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The last day of the Sierra Challenge had six of at the Onion Valley TH at 6a. Mt. Bago was one of the easier peaks put on the Challenge, and not expected to be difficult day. Originally it was planned to be Matthew Holliman's SPS list finish, but as the summer had progressed it became clear that he could not finish the list until later in the year.
Kearsarge Pass is one of my favorite passes on the East Side, not only because it is one of the easiest, but it has really fine views of the Kings-Kern and Great Western Divides looking into SEKI NP. Mt. Bago is clearly visible too, far to the west directly behind Bullfrog Lake. It was 7:45a when the group of us reached the pass for a short break. The pace today was not as fast as it had been the rest of the week, primarily because our fastest hikers (Rick Kent and Matthew) were not among us.
It took us another hour to reach the junction with the PCT/JMT between Bullfrog and Charlotte Lakes. We followed the trail a short distance towards Charlotte Lake before heading west cross-country towards Bago. We hiked through the forest and into the broad cirque east of the peak as we climbed above treeline. The direct route up the East Face looked cliffy, but we had options to climb either left or right of the summit to reach the arcing summit ridgeline. We chose the right side, aiming for a wide but tedious chute leading to the north ridge. It would have made a better descent route than for the ascent, but such were the breaks. Our tight little group spread out some as we went up this slope, following which we headed up the easy North Ridge. It was 9:45a when the first of us reached the summit, the others following in turn over the next 10 minutes or so.
At the summit we found the usual fine views and an SPS summit register, but something more, too. Wrapped in plastic and paper bags was a bottle of Korbel champagne with a postcard attached. They had been left by Laura ("Moosetracks"), a friend of Richard's, as a gift to the Sierra Challengers. She had carried it to the summit some ten days earlier as part of a larger 70-lb resupply cache she was carrying in to Charlotte Lake for another friend. It was a wonderful gesture and we wasted little time opening it up and passing it around. The hiding place amongst the rocks had been carefully chosen out of the sun, allowing the bottle to chill to a nice temperature for drinking. Champagne has far more carbonation that most beverages, and with the nearly 12,000-foot elevation one has to be careful when tipping the bottle back. Brother Rick was the least aware of this phenomena, consequently making the biggest mess. He tipped the bottle back for a good swig, only to find the escaping air bubbles too much to hold in, spurting champagne out of his mouth in all directions, though most of it seemed to land on his shirt. Good fun.
Congratulations were given to Michael as the winner of this year's Yellow jersey. He had managed to climb all ten peaks on this year's list faster than anyone by a good many hours. Adam had secured the White Jersey with a fine performance, and Richard had won the Green jersey though only participating for four of the ten days. I held the lead for the King of the Mountain jersey by what I thought was an insurmountable 3 peak lead, at least until Adam starting asking questions. "So how many peaks would I have to climb today?" His look told me he was serious. Since I would win a tie-breaker, he needed an additional four named peaks. He had looked at his map beforehand to know there was a chance to do it - Painted Lady, Rixford, Gould, and Dragon could be climbed to give him the lead. But Adam didn't want to go to all that trouble if I was going to tag another peak to beat him out, so he wanted to know my intentions. I let him know I was not going to be climbing any other peaks, but he didn't look convinced - perhaps he thought I was going to trick him. I assured him if he could climb those four peaks he would win the KotM jersey as well. And with that he took off while the rest of us were still at the summit.
We stayed at the summit an unusually long time, more than half an hour. Afterwards, we packed up our gear with the empty bottle (several us had more than our share, leaving us with a bit of a buzz) and headed off the South Ridge a short ways before descending into the eastern cirque. We chose this as a change of pace, but found the descent not the boot-ski we could have had by taking the ascent route. The slopes were compact sand and talus, too firm to dig boots into, but also too loose to make an easy descent. We went down in pairs to avoid rockfall, eventually regrouping once we were all down the slope. The return to the trail, then back to Kearsarge Pass and the trailhead was straightforward, taking us another two hours to get us back at 2:30p. And thus another Sierra Challenge wrapped up. I was happy to have completed the ten selected peaks and even a few extras I hadn't counted on for the week, even if I wasn't going to win any jerseys this year.
Jersey Strategy: Adam showed up at our motel in Independence around 10p that night. He had managed to climb the four peaks he'd aimed for after leaving us on Mt. Bago. There were still half a dozen participants staying at the motel and we happened to be lounging out front drinking spirits and telling lies when Adam showed up. He looked tired but happy, with the best smile I'd seen him with all week. We gave him the congratulations due, then I presented him with some prizes I had procurred for the winners - copies of Roper's and Voge's Sierra Climbing Guides, pre-dating Secor's book and both now out of print.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Bago
This page last updated: Mon Sep 22 10:14:16 2008
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