Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sierra Trip Report - Part 3

After bagging Peak 12,800, we headed for Mt. Haeckel, a prominent peak in the region. As we traversed the ridge it become obvious there were two routes: the standard route up the talus slope or sneak around the west side. Either route ends up on the south side of the mountain, which was on the far side from where we were.

Not surprisingly we decided to sneak around on the west side. It involved only a small boulder field and then climbing over the wall which made up the west side ridge. The closer we hiked to the wall the more vertical it became. Kathy found an easy class 3 climb over the wall. We were now on the south side of the mountain with a long and unknown traverse to the correct ridge ahead of us.

I had no beta about this approach, so I cairned the traverse in case we had to bail. Things went smoothly for awhile with easy class 3 sections coupled with lots of class 1. We then came to an interesting gully that separated us from the other side of the mountain. After exploring several options, we decided to bail rather than dropping 300 feet down. If I knew the route would go, I would have descended the 300 feet, but not knowing and this being our 5th day of hiking, I chose to bail.

We quickly retraced our steps and descended to the lake in front of Mt. Haeckel. I then looked up the talus field the standard route ascends. Forget it. I just proved my point how navigational mistakes are costly in the Sierra. In hindsight I should have followed the standard route. Oh well, there's always next time.

It did not take long and we were back at our campsite. In essence we made a giant loop around Peak 12,800 and climbed to the top of that peak. Not a bad hike, but I would have liked to nail Haeckel. Seems like next time it would be best to camp at Midnight Lake and bag Haeckel and Darwin.

We backpacked out on Thursday trying to decide what to do on Friday. Originally the plan was to do Boundary Peak, but I have done it three times and was not excited about doing it a fourth time. We finally agreed on White Mountain, the easiest 14,000 foot peak in California. It would be Kathy's first 14ner and we would not have any bear issues.

We drove the road to White Mountain on Thursday evening car camping at one of the pullouts. We could see the lights of Bishop, CA some 7,000 feet below and the peaks in the Sierra. It was really beautiful. The next day we hiked White Mountain. It's a class 1 hike that follows a gravel road all the way to the summit. It's not too exciting, but it's a 14ner! There are some great vistas from the summit. Panorama from White Mountain.

The descent was non-eventful and the drive back to Vegas was long and boring as usual. Future plans include a backpack to Midnight Lake with Darwin, Haeckel, and Clyde Spires on the tic list.