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Lost World Peak (a name that came from peakbagger.com, not me), is located in the Mammoth Lakes area, a few miles northwest of Bloody Mtn, between Valentine Lake and Laurel Lakes. I had never been up the Sherwin Creek drainage via either of the two trails that lead into it, so thought it would a nice place to add to the Sierra Challenge. The distance from Sherwin Creek Rd isn't all that far, so we made it a twofer, requiring an additional ascent of Duck Pass Peak, a few miles to the southwest on the Sierra Crest. We had a fine group of 15 mountaineers at the Sherwin Lakes TH for the 6a start. A red sun rose through the trees colored by smoke this morning, but the sky would begin to clear soon after reaching the first summit, leaving us mostly smoke-free afternoon.
We spent the first hour and a half plying the Sherwin Lakes Trail, easy at first, then climbing up through switchbacks before the gradient eases again. This whole trail section was through forest, going past Sherwin Lakes with hardly a notice. Our larger group broke up and I found myself with Patrick and Chris when we started the cross-country portion. The forest began to give way to boulders which filled great stretches of the northwest slope we were climbing. We spotted Rene and Tom coming up on our flank to the right, keeping them in sight for most of the ascent. Trees eventually give way to lower, wind-resistent scrub pines, but the granite rocks and sand continue all the way to the summit. Trey, Clement and Grant were the first to reach the summit, but only Grant was still there when another batch of us arrived shortly before 9a. David, Sean and a few others had also arrived by this time, so we had 6-8 folks at the busiest time this summit has ever seen. A register found at the summit from 2005 had a dozen pages of entries, quite a few considering the obscurity of it.
Our second, higher summit lay more than a mile and half to the southwest, across Valentine Lake, some 1,600ft below. Trey and Clement had run off to tag a bonus peak beforehand, while the rest of us considered our options. There was a steep chute descending from the summit that looked like it might cliff out, with no way to tell from above. Grant mentioned that he'd been down that way before, so someone asked, "How was it?" Grant smiled softly, replying, "It goes," in the most understated way possible. There was really no way to tell if this meant crappy class 2, low fifth, or something inbetween, as Grant was a much better climber than most of us. The safer option was to head south for easier slopes, but this chute offered the most direct route between the two peaks. I decided to go down it, without actually announcing my intentions to do so. I had gone over to sort of check it out and see how far down I could make out, but I just kept on over the edge and down the chute. In addition to being steep, it was choked in places with the scrub pines, both a hindrance and a help. The help came when I need to drop over a particularly large slab of granite, where I could grab branches or trunks to lower myself or slow my descent. Most of this was of the spicy variety, but enjoyable in a twisted, most-people-don't-call-this-fun sort of way. Lower down, the chute opens up wider, with fewer trees and easier gradient. In all, I spent about 40min on the descent, finding it no harder than class 3. If others had followed I didn't know, because I saw no one for several hours.
Out of the chute, I traveled easy cross-country through forest around the south side of Valentine Lake before beginning the climb up to Duck Pass Peak. Standing at the base, it was clear that this was going to be a talus and boulder-fest, and the best option seemed to be avoiding as much the stuff as I could. Below an upper basin, there are two huge morainal cirques on the northeast and east sides of the peak, a ridge dividing them. I chose to ascend this partially-forested ridge to avoid the cirques, finding better, but not great travel there. I went up two chutes that broke through the cliffs along the ridge, a lower one with better footing and an upper one choked with boulders, but all class 2. Once in the upper basin, the ground is sandier, but the going much easier, at least until one has walked over to the western edge of the basin and the start of the final climb to the summit. Sean was the first person I had seen since Lost World's summit, and he came cruising past my tired body like the young mountain goat he was. This last slope was loose, tedious and slow. The tricky part about this summit is that it stretches north to south in a line of broken rock a quarter mile in length with multiple summits, as we would come to find. Having Sean out in front turned out to be a small blessing as he easily beat me to the southernmost point we were aiming for, calling out that the highpoint was somewhere to the north. At least I would avoid that bit of extra work. Sean deftly made his way north along the broken ridgeline while I worked towards it from below, Sean handily beating me once again. Here, we found an AJ Reyman register from 1966 with only six other entries until our arrival. AJ described two other points to the north that might also be higher. We could tell no better than he did 55yrs earlier, so we resigned to visit them in turn. We spent the next 20min doing just that, running across Grant near the top of the third point. Grant reported some poor route-finding choices, a rarity, on his way from Lost World Peak, which explained why he hadn't beaten us handily. In the end we decided the point with AJ's register was probably highest, Sean and I starting back down while Grant continued south on the ridge.
After meeting up with Chris and Tom in the upper basin, Sean ran off in the hopes of getting the stage win, now that he had seen he was ahead of Grant by a good distance. I was happy to work on just getting back at a leisurely pace, returning back down the two chutes I'd used on the ascent and then down to Valentine Lake. Its inviting waters enticed me into a refreshing swim, a quiet spot in the middle of the lake without a sole around. A large granite block served as a diving board and cold water never felt so good. Afterwards, I worked my way north along a sporadic use trail on the west side of the lake, eventually getting myself to the maintained trail near the lake's outlet. Feeling much better after cooling off, I made good time returning to the TH. I even managed to pass Clement unknowingly (to either of us) when I bypassed the switchbacks with some efficient cross-country. I saw no one at the TH when I arrived at 2p, and not wanting to hang out in the warm temps, I beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel in Mammoth Lakes. I felt better than I had after the first day, but I was still feeling off my usual game - more food and rest seemed to be on order...
This page last updated: Mon Nov 1 19:23:23 2021
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