Lee Vining Peak P500
Mt. Warren 2x P2K SPS / WSC

Thu, Aug 3, 2006
Lee Vining Peak
Mt. Warren
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profile
Mt. Warren previously climbed Thu, Jul 5, 2001


My feet were better, but still sore from the Red Peak outing two days earlier. I switched boots yesterday for Mt. Lewis, but these didn't seem to fit well with my feet either. So I tried the third pair of boots in as many days, and they seemed to do much better. I wanted another easy day before the Challenge started, so I picked nearby Lee Vining Peak. I had a vague idea how to get there and no map which seemed good enough - as it turned out, it was.

From my motel in Lee Vining, I started up SR120 towards Tioga Pass, turning off where an old wooden sign directed me to a BSA camp on the righthand side not far past the Whoa Nellie Deli. The pavement ends, but the road is negotiable by 2WD standard clearance (a Honda Accord) if one is patient and careful. There are actually two ways to get there I found upon my return. Half a mile from SR120 the road forks. The right fork is signed for the BSA camp (which I took), but is rougher and requires some skill in negotiating boulders and ruts. The left fork goes through a private nature preserve but is better graded without the deeper ruts. I took this route by accident on the way back and found it much better.

Taking longer than I expected, I finally reached the BSA camp shortly after 6:30a. I parked outside on an open plateau. Lee Vining Peak was only a few miles away behind the camp. I strolled through the camp, finding little activity, though there were definitely some folks staying there. My route was not terribly creative, simply climbing the most direct route, first through the forest cover, then open talus slopes. It took only an hour to reach the summit. It was so quick that at first I doubted I had found the correct summit. There was no register and a higher peak loomed to the west. I started for this higher peak after searching the nearby points for a register, and it was only when I began the longer hike west that I realized I must have climbed Lee Vining Peak - this higher peak was a good distance west and it took me another hour to reach it.

The higher peak, Pk. 11,952ft, was another talus pile. Located about a mile south of Mt. Warren, the summit has only about 200ft of prominence to the higher summit. Looking around, a found a small plastic film canister under a few rocks. Inside was an easter egg from Andy Smatko and party from 1978 claiming the "first apparent ascent." That seemed like a silly claim, considering the whole area was overrun by miners seeking their fortunes more than a hundred years ago. There were more than four names in the party, but the others were destroyed by mould that had eaten up much of the damp paper over the years. I dried out the legible portion, then added a fresh sheet with my name on it before resealing the cannister and leaving it for someone else to find in another 28 years.

I hadn't planned on climbing Mt. Warren, not knowing ahead of time it's proximity to Lee Vining Peak. With it looming so close to the north, I paid it a visit, sauntering over in only 35 minutes. My first visit to Mt. Warren had been a bit frightening in the midst of a thunderstorm I was too stupid to avoid, but today it was quite different - sunny, slight breeze, a relaxingly cool temperature on the summit that was far more inviting. I stayed a short while to take pictures and peruse the summit register - it was interesting that there was no entry from Smatko's party that climbed Pk. 11,952ft in 1978. Had they really not continued to the easy highpoint of the whole area, or were they somehow protesting the signing of Sierra Club registers? I sense there was some drama about Smatko around that time when he was making many of his "apparent first" and "first recorded" ascents on such minor peaks, and would love to hear more of that story.

From the summit of Mt. Warren I took a more or less direct line to the SE back to the BSA camp, passing Lee Vining Peak on the north and east sides. I had planned to climb Mono Dome as well on this trip but the extra distance no longer held any appeal to me. Perhaps another time. Back at the camp there was more activity, though not much - a lone youth making his way from the showers back to his tent. I got back to the car before 11:30a, the whole outing taking less than 5 hours. My feet were feeling sore, but better than they had the two previous days. I was eager to rest them for the remaining hours of the day to give them the best chance of success on Florence the following day. It was soon time for the 2006 Challenge to begin.


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