Mount Barnard, Cal Tech Peak, Junction Peak, Mount Keith, Mount Stanford #1, Trojan Peak


By: Burton A. Falk


Jim Scott and I met Charlie Winger, a climber from Littleton, CO, during a 1982 mountaineering expedition to Ecuador. Each summer since then, Charlie has come to California to climb with us in the Sierra. In 1986, by climbing the east face of Mt. Whitney, he finished the list of the sixty-eight fourteen-thousand footers in the 48 contiguous United States (fifty-four in Colorado, thirteen in California, plus Washington's Mt. Rainier). This summer, by ascending Mt. Stanford (south), he finished a list of the one hundred highest peaks in the contiguous United States-a significant effort, especially since he may be the first person to have done so. The following is a description of our list-finishing trip:

Day One, Aug. 18: Grunted up the Shepherd Pass trail to the last flat area below the Potholes. Collapsed. Got to bed real late--7:15 p.m.

Day Two, Aug 19: Started off at 6:30 a.m. by contouring north toward nearby Mt. Keith. Reaching the southern slopes of the peak, we climbed the prominent right-sloping couloir, a route which leads almost directly to the summit block on the right (east) end of the crest. Back at camp by 1:30 p.m., we re-packed then hiked over Shepherd Pass to an unprotected campsite equidistant between Diamond Mesa and the low point on the ridge between Tawny Point and Mt. Tyndall. Caroused until the wee hours tonight--7:30 p.m.

Day Three, Aug. 20: This morning, we found and followed a use trail leading over the above-mentioned low point to the Wright Lakes Basin. Since we weren't sure about the feasibility of climbing the headwa11 located at the eastern end of the Basin between Barnard and Trojan (Roper doesn't mention it), and because we couldn't see it clearly (the sun was in our eyes), we opted to climb Barnard from the easy but out-of-the-way western slopes. We arrived on the, summit around 11:30, signed the register-which dates back to the 1930's, then, dropping down on the gentle east side of the crest between the two peaks, made our way toward the summit of Trojan Peak, arriving there an hour later. Looking for a less time-consuming route back to camp (we didn't want to reclimb Mt. Barnard), we descended the steep, loose slope to the west of the saddle between the two peaks. This dicey shortcut works fine on descent., but I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a means of ascent. We arrived back at camp about 5:15 p.m.

Day Four, Aug. 21: Late start-~:45 a.m. Climbed the east corner of Diamond Mesa and proceeded on to its north corner, at which point, according to Roper, the route to Junction Peak's summit involves following a knife-edge ridge." In fact, however, after crossing the connecting ridge and climbing a couple hundred feet on the peak, Charlie and Jim found a ramp-like passage on the west slopes, below the ridge, leading directly (though not apparently) to the top. If, as I did, you stay on ridge, you'll find it broadens tantalizingly, then narrows down to a sharp fifth class ridge leading to the summit, a route which would be a pain even for a rope team. Eventually, I had to swallow my pride and drop down to the ramp to follow Charlie and Jim. After a pleasant half hour on the summit which we spent leafing through another 1930's era register, we returned to camp by means of a shortcut, descending SSE to lake WL3806T, thus avoiding the re-crossing of Diamond Mesa. In early afternoon we broke camp and hiked to a small, unnamed lake just south of Lake South America.

Day Five, Aug. 22: 6:15 a.m. start. The 7-1/2' Mt. Brewer quad shows a trail leading from Lake South America to Harrison Pass. Bah! After ten or fifteen minutes spent searching, like hounds on a hunt, we gave up and cross-countried to a point just below the south side of the pass, where we started an easy climb, leading first east, then bending north, toward Gregory's Monument. Arriving on top of the Monument, we began our search for the purported 3rd class route leading toward the true, northern summit of Mt. Stanford. At this point, I'm sure that more than one party has turned back, as the first move to traverse the connecting knife-edge ridge requires dropping some seven feet from one smooth-face block to another, with plenty of heart-stopping exposure on either side. This obstacle wouldn't be so bad if you knew there was nothing more difficult beyond, which is true, and that you wouldn't have any real trouble in re-climbing the drop-off, which is also true. Unfortunately, psychologically, it comes at just the wrong time. We had a sixty-foot, nine mm rope and seat harnesses however, so we belayed each other down the drop, then began the traverse, mostly on the east side of the ridge, toward the true summit. Going, the crossing took us an hour an a half; coming back, because we were familiar with the route, we cut our time by two-thirds. The peak's register, again dating back to the thirties, makes the effort and adrenaline flow worthwhile, in my opinion. Two of the earliest entries were logged in by Sierra climbing pioneer, Norman Clyde, one of my all-time heroes. What a thrill!

On our return, we attempted to traverse from the south side of Gregory's Monument to Cal Tech Peak, but discovered that it wouldn't go. Instead, we retraced our footsteps to Harrison Pass, then contoured along the west face of Cal Tech until we found a likely-looking couloir leading to the crest just south of the summit. We started our climb about 3:00 p.m., and arrived on top by 4:30 p.m. Cal Tech, 13,832' the 117th highest peak in the contiguous United States would, in my opinion, make a worthwhile addition to the S.P.S. list. Granted the south-eastern slopes are gentle, but the peak is well-placed and holds special significance for many local C.I.T. students and alumni. A handsome plaque commemorating the centennial year (1991) of the University has been installed on the summit this summer. There is also a cache containing many items of Cal Tech memorabilia, including a deck of playing cards (Gin, anyone?), plus sheet music for the Alma Mater. Because it was a beautiful afternoon and because it was our last peak of the trip, we departed the summit rather reluctantly. Our return route took us south along the ridge until we were almost directly above our campsite, at which point we began our descent.

Day six, Aug. 22: Started off at 6:30 a.m., and reached the Shepherd Pass trailhead at 2:30 p.m. On the way, we met and talked to a National Park Ranger stationed at Tyndall Creek regarding the obvious difference in trail quality between the National Forest section (terrific from trailhead to top of pass) and the National Park section (crummy beyond the pass). He had no excuse, but stated that the opposite was true on the Whitney Portal trail, where the National Park section from Trail Crest to Crabtree Meadows is very good, while the east, National Forest side, leaves much to be desired. Sounds like there's a little rivalry between the two departments.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section