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I was up 10 minutes before the alarm went off (must have been antsy), and skipping breakfast I was dressed and out the door by 2a. It took 40 minutes to drive to the trailhead. There was one other car in the parking lot just past the Rock Creek Resort when I pulled in. I was extremely fortunate in that the waning moon was ideally positioned to help with early morning hiking this week. It was about three quarters full, and almost directly overhead. I needed my headlamp for about half of the two hours it took me to negotiate the five miles to the base of Patricia Peak. I would switch it off when out in the open, then back on when the moonlight was blocked by trees. I stumbled some along the trail, but generally it was easy to discern the rocks embedded in the trail if one kept a sharp eye out. I had no maps with me, so I was unsure how far it was even though I had been along this trail before. By the time I had gotten to the base of Patricia (where the trail starts to head downhill towards Hilton Lakes) I knew I would not be able to reach Mt. Huntington and get back at the agreed time. No matter - I had also been wanting to climb Patricia since I had first set eyes on it when heading to Mt. Stanford some years before.
I left the trail and headed for the indistinct North Ridge. I turned off the lamp for good though it was only 4:30a. I quickly found moonlight scrambling to be highly enjoyable. It was almost as easy to negotiate the blocks and boulders by moonlight as it was during the day. I ran into a small snowfield in the lower reaches that I took a little too lightly. I climbed up some boulders in the middle of it, then needed to cross about 20 feet over snow to reach the other side - but the snow was ice hard and I quickly chickened without crampons or axe, so I downclimbed 50 feet to navigate around it. The ridge had very decent rock, class 3 for much of it. It took about an hour to reach the summit, and I arrived shortly before 5:30a, about 15 minutes before sunrise. It was enchanting to find myself up there before the sun. The temperature was cool, but with a jacket I pulled out of my pack and a pair of gloves it wasn't uncomfortable, with only a slight breeze. I took photos of the predawn surroundings, but they hardly captured the growing anticipation of a bright new day dawning on the Sierra. I watched the sun rise on Mt. Huntington to the west, and the two Mt. Morgans, one to the southeast, the other to the northwest. I found a summit register with a few odd items including a cigarette. The entries in the register were not many, but Moynier's name figured in it several times - all the peaks in this area seem to be favorites of his.
At this point it had taken only three hours to reach the summit, and I still had about three hours left before I needed to get back to the car. I decided to try a traverse south to a higher peak I could see (later I found it was unofficially named "Pointless Peak"). The traverse along the connecting ridgeline looked uncertain and difficult - like perfect fun. It turned out to be fun scrambling as I'd hoped, but not as difficult as it looked. While the east side is a line of fractured, unnegotiable cliffs, the west side turned out to be class 2 for most of it, and there were many ways one may approach the ridge from that side. But staying on the ridge proper had a great deal of class 3 spice. I took a few photos from the notch at the low point, including one of Patricia Lake (from which the peak's name derives) that lies to the southeast of Patricia's summit. It took about an hour to complete the traverse of little more than a mile. The last part was an easy class 1 walk up the gentle grade of Pointless's summit plateau. It is easy to see that the peak was named not for the futility of the climb, but for the sort-of flat summit plateau. There is a highpoint to be found however, as the plateau slopes upwards to the east. At the highest point a previous party has erected a pointed (intentional?) cairn. Another small register was found, and again Moynier's name figured prominently. There were no names from the regular SPS crowd that I recognized on either summit. I took some more pictures of the the surrounding peaks, south to Abbot and Mono Pass, west to the Silver Divide, north to Morgan (N) and Patricia Peak.
To descend I knew from the Secor notes I carried with me (the notes were left in my pocket from my trip a few weeks earlier to Hopkins) that it was no more than class 3 to return by way of Half Moon Pass, the low point along the ridge connecting Pointless with Mt. Starr. I headed south, intending to check out the steep slopes on Pointless's south side to see if there was an even shorter return I might find. I was in luck, finding a descent route down a steep class 2-3 chute at the 12,000-foot contour, when only a third of the way to the pass. The first 800ft were particularly steep and loose, but I was able to find my way down without much difficulty. Below that was the talus/rubble pile to negotiate for another couple hundred feet before I reached the firmer ground in the forest below. My luck continued as I found a use trail that let me find my way without bushwhacking through a mile of chaparral and forest. It had a few ducks at key spots but still offered some challenge to keep from losing it. I'm guessing the trail goes to Half Moon Pass, and I was regretting that I hadn't tried this approach on my hike to Mt. Hopkins a few weeks earlier - oh well, next time.
The use trail dumped me out onto the pack trail leading south from the Rock Creek Pack Station. The junction is marked by a non-obvious cairn (I photographed it looking from both the south and the north) maybe 100 yards south of the pack station. It would certainly be worthwhile for anyone heading to Half Moon Pass to take the time to look for it - the bushwhacking alternative had some nasty places. It was only 7:45a when I returned to my car - much faster than I had guessed beforehand (maybe I could have made it to Huntington?). I was highly satisfied with a really fine outing - now if only I could manage to keep myself awake for the rest of the day...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Patricia Peak - Pointless Peak
This page last updated: Sat Apr 7 17:05:04 2007
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