Wed, Aug 7, 2019
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Mt. Gilbert previously climbed Fri, Jun 14, 2002|
Day 6 of the Sierra Challenge had a healthy bunch of folks at the Bishop Pass TH for the 6a start. There were 19 in all, though not all were heading to our peaks. Moonwalk and Moonshot are located on the Sierra Crest between Mts. Johnson and Gilbert. The unofficial names were bestowed by Andy Smatko who was climbing them on the day of first moon landing, July 20, 1969. I put them on the Sierra Challenge this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of that historic event. The outing was not expected to be a long one, and for me would be the shortest day of this year's Challenge.
We hiked only about a mile of the Bishop Pass Trail, turning right at a trail junction that would take us to Treasure Lakes. It took about an hour to reach this collection of alpine lakes around 11,000ft. Where the trail goes between the two lowest lakes, we found a partially submerged log crossing. I was with a small group that included Tom G and Iris. Tom was the first to attempt the crossing, making a mess of it and ending up in knee-high water, both of his boots soaked beyond saving. He took it in stride with a laugh and it hardly seemed to have affected his pace or his mood afterwards. Iris used more caution, managing a delicate balance on the log and keeping her boots dry in the process. I followed her lead, naturally.
We continued up through the lakes, the trail petering out and the talus and rocks giving way to more welcome snow sections that made for easier travel. The snow led us to the uppermost lake on the western branch of the drainage which would lead to Treasure Col on the crest. We passed the partially frozen lake on the right as our route turned from southwest to west. Others ahead of us were already scrambling up the rocky debris on Moonwalk's south slopes, but we chose to stay on the snow for easier travel. We started up the steep slopes above us a little early, not really knowing or seeing exactly where the summit was. As the slope eased some and difficulties could be seen along the East Ridge, we made an upward traverse on the south side of the ridge. I was well ahead of my companions by this time, scrambling the last few hundred feet of terrain on my own, making the summit shortly before 9a.
The summit made a fine perch from which it was possible to see a great deal of snow still lying about the range in August, far more than usual. South Lake could be seen to the northeast, Mt. Johnson looking impressive to the south, Mt. Gilbert rising higher still to the west. I could see figures standing atop Moonshot Peak to the northwest, another quarter mile away and several hundred feet higher - dang, those boys were fast. There was an old, weathered MacLeod/Lilley register from 1981 with almost 40 pages of entries over the next 30yrs. Another register was left in 2017 and it was to this I added my name below the other four that had reached it earlier. I was still at the summit alone when I left it to descend down to a notch to the southwest, then north where I traversed back to the crest briefly before cutting northwest across the slope to Mt. Gilbert. I decided to skip past Moonshot so that I might catch the other four atop Mt. Gilbert before they left. It occurred to me that there might not be a register atop Moonshot and I wanted to give them the chance to sign the one I carried with me before heading to that peak. The quartet were looking quite relaxed when I caught up with them on Gilbert. They hung around another 10-15min, Clement walking over to a diving board rock to give us a few photo ops. I found my old entry in the Gilbert register from 2002, then added my name to the last page, now 17yrs later.
While the others headed off for Mt. Johnson or to begin the return, I turned northeast and followed the crest to Moonshot Peak, really just a small rise along Gilbert's NE Ridge. Tom and Iris were already there ahead of me when I arrived carrying the new register. The pair decided to recreate the infamous Sierra Challenge logo, doing an admirable job of it. Chris showed up about ten minutes later, with Ken and Mason arriving another ten minutes after them. By then I had put on all the clothes in my pack to ward off the chill - time to head back. While the others went on to Mt. Gilbert, I followed the crest back to the notch on Moonwalk, then down to the snow and morraine above Treasure Lakes on the north side of Mt. Johnson. The uppermost lake was still partially frozen, and perhaps goaded by discussions I'd had with others earlier, decided to see what a swim in such a lake would be like. It wasn't an actual swim, really, more of a quick dunk to get credit for the Aqua Jersey. It wasn't as painful as I had expected it could be, but that may have been due to the quickness with which I extracted myself from the icy water.
It was noon before I had put my clothes back on and resumed my return back to South Lake. I had about two hours to myself and made no hurry of it getting back, pausing to take pictures of the flowers, the green vegetation found lower, the various lakes, and the fine cloud formations that were starting to threaten afternoon thunderstorms. When I got back to the trailhead around 1:45p, there was a small group of folks gathered around Evan's van as has become habit. Rob was the only one from the fast group to return, the others all heading to Mt. Johnson for additional bonus fun. Clement, Grant and Scott would all make the addtional traverse to Trapezoid Peak from Mt. Johnson. Grant managed this the fastest of all, returning to South Lake only 20min after me...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Gilbert
This page last updated: Mon Nov 25 14:19:05 2019
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