Wed, Aug 15, 2012
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Looming high above Big Pine Creek to the south is Kid Mountain, a summit I had observed more than a dozen times on trips up the North and South Forks, but never climbed. Just behind it, a short distance north of The Thumb, is unnamed Peak 3,994m (dubbed "Big Kid Mtn") which qualifies as a CA 13er with more than twice the required prominence of 300ft. Day 6 of the Sierra Challenge was designed to allow me to climb both of these. I'd always hesitated to put Kid Mtn on the Challenge since it isn't all that hard, but Big Kid would require more than 5,000ft of gain to make up for the short distance. At 7mi round trip, it would be the shortest mileage ever for a Challenge day. It would make for a relatively easy day before the four difficult days that were to follow.
There were 14 of us for the 6a start at the Day Use lot at the end of Glacier Lodge Rd. I had identified two possible routes up the mountain, one using the South Fork Trail for a few miles to gain some elevation, the other starting directly up the north side. Our party was about evenly split on which way to go, so we broke immediately into two groups as some started up the trail while the rest headed across the Big Pine Creek Bridge and started up Kid Mtn. As part of the second group, I found it splintered further as we took different routes up the north side depending on individual preferences. There isn't really any good route or any truly bad route - all ways lead to the summit. Kevin and I preferred the rocky gully to the left while Pat, Adam, Tommey and Phil seemed to favor the brushier, but perhaps firmer footing on the slopes to the right.
It did not take long for the views to open up as we quickly gained altitude above the Big Pine Canyon. Mt. Alice to the west had a pinkish glow at sunrise. Higher, Buck Mtn could be seen behind Alice and eventually Sill and the rest of the Palisade Crest north of Sill. Behind us, first Sugarloaf then the higher Round Mtn appeared above the high plateau of Coyote Flat. Our smaller groups reconvened as the routes converged where the trees give way to a mountain of rock and talus, still toiling upwards. By the two hour mark we had climbed more than 3,000ft but were still 700-800ft below Kid Mtn. All of us agreed that the rock and footing was better than any of us had expected and far better than the sand pile that is Mt. Alice which I'd expected it to resemble. Another half hour saw us to the flattish summit of Kid Mtn where we arrived around 8:30a.
We took a short break on Kid Mtn, only three or four minutes long. Pat and I looked about at all the likely hiding places but found no sign of a register. The name "Big Kid" seemed apt, because rising above Kid Mtn to the south was a pile of rock some 1,200ft higher still. There was very little vegetation to be found anywhere. We followed the obvious ridgeline a short distance down to a saddle before starting up, taking a bit over an hour to hike from Kid Mtn to the top of its big brother.
Our party of six was the first to reach the summit this morning. Ten minutes later, Jonathan arrived, the first from the second group that had started off on the South Fork Trail. Tom, Michael and Karl all arrived within 20 minutes of Jonathan. It was a fine morning for hanging around the summit, soaking in the sunshine and views. Sitting some distance away from the crest, there is a fine panorama of the Palisades from Birch Mtn to Sill, with perhaps the best viewpoint for Middle Pal and Norman Clyde. The Thumb lies less than a mile to the south, connected to Big Kid by a serrated ridgeline that looks tortured and difficult. None of us would be so bold as to give that a shot today. There was a small register with two strips of paper dating back only two years. The most recent visitor was Brian French, less than two weeks earlier. In all we spent more than an hour at the summit, collecting other participants all the time. Eddie was the last to arrive before we started down shortly after 11a. There would 13 Challenge participants to reach the summit before the day was through.
I had hoped to find a nice sand descent down the north side of Big Kid, but could not find the stuff that makes for good boot skiing. Most of the mountain seems to be composed of loose talus and boulders too big for a reckless descent. I ended up retracing much of the route down to the saddle with Kid Mtn, still looking for the right descent slope, before finally biting the bullet and descending left off the ridge. Unappetizing as it was, I had no takers to follow me and found myself all alone through this thoroughly awful descent. I don't know if there were really any better routes, but there was nothing to recommend the one I used. It was about 12:15p when I reached the South Fork Creek (despite my dislike of the descent, it only took about 1hr15m from summit to creek). The crossing took some time, finding a suitable place and boulder placements to allow me to jump across. In a normal year with more water, this would have been a much harder problem. I found my way to the trail on the other side and was just starting down when I heard voices. These turned out to be Tommey and Pat who had started down from the summit before me. They had taken a similar route, but were now struggling to find their way across the creek. I went over to greet them from the near bank, offer some suggestions, and soon enough all three of us were back on the trail. We jogged most of the remaining mile back to the bridge over the North Fork and then back to the TH where we arrived by 12:45p.
We were not the first back to the TH. Jonathan had beaten us by 15 minutes and was already engaging in conversation a group of backpackers that were dropping off their gear before driving back to the overnight lot. They didn't really seem too interested in discussing Jonathan's take on a few subjects, replying only with the minimal words necessary not to seem rude. The other participants came back over the next hour with a few exceptions. Ron was nearly two hours behind us and Eddie an additional hour and a half beyond Ron. Overall a fairly easy day, giving us a chance to catch up on sleep. We'd need it, as the next four days would all be hard...
The only significant change in jersey standings was that Sean and Tom were no longer tied for King of the Mountain. Sean had done the Balcony->Disappointment->Middle Pal traverse today, netting him three peaks to Tom's two. This gave Sean a one peak lead, giving him a total of 13 peaks to Tom's 12.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Kid Mountain
This page last updated: Mon Nov 19 13:05:55 2012
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