Mt. Dade SPS / WSC / PD

Thu, Sep 10, 1998
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 Profile
later climbed Sat, May 14, 2005


I awoke Thursday around 7:00a. Poking my head out of my sleeping bag I noticed two things: it was absolutely clear, without a cloud, and it was really cold. The first was a surprise, as it was the nicest weather we'd had in the 7 days we'd been in the Sierra (3 in Mammoth Lakes, and the last 4 days in in Little Lakes Valley where we were currently camping). We thought we were used to the cold by now, but without anything to trap the heat for the last 6 hours or so, it had gotten ow-damn-my-fingers-are-frozen cold at Treasure Lakes (11,000 ft+) where we were camped. I was toasty enough in the sleeping bag, but after I got out and made some breakfast (using aluminum pans with a heat transfer rate that could suck the heat from my fingers in a few seconds), I had lost what seemed like half my stored body heat. For the next half hour or so, I was mostly stamping my feet and hands, running around to stay warm, swearing how about how cold it was, interrupted for brief moments to clean up breakfast and pack things up. Terry seemed mostly amused by all my commotion, not looking terribly uncomfortable himself, although he did remark, "Sure is cold." which probably meant it was something like 25F. A suggestion to others who may camp here: try to find a campsite at the western lakes, as the sun rises there about 20 minutes earlier.

Terry's stomach was still upset, much as it had been all week. We had decided last night to pack out today because of this (Terry never did figure out what had been troubling him, as he got better a day after returning to lower altitudes), although I wanted to bag one more peak. It was about 2 miles and 2,500 ft up to Mt. Dade. I figured that would take about 4 hours round trip. It was then about 4 miles from our campsite to our car back at Mosquito Flat, which I counted on about 1 1/2 hours. So if I left at 8a, I could be at the car around 1:30p, which would give us enough time to get home to San Jose around 8:30p. Terry, meanwhile, could leisurely start back when he wanted and take his time hiking as well.

I followed the same route I had taken coming down from Pipsqueak Spire 3 days earlier, which proved to be the fastest and easiest way to get to the top of the Hour Glass. The sun helped soften the snow a bit when I had to climb the Hour Glass (a broad, snow-filled couloir between Pipsqueak Spire and Mt. Dade), but not enough to make an easy go of it. My tracks from earlier had been obliterated by the new snow that had fallen the previous day, so I had to kick fresh steps. I also needed to don the crampons and walk gingerly on the same upward traverse, ice axe in hand, until I could resume climing on the rock, scree, and sand.

From the top of the Hour Glass, it took another hour to climb the scree and boulders to the top of Mt. Dade. It had looked deceptively close, but turned out to be over 1,000 feet of climbing, which seemed to go on forever. The view from the top was spectacular, the first good summit view I'd had this week. I could see Mt. Darwin about 25 miles to the southeast (I could see other peaks even further, but none I could identify), Seven Gables to the southwest, and closer in: Lake Italy, the First & Second Recesses, and all of Little Lakes Valley. Views toward the Northwest (Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak) were effectively blocked by Mt. Abbot, so I never did get to make a visual connection to that region where I've climbed a bit. The weather remained beautiful, no wind to speak of, and a temperature around 60F a little before 11a. It had taken longer than expected, so I didn't dally much, just long enough to have a snack, sign the register, and snap a few photos.

The way down was quite fun (as is usually the case), and the snow in the Hour Glass was now a fine softness that allowed a most exhilarating glissade from the top to the bottom. The four minutes it took to go down those 700 feet or so contrasted sharply with the 45 minutes it had taken to climb up. I arrived back at camp just before 12:30p. Terry was gone, as expected, and my pack was the only reminder that we had camped here at all. Putting the pack on ended the "very fun" portion of the day, as I was now burdened with 40 or so extra pounds. Even this though, was quite enjoyable on so fine a day, and I decided to try a different route on the way out. Treasure Lakes drain down into Long Lake, maybe a mile and a half north. I found a thin use trail that followed most of the route, which started off as just rocks and boulders for the first half, but then became brush and forest closer to Long Lake. (I would recommend this route to Treasure Lakes, as it is more direct and has less elevation gain than our original route which veered off the trail between Chickenfoot Lake and Gem Lakes.)

I met up with Terry, shortly after 1:30p. I had made up most of my lost time in the final 4 miles, and was rather tired now. Terry on the other hand, had left camp around 9a and taken a nap for an hour halfway out. When he got to the parking lot around Noon, he drove a mile north to the Rock Creek Resort where he got a hot shower and hot lunch. He was looking relaxed, shaved, and not at all like he'd been out backpacking (or feeling poorly for that matter). It was hard to judge who'd had the better morning. It was then off to San Jose for our seven hour return drive. (Ugh!)

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