Mt. Givens P1K
Mt. Ian Campbell
Kings Castle

Fri, Nov 5, 2010

With: Steve Sywyk
Karl Fieberling
Luca Baradel

Etymology
Mt. Ian Campbell
Story Photos / Slideshow Profile

In the week since the last modest amounts of snow had fallen in the Sierra, the weather had turned warmer, melting most of that that fell below 11,000ft, at least on the south-facing slopes. In looking for somewhere to hike on Friday, Steve and I decided another visit to the Sierra would be just the ticket. I posted a notice online with two days notice and got takers in both Karl and Luca.

Mt. Givens is the highpoint of a long, snaking ridgeline connecting to the LeConte Divide through Hot Springs Pass and to the Kaiser Wilderness through Kaiser Pass. As the elevation barely exceeds 10,600ft, it seemed a hike along the ridgeline would probably have very little snow to contend with. The plan was to meet at Kaiser Pass for a 6:30a start, before daybreak.

Neither Steve nor Karl were able to sleep while I drove us across California from San Jose. Much of the second half of the 4.5hr trip was taken up by a discussion of US economics, with emphasis on the roles of the Fed and Treasury in the recent Quantitative Easing moves by the Fed to assist in the economic recovery. Phew. At least it made the drive go by relatively quickly.

Luca had driven out the evening before to sleep at the trailhead and was already up when we pulled in a few minutes before 6:30a. He was noticeably impressed that we could time our arrival so precisely despite the long travel distance. By 6:40a the four of us were on our way to the White Bark Vista, following the dirt road up from the pass. I had examined the road when we first pulled in and decided it wasn't in good enough shape to drive the van up. It was only a mile, so didn't make much difference in our mileage. Luca's headlamp was enough to light the way for all of us in the first quarter of an hour or so until we had enough light with the coming day.

We reached the vista point around 7:10a, though didn't look around for the views as it was still too dark. The road beyond here grows quite rough very quickly, suitable only for the most rugged of off-road vehicles. A sign posted where the road is now gated, describes it as closed to vehicles starting two days earlier - looks like we'd have the place to ourselves today. We followed the road along the ridgeline as far as practical, until it turns right and begins heading downhill. The cross-country travel is nearly as easy as following the road, and by 8:30a we were atop Mt. Givens.

It was a bit breezy, though fine on the downwind side of the summit. There was a USGS benchmark and a small solar-powered transmitter nearby, but no register. The views are as grand as on any peak in the range with an enormous 180-degree swath of the Sierra visible from Southern Yosemite in the north to the Kaweahs and peaks around Mineral King visible far to the south. In between were perhaps a hundred peaks that I've climbed, and Karl and I spent a good deal of time trying to make sense of them all and put them in perspective. Atop Mt. Givens was a very neat sighting instrument that allowed one to identify some two dozen points in all directions, though there were no peaks indicated on it south of Goddard. Looking around, the obvious peaks were Lyell/Maclure, Ritter/Banner, Mammoth Mtn, Mt. Humphreys, Mt. Goddard, and the Kaweahs. We were able to place dozens of other peaks with some effort, though not all with 100% certainty. The new season's snows on their flanks helped bring out their relief and made for a grand panorama.

After perhaps half an hour we gathered our gear and started once again along the ridge. After passing through a wide notch near some rocky pinnacles, the going becomes very easy and wide open. Near a shallow saddle water could be found even in late season, but we had brought enough with us to last the day, not expecting to have found any along the way. It was 10a when we reached the squat rocky top of the otherwise flattish Mt. Ian Campbell at a point where the ridgeline turns more southernly. There was a register dating to 2002, less than five pages used in the past 8 years. The last entry was from the prior year, though Luca, Steve, and Karl all dated their own entries as 2009 as well, probably from just copying the previous entry. We spent another half hour on this summit, again taking in the views, this time a few miles closer to most of the peaks and our first view of Florence Lake below to the east.

Because it was so early, we decided to take in the bonus peak to the northeast, Kings Castle. It took about half an hour to cover the ground between them, along a subsidiarly ridgeline off in that direction. Kings Castle is a long, thin ridge of rocky pinnacles that had the only interesting scrambling we found on the day. From below it was difficult to guess which was the highest pinnacle, but we used Luca's GPS to narrow the choices. We climbed to a notch between the two main contenders. To the southwest was the one indicated by the GPS, but it was soon obvious from its top that it wasn't the highest. Guessing this to be so, I had waited at the notch for the others to make the short scramble to the top to confirm it. I then started up to the higher pinnacle, following a class 3-4 line that started from the notch. It was a fun bit of climbing for about 30 feet or so, landing me on the highpoint. The others weren't so ready to follow and had waited to see if I might spot an easier route from the top. The line up the northeast side looked to fit the bill, so I called back to the others with this information. Luca and Karl then made their way for about 100 yards along the northwest face of the feature to where they could gain the ridge. Meanwhile, Steve had given Luca his backpack so he could more easily follow up the route I had taken. Steve made one modification to avoid an exposed bit of face climbing by finding a small keyhole to squirm his way through.

There was no register or cairn to be found at the top and we left nothing to indicate our presence either. Better to let the next party to the summit feel that they were the first as well. Lower than both the other summits, the views weren't quite as far-reaching, but it did have a much better view of Florence Lake, now fully in view below us. As we started to descend Luca came to realize that he had lost his GPS somewhere between the lower summit and the highpoint. We all retraced his route back to the lower summit, searching all around for it, to no avail. Luca decided to hang around and continue looking for it, hoping to catch up with us on our way back to Kaiser Pass. We said our goodbyes in case that was the last we saw of him. He never did manage to catch up with us, but later reported finding his GPS in a deep crack and successfully retrieving it.

Steve, Karl and I started back towards Kaiser Pass after leaving Luca. I was hoping to get back in time to make it to my son's Scout meeting back in San Jose at 7:30p, but the timing would be close. It wasn't critical that I make the meeting, so I did nothing to urge us along, not that I could have done much anyway. I had been sick with a cold the past few days and had come along on this trip against everyone's better judgement. My throat was very sore, my voice froggy, and it hurt to talk and swallow. I kept my distance from the others, hopefully avoiding the transmission of this nasty bug I was carrying. My legs were achy and I was sporting an unusual altitude headache. My body felt more like it was going on a 16hr hike rather than one only half that time. The others probably enjoyed seeing me struggle a bit behind them, rather than the other way around as is more usual.

We managed to get back to Kaiser Pass shortly before 3p, and despite my illness I was very glad to have come along and not stayed at home. My illness was probably extended by a day or two, but with such a fine day as we had, I thought it was well worth the price.


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