Fri, Nov 16, 2007
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Not doing quite enough gathering of beta beforehand, I wasn't exactly sure where to find the trailhead I was looking for. Consequently I ended up at the Granite Creek Campground (not the closest access, but not bad) around 2a. I found a trailhead that led north (in the generally correct direction), but somehow soon wandered east at a junction and nearly found myself in Soldier Meadow before realizing my error. In all it cost me about 30 minutes before I found the right trail heading north again.
By headlamp I continued on for many hours, through the Niche (where I entered the Ansel Adams Wilderness), across Cora Creek, past Chetwood Cabin, always heading more or less north (using a compass to verify!). Along the way I passed half a dozen junctions, some signed well, some poorly, others not at all. For the latter, a close examination of the map was needed at each such junction to figure out where I might be and which fork I should take. Luckily I made the correct choice at all of them (ok, except for that snafu at the beginning...).
Day began to break as I found myself running out of trail about halfway between Chetwood Cabin and Sadler Peak's East Ridge. The map showed the trail continuing on to nearby Long Creek, NE of Sadler Peak, but it seemed to end at a rough camp found at a small clearing in the heavily wooded area. Had it still been dark I would have been lost for the time being, but instead I was able to make out a path to the small saddle on Sadler's East Ridge where the trail ought to be (according to the map). I went cross-country through a small marsh, side-hilled through the woods and then traversed across a rocky slope before refinding the trail at the saddle. There were swell views to be had, of Foerster Peak oh-so-far to the NW and of the Ritter Range to the NE and east. The latter was a spectacular sight - a dusting of snow on the shaded western faces combined with the fantastic pinnacles and overhead clouds to produce an eerie, gothic effect. Mt. Ritter was also visible, daylight just touching the higher reaches of the peaks. I followed the trail north, barely a use trail now but with periodic ducks to guide the way down to Long Creek.
It was 7:20a and the sun had finally reached over the ridges and trees to bring sunlight to the forest floor. The trail ended here, but it had done its job. The forest grew considerably thinner in this transition to granite-lined canyons found at the upper elevations. The name of the canyon is appropriate as it is indeed quite long. Though I entered the canyon at about the halfway point, it still took almost an hour and a half to ascend the canyon to its beginnings near Rockbound Lake. From there I climbed up a short but steep slope to a ridge before dropping down into the upper reaches of yet another beautiful canyon named Bench Canyon. Snow on the north sides of the canyon made the descent to Blue Lake somewhat tricky and slow, but by 9a I had circled around the east side of the lake and started up the grassy ramp on Foerster's SE side as described in one of the trip reports. The ramp avoided what looks to be far more tedious talus to the left, and with good footing made the climb to the saddle on the East Ridge rather pleasant. There was a very fine view of the peaks to the north from this saddle, including Lyell, Rodgers, Electra, and Ansel Adams. Turning west, it was only another ten minutes to Foerster's summit.
It was 10a when I reached the summit, taking almost 8hrs for the ascent - about an hour longer than I had hoped originally. The early start would still allow me plenty of time to get back before dark. The weather had been cool or slightly cold most of the day, but it was a bit too frigid on the summit with an icy breeze blowing over the ridgeline. Jackets, balaclava and gloves all went on to stave off the cold as best as they could. Clouds, some of them a tad threatening, had been moving about overhead all day, and though sunshine was sporadic, the views were fairly clear in most directions. The Ritter Range dominated the view to the east and further afield the Clark Range dominated the views to the west. One could see many of the peaks in Yosemite Park including Half Dome, Mt. Florence, Mt. Hoffmann, and peaks on the Sawtooth Ridge at the north end of the park. Lyell, Rodgers, Electra, and Ansel Adams were all connected on the ridgeline going north that marks the SE border of Yosemite. The view southeast opened up to hundreds of more peaks in the High Sierra well into Kings Canyon NP.
The register did not date back very far, and with few visitors each year it did not have too many entries. Most of them are from those seeking out the SPS list as you might expect on such a remote peak. Matthew's entry from his dayhike in 2005 was just above Tina Bowman's entry from 2006 on Aug 1 - three days later Matthew and I both met her (without knowing her name at the time) near Vogelsang Pass as we were on our way to Mt. Florence. Michael Graupe's name stood out as the first entry from 2007 - his time of 7.5hrs from the trailhead had beaten me by half an hour, and he was still on his way to Electra Peak. I glanced up to note the peak some huge distance away without any practical way to follow the ridge and was simply stunned at his abilities. Later Michael clued me in that he did an overnight trip, not a dayhike, but that made his time to Foerster's summit more impressive still.
I left the summit and returned much the way I had come with a few deviations. At Blue Lake I avoided the snowy slopes by taking a route through some class 3 cliffs to the east, and an entirely different track down picturesque Long Canyon (though it's essentially the same route). Climbing back up to the saddle East of Sadler I initially did well to find the ducks and the use trail, but somehow I lost these before reaching the saddle and got myself somewhat lost. Thinking I was east of the trail I headed uphill (I probably should have climbed Sadler Peak while I was there) and further away from the trail. With some (now) careful map reading and the help of my compass I was able to regain the trail not far from where I had lost it early the same morning.
When I got back to Chetwood Cabin I took a short break to check out the historic site I had gone by in the dark on my way in. Sadly, the log cabin is mostly a pile of lumber, having nearly collapsed on itself over the years with the roof badly caved in. Some concrete remains of a chimney or outdoor oven are the only other things to be found in the area. I enjoyed the hike out below the Niche with the views far into the San Joaquin Valley (I had seen lights far off in the distance during the night, but since they were behind me I didn't get to see them much). This brought me down the final 1,000ft back to Granite Creek CG and my car, where I arrived shortly before 4p. Mine was the only car in the campground when I had arrived, and it was still the sole vehicle. I also saw no cars for the 20 or so miles between the end of the road and Bass Lake - clearly it was getting to the end of the season on this side of the High Sierra.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Foerster Peak
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