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Day 7 of the 2022 Sierra Challenge was a gruelling 30mi outing to The Citadel with more than 9,000ft of elevation gain. Now that I'm over 60yrs of age, it was well beyond both my abilities and my idea of "fun". No, other more capable folks would have to do this one without me. I would instead have a much easier day doing a loop around Lake Sabrina, visiting a trio of summits on the west side of the lake.
Though I had no preset time to start on a regular Sierra Challenge day, I was still up early, driving to the large parking lot on the north side of the lake, and starting from there shortly after 6a. I found a trail sign on the right side of the main building, following the trail for less than 50ft before starting cross-country up the slope to the right. Peak 10,660ft is 1,500ft above the lake to the west of the boat landing, and makes for a steep climb right from the start. It is a mix of scrub brush and sand with some rock, not the easiest of terrains to ascend. I was happy to be in the shade for most of the hour-long ascent before I reached the ridgeline at 10,400ft. Phew! I took a short break to empty some sand out of my boots and to catch my breath. There is a very fine view to the north of Piute Crags which we had visited only a few days before.
Once at the ridge, the going gets much easier and it took but 10min to reach the highpoint. There's not much to the summit, with lots of mountain mahogany crowding the area and not much room to sit. What it lacks in comfort it makes up for with the views which take in the lower portions of the North and Middle Forks of the Bishop Creek drainage. It is surrounded by mountains on most sides, but that doesn't seem to take away from the scenic offerings. Knowing that Scott Barnes had visited in the past few years, I expected to find one of his registers here, but did not. I left one of my own under a few rocks before continuing on. Later the same day I would get a text from Jeff Moffat with a pic of the register. Seems he climbed it from North Lake - neither of us had communicated what we were planning to do on this Challenge day.
I would spend the next two hours making my way to Granite Peak, about 1.3mi to the southwest and another 1,400ft higher. I had first to drop about 440ft getting off Peak 10,660ft. I had tried following the ridge more directly, but difficulties had me taking an easier line off the west side and then south to pass through the broad, forested saddle. To avoid steep boulder fields on the direct ridgeline up towards Granite Peak, I favored the left (east) side of the ridge where trees are found and better footing underneath. The gradient relented for some easy cruising just before the final climb up through boulders to reach the rocky highpoint. A register in a glass jar was left in 2014 by a pair of visitors I didn't recognize. Among the other two entries was one by Chris Kerth, who seems to get to more peaks before me than anyone I know. Unofficially named Granite Peak (from Smatko's guidebook, named for nearby Granite Lake), at just over 12,000ft, would be the day's highpoint - time to start heading to lower elevations.
I wasn't quite done, having one last summit - Peak 11,420ft - about a mile to the south across Fishgut Lakes. I started down the class 2-3 south side, steeper at the top before opening more broadly lower down. After working through the boulders and talus at the bottom, the rest of the journey to Peak 11,420ft was quite pleasant, greener alpine terrain and easy cross-country. I crossed the outlet of the largest of the Fishgut Lakes, then ascended the slopes to the east side of the drainage that would lead to the summit at the southern end. I was amused to find a register placed by Chris Henry only a day earlier. When we were atop Sunset Peak the day before, he and JD had said they were heading to Picture Peak. It doesn't seem they made it there, and Chris picked this one up as a consolation bonus. Well done, Chris.
After descending the steep south side of Peak 11,420ft, I turned southeast to follow the easier slopes down to Dingleberry Lake. It was much like the last half of the ascent of Peak 11,420ft, with pleasant, alpine terrain - grass, green brush and forest. I reached the outlet of Dingleberry Lake at 11:30a, finding the trail a short distance above on the other side. Once there, it was just a matter of cruising on down the trail network for the next two hours. I met up with a pleasant woman, going the other way a short distance from Blue Lake. In our exchange of pleasantries, she commented that I was the first day hiker she'd seen all day. She mentioned she'd been to Donkey Lake and I replied that I'd been there just the previous day. I then asked where she was going and she replied, "Back to my car, of course!" This was interesting. I became a little animated as I realized she had missed a turn. "Well, I'm heading back to the car too, and since we're going opposite directions, one of us must be wrong!" 70+yrs of age, Sue from Independence insisted she couldn't possibly be wrong, having been on the trail many times. I suggested we take a few minutes to sort things out. "Do you have a map?" No, she didn't. "A GPS?" Nothing. I realized that showing here the small screen of my own GPSr would do nothing for her, so I told her she had missed the turnoff only a few hundred yards back. I could see in her eyes the disoriented feeling when one's orientation is suddenly thrown into question. "I know I'm just a stranger and it's disorienting, but if you follow me for a few minutes, I'm sure we can get you back on track." So together we walked the short distance to the junction where she could plainly see the small sign pointing out the directions to Donkey and Dingleberry Lakes. This brought her around and we got started on the exit trail going past Blue Lake and down to Lake Sabrina. She seemed happy with the result and I bid her well as I headed down at a faster pace.
It would be almost 1:30p by the time I returned to the parking lot, only about 30min slower than I had thought the outing might take - not bad. I drove back down to Bishop to spend the rest of the afternoon under the influence of AC, showering, resting, eating, and writing this TR. I imagined how tired those heading to The Citadel must be by mid-afternoon and did not envy their condition. I would have my second beer by 7p in their honor...
This page last updated: Wed Sep 7 12:34:16 2022
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