Mount Irvine, Mount LeConte, Mount McAdie


By: Bill Oliver, Larry Tidball

Our SPS trip to McAdie and Irvine went "private" a week before departure when it appeared that ice axes might be needed in the high shaded gullies. Seven of us departed the Meysan Lake Trailhead at 7:45 - the late start in deference to those who needed no peaks that day. A majestic mountain-view camp was established at 11:20 in a level area just north of the lakelet at 11,135. Following a leisurely lunch, Bob Sumner and Paula Peterson set off to climb Lone Pine Pk by the popular NW slope route.

Ali Aminian and I took a southern trajectory at 1 pm toward Mt. LeConte. We alternated haphazardly between snow and rode in gaining the "plateau." Finally, at 3:50 the landmark cairn at the northern base was at hand. Among several route options, we opted for the NE face - first climbed by a party including Barbara Lilley in 1952 (four years before the founding of the SPS). Traverse around the NE side for about 200 yards, then head up chutes to the summit. This was superb high 3rd/low 4th class. Our route led us directly to the Sierra Club box. A large party would probably provide belays. Our rope remained coiled. Mt. Mallory was spared our transgression as Ali didn't need it a third time nor I a first. Camp was gladly reclaimed at 7:00 - not too late to indulge in Larry's legendary quesadillas.

Sunday we were up at 5:30 and underway an hour later. Larry came alive today and our climbing party was augmented by Herb Buehler and Janet Scott. Approaching Mt. Irvine by the NE ridge, we summited at 9 am. Our troupe then lost two as Bob and Paula broke off to climb Mallory. The balance arrived at Arc Pass by 10:00 and gazed in awe at the formidable-looking Mt. McAdie. Ice axes were not needed as we "handily" climbed the E ridge. High up on the right we crossed through a keyhole, which presently delivered us to a large, gaping notch - our goal tantalizingly close on the opposite side. Down-climbing to the left was easy high 3rd. Rather than ascend directly the steep opposite face, we took the peripatetic calm tour to the register. In high spirits we signed in at high noon.

We were back to Arc Pass at little past 1 pm and then took the low point in the middle of the Irvine/Mallory ridge. The ridge's broad eastern slope gradually but inexorably sucked us into a fairly steep, narrow chute above Meysan Lake. Using ice axes and also proceeding cautiously due to loose rock, we finally debauched into the serene lake basin. Camp was re-taken a little past 4:00. Bob and Paula had checked out just ahead of us. Their ascent of Mallory went well but the return to camp was extended. Without ice axes, they were forced to traverse south and east below LeConte and then along the NE ridge before getting down loose, steep rock to Meysan Lake. The cars were reclaimed between 8:30 and 7:00. We were blessed with tranquil weather, fun peaks and an eager cohort of mountaineers.

As a group effort, our intrepid band was able to pull off in two days what Norman Clyde had taken thirteen years to achieve: McAdie - 1922; Mallory and Irvine (named by him for the then-recently lost Everest climbers) and Lone Pine Pk - 1925; and LeConte - 1935. Of course, all his climbs were solo and first-time ascents.

McAdie, a Mountaineer's Peak, was named in 1905 for Alexander McAdie, then in charge of the US Weather Bureau in San Francisco and later Harvard professor. The citizens of Lone Pine in 1895 honored Berkeley professor Joseph LeConte in naming the immediate area's other Mountaineer's Peak. "... A conical mass of rock about 150 feet high and 250 feet in diameter forms the apex of LeConte. After careful investigation we found this utterly impossible to climb. So we placed the monument on the north side of the dome where it can be easily seen by anyone approaching the summit." [From Sierra Club Bulletin, 1896; also in Peter Browning's "Place Names of the Sierra Nevada."] LeConte (1823-1901) vividly wrote about his 1870 journey: "Ramblings Through the High Sierra. His son, Joseph N. LeConte, "Little Joe," (1870-1950) also a popular UCB professor, was a Charter Member of the Sierra Club and a preeminent early Sierra explorer and climber.

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