Oct 1, 2016
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Lamont Peak previously climbed May 8, 2006
Tom had frenetically spent the summer trying to finish up his last 30 SPS peaks so he "could be done with this damn list thing", forgoing other trips most weekends so he could tag one or more peaks on the SPS list, checking them off methodically, until he had tagged 246 and had one remaining, Lamont Peak. It was one of the easiest summits in the SPS corral, located in the Southern Sierra and requiring a hike of only a few miles each way and perhaps 2,000ft of gain. Just the sort of summit one reserves for a list finish. Tom had joined me several years ago when I finished the same list on the not-so-easy summit of Table Mtn, so it seemed only right that I should join him for his. Luckily the family schedule allowed me the weekend and then some to come out and help celebrate his accomplishment.
Laura and I had spent the night at the Chimney Creek Campground, about 4mi north of the Lamont Peak TH off Canebrake Rd. 9:30a had been the lazy start time assigned for the hike and we were easily there an hour beforehand. I expected us to be the first to arrive, but we found Matthew, Nga and Glenn already there when we pulled up in the van. Over the next hour most of the others arrived, all except Jon, Amy and 6mo old Etta who would show up after we had started. In addition to the SPS summit, there were two nearby summits of interest, Lamont West and Lamont North, both of which have been described as class 5. Several parties had been turned back on Lamont West in 2016 when they couldn't find non-technical routes up the summit blocks. I contacted Mason who had reported climbing it in 2015 and he gave a conflicting account of it being class 3. Trusting Mason over the unknowns, I was suspecting it wouldn't be too hard, but I was still planning to carry a rope and a load of gear for Lamont North which looks to be a good deal harder.
The Lamont Peak Trail is only about 2.5mi in length, but it's steep with lots of gain. The five of us that were planning to tackle Lamont West on the way up were conveniently also the fastest in the group, taking about an hour from the trailhead to reach the base of the summit rocks. We found not one, but three blocks vying for the highpoint. The easternmost block turns out to be the highest by a few feet, but since we had intially gravitated towards the other two, we explored them as well. The west block is the most difficult, a class 3-4 effort that has poor holds and some black lichen on its north side that gave Glenn and I some pause before climbing it. The others declined. The middle block was class 3 with good chickenheads making for solid holds. Jeff, Tom, Glenn and myself went up that one, Matthew waiting in the wings for the one that counted. Tom had to tie Loki and Zeus up while we played around on the more difficult rocks which did not make them at all happy. After we'd spent ten minutes with these first two, we all moved 50yds to the eastern block and climbed that one in succession. Like the middle block, it too had good holds to keep the rating at class 3. We descended back down to the trail through a fun little tunnel that Glenn found below the summit block, taking much of the next half hour to make our way east to Lamont Peak. The route is well ducked and hard to miss.
We reached the class 2 summit of Lamont Peak shortly after 11:30a, those of us to climb Lamont West along with Zeus and Loki arriving first. It was windy and a bit chilly at the summit, but it didn't stop the festivities when Laura, Nga and the others arrived about 15min later. Champagne, beer, and flavored vodkas were on tap with a variety of snacks as well. A large ammo box has been chained to the summit rocks with a set of three register books dating back to 1961. The view north to Lamont North presents a line of rugged pinnacles with no easy way to get from our high perch to the slightly higher point at the north end of the serrated ridgeline. Earlier, I had gotten Matthew and Glenn both interested in joining me for what looks to be a several hours-long adventure, but as I was to quickly find out, Laura's pack full of alcohol trumped my own bag full of climbing gear. It would have to go unused and the peak unclimbed until sometime in the sober future.
After about an hour and half it was time to head back, utilizing the same trail we'd ascended. Along the way we met up with Jon, Amy and little Etta who wasn't all too happy, probably because Mom and Dad had started late and she wouldn't be allowed to reach the summit. One can never start too early on their SPS quest. The party picked up again at the TH and would continue for more than an hour. Etta was much happier now that she was with our group. Around 3:30p Laura started herding the clan towards vehicles to head into town for dinner at the Kern River Brewery. Having made the long drive with her the night before, I chose the anti-social route and declined to join them.
As I was driving back to the campsite I wondered if there weren't some odd bonus peak I might climb since I had hours of daylight to kill and little need to spend all of them at the dusty campground. Peak 6,914ft with 374ft of prominence popped up on the GPSr database, less than a mile west of Canebrake Rd with about 1,300ft of gain. It would do nicely. I parked just south of the PCT crossing at the edge of the road in the sand, at the base of the peak's long NE Ridge. I followed this ridge up for about 45min, a combination of forest cover, mild brush and rocky sections. It made for an interesting challenge that took me nearly twice the time I thought it would. A blade of granite sticking up from the rocky surroundings forms the highpoint from which one can take in views of the surrounding Chimney Peak Wilderness and points east across the Chimney Creek drainage. The descent went much more quickly, naturally, and by 5:15p I was back at the van.
I drove to the campground where I showered and enjoyed a few hours of solitude before the troops came stumbling back from dinner in Kernville. The drinking tapered off by this time, but we enjoyed some revelry around a campfire Tom had started up. Most of the folks trickled off to bed before 9p, leaving Matthew, Nga and myself to make hike plans for the following morning. Oddly, the only ones planning to hike were the last to head off to bed...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Lamont Peak
This page last updated: Fri Oct 14 21:37:18 2016
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