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I started at the 5,500-foot level where the PCT crosses Canebrake Rd. The trail shows the expected wear of heavy usage and is peppered with numerous signs along the way to keep one from getting lost. After a sandy crossing of upper Lamont Meadow during which I was enjoying an early lunch, the trail starts to climb gradually along the southern flanks of a subsidiary ridgeline leading up to Sawtooth Peak. It reaches the crest at around 6,300ft before quickly doubling back on the west side of the crest and makes some switchbacks up the NE flanks of Lamont BM. The easiest way to climb the peak is to follow the PCT all the way to a saddle on the east side of the summit and climb it cross-country from there. I decided to make it only a bit harder, and perhaps a little shorter by starting up the NE side where the trail makes its biggest switchback. The going was a little brushier on that side and quite a bit steeper, but it worked, and in less than two hours I was atop the rocky summit.
There are two registers to be found at the summit. One is found on the highest block that has an easy but nervy step across required in order to reach it. This higher register near the benchmark is in very poor shape. The pages are all tattered and very brittle. There was evidence of a MacLeod/Lilley register book from 1982 and plenty of names I recognized among the scraps, but it would have taken too much time to try and organize them all for photographic preservation without the breeze carrying them off over the edge. The other register was in much better shape and contained more than 25 pages of entries over almost three decades. It seems most people add their names to both registers.
I dropped east from the summit down the usual route, a nice bit of scrambling to be had in returning to the PCT, the last part mostly just steep sand weaving through brush. The PCT then continues two miles in a southerly direction staying on the west side of the crest. At a saddle north of Spanish Needle the trail reaches the crest where one can get a view east down to Indian Wells Valley. I was able to get some cell phone reception strong enough to send a few texts to the wife to let her know all is well, but generally there is no cell phone access anywhere north of South Fork Valley and west of the Sierra crest. The PCT now begins a long detour west to go completely around Spanish Needle. Fortunately this is heading in the right direction for Lamont East as the trail reaches nearly to the saddle, getting within 3/4 mile of the summit. Leaving the trail, its a short distance down to the saddle where a use trail can be found taking one at least half the distance. The route becomes a rock scrambling exercise, a nice one at that, and by 2:30p I had clambered up and over the last blocky piece of granite to reach the summit, just over two hours after leaving Lamont BM.
The register on Lamont East is a gem, placed by a Carl Heller party in 1958. 34 pages record nearly 50 years of ascents. Almost every page had a name I recognized from other summit registers in the Sierra. After carefully photographing all its pages, I returned it to where I had found it and started down. I had originally intended a slightly larger loop continuing west over Lamont Peak and down to Canebrake Rd, but decided on a faster return off the north side. It was steep, rocky, forested, and held some lingering snow remnants, but it went fairly quickly, getting me down to the old dirt road at the bottom of the canyon in about 30 minutes. One surprise was what looked like the remains of an old trail that once traversed across the north side of Lamont East. It might have been interesting to explore this trail more in one direction or another, but neither direction was heading where I wanted to go, straight down. There were some cattle still being grazed in the canyon bottom, though the pickings were slim and all brittle and dry. I reached Chimney Creek, flowing with just a bit of water, around 3:45p and Canebrake Rd about ten minutes later.
I was hoping I might be able to thumb a ride for the last couple of miles back to the car, but I knew the odds were slim. Although not heading in the right direction, one vehicle did come by and even stopped to chat for a few minutes. Joe from Minnesota was in California visiting and had been exploring the Southern Sierra the past few days. He had started in Kernville in the morning and driven over Sherman Pass, possibly the first to do so in mid-January for several decades. He reported it as very dicey with ice and snow on the road in a many places, but I guess if you live in Minnesota you get used to such conditions. It was 4:20p by the time I got back to the van, leaving me with less than half an hour before sunset. I cleaned up at the nearby Chimney Creek Campground, but for all the traffic that went by I could just have easily showered in the middle of Canebrake Rd. I would spend another hour driving further north to Kennedy Meadows and then a few miles west towards Sherman Pass before I was stopped by ice on the road. I was too far away to reach Bald or Lookout Mtn as I might have hoped but I was close enough for Pine Mtn which would be my first effort the next morning. I found a fairly level spot alongside the pavement in which to spend the night. It had been a good day, with the promise of more to follow...
This page last updated: Sun Oct 2 22:30:07 2016
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