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With the regular driving across the state at night and a few hours sleep at the trailhead, I found myself ready to go from the Mono Creek TH by 6:40a. Located just north of the Vermilion CG at the west end of the lake, it would make for a long hike of nearly 24 miles on the day with over 6,000ft of gain. Still, this seemed the shortest route to reach it. One can take a ferry to cut off six miles each way in season, but the water level was too low and the ferry had already quit for the year - not that I would have used it even if it was running as it feels too much like cheating. For two hours I hiked the trail northeast above the NW shore of this rather large lake, though the lake itself is not visible along most of the route. I passed by the ferry turnoff, crossed the Wilderness boundary and then several other trail junctions at Quail Meadow and for Mono Pass. It was a very pleasant day with blue skies and cool temperatures and it was nice having the solitude and quiet to myself. Not far past the Mott Lake junction where the trail starts climbing up the lower step of Silver Pass Creek, I came across a lone backpacker. Allen was hiking the JMT, 4 days into a hike he expected to take ten days, a fairly fast time. He didn't look like he'd been out on the trail any longer than myself. Allen was burdened with a backpack that looked no heavier than my daypack. Except for the poles, he was looking like a much younger (and better-looking) version of myself. He was as surprised to see a dayhiker out this far as I was to see such a light-traveling JMTer. From his big grin he seemed to be having a really great time and I had no doubt he'd be successful in his 10-day quest.
I left the trail a bit early when I crossed a meadow and started up the long South Ridge of Evon BM (my track came very close to crossing the trail about half a mile later). It started off going up some easy slabs before moving higher through some light forest cover and eventually opening up to some fine views off the right and left sides. Silver Pass is to the northwest, just north of Silver Pass Lake. The ridge is deceptively long though not technically difficult (class 2). Where I thought the cross-country portion would take me an hour, it ended up taking twice as long and it was noon before I finally found my way to the highpoint. The weather continued to be fine, no wind blowing across the summit, making it a relaxing spot to lunch and take in the views. There is a great view looking west of the Silver Divide, with other sweeping views to higher peaks to the east and south. Red Slate and Red & White dominate the view to the north and northeast where the Sierra Crest runs closest to the summit. Far to the northwest could be see Ritter/Banner (they seem to be visible from almost every summit on the west side of the Sierra) with the colorful peaks of the Mammoth area at a closer distance. A register had been left by Reiner Stenzel six or seven years earlier, filling 11 pages in the interim.
More obscure than Evon BM is Peak 11,515ft about a mile and a half to the southwest. It marks the highpoint of a ridge trending south that separates Goodale and Silver Passes. It sports more than 750ft of prominence and seemed like a good bonus for the return. It had taken five and a half hours to reach Evon, longer than I had hoped, but I was still feeling pretty good and turned my attention to the bonus peak. I descended more than 1,600ft down the SW Face of Evon, easy at first with a broad, sandy cirque that made for bounding steps and a quick loss of elevation. The cirque funneled into a cliff band where I used a brushy chute to make my way through the difficultly, eventually opening again to a broad cirque, though now characterized by grassy ledges and lots of broken rock.
It was 1p before I crossed the trail and traversed around the outlet of Silver Pass Lake northeast of Peak 11,515ft. I found my way up steep slopes with scree and class 2 scrambing up to the ridgeline where some class 3 was encountered on the way to the highpoint. Though I found no register and no cairn, I was far from any sort of first ascent. Secor makes no mention of this peak in his guidebook, but the older Smatko version from 1972 has a bunch of extra minor peaks, including this one - and lists a first ascent from 1937. Though 700ft lower, I thought the views from the summit were even better than Evon, primarily because the peaks along the Sierra Crest to the east and southeast looked to have more relief. It was 2:15p before I started down the NW slopes of the summit, a not-so-great talus fest that did not get better until I was lower where alpine grasses had managed a foothold. I found the Goodale Pass Trail on the west side of Cold Creek around 3p and followed this down for the start of the long return.
At an unnamed meadow above Upper Graveyard Meadow, the random thoughts floating around in my head were disrupted by what seemed like music wafting ever so quitely through the trees. This grew a bit louder as I descended the trail, enough that I was convinced my brain hadn't conjured it out of the stillness. Eventually I spied someone through the trees playing a french horn. He and a buddy had set up camp not far from the trail at the edge of the meadow and were having a little music with their wilderness experience. It seemed odd, but far preferrable to a ghetto-blaster or other commercial music source. Not sure if I had been spotted (would the music cease if I had been?), I continued down the trail past the junction for Graveyard Lakes, crossing Cold Creek at another junction and then descending down the last 1,000ft through the forest to Lake Thomas Edison. At the Wilderness boundary I noted I had exited a different one (Ansel Adams) than the one I had entered (John Muir), possibly the first time I'd done that.
I was back to the TH around 5:30p, making for an 11hr outing. After taking a shower outside the van I drove back out towards Kaiser Pass. A few miles north of the pass I turned right at a junction with a Forest Service road that goes through Sample Meadow on its way past Mt. Tom. I planned to climb Mt. Tom the next morning and get as close as I could tonight before finding a suitable place to park and sleep. I was on the east side of the mountain less than a mile from the summit on a pretty rough (for the van, anyway) access road when I came upon a locked gate. Yikes! It was well past sunset and was growing dark by this time, and without a place to turnaround I had to back the van down about 100yds. I opened the tailgate to give me a better view of the ground behind me and nervously executed the tricky manuever. I wonder sometimes what my wife's reaction would be if she saw me abusing her van like this. I was happy to get out of that one without hitting anything or sliding off the edge of the road. I found a nice flat spot to park the van. Dinner and a movie kept me occupied until nearly 10p - it was nice having a few conveniences inside, cold as it was in the dark outside.
This page last updated: Sat Jan 12 10:07:17 2013
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