Sun, Aug 13, 2017
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The last day of the Sierra Challenge saw us at Horseshoe Meadow in the Golden Trout Wilderness for a climb - really just a hike - to unofficially named Ash Meadow Peak on the Sierra Crest. It was easily the shortest day of the Challenge this year, designed to be more of a social outing than a grueling dayhike. The peak has more than 750ft of prominence, one of only 220 such peaks in the state over 10,000ft in elevation, which is why it had my attention, but there is little challenging about climbing it as the PCT can be followed to within a quarter mile of the summit. The outing is about 17mi roundtrip with barely 3,000ft of gain.
There were eight of us at the TH (of sorts) at the Horseshoe Meadow picnic area, found a short distance east of the actual trailhead. I had tried to be specific in my description about where to meet, but there were several folks who showed up at the regular TH, figuring they knew where to go without a careful reading. We sent someone over to round them up so that we'd have everyone ready to go for the 6a start. There's no trail originating at the picnic site, but a short cross-country jaunt downhill to the east end of Horseshoe Meadow allowed us to connect with the trail heading south up to Mulkey Pass. We reached the pass in a little over half an hour, then turned left to follow the PCT south for the next hour and a half. With lots of forest covering the landscape and the trail running through it for much of the distance, it's not a particularly scenic hike, but pleasant enough.
By taking a more direct route to the summit from the northwest, Matt and Mason managed to beat the rest of us to Ash Meadow Peak as we found them standing atop the minor rock outcrop when we arrived around 9a. We took a group summit photo and left a register since we found none and lazed about the summit for 15-20min. Matt took off almost as soon as we were done with the photo, trying to be coy about his intentions, but it was pretty obvious to me that he wanted to get back for the stage win (he'd beat us by several hours, as it turned out). I convinced the others to join me for a bonus peak less than a mile to the southeast, unnamed Peak 10,820ft. There was nothing special about the peak that we knew of, just another point on the Sierra Crest off the PCT. We dropped southeast off Ash Meadow Peak to intersect the PCT once again, and followed it to where the trail skirts around the south side of the summit. A short uphill bit of cross-country brought us to the top where we found a neat little surprise - an impressive rock outcrop that looked at first to be quite difficult. After wandering around to the north side, we found a class 3 stairway of sorts leading to the top. We hung out up here for maybe 10min before heading back.
We would spent the next three and a half hours returning to Horseshoe Meadow along the PCT, or at least I would. The others all seemed to have more energy than myself and got back earlier. I found myself alone and the last one to arrive back at the picnic area where we'd started. It was a beautiful day out and I hadn't a care in the world at the moment, so I didn't mind bringing up the rear on this one. We had a small celebration of sorts to mark the end of the Challenge, Jim providing drinks of all types and others providing cake, chocolate and other sweets. We congratulated Tom on his Yellow Jersey win and then got him to give us a slackline demonstration. He often would write "Yogaslackers" in his summit entries. He'd demonstrated his yoga prowess several times on various summits, but only a few of us knew of what the "slacker" part was referencing. He teaches slacklining at various outdoor events and it was quick to see that he was quite good at it. The rest of us gave it a try as well, some more successfully than others, Tom providing the coaching. I had only a few days to get home and prepare for the next roadtrip to the eclipse in Oregon, so after about an hour of such fun I was on the road, heading back home. I would spend the night camped off Tioga Road just outside Yosemite and drive the rest of the way home in the morning. Another fine Challenge in the books...
Tom was the only participant to climb 10 Challenge peaks this year, all of them from this year's list, giving him the Yellow Jersey. Mason finished 2nd with 9.5 peak (he climbed only one of the Lookout/Sawmill combo on day 6). After taking three rest days for his rolled ankle, Scott was out again in force today, climing a seven peak circuit around the Cottonwood Lakes area. He would finish the Challenge with 41 peaks, a new record, and the Polka Dot Jersey. Tom finished a distant second with 19 peaks. With 9 Challenge peaks each, I and Michael finished 1-2 for the Green Jersey. And though he competed for only the first two days, Zach Moon took the White Jersey - not many young guys this year.
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