Wed, Aug 13, 2008
My camera was lost on SE side of Mt. Ruskin on the day following our outing to Trapezoid, taking my photos from today's adventure with it. The photos presented here are courtesy of Michael Graupe and Brice Wilson.
Trapezoid Peak is an unofficially named summit in the South Lake area, located on the Sierra crest between Mt. Goode and Mt. Johnson. It does not appear on the SPS or other peak lists, but is said to have an enjoyable class 3-4 NE Ridge. Trapezoid does not have a long or difficult approach, making it a bit of a stretch to put on the Sierra Challenge schedule, but since the following day to Mt. Ruskin was expected to be quite difficult, I was not adverse to an easy outing beforehand. As a bonus, I planned to combine it with the class 4 South Ridge of Mt. Hurd and the class 3 traverse to Mt. Johnson. That I could not find anyone to share the whole of my adventure with did not dissuade me, but I would find plenty of company from various participants along the way.
We had more than a dozen at the South Lake TH for the 6a start, but only a few of us planned to head for Trapezoid. The largest contingent of the group planned to head to nearby Mt. Goode via the class 2 SE Slopes, making an easier alternative. Brice W was interested in climbing Hurd Peak with me, so when we reached Long Lake before the first hour was up, the two of us headed cross-country around the north side of the lake and up to the East Face.
There are numerous chutes and other options on the East Face, the one we selected in the class 2-3 range. Aside from some loose sand in the broad chute we spent some of our time in, the climbing was not at all difficult and we were on the summit by 8:30a. The South Ridge looks to be a non-trivial class 4 adventure viewed from the summit, and at this juncture Brice decided to find an alternate way to reach Trapezoid. We discussed the various options (Brice decided to head down the West Face of Hurd) while taking in the views of the Bishop Creek drainage around us.
As I started down the South Ridge, almost immediately I had to beg off staying on the very ridge. A rather spicy 20-foot section about 50 yards from the summit had me wondering if this was really a class 4 route or something a bit more - there was nothing I could find about it beforehand aside from Secor's brief description. I scrambled down about 30ft on the east side of the ridge until I found a class 4 problem I could take to get back up to the ridgeline. It was non-trivial, but thankfully short and I was soon back atop the South Ridge. That proved to be the crux. There were still easy class 4 problems along the ridge, but most of it was an enjoyable class 3 effort that took more time than I had thought it might, but hardly noticed until I had gotten onto the easier ground reaching towards the saddle with Trapezoid's NE Ridge. I didn't know it at the time, but the best climbing of the day was over.
I bypassed Pt. 12,192ft on the SE side, dropping to the saddle, then starting the scramble up the NE Ridge. The route up to Trapezoid was long, but mostly a moderate effort. There were some good class 3 sections, but I would be hard pressed to describe any class 4 moves the entire way. There was a single gendarme about 3/4 of the way up that could not be scrambled directly on the ridge, the only section I had to bypass on the side. It was not until I had started up the route that I noticed the distinctive edges that give Trapezoid its name were not part of the NE Ridge as I had supposed. Too bad, because as I observed those slabs to my left from the NE Ridge, they looked like they might be a fine scramble in their own right (mental note to come back and do this one again). Between those slabs and the NE Ridge was a long class 2 chute that rose nearly to the summit, probably the shortest and easiest way one could reach the summit, but not described by Secor. It would make a quick descent route as well.
It was shortly before 10:30a when I reached the relatively flat summit of Trapezoid. I had seen another climber more than 30min earlier nearing the summit, but saw no one as I looked around to see if I had company. I did not find a summit register, but evidently I did not look very well since those before and after me to the summit had no such trouble locating it.
I would rather have done the shorter traverse to Mt. Goode from Trapezoid rather than the longer ridgeline to Mt. Johnson, but we had been told a few days earlier by Marie P who had been on it that the Trapezoid-Goode traverse was class 5, required a rope, and quite loose to boot. And now that I was looking at it, I had no interest in doing it solo sans rope. It looked hard. I turned around and headed to Mt. Johnson.
