8-Jun-91 (Private Trip)
By: George Toby
I joined Gisela and Bill Kluwin at their home in LaCresenta Friday afternoon. We loaded up their 4WD Chevy Blazer and took off for Big Pine, We stopped at Indian Wells restaurant for a great steak dinner. From Big Pine we drove West on the Glacier Lodge Rd. 3 miles to a signed junction with the excellent McMurry Meadows dirt road We hung a left and quickly another left and drove on for about 8-1/2 miles to just before a stream crossing. The poor Birch Lake dirt road goes to the right. There is a sign post but no sign. It is a rough dirt road full of rocks. A high clearance vehicle is required. We went a short mile to the end of the road, parked, and camped out. (6,400) There is good parking for about 6 vehicles.
Sat 6-8. A kiosk marks the start of the trail to Birch Lake. At this point it is a faint, much overgrown dirt road, We followed it a short distance to a beautiful meadow full of flowers. Here the road disappears but reappears again at the West end of the meadow. We followed it about 1/4 mile to another junction and turned right on the Northerly heading road which soon becomes the very nice, new Birch Lake Trail. It is not on the Big Pine 15' topo map, The old trail follows Birch Creek and is very brushy and in bad condition, The new trail stays well above the creek. It is about 6; miles and 4600' gain to Birch Lake. But at about 5 miles out the trail became covered with snow and we did not see it any more. Campsites near Birch Lake were scarce and mostly covered with snow. But we found a nice grassy ledge at 11,000' just big enough for two tents. Bill cooked a delicious chicken, pasta, and vegetable dinner and we enjoyed a gorgeous sun set,
Sun 6-9, dawned bright and clear, It froze during the night. The snow was crisp; Crampons were a must. Bolton Brown, The Thumb, & Birch Mtn are usually climbed from Birch Lake. All three of us had already climbed The Thumb and Birch, so Bolton Brown was our target. We decided to try a particular new route suggested by Gene Mauk. We left camp at 6:15 am and walked across frozen Birch Lake at 10,800', Then we cramponed up the drainage Westerly, then Northerly toward The Thumb. Shortly after we gained the last big snow field snowfieldthatthat leads to The Thumb there is a break in the cliffs on the left (SW) at 12,800'. A narrow rock chute leads down to the big snow covered basin below. This steep rock chute was only 15' wide at the top and very loose. It is only suitable for small groups of 4 or 5 at the most. Fortunately it has a Southern exposure and was mostly free of snow. Snow and ice would have created a real hazard. We descended the rock chute and down on the snow for a 500' loss. Then began the long contour of the snow fields with several ups and downs to the base of the North slopes of Bolton Brown at about 12,300' This put us directly below the summit which is at the extreme South end of the summit ridge. We cramponed 1,000'+ up a steep snow chute to about 13.300' on the summit ridge. Then staying on the South we climbed goo class 2 rock to the summit at 13,536' The views from the top were magnificent; 50 miles in every direction. It was a long tough haul, stomping through all that snow. Just slow going. We totally misjudged how long this climb would take. We expected to be back at camp by 3:00 pm, But there it was 2:00 pm already. It began, to look like we would not make it out to the car before dark, So we made tracks in a hurry. The return route went nearly twice as fast as the climb, aided by 5 nice glissades beginning with a super 1,000' drop down from the summit ridge. Just sheer fun. Of course the sun did its work and softened the snow, so there was lots of post-holing. We got back to camp at 6:00 pm, had a bite to eat, packed up end left at 6:30 pm We had already done close to 4,000' gain and loss, but still had 6-1/2 miles and 4,600' loss to go. Legs and knees were rebelling. Gisela and Bill charged ahead and made it back not too long after dark. But by the time I reached the meadow it was pitch black with no moon. I never found the overgrown road and took another hour to bushwack my way back to the car. It was a long but rewarding day. There is no easy way to do Bolton Brown. My thanks to Gisela and Bill Kluwin for their fine company and for breaking trail in the snow. For the prevailing conditions, we should have had 3 days.
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