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Nobody, myself included, was all that thrilled with hiking up the Taboose Pass Trail. No one had anything good to say about it in the trip reports we'd read, and Matthew had no praises to sing from his own travels up that route. But the Sierra Challenge had yet to utilize this trail, and there were peaks that cried out to be climbed in the vicinity. As is often the case when you are expecting the worst, the trail turned out to be not so bad, and the outing was a good deal easier, too. We had nine for the predawn, 5a start at the Taboose Pass TH. The limited parking was nearly full before we arrived, and after the last of six cars had parked we were over the limit and pushed off the side of the road for the last three cars. I wonder if there's ever been that many cars at that TH before.
The TH is quite low (5,700ft), and the first two miles of trail are essentially through desert. Thankfully this part was by headlamp and it was still cool in the morning. The trail is something like 8mi to the pass, climbing almost 6,000ft, which makes for a pretty steep grade. Add to that the dusty, sandy nature of the trail, and you can see why it's not terribly popular. There's very little vegetation in the canyon, and most of the large trees are compressed into a small elevation zone about halfway up the canyon. Where the trail goes through the forest and gets shade is very short - I timed it on the way down and it took all of three minutes. The rest of the time you are exposed to the sun.
Rick K, who had a rest day behind him, powered up the trail in 3hr11m to Taboose Pass. Mike S was with him most of the way, falling back only as he neared the pass. Behind those two by about 5 minutes was Ryan S, then myself, Michael G, Bill P, Mike L, and Brice W, coming in at various intervals. When I got to the pass at 3hr30m, Rick and Mike S had already left for Cardinal, while Ryan was waiting at the pass. The two of us consulted our map, aligned it with the obvious Mt. Goodale, and headed off in the direction of Cardinal. Or so we thought. After about 30min we were halfway up the peak, wondering where Rick and Mike were since we saw no one on the slopes ahead of us. We joked that maybe they had climbed the wrong peak to the east - that would be funny! Then Ryan spotted Michael on the ridge to the east, heading up the "wrong" peak. I became immediately suspicious - Michael rarely makes a navigational error. Our map unfortunately had Cardinal Mtn on the far west end of our map, so if we were on the wrong peak, I didn't have the terrain to compare it to. I got out a compass and aligned the map. Goodale was no longer where it should be if we were on the slopes of Cardinal. Worse, the map showed we should have headed due north from the pass but we had gone to the NW. "We're on the wrong peak," I concluded. Ryan wasn't convinced. I pointed out two lakes in the vicinity of our route and showed him that no such lakes were on the map near Cardinal. Ryan still wasn't convinced. "You can climb this one if you want, but I'm heading back down." Ryan decided to follow me.
We zipped down the slope we were on, skirted a lake in the cirque between the two peaks, and headed up the SW Ridge heading to Cardinal. We probably lost about half an hour. By then Michael was ahead of us and Rick and Mike S were already at the summit. Rick had got there in 4.5hr, Mike S not far behind. The pair were on their way down when I was still 20min from the summit. They got a laugh at our expense. Ryan and I were "schooled." I believe the term is. Michael reached the summit at 5hr, I was 20min behind him, and Ryan another 20min behind me. As we signed into the register I noticed half a cookie sitting on a rock. I figured Rick must have been too excited to eat all his cookie (he is semi-famous for bringing along large cookies for snacks). I ate it for him - Yum. Later I found that it was one of two cookies he had brought, and this one he had given to Mike. Mike ended up being the food litterbug.
Perhaps the best view from the summit is that of Split Mtn to the north, The connecting ridge is a daunting mix of crumbly pinnacles and ridgeline. Dick Beach's partner lost his life along this ridge many years ago due to the looseness, and I don't know if it has been traversed since that time. To the south was a confusing mix of peaks around Mt. Pinchot, confusing only because I was wholey unfamiliar with that area. To the southwest rose Arrow Peak quite prominently, easily recognized from the many photographs that have been taken of it in the vicinity of Bench Lake. There was another confusing mix of peaks north of Arrow, stretching for fifteen miles to Mt. Goddard in the background, the only one I recognized easily.
On the way down from Cardinal we ran into Bill on his way up. He was the only other participant I saw on the trail, but he and Mike L also made it to the summit of Cardinal. As we reached the bottom of Cardinal following a fast and furious descent through loose scree, Michael set off to tag Goodale Mtn as a bonus peak. I really didn't want to climb Goodale, figuring it would be better combined with nearby Striped Mtn on another outing. Explaining this to Michael had no effect - "Well, then I'll climb it again when we do Striped," he joked. Only he wasn't really joking. If I went back to the trailhead, there was a good chance I might be sitting in the hot sun for several hours before I got a ride back since Ryan and I had come in Michael's vehicle that morning. That seemed like an unpleasant prospect. Ryan was also torn, but in the end decided to head back rather than head for Goodale. That sort of pushed my decision in favor of continuing on with Michael. Ryan and I had been climbing together for the last two days - he's a rather talkative chap which is good for a short while, but I kinda needed a break. Better to climb another peak. I left Ryan and followed after Michael across the broad plateau found at Taboose Pass. It was some twenty minutes before he was even aware that I was on his tail.
Halfway over to the base of Goodale ("only another 1,500ft of climbing," Michael points out, on top of the 8,000ft we've already done), I spotted Rick and Mike S on some morainal slopes across from the lake NW of Goodale. For the next hour I watched the pair as they made a curved route towards the SW Ridge of the peak, looking for the most solid route up what is really just a big pile of rubble. Michael and I took a more direct route up the steep NW side, apparently undetected by the other two. Our more direct line meant we were able to catch up and beat them to the base of the summit blocks, the only interesting feature on the mountain. There are two spires to the north, and a lower, rounded summit to the south. Rick and Mike were trying to determine which was higher, heading first for the lower south summit. Just before they reached it I popped up on the higher of the two pinnacles, assured by the presence of the summit register that I was on the summit. They were both rather surprised, Rick somewhat annoyed - "Man, if I knew you were coming up here we wouldn't have taken it easy getting here!" Revenge was sweet...
With four of us at the summit of Goodale at 1p, we contemplated the descent. Three of us wanted to head down the 2,000ft of sandy scree on the NE side as the quickest return to the trail. Michael pointed out that there were cliffs below that 2,000ft of fun descent and it was far from assured that we could find our way down. We studied our map, but found it indeterminant. Damn the metric system and those metric 7.5' maps. There were no ducks and no footprints leading down that side, and we had no copy or recollection of Secor's route descriptions for the peak. It had to be admitted that the NE Slope was a risk and it might be necessary to climb back out if we couldn't get through the cliff band. We cursed Michael, but in the end we followed him back down the West Slopes because none of us wanted to chance having to climb back out of a mess. (later we found that a route might go up the NE side, but it looked very complicated and probably hard to figure out from above).
It turned out to be no big deal, because we got back to the trail in a little more than an hour taking the longer descent route. In fact it only took Michael and I 3hrs to get from Goodale's summit to the TH, alternately jogging and hiking once we reached the trail. Rick was ten minutes faster because he ran more. Show off. We lost Mike S somewhere in the boulder heap below Goodale, but he wasn't far behind us, coming in thirty minutes later. Our time was 11hrs for the two peaks - not bad. Tom B. was waiting for us at the TH with cold beer and Gatorade - he had spent the day getting his fractured thumb bandaged and had come up to see us off the trail in the tradition of Dave D on Day 3 at the North Lake TH. That was a very nice gesture and greatly appreciated, too.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Cardinal Mountain - Goodale Mountain
This page last updated: Wed Sep 12 14:38:12 2007
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