Mt. Johnson is about a mile NW along the crest, the route looking to be about what I expected. I started west, dropping the initial easy elevation from the summit to where the ridge took on a more knife-like aspect. I was surprised by a voice, turned around and found Adam J behind me. He did not seem altogether happy. His annoyance stemmed from his finding the ridge looking harder than he expected, insisting that it was tougher than class 3. I took a long look at the ridge, particularly the next 100 yards in front of me, and commented, "I dunno, it looks class 3 to me." That did nothing to satisfy Adam, further adding that the ridgeline was dangerously loose. Again I offered, "It's not that loose..." Almost immediately after the words came out of my mouth, Adam dislodged a 30-pound beauty that rolled and careened off the north side of the ridge. It was almost as if he'd deliberately kicked the loosest large rock he could find to prove his point. "Ok, so it's a little loose, but I still think it's class 3." I wasn't sure what Adam was aiming for at this point, perhaps he was hoping I'd join him in descendingan easier route off the peak. But I was heading for Johnson regardless. I told him he could watch me for the next 100 yards or so and see if he still thought it was class 4, and with that I set off again.
Adam must have decided the ridge was better with company than the alternative alone, because the next time I looked back he was continuing along the ridge behind me. A bit hesitant at first, he soon seemed to ease into the swing of things and kept up without any trouble at all. Together we spent the next hour and half scrambling along the ridge, up and down around gendarmes, through a few notches, to the saddle with Johnson, then the climb up to Johnson on its South Ridge. The South Ridge was actually the hardest part of the traverse, but by then we were both quite comfortable on the rock and had no difficulties with it. The boulders and slabs got larger and larger the closer we got to the summit, testing our route-finding skills as well. Adam seemed happy once again when we pulled ourselves onto the summit at noon. It had been a fun traverse.
The summit register indicated that Michael Graupe had reached Johnson almost two hours before us. Even though he hadn't done Hurd as I had, it seemed an incredibly fast pace. He was probably back at the trailhead even as we sat there resting at the summit. Later we learned that he had not traversed on the crest, but had dropped down the north side of the crest and scrambled up Johnson's class 2 SE Slopes. After our break we continued on the crest down Johnson's North Ridge. I had used this route to climb Mt. Johnson some years earlier, so I knew that it would be a good finish for getting off Johnson. We did not follow the crest all the way to the low point at Treasure Col, instead dropping off to the east side of the crest at an earlier junction where a very long chute/dihedral dropped to the moraine below. There was snow and ice in the chute which caused us some hesitancy, but we decided we could probably avoid the snow which had melted out for the most part. Were we to encounter a snow crossing it would likely have meant climbing back up to the crest since neither of us had crampons or axe. Though horribly loose, we managed to get ourselves down the chute without killing ourselves or each other. We took turns on the narrowest parts, ducking out of the way where safely possible below to allow the other to descend in turn.
While halfway down the chute we had spotted another climber on the moraine below, heading back from Treasure Col. It seemed unlikely to be Michael, but we were too far away to identify him, and we never saw him once we were on the moraine ourselves. Later we found this was Karl F who had gone to Gilbert via Treasure Col. With all the fun parts of the day behind us, we had a mile of the moraine/boulder mess ahead of us, tedious at best, dangerous at worst. One could not relax and enjoy the descent, spending a good deal of mental effort in each step, studying each boulder ahead trying to determine which ones looked most secure and if they did move, how would they rock or slide to upset our balance. I lost track of Adam during this time as I kept up a steady pace in front of him all the way to the trail at Treasure Lakes.
From Treasure Lakes it was a far more relaxing time getting back to the trailhead. Right after the junction with the Bishop Pass Trail, I came across a returning posse of five Challenge participants who had been to Mt. Goode and Chocolate Peak. These included Evan R, Brian L, Jeff M, Rick B, and Nathan M. Together we all marched back down to the trailhead where we arrived at 2:30p.
Brice had gone on to the summit of Trapezoid via the West Face after his descent of Hurd. He also tagged Chocolate on his way back. David W and Scott H also made it to Goode, but they did not do Chocolate on the way back and finished ahead of the six of us that came out together.
Jersey Strategy: Michael had finished more than 2.5hrs ahead of me, essentially owning the Yellow jersey from this point on. There was no possible way for me to recover from a 5hr overall deficit unless he failed to reach one of the remaining four peaks - highly unlikely. Tagging Hurd in the morning gave me an additional peak over both Michael and Adam, nine peaks now in six days and the lead for the King of Mountain jersey. It was a tenuous lead. Since Brian failed to climb a Challenge peak today, Adam pulled into a tie with him for the White jersey - both with five Challenge peaks each. This was the first year that there has been a serious contest for this jersey. There was still no serious effort by anyone for the Green jersey.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Hurd Peak - Trapezoid Peak - Mt. Johnson
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