Hiking and Climbing in the Sierra
September, 1998
Part 1

Climbing in the Palisades

[Part 2, Hiking in the Sierra]

Getting there

Marie and I drive down to California. We pick up Andrew and Lorna at the airport, and proceed to the trailhead.

Day 1

Here we are packing to go into base camp. We just arrived at 7000 ft, we are hiking to 11,000 ft today. We're bringing climbing gear. But hey, it's a base camp trip so we can bring lots of good food too. Our packs were very heavy. The weather was poor - a light rain started in the late afternoon. No one enjoyed the day, but we did make it to our base camp.

Day 2

Andrew and I set out to climb a moderate 5.7 route on Robinson Pk (~12,000ft). The little meadow valley we are camped in, and the more open high basin above it are spectacular. Last winter was a very high snow year for the Sierra so they have an unusually high amount of snow still on the ground.

We camped at the outlet of this valley.

Upper basins.

The climbing was very beautiful. Andrew lead a moderate pitch to get us onto the face. I lead a beautiful pitch through a variety of terrain, including a short wall that seemed a bit harder than 5.7, finishing on a beautiful belay ledge. Andrew worked back to the right and out of sight, then moved very slow for a while. When I followed I found that he started up some twin cracks only to find that they became very shallow and steep. He aided up a 10 ft section to a ledge. I lead another short and difficult wall above the ledge then worked further right on easy ledges and cracks. The remainder of the route to the summit was easy climbing on beautiful rock.

South face of Robinson.

Tom approaching summit.

Andrew on summit, Palisade range
behind him with Mt. Sill on the left.

Lorna in the upper meadows.

We scrambled down the north ridge, again on beautiful rock . We met up with Marie and Lorna in the basin and walked back to camp. The rain set in before we were home.

Day 3

The day dawned clear, but by 8 am there were thick clouds filling the sky. We choose to stay around camp and top rope some of the nearby crags, which were fun climbing. At noon I had the bright idea that we cook dinner now, to beat the evening rain. It didn't work - the rain set in a half hour later and we had our third dinner in the rain. In the afternoon we retreated to a tent for cards.

Day 4

The weather didn't look any better and we had had enough. However, before heading out Andrew and I hike up to the base of Mt. Sill to look at the south face route.

Andrew and I lunch before hiking out.
There were several interesting cairns along the route. When we reached the south ridge of Mt. Sill we could see the route and it looked very both very doable and very appealing.

It was Andrew's birthday. I brought a gift and choose this place to give it to him: a fifi hook to represent the great adventures that we had shared together and the hope we would share more in the future.

We made good time on the walk out and were in Sizzler's Steak house before dark.

Day 5

Big Pine Best Western.

While in Big Pine we drove into the mountain range east of the Owen's valley. It is very different than the Sierra. Though high, around 11,000 ft, it is not as rugged as the Sierra crest. But mostly, it is much, much drier. One area of particular interest, which is where we went, is a grove of ancient trees. The trees live in very marginal conditions which result in slow and long growth.

Accent Tree.

Day 6

We drove north, stopping at Mono lake briefly, then arriving in Tuolomie meadows early enough to get a camp site in official camp ground.

The official campground was not all that pleasant. Sites were packed very close together and obviously heavily used. The air was full of wood smoke from breakfast until after dark. Each site is provided with a picnic table and a metal bear box. The rangers told us to store all food in the bear box because bears regularly enter the campground. The box made a good cook area, which was convenient. But while we had food out we were constantly alert for bears, ready to extinguish the stove and stuff everything into the bear box at the first sign of a commotion.

Day 7

Marie and I do a day hike while Andrew and Lorna try, again, to climb something. They got to the base of a route, roped up, had just said "on belay" when the rain set in.

On the day hike.

Rain again.

Views down toward Yosemity Valley.

Day 8

Lorna's week of vacation is over. Andrew takes the car and drives her to the airport. It's a full day trip, so Marie and I climb Cathedral Peak, which can be done walking in from the camp ground.

The approach.

It is an exceptionally beautiful peak. The south side is a broad apron of rock that narrows up to a fine point. The north side is a long ridge with easy slopes on both sides. Our guide book described a 5.7 route up the easterly side of the apron so that is what we did. There were many other parties on the rock, climbing variations along the east to south sides, but all funneling to the same upper pitch and pointy summit.

There was a good variety of climbing, most easy, some making me think. The lower pitches had face climbing, which lead into a chimney. After the chimney there were some large blocks, then more face climbing. The final pitch went up a steep crack, then another, then blocks to the small summit. This is where the route got crowded and I had to climb under some ropes. The summit was only large enough for two or three people so Marie and I had to wait our turn. We rapped down the west side as quick as we could.

Most people climb with out packs and descend back to the base. Marie and I carried our packs and descended the west side of the peak to Cathedral lakes and walked back out to the road.

Base of the route.

Face climbing, then into the chimney.

Large blocks halfway up.

[Part 2, Hiking in the Sierra]

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Page last modified:  Feb 01 00:49 2003  by  Tom Unger