Glass Mountain Ridge P2K DPS / GBP / DS

Mon, Jul 14, 2008

With: Ryan Burd

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11yr-old Ryan had just completed his first overnight outing with the Boy Scouts to the Saddlebag Lake area in the Hoover Wilderness that he succinctly described as "the trip from hell." Rain, hail, hordes of Mosquitoes, and horribly prepared food combined to create an experience that one could only survive, not really enjoy. I laughed as he described the food, the kids refusing to eat it, being told they had to eat it, and several of them actually throwing it back up. Newbie mistakes like leaving his boots out in the rain to get soaked, forgetting to zip the fly on the tent, and other errors that I could recall from my own first experiences more than 35 years earlier. I tried to reassure him that everyone has a similar experience on their first outing and that it would only get better, but Ryan wasn't buying it without a thick coat of skepticism. After the climb of Royal Arches the day before, I drove up to Tioga Pass and slept in the van just outside the park. I then hiked around Saddlebag Lake the next morning, eventually coming across the troop of some 15 scouts and adults on their return. One of the other new scouts was having a particularly rough time on the hike out, requiring the whole troop to stop many times on that last mile and half alongside the lake. I could see the frustration in some of their faces, but they managed to get everyone out in one piece and without losing a single scout. Ryan and I then drove to Lee Vining where we took it easy the rest of the day, letting him recuperate before Dad took him out hiking again the next day.

Glass Mountain is the highpoint of the Benton Range, a DPS peak, and what I figured would be a relatively easy hike for Ryan, with about 2,000ft of gain and less than two miles to the summit. He didn't like it so much, rating it in the Medium to Difficult range afterwards (a week later he would rate the harder hike to Mt. Dana in the Easy to Medium category). Smoke from the fires in Northern California continued to plague the skies, obscuring much of the views. The saving grace of Glass Mtn was the abundance of obsidian that can be found about the mountain. Ryan had been intrigued by the small pieces of the shiny black rock I had found for him previously, curious to know how the indians were able to fashion it into arrowheads. We came home with large samples of the rock that we picked up near the trailhead where we'd parked.

The drive to the trailhead was easy enough on a very well graded dirt road. We had some small trouble finding the correct turnoff since it wasn't signed for Sawmill Meadow as expected, but for Black Canyon. The road then forks in the first mile with the Sawmill Meadow sign indicating the right fork. Ten miles later we were at Sawmill Meadow, just short of the campground. We parked off to the side of the road and started up the rough 4WD side road as indicated in the DPS guide. It took us about two hours to make the steep climb to the summit. The road gave out within half a mile, after which we followed a very good use trail the entire way to the summit. We passed through several areas that were littered with obsidian, stopping briefly to take our turn at shaping the rocks into arrowheads. We were unable to do more than crack the blocks into pieces, never coming close to a sharp edge other than by total chance. It was certainly harder to make an arrowhead than we had hoped.

There were several books in the summit register, indicating the mountain is a popular destination. Along with the usual DPS names, there were P2K highpointers and many others as well. The last person up was Dingus Milktoast from a week earlier. I had recalled a short TR he had posted on SummitPost about his visit. Small world.

Our return went much faster, hardly any breaks needed, and took just over an hour. Our timing was good because thunderstorms were starting to develop and would be raining down in just a few hours. We took the Benton Crossing Rd back towards Mammoth Lakes, the first time I had driven this highly scenic road, enjoying it thoroughly. We stopped at the Owens River to do some fishing, catching nothing but a few raindrops (there were more than a few drops falling on Glass Mtn by this time). To compensate for the lack of catch, we stopped by the fish hatchery near the Mammoth airport to take in the glorious scene of thousands of huge trout swimming within easy reach. Ryan felt this was almost torture to be able to see so many fish and not be able to take "samples." Too bad, so sad.


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