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Vacationing in Mammoth Lakes with son Ryan and my sister's family, it would have been inconsiderate for me to take off for a full day of climbing, leaving my sister to care for Ryan along with her own kids. Using a plan I had devised some years ago in a similar situation, I got up at 3a for an early morning hike that would get me back to Mammoth Lakes by 10a. Unofficially-named Treasure Peak in the Little Lakes area fit the bill for a short half day effort quite nicely. Having been to the area numerous time, I did not expect to have any route-finding issues in the dark, and did not bother to bring a map.
I was at Mosquito Flat leaving from the trailhead shortly after 3:45a. I hiked up to Ruby Lake by trail in about an hour. There was a lone camper ensconced among the trees near the outlet there. I briefly considered making bear noises as a practical joke, but decided to leave the camper undisturbed - I probably wouldn't appreciate the joke if the shoe was on the other foot. Continuing by headlamp, I skirted the east shore of Ruby Lake and headed up the talus/boulders towards Mills Lake. 5a saw the eastern sky starting to lighten, with the sun looking to arise neatly between Mt. Starr on one side and Lookout Peak on the other. At Mills Lake I started traversing upwards to the ridgeline on my left which would bring me to the base of Treasure Peak's NW Ridge. From a distance I could see there was a large break in this ridge that would have to be bypassed on the West Face, but I intended to climb as much of the NW Ridge as possible aside from that diversion.
It was 6a as I started on the ridge leading to Treasure's summit, sunrise coloring Mts. Dade, Abbot and Mills, towering high to the west. The ridge proved a moderately fun class 3 route, with several diversions to the West Face as expected. Nothing scary or tremendously note-worthy, but a fun bit of scrambling that took about half an hour to accomplish. All the while I was treated to gorgeous views all around me. The summit had grander views of all the major peaks of the area ( Bear Creek Spire, Mt. Dade, Mt. Abbot, Mt. Mills, Ruby Peak, Mt. Starr, Mt. Morgan) as well as most of the minor ones. The weather was gorgeous so early in the morning, and I was easily comfortable in just a tshirt.
I found a small glass jar containing a register dating to 1978, placed by Gordon MacLeod and party. There was an entry from Feb 11, 1987 and the first winter climb by Moynier & Forsell, perhaps the most interesting ascent. I noted a handful of ascents via the East Ridge, described as scary, exciting and great fun - sometimes all by the same party. Looking east I could see a rollercoaster of sharp gendarmes stretching several hundred yards away from the summit - "scary" was the first word that came to my own mind. Still, I was intrigued and wanted to try out the route, but it would have to wait for another day since I wasn't sure that I could manage it by the alloted 10a return time.
For the descent I headed down the SW Ridge, a shorter but more enjoyable stretch of ridgeline compared to the NW Ridge. It went at class 3 the whole way, never varying from the ridgecrest by more than five or ten feet. From the saddle between Treasure Peak and Mt. Dade I turned east, dropping down almost 1,400ft of talus and slabs to Treasure Lakes below. A slow but easy route, I had climbed this slope a number of years earlier on my first visit to Mt. Abbot. From beautiful Treasure Lakes I turned north, picking up the well-worn use trail down to Long Lake and the maintained Morgan Pass Trail that follows along its eastern shoreline. Once on the regular trail, I came across half a dozen parties out for early morning hikes in this popular area. It was not yet 9a when I returned to the parking lot, making for a fine five hour outing, getting me back to Mammoth Lakes by 9:30a. The others were just finishing up breakfast upon my return - perfect timing. "Who's up for a hike?" At first they thought I was kidding...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Treasure Peak
This page last updated: Tue Jul 29 10:10:09 2008
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