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It was the first day of the Sierra Challenge and has become habit, we were starting in the northern part of the High Sierra before moving our way southward. It was the fifth straight year for starting at Twin Lakes, this time to nab the ellusive Acker Peak. Located in the northermost reaches of Yosemite National Park, it was one of only three CA summits over 10,000ft with more than 900ft of prominence that I had yet to visit. What? Does that even make sense you ask? It does, but it's hardly important to the more sane enthusiasts. It does offer a nice day hiking challenge with 11mi one-way and almost 5,000ft of gain. And so a large group of us, more than 18 in all (we had a few stragglers that failed to make the photo op) started out from the Twin Lakes parking lot at 6a, before almost all of the campground residents were astir.
By the time we reached Barney Lake more than an hour later, there were only 7-8 of us in the lead group. Along with the familiar faces from years past, there were some new ones including Robert Wu, Sean Reedy and Scott Barnes who would all make a good showing this year over the ten days. Our group splintered further over the next hour, passing by beautiful Peeler Lake around 8:30a and entering Yosemite soon thereafter. I hiked along with Robert and Michael Graupe for much of the route through Yosemite. At Kerrick Meadow we turned south, following the trail for several miles until we were southeast of Acker. From here we headed cross-country up a steep side canyon before angling more directly to Acker's summit up the SE side. Though no more than class 2, it was the longer of two routes I had depicted on the map beforehand and turned out to be the weaker choice. The better route that most of other participants took was across Kerrick Meadow from the junction and then cross-country to Acker form the northeast. As a result we were handily beaten to the summit by those taking the alternate route when we arrived around 10:30a. Blue skies were becoming overcast and the temperature grew chilly in the cold breeze blowing over the summit. We donned jackets and other warm clothes that we carried with us, but for me at least, it seemed inadequate.
We hung around for almost half an hour, eventually collecting a total of eight for a summit shot before starting down. My heartrate had decreased and my fingers were growing numb despite the gloves. We met up with Matt Yaussi not far below the summit, he and a few others comprising the "slow but steady" folks arriving later. We followed the alternate route that Eric and Rob were recommending as an easy return. On the map it looked like there could be significant sidehilling but in practice it proved otherwise. Delightful alpine grass made for easy walking, with open views past a few small lakes before eventually emerging back at Kerrick Meadows. By the time we returned to the trail Robert and Eric had started jogging, leaving Nick, Michael and myself content to simply hike out. It was noon before we returned to Peeler Lake as the weather continued to deteriorate, a few drops descending from the heavens as scouts before the regular troops were to be sent in. This, and the somewhat monotonously long trail remaining below Peeler Lake got the three of us jogging at irregular intervals. Nick started off first as I trailed after him, Michael appearing content to walk at first but eventually coming out from the rear as Nick and I slowed. Rain and hail came down sporadically as I found myself putting on my rain jacket and taking it off several times. Michael and I would pass one another as the other was engaged with the jacket going on or off. Our effort save us some time, probably 45min or so as the three of us returned to Twin Lakes not long after 2p. Still, Eric and Robert had been much faster, returning 50min and 40min ahead of us respectively. It was no great surprise that Eric had beaten us back by a good margin - my money was on him from the start to take the yellow jersey once again - but Robert had shown himself capable of giving Eric a run for his money. Perhaps there would be some competition this year after all.
In all there were 14 participants who reached Acker's summit. A few were late enough to find the rain starting while they were still atop the mountain and would get the full volley of the day's thundershowers. They would have stories to tell of getting drenched on the long hike out. We had apre-hike festivities at the Whoa Nellie with the requisite mango margaritas before a handful of us retreated to Saddlebag Lake to spend the night. A good start to this year's Challenge...
This page last updated: Thu Jan 16 08:44:07 2020
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