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Day 4 of the 2008 Sierra Challenge and the beginning of three relatively easy days. Picture Peak in the Lake Sabrina area is not on any peak list, but as its name implies it is very photogenic, almost begging to be climbed. I'd passed by it probably half a dozen times over the years in pursuit of the SPS peaks in the same area, always saying, "Someday." Today would be the day.
We had half a dozen at the Lake Sabrina TH just before 6a. A few others had started earlier and would be swept up with our group as the morning progressed. We hiked comfortably on the shady side of the canyon in the early morning as we made our way up to Blue Lake. Taking a bit more than an hour, it wasn't our fastest time, but a good clip nonetheless. Another half hour saw us to Dingleberry Lake, and just above that we had the infamous crossing of Bishop Creek (where we've had a few mishaps resulting in soaked boots in the past). Waiting for us on the other side of the creek were Jeff Moffat and his son Myles resting on a granite slab. We stopped briefly for a chat, after which they packed up and joined our little troupe. Continuing up to Sailor Lake we got our first glimpse of our peak ahead, and soon all it's glory as seen from the north (its best side). Before reaching Hungry Packer Lake we took a cross-country jog to the left, all of us with the exception of Adam Jantz who turned right to head for Mt. Haeckel instead (a Challenge peak from a previous year).
Once on our cross-country course, our party splintered into smaller groups and individuals. There is not a lot of elevation gain for the next several miles, but there is a good deal of boulder-hopping which hampers progress accordingly, depending on how much experience one has on such terrain. By 9a the lead group had reached Echo Lake, southeast of the peak, but our break did not last long due to the aggressiveness of mosquitoes found along the lake shore. Aren't they all supposed to be dead by this time of year?
More boulder and talus scrambling ensued as we made our way up and around to the southwest side of Picture Peak. It seemed as if this awful stuff was going to continue all the way to the summit. That would certainly make Picture Peak less picturesque, from a scrambling perspective anyway. Secor describes three chutes on the southwest side of the of the peak, but these are not so easy to discern up close. The first chute I mistook for something much bigger, as it looks to cleave the mountain into two separate halves (though in retrospect I think this was Secor's first chute). The next one I came to looked narrow and possibly class 3 and I guessed (incorrectly) that this was the first chute. Secor says to take the middle chute, but I was quite tired by this time of climbing scree and talus. Ugh. By now I was ahead of the others by an unknown, but not large amount of time. I decided to head up the chute in front of me.
The chute turned out to be a nice mix of class 2 and some easy class 3, eventually merging with a wider chute further to the left. I made the assumption that this wider chute was the one Secor describes in his text as the middle chute, but later in talking with others who had gone further west, I'm not so sure. Michael in particular had bypassed the chute I climbed in search of something more favorable. He ended up in a chute taking him far to the northwest and had to traverse back over a number of ribs to gain the true summit. He claimed the wide chute did not continue down to the base of the southwest slopes, taking something further to the left. My advice - take the narrow chute.
It was 10a when I reached the summit, about an hour after leaving Echo Lake. There was a plastic peanut butter jar for a register dating back on a few months. The initial entry suggests the register often goes missing on this peak. The summit has fine views of the Sierra crest in the immediate vicinity, from Mt. Powell to the southeast, Clyde Spires to the south, Mts. Wallace and Haeckel to the west, and around to Mt. Darwin to the northwest. There is also a swell view looking down Bishop Creek to Lake Sabrina and beyond, a host of alpine lakes on open display. I was still hoping to make up some time on Michael so I did not stay long at the summit.
David A was the first person I spotted as I started down, only a few minutes from the summit. Further down I spotted Michael across a few ribs, still making his way back from this navigation error (a rarity for him) - more opportunity to make up some time, I thought. Brian L and Evan R were the next two individuals I encountered on my way down the chute, both of them having taken the same route as myself. Lastly I came across Jeff and Myles at the base of the chute, Myles waiting patiently for his dad to catch up before starting up the chute.
I made good time retracing my steps back to Echo Lake, down through the boulder fields and back down the trail. Near Lake Dingleberry I encountered a Sierra Club Singles group, all of them in their 60s and 70s. It was impressive that they had hiked all the way up here, particularly since a few of them looked to have given it their all (and needing a place to sit down!). Behind them a pack train came up carrying most of their overnight gear and for once I was happy to see good use made of the packers - if anyone deserved to use a mule to carry their gear it was this group of outdoorsmen (and women). They told me they've doing this type of trip for the last fifteen years. I got back to Lake Sabrina and the trailhead just after 1p. I wandered down to Bishop Creek below the dam for a rinse in the cold stream. By the time I got dressed and back to the car, Michael was waiting there for me, with a smile on his face. He had returned only ten minutes after me.
Jersey Strategy: Once again, I was unable to make up much time on Michael, who still had a 2hr10min lead. Recapturing only 10-20 minutes a day was going to leave me short of the needed time to get the Yellow jersey back. In the King of the Mountain race, Michael and I had five peaks each, though Michael was again ahead based on time. Adam J had taken Day 3 off, but climbed both Haeckel and Wallace today bringing him back up to four peaks - he would be the one to watch later in the week. Brian L had done four Challenge peaks and had the lead for the White jersey (under 25yrs). Richard P's two Challenge peaks was enough to hold the Green jersey (over 50yrs) lead.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Picture Peak
This page last updated: Wed Sep 3 20:55:06 2008
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