Mt. Dana P2K SPS / WSC

Sat, Jul 19, 2008

With: Ryan Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
previously climbed Fri, Aug 6, 1993

Continued...

On our way back from Mammoth Lakes, Ryan and I stopped at Tioga Pass for a hike of Mt. Dana. Over the past several weeks he had been upping the elevation of his highest-climbed peak in California: Hawkins Peak -> Mt. Rose -> Glass Mtn. All of these were over 11,000ft. At just over 13,000ft, Mt Dana would jump over the 12,000-foot elevation, but with plenty of acclimatization in Mammoth Lakes I didn't expect Ryan would have any trouble with the altitude. And indeed he did not. This is likely the highest elevation he'll reach in the state for some time as I don't think there are any higher peaks he can climb quite so readily. From this point on, there is some semblence of mountaineering required to reach the higher peaks.

Starting from Tioga Pass just after 7a, we were the first party on the trail for what would be busy Saturday morning. We found the use trail easily enough, heading south across the shallow pass marking the Sierra crest. It was cool and shady as we headed up the lower portions of the NW Slopes. Some of the most wonderful wildflower displays in the park are found here, particularly <6815 that grows in such abundance. We took an easy pace with plenty of breaks. Ryan was carrying his own water as I started making him do at the beginning of the year. A quart would suffice him for the six hour outing.

Around 9a another hiker came by, passing us as we were taking a break among the talus further up the trail. We were in the sun now, but thankfully the early morning and altitude combined to keep the temperature down nicely. Around the halfway point the trail forks and it was not obvious which line to take. I don't think it mattered much as the trail forked continuously at this point, a hugely braided set of trails running up towards the summit. It would probably be impossible to take the same trail twice in a row. Boulder fields conspire to break up the trails, ducks can be found everywhere (so you never feel like you're lost, but the ducks are all but useless) to convince you you're on the right track. We eventually moved to the north ridgeline, followed this up to a false summit, then on to the true summit where we arrived at 10:15a. The other hiker was still atop, taking in the views and generally taking it easy. We did likewise. The views were not as smoky as they'd been earlier in the week, as we took in much of the Yosemite high country north and south, Tuolumne Meadows to the west, and the grand Mono Lake layed out before us to the east. A battered benchmark at the summit has taken so much abuse over the years that it was impossible to read any of the unique markings stamped around its center. There was a register attesting to the great popularity of the mountain, and we did our part to add our own entry along with one of Ryan's signature drawings. We stayed about 20 minutes, then headed down.

We took a trail more to the west that started off very promising, but then like the others deteriorated to weak braids and randomly ducked routes through the boulders fields. Eventually we reached the lower plateau where we picked up the main trail where we'd encountered the initial fork. By now more than a dozen parties were heading up as we were going down, some of them quite large with up to ten persons. We fielded questions about how far and how dangerous the remaining route was, usually answering to the satisfaction of the other party. Amongst the rocks a pair of marmots came out to greet us, probably hoping for a handout, getting nothing but our attention and admiration - they are pretty darn cute. I paused in the garden area to take a number of pictures now that the sun was displaying the flowers in their full color, Ryan just happy to have an excuse to rest. We looked for fish in the shallow lakes encountered near Tioga Pass, but saw none. I surmised that the lakes are probably shallow enough that they freeze over completely in the winter and therefore cannot support a fish population. We returned to Tioga Pass at 12:45p, a bit later than I had planned, but still early enough to get us home before dark. Ryan rated the hike as between Easy and Medium, suggesting he enjoyed it a good deal more than the easier Glass Mtn hike earlier in the week, which he thought was tougher.


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