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We reached Duck Pass shortly before 8a and then a junction just below on the east side. We turned left on the trail to Pika Lake, dropping down towards the north end of Duck Lake. Before reaching the smaller body of Pika Lake which was out of view, it was time to turn off and start up cross-country to Valentine, rising 1,500ft above both lakes to the NE. Jim took a look at what seemed like a horrible talus slog and decided against continuing. Lying about in his hammock back at Duck Pass seemed a better option. Though it didn't look all that great to me either, it turned out to be somewhat better. I was heading up a line towards a saddle northwest of the summit, figuring it would be the easiest gradient, but before reaching it I was curving right to make a more direct line to the summit, finding the slope not as steep as it had appeared from below. The peak is a large pile of rock and talus as are so many Sierra summits, not as loose or tedious as Jim and I had initially imagined it to be. I took just under an hour to cover the mile of cross-country, finding the highpoint by 9:20a.
The sun was high enough in the east to allow some views in that direction, notably to the higher Bloody Mtn a few miles away. In other directions the views were quite far-reaching, especially considering there was smoke that had recently blown over the area from Sierra fires burning to the west. Today the wind was blowing smoke towards the north leaving the Mammoth area relatively clear. I looked around several competing highpoints at the summit but found no sign of a register.
I chose a more direct descent to the southwest, down a slope that had appeared too steep earlier. The rock here was looser than I had found on the ascent so I can't really recommend it as a better route. Both would garner a class 2 rating. It was 10a by the time I returned to Duck Lake and soon after was back at Duck Pass. I found Jim relaxing in his hammock pretty much where he led me to expect. He had first done some scouting to the south to check out the outlet of Duck Lake along the other branch of the trail but had returned to enjoy some relaxation thereafter. He seemed a little disappointed that I was back so soon though it was a bit after the hour and a half I had told him to expect. I think he would have preferred some actual nap time. We had seen nary a soul on the way up in the morning but upon our return we came across dozens of parties out for the enjoyable hike to the pass or one of the various lakes found along the way. We found Emerald Lake aptly named for its translucent green coloring, nestled at the base of Mammoth Crest's northeast side. This branch of the trail was far less popular than the shorter route. It was after 11:30a by the time we returned to the now busy parking lot, making the total outing just over 5hrs at a fairly leisurely pace. We'd have a few more easy days before the Sierra Challenge would start in earnest on Friday...
This page last updated: Fri Sep 11 09:50:45 2015
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