By: Steven Thaw & Ron Young
Steve's saunter slipped slightly since his bevy of bay beauties was late for the 8 a.m. rendezvous. Seems they lumbered into camp the previous night from San Francisco at 1:30 a.m. By 8:50 the pride was off and running from Roads End. After two miles we crossed the first magnificent bridge over a deep hole in the Kings River. Another short distance and three strategic bridges and we were ascending Bubbs Creek. About four miles in another strategic bridge led us to the Sphinx Creek drainage. Here a spectacular trail ascends the left face of the canyon, eventually dropping down to Sphinx Creek where the main trail goes off to Avalanche Pass. From here it was cross-country following an intermittent use trail generally on the right side of the drainage to the first lake at 9600 feet. To avoid mutiny after about nine miles and 4600 gain Steve decreed camp, whereupon one maiden did doff the accouterments of the trail to plunge into the cold lake. Names are withheld to protect the innocent. I marveled!
Morning comes late to this site with no sun until 8:30. Steve and Howard played pinata with a recalcitrant food bag adding to our late start. Oh for a couple of Yosemite bears! It did make for a great cookie soup. Off by 8:50 the four gentlemen of the climb proceeded up the Sphinx drainage over ledges, slabs, among cliffs, brush, and talus large and small. We passed through the symmetrical 12,000 foot saddle at drainage end and contoured left to the spur descending southwest from the North Guard ridge. From here Steve and Keith dropped into the Brewer north fork drainage to attempt Roper's "easy" north west slopes. Making some mental calculations I decided that it would be prudent for Howard and me to turn back and make camp before darkness fell upon the land. This rough drainage is nearly as slow descending as ascending and could be hazardous in the dark. Keith and Steve were making good time up a gully on the left side but topped out at the westernmost set of summit rocks. They made their way over to the summit register on the eastern blocks from which they descended a chute directly back to the Brewer drainage. This is probably the furthest chute on the left (east) as seen from below. From here they made a hasty retreat to camp arriving before dark at 7:15. Howard and I reached camp about 5:20.
Day three saw a sluggish crew except for recent WTC graduate and new SPS member Howard Eyerly who was up and off by 6 a.m. to retrace the route of the previous day. Amid whispered asides and deep salaams Howard stumbled into camp about 7:20 after a successful climb of Brewer. I was still husbanding my resources after a bug the preceding week and Keith and Steve decided that North Guard could wait until next year when we would return to climb with George Toby who still needs North and South Guard but was unable to make this trip due to his surgery. Or was it the sunbathing maidens?
The next morning we were up and off about 8 a.m. arriving at the cars within minutes of my predicted five hours. We stopped for showers at Cedar Grove and were en route home by 2 p.m. To do this trip more efficiently, it would be better to camp near the two large lakes at 10,500. It would mean 5500 gain the first day including 2000 feet of rough cross-country. From here a strong group could probably do the three peaks in one long day, and a moderate group shouldn't have difficulty with Brewer and South Guard. Congratulations to Keith Schoenhein who qualified for SPS membership on this trip.
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