Lion Rock, Triple Divide Peak
By: Igor Mamedalin
Reserving a wilderness permit for 10 and receiving SASEs from 18 participants I sat back and waited for the four day weekend to arrive. After a virtually complete turnover in the participant list, eight climbers kept their commitment Friday morning at the Wolverton trailhead in Sequoia; two no-shows .. your names will live in infamy after I turn them in to the Section Prosecutors Office. This year the Sequoia rangers have added an new step to the wilderness permit dance; after picking up the reserved wilderness permit at the Lodgepole office, the participants meeting at the Wolverton parking lot had to be herded back to the Lodgepole office to secure individual vehicle parking permits!
From Wolverton at 7,200' we headed up the Alta trail to Panther Gap at 8,400' and then gained an additional 560' before reaching a trail junction near Mehrten Meadows. Here we dropped over 1400' to join the High Sierra trail emanating from Crescent Meadows. The leaders received a lot of well deserved heat for selecting the elevation detour over Panther Gap as a warm up. The .3 mile saving in distance was not worth the cost in needless elevation gain. Proceeding along the High Sierra trail we dropped further to Buck Creek. At this point the leader's cold caught up with him and reduced his pace to a snail's crawl. Suzanne, at this point, ably took over the lead and marched the group uphill to Bearpaw Meadow for lunch while the leader slowly crawled up the trail weighed down by double ignominy.
From Bearpaw Meadow a choice in routes presented itself: head northeast via the 'Over-The-Hill' trail or continue along the High Sierra trail to the branch with the trail that follows the course of Lion Creek. The map indicated that the 'Over-The-Hill' trail included another needless 1,000' of gain followed by its loss; however, park service employees recommended it. The map indicated that the alternate route had virtually no loss and was recommended by an HPS veteran; however, the Sierra Camp employee assured us that the High Sierra trail dropped 1,000' immediately beyond the camp. In the midst of mounting dissent and in the face of conflicting advice, the leader put his trust in the park service and boldly trailed the group as they headed toward Tamarack Lake via the 'Over-The-Hill' trail. Luckily, this was the correct choice. Using an altimeter, the leader verified that this route encountered only 350' in needless elevation gain. Once over the hill, from the junction with the Elizabeth Pass trail, the group followed Lion Creek, gaining an additional 1,300', to Tamarack Lake and arriving in camp around 6:30 PM. The leader crawled into camp after 7:30 PM with Tanya, his daughter, carrying his pack the last quarter mile. What a start.
Saturday morning, feeling better, the leader started the group heading toward the low point between Lion Rock and Mt. Stewart by a circuitous route contouring around the cirque above Tamarack Lake -- the leader's goal was to avoid a talus field at the bottom of the cirque. As we neared the inter-summit ridge, it appeared that an ascent of Mt. Stewart would not be gained from the north side: the north face is a worthy wall climb while from the east a mile long knife ridge could test the skills of an accomplished mountaineer. At this point Greg and Mirna Roach followed by Pete Yamagata signed out, with the leader's approval, to head for Lion Rock via the standard route. The leaders and the remaining three followers proceeded to gain the inter-summit ridge and attempted to traverse the ridge to claim Lion Rock's summit. Alas, the ridge terminated in a problematic headwall forcing a retreat. After descending back down from the ridge, Suzanne escorted Hoda Shalaby back to camp, since time was running short, while Mark Frolli, Tanya and the leader raced toward Lion Rock's summit via the standard route on its southwest flank. The summit rewarded the climbers with excellent views and a register dating back to 1958 that survived not only the elements but also the covetous Sierra Register Committee. Everyone returned to camp in time to enjoy tasty munchies and the warmth of a setting sun.
Sunday morning found six climbers ambling along granite slabs and glaciated benches toward Lion Lake and Triple Divide beyond. The leader's illness slowed his progress again presenting an opportunity for Greg Roach, a provisional M-rated leader, to expertly demonstrate his skill in route finding. From Lion Lake we ascended north to 'Lion Pass', the low point west of the summit. From the pass we gained about 150' by following the ridge along its northern side to a prominent step. At the first headwall we dropped 25' feet to the north and then regained the ridge by an obvious chute. (Pete Yamagata circumvented the step by dropping a little further to the south and working back up to the ridge). From this point we followed the ridge by staying to the north and about 100' below the ridge across five or six wide chutes until the buttress directly below the summit. The whole route was basically a lot of loose class 2 rock. Greg and Tanya blazed a minor variation in the route and encountered some high 3rd class. On the summit we ate lunch, took photographs and identified distant peaks; the register proved to be rather dull: it was placed earlier that year by the local ranger and there were no photocopies of any historic registers. Pete Yamagata navigated us back off the summit with everyone reaching camp in time to shelter themselves from a thunderstorm that developed over the Great Western Divide.
Monday morning, nobody looked forward to the 15+ miles back to the cars. Again, at the first uphill, the cold sapped the leader and the group splintered. To save the leader from the grueling hump over Panther Gap, Greg and Mirna Roach kindly offered to drive the leaders' car around to Crescent Meadows. Following the High Sierra Trail out to Crescent Meadow took all day but it saved more than 1,000' of needless gain up a slope with a southern exposure. Many thanks to Greg and Suzanne for assisting and apologies to everyone for my ill health and circuitous routes.
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