Etymology Story

Boy, what a contrast to Friday. Today's outing was quite pleasant, probably the most enjoyable of the summer. Originally we had planned to head for Kern Point, but Matthew wasn't feeling too strong after a tough outing to Wheel. So we chose to make it an easier day.

Matthew and I drove to Onion Valley together, but went separate ways as he headed up to University Pass and I went over Kearsarge Pass. We started just after 4a, which seemed like a late start after the last few starts before 3a. Having rested and eaten well, I was feeling great from the start. The weather was warmer in the morning than it had been a few days earlier, and I had my jacket on only for the first 15min or so, tshirt for the rest of the day.

I went over Kearsarge Pass at 5:45a, almost still dark at this time of year. The moon was a smoky orange, nearly full and just about to set over Mt. Bago to the west. I cruised down the west side of Kearsarge Pass, around past Bullfrog and Charlotte lakes, and up to Glen Pass in the shade of the early morning. I met a pair of backpackers out early having just come over the pass from the north. The sun greeted me as I went over Glen Pass and down to Rae Lakes. I met a few more parties out on the JMT/PCT as I made my way down to the lakes. The facial expressions are amusing when I answer the question, "Where did you sleep last night?" with "Bishop." Some further explanation naturally ensues.

I took the trail up to Rae Col, dropped down the other side, then set out for Mt. Cotter via the East Ridge. There are a number of beautiful lakes in the upper portion of Sixty Lake Basin that I had never visited before. They looked stunning with a backdrop of unnamed peaks located on the crest between Glen Pass and Mt. Gardiner. The East Ridge of Mt. Cotter was a far better climb than I had expected. There were grassy chutes and ledges leading about 2/3 of the way up the mountain. Once on the East Ridge, it was a fine class 2-3 scramble to the summit, taking about 6.5hrs. Gee, plenty of time left in the day. I looked over at Cotter's North Summit and the frightening ridgeline connecting it to where I sat. That was too much for me to consider without a rope and a partner. Plenty of time, but not for that!

I had a fine boot-ski down the SE Slope, passed by more of the lakes in Sixty Lake Basin, and eventually found my way back to the trail. Feeling pretty darn good when I got back up to Rae Col, I decided to detour for a climb of Fin Dome. I had climbed this five years earlier with Matthew, but we had used a rope that time. I wanted to see how long it would take without one. 30 minutes from the col to the summit, it turns out. I thought I was taking the same route on the West Face that we'd used before, but saw none of the familiar ducks I had remembered. Turns out I was on a completely different line further to the left, only realizing this when it merged with the regular route just below the summit.

The old aluminum box placed by the Sierra Club years ago was still there, but there were no register books inside, just a pen and a few broken pencils. Carrying a spare notepad in my pack, I pulled it out and left it as the new register book. Returning from the summit, I got off-track again half-way down the ducked route, taking yet a different route, this time to the right side of the original. Guess there's more than the one way to get up it.

Once back at Rae Col I picked up the trail and headed down to Rae Lakes. A pack train heading north on the trail was just passing by as I arrived. I hiked south to the highest of the lakes where I decided to go for a swim. I changed into my birthday suit and swam out to the large island via the shortest route from the shoreline. It was very cold water, but refreshing, as long as one doesn't spend too much time in it. I dried off in the sun on a rock at the island, then jumped in once again and swam back to shore. Nice, warm sun to dry me off a second time. Once dressed, I wandered back to the trail and hiked back up towards Glen Pass, detouring again to climb Painted Lady. This is the last named peak in the area I had yet to climb. An easy 700-foot ascent from the trail, it took about half an hour. It was now 3p. A small register was tucked in a plastic tub, not likely to last more than a few more seasons. Adam Jantz's signature was there from the last day of this year's Sierra Challenge, as I expected, along with another climber in the intervening time.

From the summit of Painted Lady I turned south and headed up towards Mt. Rixford. I followed the connecting ridgeline until it ended at the intimidating North Face of Rixford, then bailed left to the col just east of the mountain. Though I'd already been to Rixford's summit, it seemed a shame to leave it unchallenged when I was so close. It took all of fifteen minutes to climb the short distance up to the summit. I only briefly considered continuing east to Mt. Gould and Dragon Peak. Having done the traverse between Rixford and these peaks previously, it seemed I would only be padding my stats and not really adding any new experience, so I decided I'd had enough peaks for one day.

I dropped back to the col, and then down the south side to pick up the Kearsarge Pass Trail. I think the detour to Painted Lady and Rixford may actually have been faster than taking the trail up to Glen Pass and back down around the west and south sides of Rixford. The whole cross-country excursion for the last two peaks took less than two and half hours. On my way back up to Kearsarge Pass there were a number of backpacking parties making their way west into the park. One gentleman noticed my Sierra Challenge shirt and asked if I was Bob Burd. He professed to being my biggest fan, and I must say it was a bit embarrassing. He tried to relay the magnitude of this chance encounter to his bewildered friend who had no idea who I was. He looked at me lost, I shrugged. I need new shirts.

It was 5:30p when I reached Kearsarge Pass, only five miles left. There was still some sun shining down east of the pass, but it was gone for the day not long after I started down. I watched the last rays of daylight on Independence Peak as I passed by Gilbert Lake, then watched the Sierra shadow creep up on the Inyo Range to the east as I descended to the trailhead. The sun was just setting as I got back to Onion Valley shortly after 7p. The fifteen hours was what I had predicted just to do Cotter, so it was nice to get a few bonus peaks in for the same time. Matthew returned about half an hour later. He had climbed Mt. Keith and Center Peak via University Pass, not impressed with the climbing on either. He had hoped he might even make it to East Vidette and Mt. Bago, but it was too much to do the four peaks in one day.

Matthew now has seven peaks remaining on the SPS list. I have a few dozen more than that, which is going to make it very hard to catch up.

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