Peak 10,530ft P300

Jul 7, 2023

With: Kristine Swigart

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This was my first serious Sierra outing of the year. Previous outings were to low elevations summits or shorter efforts. This one was going to be more than 4,000ft of gain, more than I'd done in quite a while - getting old is tough. Kristine came out to join me, meeting me where I'd spent the night near Sonora Pass. We drove together in the Jeep down to Kennedy Meadows where we would start. Peak 10,530ft lies in the Emigrant Wilderness, above the confluence of Kennedy and Summit Creeks, about 5mi from Kennedy Meadows. We parked at the southern end of the resort, at the day-use parking near the resort store and restaurant. Overnight parking is not allowed without permit, and the day-use doesn't open until 6a. The weather was delightfully cool in the morning hours, but would heat up and be quite warm on our way back.

It was shortly before 7a when we started out, spending the first 20min plying the remaining mile of road where vehicles are allowed by permit only. There are group camp areas beyond the main resort, lovely spots overlooking the Middle Fork Stanislaus River. The river (and all the creeks we happened upon) were running strongly, more like May than July. Luckily, our route would take us over a pair of bridges that would keep us from having to ford any of the serious creeks. The road becomes a trail, a repurposed continuation of the road that was probably used to service the construction of Relief Reservoir back in the day. It had some impressive work done, including a large shelf cut into the side of a granite cliff on the north side of Peak 7,400ft. Just shy of the hour mark, we reached a trail junction, turning left to follow east into the Kennedy Creek drainage. Where the trail gently tops out and begins a descent to a third bridge, we turned southeast to start the cross-country portion of the outing.

We spent the next hour climbing steep slopes through forest and talus on the northwest side of the peak to reach a small unnamed lake at the 8,800-foot level, quite picturesque. We passed this lake on the west and continued up through the talus, weaving to avoid snowfields that were increasingly covering the slopes. We crossed a first, low-angle snowfield without crampons, then up more talus to a second snowfield. Here, I paused to put on crampons while Kristine continued without, a little surprised at my caution. Consequently, she got well ahead as we worked our way up to the rounded North Ridge which we would follow to the summit. Once on the ridge, Kristine began to slow, hampered by leg cramps, allowing me to catch up and pass her on the steep talus slope. She eventually had to stop, crying out when the pain got bad, enduring the suffering until the cramps subsided. Together, we reached the edge of the final snowfield leading up the last 500ft of the peak. This time Kristine judged the crampons and axe to be more prudent, and we both put them on before continuing the ascent. After exiting the snow, we had a leisurely, mostly flat walk over talus and a bit of snow to reach the summit, toping out just before 11a.

The views were impressive, stretching out in all directions, a bit hazy to the west because of controlled fires in the foothills. To the south was Relief Peak, another 300ft higher, and to the northeast across Kennedy Creek rose a long ridgeline to Leavitt Peak that included Night Cap and our goal for the following day, Peak 11,220ft. With a cool breeze, it made for a pleasant summit stay, giving us time to recharge before heading down. We left a register before packing up and heading off.

I let Kristine choose our descent route, and she picked the snow-free talus down the Southwest Slopes. It was a long descent, more than 2,000ft, before we reached the forest line and the Grouse Creek Trail. This is a pretty neat trail that sees little use, no longer maintained but still very useable. Kristine seemed to have recovered nicely from her cramping episode while my bum leg was starting to give me trouble. Consquently, Kristine seemed to fly along the trail while I was dogging along at a far slower pace. The trail traverses the west side of our peak with some minor ups and down, eventually descending to meet the main Relief Trail just east of the reservoir's dam. Having seen no one all day, it came as a mild shock to see all the people plying the trail, backpackers and dayhikers alike. We would spend the next hour following the trail north, back to the junction we'd visited earlier, across the two bridges, and back to the TH where we finished up by 1:40p.

On our drive back up to Sonora Pass, I had to admit I wasn't going to be able to do the next day as we'd planned. I decided it would be better to give my leg a day to rest before trying something hard again. Kristine was a good sport, and as always very flexible with her scheduling. I don't think this is the last the two of us will see of this year for this area...

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