Wed, Aug 17, 2011
Mt. Tom Ross
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Mt. Lamarck previously climbed Thu, Aug 12, 2004|
Mt. Tom Ross is an unofficially named summit on the Sierra Crest between Lamarck Col and Mt. Darwin. It had first come to my attention some years earlier when a Challenge participant climbed it from Lamarck Col rather than the scheduled peak for that day. It also has a prominence exceeding 500ft and an elevation over 13,000ft, and reports seemed to indicate it was a pretty good rock scramble, too. For all of these reasons I had added it to this year's list.
We had a full complement of 14 at the North Lake TH shortly after 6a. The TH was the same we had used the day before, but instead of going to Piute Pass we'd be branching to the Lamarck Lakes Trail this morning for a trip to Lamarck Col. It's a nice hike, one I've done more than half a dozen times now and still not tired of. By the time we had reached the turnoff point between Upper and Lower Lamarck Lake there were 6 or 7 of us, and by the time we reached the first snow field I was ahead with Adam and Ephrat, the others out of sight behind us somewhere. This was Ephrat's first time joining us and she was quickly proving to be quite a trooper. Adam was out in front by some distance while I stayed with Ephrat to talk with her and get to know her better. Later I would ask Adam why, as a single guy, he didn't do the same and he just sort of shrugged at me. "That's why you're still single you know," I replied.
The three of us were at Lamarck Col shortly after 8:30a. Not a record time, but a pretty good pace, still. We took a short break at the col but did not wait for the others before starting south along the crest towards Mt. Tom Ross, about a mile in that direction. The initial part for perhaps a quarter mile was little more than class 2 with a few class 3 moves only if one tries to stay on the crest as we did. The views of course are outstanding, the south and southwestern landscape taken up by Darwin and Mendel, Darwin Canyon to the west and the drainage of Bishop Creek's Middle Fork to the northeast and east. We paused at a remnant snow field in our path, first to put on sunscreen and secondly to refill an empty water bottle that Adam was carrying. After crossing the snow, the more enjoyable class 3 began as we made our way up the North Ridge passing through a few minor notches along the way. Adam seemed to be relishing in keeping the scramble to class 3 even when it wasn't necessary. Ephrat was doing well to keep up for much of this, but eventually fell behind as I followed Adam up some interesting slabs along the very crest, less than ten minutes from the summit.
It was nearly 10a when we finally topped out at the summit. A few large blocks serve as the highest point, with only enough room for one or two close friends, or a single summit planker or a hero shot. But there was plenty of room around the summit block and eventually we had Ephrat, Tom B, Tom G, JD and Michael joining Adam and myself to make seven in all. Everyone agreed it had been an enjoyable scramble. The register consisted of a single 8x11 sheet of paper left by Dave Daly and Michael Sash during the 2008 Sierra Challenge. Four other parties, including a return visit by Dave Daly with his wife Deb, had visited in the intervening three years until our visit. Adam was interested in continuing on the crest for a climb of Mt. Darwin and was trying to talk me into it as well. It sounded intriguing, but not enough to make a long day of it. Sean had already been to Tom Ross ahead of the rest of us and we could see him to the south traversing across the snowfield on Darwin's North Face. He had no crampons or axe with him, just a couple of stone-age pointy rocks to give him extra purchase. It made us nervous to watch him. He eventually reached the rocks to the right of the snow and used that to scramble to the summit. Eventually Adam decided to go to Darwin as well, heading off in that direction just before the rest of us left Tom Ross. Using the same route on the NE Ridge/East Face that I had ten years earlier, he would reach the summit and return to the TH around 6:45p, a long but reasonable day. Sean was more than an hour faster than Adam in getting back even though he also paid a visit to the summit of Mt. Mendel. Sean is a bit superhuman.
Starting back with Michael on the way to Lamarck Col, we came across first Bill and then Karl, each making their way solo to the summit. Bill would make it in due time, but Karl decided to turn around when he found the class 3 not to his liking. To compensate he decided to head to Mt. Lamarck to salvage the climb to the col. Michael and I were of similar mind in wanting to tag Mt. Lamarck as well since it was so close. I had already been to the summit several times, so it offered only a bonus peak which meant little since I was out of the hunt for the Polka Dot jersey. But it was on the way to the higher, unnamed point northwest of Mt. Lamarck, Peak 13,464ft which has more than 800ft of prominence, more than enough to qualify it as an "official" 13er.
It was just after noon when Michael and I reached the summit of Mt. Lamarck, a straightforward class 2 scramble from the col. I signed into the register quickly so that I could head off to the other summit, easily visible to the northwest. I didn't want to lose more time on Michael who had no interest in this unnamed point and would be heading back after a short rest. It took but fifteen minutes to cover the distance to the higher summit, a large plateau of some acreage with the highpoint difficult to discern among several competing points. I checked for a register at the most likely location but found nothing. I then continued north along the crest, intending to reach the edge of the plateau to check out the view north along the jagged crest leading eventually to Piute Pass. I had heard this was a difficult scramble over about a mile of jagged pinnacles of terribly broken rock, so didn't expect to find any shortcut back to North Lake. Still, had I found the route reasonable I probably would have continued that way. What I found looked as difficult as described and I decided to head back towards Mt. Lamarck. I had burned a bit more time with this extra jaunt.
I had left Michael in his red jacket at the summit, and as I neared it again from the west I could see the red jacket still at the summit which made me curious why Michael would be taking such a long break. Could he have been tired, or perhaps waiting for me to return? I didn't feel much like hiking back to the top - I was done with elevation gain for the day, so I traversed around the west and south side in order to drop down the Southeast Slopes. Just before I started down I met up again with Karl. He was looking tired, but steadily making progress to the summit.
It was around 1:30p when I reached the basin east of Lamarck Col, found the trail and started down it. I figured I would take my time since Michael would be eager to catch up, probably jogging his way down in order to do so. After about 15 minutes I came across a woman on her way up, not one of the participants, but out for a dayhike up to the col. In our short talk she described running into a fellow with a strong accent some time earlier. Upon further questioning, I realized it had to be Michael, but I couldn't figure out how he'd gotten ahead of me. Sensing I was being tricked out of the Yellow jersey, I tightened my pack straps and began jogging my way back down.
It was a lot of jogging. For more than an hour I made my down the Lamarck Trail, no sign of Michael, in fact no sign of any of the participants. I got back on the Lamarck Lakes Trail and continued jogging, but still had no sign of him. It wasn't until I was about 10 minutes from the TH, on the last switchbacks dropping down through the forest that I finally caught up with him. He seemed surprised that I was so long in catching up to him. He had not been tricking me it turned out - the red jacket I saw on my way back to Mt. Lamarck was actually a red shirt that belonged to Tom G who had reached the summit not long after I had left it. Michael had started down soon afterwards and had not jogged at all. Seems it just took me that long to make up for my side trip to the other summit. After finishing together at 3p, we drove back out to Bishop to end the day.
Michael and I finished the day again tied for the lead in the Yellow jersey.
With the addition of Mt. Lamarck, Tom G had 14 peaks in 6 days to maintain a firm lead in the Polka Dot jersey. Bill P was still in second with 11 peaks.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Tom Ross - Mt. Lamarck
This page last updated: Sat Feb 4 10:51:44 2012
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