the summit ridge. They contoured below the ridge but were probably too high and had to do considerable detouring to avoid some class 4 stuff near some chutes. Reaching the summit was not so difficult. There was some snow, but it was not a factor. On the return they found a chute that was not choked with snow or brush. Though steep, it went nicely class 2 and they would recommend it for the ascent. The following waypoint marks the approximate top of the chute. This is NOT a measured point and I can’t guarantee the accuracy (NAD27 grid 11S)   E0349350   N4016310. When they reached the river they miraculously found a safe jump-across point. This crossing turned out to be about 20 yards north of the presumed campsite.

Just after first light the next day we again started up the trail, intent on climbing North Maggie. They had observed that summit from Moses the previous day and seen considerable snow, not too surprising after this wet winter since N. Maggie reaches 10,234’. Again we crossed the river via the sequoia log to the east side and continued to the second crossing, but turned away from the river instead of having to cross. The going wasn’t difficult as long as we kept to the north slope of the mountain to avoid the heavier brush. There is a gully, shown as dry on the map, starting just north of the word “Fork” on the map and curving to the ESE toward North Maggie. This gully was now a raging torrent and, in any case, is loaded with deadfall and brush, at least in its lower reaches. We climbed easily on the slope using the gully as the left handrail and following the best openings through the trees. At about 8300’ we hit patchy snow. This concerned us and we decided to depart from the recommended route and take the knife ridge up to bump 10,113 and go over its top, hoping that the sunnier side would be relatively snow free. The ridge began to get, for me, disturbingly rocky and, at this point, I did my escape act again and headed back to the campground. Hey, I’ll never finish this list anyway.

The boys returned at about 5 p.m., again with smiley faces, to find me relaxing with a good book. They got the peak! To do so, they had to drop back down about 800’ and go via the more normal route. This took them easterly to the saddle between bump 10,023’ and North Maggie, then south to the summit. There was deep snow, but it was soft enough yet firm enough to be manageable.

The highlight of the trip for me was finding some unusual flora such as Fawn Lilies, Shorthorn Steers head, and Dudleya cymosa. You won’t find these in September. Of course, getting the peaks would have been nice, but it was still fun seeing the other guys succeed.

On the way home we stopped at the Springville Inn for dinner. We all recommend this place highly.

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