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Day 5 of the Sierra Challenge was one of the easier ones planned, about 7mi roundtrip with 3,500ft of gain. It was designed to make for a half day's effort, leaving us the afternoon for the annual cook-off at the Church of Grundy. COVID interferred with the cook-off plans, but we left Peaklet on the agenda. It turned out to be a decent summit with some dramatic scrambling.
The crux of the day was the drive to reach the TH, really only suitable for 4WD with high-clearance that could make it to the end of Buttermilk Rd. I drove up the TH the night before and was one of only two vehicles to make it - Sean Reedy's Suburu Ascent being the other one. Most of the cars were congregated about 3mi down the road, necessitating extra hiking to make up the difference. Iris, Tom and Emma were the only ones to reach the TH by around 6:15a, so with Sean and I making a party of five, we set off on one of the spur roads that soon ends at the Wilderness boundary.
We had originally planned to hike around the peak to Longley Reservoir and then up the backside of the peak which is reported by Secor to be class 3. During our short hike along the trail, we reasoned that we could make a much more direct ascent up the peak's East Face. The route looked to have plenty of vegetation that we expected would make for decent footing, and with that expectation we set off cross-country. In practice the route turned out to be tediously sandy and seemed to only get worse the higher we got on the mountain. With 2,600ft of gain from where we left the trail, it would take close to 2hrs to complete the climb. At least the views were pretty nice - Mt. Locke and Checkered Demon were colorfully displayed to the south. Mt. Humphrey's and its East Ridge dominated the scene to the west. The tamer environs of the Buttermilks dropped off to the east below us.
I was the first of our five to reach the summit, discovering to no great surprise that Clement and Fred had handily beaten us to the top though we had not seen them the whole morning. They had arrived at the TH shortly after our departure and took the roundabout route to the backside, climbing one of two chutes found there to the summit. Or what they thought was the summit. When I joined them on the small perch of the uppermost rocks, I looked across to the north and spied another point of similar height about 50yds off, separated by a 60-foot notch. "Are you sure you're on the summit?" I enquired. They were not sure. I asked if they found a register (No, they hadn't) and pointed to a small stack of rocks on the other summit. Reluctantly they agreed that we had to check out the northern point.
Clement led off on the direct route between the two summits. Not liking the look of the climb up to the north summit, I chose to downclimb about 100ft in the chute the others had ascended, then climbed up to the sloping slabs on the north summit's west side. This proved a bit dicey and I had no desire to downclimb it. Sean and the others had reached the south summit, watching the antics of the three of us. I called up to suggest they *not* use my route. Wisely, the rest followed Clement's direct route which turned out to be not as hard as it had looked (to me, anyway). By either route, the peak turned out to be more exciting that we had expected and despite tedious ascent route, I was giving the two summits high marks. The GPSr showed the north summit to be about 9ft higher and Jason Lakey had left a crude register here in 2016, writing on a scrap of cardboard and leaving it in a gatorade bottle. He had also left a damaged indian spear point which we found most interesting. We left it in the new register canister we provided for this fine summit.
This was the longest time I'd yet gotten to spend with Fred, our Yellow Jersey leader, who's usually come and gone from a summit before I've reached it. We had seven of us spread out on the not-so-large summit area where the conversation turned to descent routes. Clearly the fastest way would be to go back over the south summit and then bomb down the sand slopes on the east side, but I was curious about the two chutes on the backside of the mountain. It was just 9a, so I figured I had plenty of time to do some exploring and decided to head down the northern of the two chutes (Fred and Clement had ascended the southern one). The descent from the summit was some stiff class 3, but nothing as dicey as the route I'd used to ascend the north summit. The chute was mostly class 2 with a few constrictions that called for some more class 3 scrambling. The bottom of the chute dropped out over what seemed like a cliff, but it was easy enough to traverse southwest across easier ground before reaching the talus slopes at the bottom. From below, the northern chute is difficult to discern and only the southern one is obvious. As Clement and Fred reported, the southern chute is fairly easy and straightforward, leading to the notch between the two summits. The only real plus for the northern chute is a slightly easier scramble to the higher north summit once the chute has been ascended.
I made my way north across sandy benches and granite slabs to the east of Longley Reservoir. The water is a sickly green, the result of glacial silt and probably devoid of fish. I had entertained the idea of swimming in the lake, but the silt somehow discouraged me. Emma, meanwhile, had decided to take my descent route about ten minutes after I had headed down. I never did see her, but she stopped for a swim before returning to the TH about 20min after me. The others all decided on the east side descent. Mason and JD had gotten a later start, and were ascending the south chute on the backside while I was descending the other chute - I never did see them until after I'd returned. I eventually found the trail below the lower lake on the north side of the creek and followed the sandy path for much of the last hour back to the TH. Sean had arrived about 20min before me and was there at the TH. Fred and Clement had gotten back more than an hour before Sean and had probably already done the three miles back to their vehicles.
I waited around for most of the others to return including Emma, Iris, Tom and JD. We then drove down to the other vehicles and used my towstrap to pull Emma's truck out of the deep sand she'd gotten stuck in. So much fun for one day and it wasn't even noon yet...
This page last updated: Thu Sep 17 20:44:46 2020
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