Fri, Aug 11, 2023
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Day 8 of the 2023 Sierra Challenge had us visiting an officially unnamed summit near Mt. Bago, on the west side of the Sierra Crest. It is believed that the name "Bago's Friend" may have come from Kristine Swigart, but is unverified. The outing to reach it would be about 15mi with 4,600ft of gain, within my abilities, especially considering I had an easy time the day prior. I'd spent the night comfortably camped in the Jeep at the Onion Valley TH above 9,000ft. The starting group was somewhat haphazardly rounded up at 6a because SeanC wasn't yet ready himself, but we got going at the appointed time. Clouds overhung the range this morning, having rained lightly some during the night. It did not look like a fair-weather day, to be sure. The sun rose just below the cloud layer shortly after our start, lighting up the landscape briefly before disappearing.
It's a 4mi hike up to Kearsarge Pass, one I've done probably a dozen times now. It is scenic with various lakes along the way, rugged peaks and ridgelines rising up on both sides. The clouds interacting with the mountains was a nice change from the usual blue skies and abundant sunshine, though the threat of rain makes one a bit nervous. I made it to the pass with a handful of others shy of the two-hour mark, and we were surprised with blue skies over most of the western side of the range. Maybe we wouldn't get rained on after all. Kearsarge Pinnacles dominate the view to the southwest, Mt. Bago rising less dramatically further to the west. Bago's Friend could not yet be distinguished from its higher neighbor. We followed the trail down the other side, turning right at the first junction to follow the higher trail above Bullfrog Lake to its junction with the PCT. I was by myself at this point, others having zipped off ahead or fallen behind. Bago's Friend is now fully in view less than a mile away. I was amused to find the next trail junction to Charlotte Lake in the middle of a small lake that is usually dry during the summer, goading me to wander over for a photo.
I left the trail here, going around the south side of the shallow lake and through the forest, then starting up the north side of Bago's Friend. I could hear voices above me, but saw no one until I had nearly reached the summit ridge above. The peak is granitic, the slopes littered with talus and scree, sometimes sandy but decent, the ridgeline a collection of large granite blocks haphazardly situated and not all that easy to get around. I avoided the ridge directly and favored its south side, finding this harder than the north side route that everyone else seemed to take. I could see someone on the summit block ahead of me to the west and saw no obvious way to join them from the south, forcing me back to the north side. At the top of the ridge I ran into Caleb, who wanted no part in continuing further - he'd had enough excitement for the day, paying little heed to Mason trying to get him to the base of the summit block. I continued around the corner on the north side, spotting others relaxing among the boulders, having vacated the highest block to allow me my turn at it. It was class 3 getting to the base of the highest blocks, then class 4 getting onto first large block, then more class 4 transitioning to the highest one. The first step was more of a mantling move, no real exposure, but the transition to the higher block was a bit spooky, providing some amusement to the spectators just below. Atop the highest block, I took a photo, then quickly retreated with a dynamic move - a jump - back onto the lower block. I joined the others and gave Mason his turn at the fun. He did a better job than I, especially upon returning to the lower block which he managed without jumping.
A register had been placed by Scott Barnes in 2019. Jeff Moffat and Kristine Swigart had then visited it on different days during that year's Sierra Challenge a few weeks later. Tom Witte visited in 2023, only three days before our large Sierra Challenge contingent. He must have known it was on the schedule because he left a "Hi, Bob Burd" for our entertainment. After signing it myself, I left the others to their rest and lunch, preferring to get back to my slow plod returning over Kearsarge Pass. The weather had held out beautifully, but the clouds over the pass were building up and I was afraid some rain would be in store for the afternoon. My route down from the peak was better than my ascent route, and by 10:15a I'd returned to the trail system. Not ten minutes later, Chrishad caught up to me, electing to return at my slower pace to be sociable. 20min later Matthew came running up the trail, eager to catch us as well. We would shortly have five when Caleb and Drew joined us on our march up to the pass where we arrived by 11:20a in a soupy mix of clouds and mist. No rain had yet fallen, but the east side was looking like it might yet get us wet. It would be almost an hour and a half before our little band made the four mile descent back to Onion Valley, the rain nicely holding off. It would rain later in the afternoon in the area, but no one reported getting any sort of soaking.
Back by 12:45p, I didn't hang around the Onion Valley area, instead heading back down to Independence and then south to Lone Pine. I joined a group of participants at The Grill in Lone Pine for an early dinner. Not high on my recommendation list, but it was decent enough and did the job of filling our bellies. Afterwards, I drove up Horseshoe Meadows Rd, intending to spend the night at the road's end above 10,000ft. I still wasn't sure what I was going to do the next day, so I ended up parking along the road at 8,000ft where it was sufficiently cool and I had cell service to do a bit of researching. I was impressed with the view down to Owens Lake, actually looking like a lake for the first time in memory, though it was still well short of its historic perimeter. A few participants stopped to check on me on their way up to the trailhead. In the end I decided not to hike out of Horseshoe Meadow the next day and spent the night camped where I'd stopped. It was a pretty decent place overall, with little traffic driving up the road after around 10p or so...
This page last updated: Wed Aug 23 11:11:00 2023
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