Thu, Sep 30, 2010
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The sky was overcast for the entire day, mildly threatening with rain at various times, but only a few sprinkles came down, and those near the end of the day - not even enough to get wet. There was cool weather with the overcast skies and I would need a jacket from time to time, particularly on the ridgelines between one summit and another.
From the TH, the route follows north along an old road before shortly reaching a junction. I went left, or west, towards Norris Lake and then Jackass Lakes, taking about an hour to reach the junction between Lower and Upper Jackass Lakes. The trail is easy to follow and well-signed, initially through more open country, but most of it under forest cover. Norris Lake was small and stagnant-looking, not at all inviting, whereas Lower Jackass Lake was much larger, had an alpine look, and came with an unusual overlook view of the Sierra looking southeast.
I took the trail to Upper Jackass Lake, then skirted it on the east and south sides to start up the mile-long Southeast Ridge of Madera Peak. The off-trail travel is straightforward, slabby at first, becoming boulders and talus along the ridgeline higher up. At a saddle around 9,800ft I found a sandy use trail leading up to the summit, making the final half mile easier. Along the way there are fine views off both sides of the ridge.
I reached the summit around 12:30p, a little more than two hours from the start. I could not recall the last time I reached a Sierra peak in so little time, having spent so much effort in finishing off the SPS list over the past few years. It was a nice feeling, almost like I was cheating and getting away with something. I found two Nalgene bottles serving as register containers, but neither had anything resembling a notepad. Both were stuffed with loose papers and business cards and looked more like a collection of trash. I didn't bother to unpack the stuff or add my own entry, content to put the lids back on and leave them where I found them.
Madera is the only one of the four peaks not on the Southern Yosemite border, but from the summit one can see some of the higher peaks of the Clark Range inside the park, notably Red and Merced peaks. Closer to Madera I could see all three of my other peaks for the day and began to mentally map out a route to get to Redtop, next on the agenda.
I hiked the North Ridge off Madera, then northwest to a saddle with Sing Peak. Here I turned west and contoured around the south side of Sing in order to reach Redtop about a mile southwest of Sing. It took only about an hour and 15 minutes to make the two mile trip from Madera, thanks to fairly easy cross-country travel. Redtop is the lowest of the four peaks, really not much more than a bump along Sing's Southwest Ridge. It was easy to see why Matthew had skipped it. There was a 1906 boundary marker placed by the Park Service at the summit along with a tattered register dating to 2001. It was interesting to see that Mark Adrian and Richard Carey, two notable peakbaggers from San Diego whose names had become quite familiar, had been the last ones to sign the register just three weeks earlier.
I next headed for Sing Peak, following the long SW Ridge. Portions of this were class 3 and higher on the way down to the saddle between the two peaks, though this could have easily been bypassed with class 2 on the south side. It took about an hour to reach Sing's summit. There was another PVC register as on Redtop, this one with two books that were full. I found some space along the margin of the last page to add a last entry. Sing is located in the center of the four peaks, with connecting ridgelines to Madera, Redtop, and Gale Peak. The latter was about a mile due north with an intermediate, unnamed summit between them. It took just about an hour to travel between the two along the ridge, no difficulties encountered although I was getting tired of boulders and talus by then.
Gale had a similar boundary marker to Redtop's, along with the fourth register of the day. I found Matthew's 2009 entry on one line a few pages from the end. All of these peaks appear to be more popular than I would have guessed. The views were becoming hazier as time went on, partly due to the overcast conditions, partly due to fires burning to the east near the San Joaquin River southeast of Mt. Ritter. I was mildly surprised I could see Half Dome and Starr King through the haze to the northwest. By now it was 3:45p and I had about three hours of daylight left - time to get moving. I didn't want to be getting back after dark as I had a jug of water warming on the dash for my poorman's shower. It doesn't take long for the water to cool down once the sun sets.
My descent off Sing went down the SE Face to Gale Lake, then Shirley Lake, then down a short ways where I picked up the trail coming from Chittenden Lake. The trail was thin here, but heavily marked with an overabundance of ducks. Passing by Vandeburg Lake (labeled "Vanderburgh Lake" on the topo) I noticed large towering cumulus clouds building over Madera Peak to the west - good thing I had gotten off the last summit. As the route I was taking was new, I started thinking I'd gotten off-route a few miles past Vandeburg Lake. I decided to drop south off the low ridge I was following through the forest, thinking I would intersect the Norris Lake Trail in a mile or so. I found another trail sooner than that - turns out I hadn't passed by the junction I'd been looking for as I thought I had. Good thing too, because it was growing darker now that the sun had set behind Madera Peak and I was starting to think the cross-country jaunt through the forest had been poorly timed. I ended up back at the TH around 6:45p as the sky was aglow in pinks and reds with the last effort of the sun.
The water I'd left out had cooled some, making the shower I took brief and frigid in the breezy conditions. Still, it felt better than having to bed down without a rinse. I drove east to the meeting place for the next day off Mammoth Pool Rd where I ate dinner and did some reading. It was 9p before I was tucked in, awaiting the early morning start with Matthew around 3a. Six hours ought to be just about enough time to let my body recover...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Madera Peak
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