Monday, April 8, 2013

Mt Stanford

As I alluded to in my last post, I had one more Sierra Nevada trip up my sleeve: a summit attempt of the 13,973-foot tall Mount Stanford with my brother and his friend Pat. We left the Bay Area after work on a Friday night in early October and made it to our campsite in Kings Canyon around 1:30 AM. It's a little strange to drive into what you know is a deep abyss in the dark of the night- with ominous thousand-foot tall shadows beckoning around every curve. Next morning we awoke in the valley:

After a hearty breakfast at the lodge in the Valley, the same lodge where my mom got food poisoning six weeks earlier (we're not superstitious!), we started our first day's hike: 13 miles and 5,000 feet up, from Road's End to the Kennedy Lakes. It didn't take long for us to get a view:

After a few hours, we reached the turn off for the Kennedy Lakes, and three hours (and one eventful stream crossing) later, we reached the Kennedy Lakes: 

Stats for the day: 6 hours, 13 miles, 5000 feet elevation gained, 1 wet boot, 1 wet butt, and 1 wet sleeping pad (that stream crossing was brutal). Not too shabby. After catching some alpen glow,

we enjoyed a camp fire (pro tip: pine pitch burns hot and bright!), and before long we were in the tent. After a relatively late start (10 AM- eek), we began our hike for Sunday: 7 miles, all off-trail, up the last 4,000 feet to the summit. We were only carrying day packs thankfully.

After passing a couple lakes we left the tree line behind and arrived at this sapphire lake. Our next step was up Harrison Pass. And it was tough. We were reduced to scrambling up one at a time, in fifty-foot increments (while the others hid to avoid fist-sized rocks). Whew.

We finally made it to the top of (what we though was) the pass. Whew. Here's Matthew and Pat celebrating:

At the top we got a nice view up the other side of Harrison Pass.

We definitely took the hard way up. And we still had another thousand feet to go! Mt Stanford is in the center-left.

One hour (and one altitude sickness-inducing scramble later), we made it.

360-degree views in all directions. Here are some highlights:

Looking east into the Owens Valley:

Looking north, up the way we came:

And looking southwest into the Kern River Canyon:

Our late start came back to haunt us, so we only got to spend about ten minutes on the summit. Definitely worth the sweat.

The observent among you may have noticed that one of the mountains in the photos above seems to be a little taller (5 photos up)- alas, it's not just an optical illusion. We technically only made it to the top of 13,940-foot Gregory's Monument, a sub-peak of Mt Stanford (close enough!!!). A late start (and a hellaciously exposed scramble) prevented us from summiting Mt Stanford itself. Next time!

Descending, we found the actual Harrison Pass (doh!), one ridge over, and made quick work of it.

A quick aside: there are definitely some impressive mountains around this basin, some of which weren't climbed until the mid-1990's (the spire in the right of this photo)!

Before long the sun began setting, and we made it to camp just as darkness fell. Whew. Our off trail hike made Saturday look easy!

It was a short night around the fire for us. Zzzz....

We got an early start the next morning and were back in the Valley by 10 AM. This is what is known as "Charging for the Barn" where I'm from. And of course, no Sierras trip would be complete without this friend we saw near the trailhead:

As is always best, we were more interested in her than she was in us. On the way out of Kings Canyon we got to see the road we had driven in at midnight two nights earlier (wow!), and we were back in San Francisco by 5 o'clock. A fitting end to my time in the Sierras (for now). I was on a plane to New York City five days later.

The Sierras will never be far from heart:

Even better was the opportunity to finish things off in California with my brother (and Pat, who I've taken on two of the toughest trips I've ever done)- it's easy to take having family so close for granted. So thanks Matthew.

P.S. It's pretty good to summit your alma mater too. See you in New York!

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