Mount Hale, Mount Young
By: Dave Sholle
This was supposed to be a provisional "I" lead for me, with Barbara Cohen as co-leader, but we ended up making it private shortly before the trip began.
When I applied for a permit for the trip, I naively assumed that the phone in requests on the first day would be given the same priority as the mail in requests. Silly me. Instead of obtaining a permit for Whitney Portal to Guitar Lake with a return to the Portal, a substitute permit was issued for Horseshoe Meadow to Guitar Lake, with an option to return to Horseshoe or out to Whitney Portal. This is definitely not the short route to Hale and Young. So we decided to go over Cottonwood Pass and out at the Portal. Most of those who had signed up for, or showed last minute interest in the trip, based on the published schedule information, were understandably not enthusiastic about the new longer route and car shuttle arrangements. We ended up with one participant, Eric Siering. Since he was going in early, and we were to meet him at Guyot Pass, it didn't seem right to treat this as a provisional lead, so I didn't.
Barbara and I arrived at Horseshoe Meadow early enough Thursday evening so that we were able to go in four miles to Chicken Spring Lake, past Cottonwood Pass, arriving just in time to set up the tent and hang the food before dark. On Friday we continued on and saw only two hikers going south until we ran into a ranger (Rob, stationed at Rock Creek) just below Guyot Pass. We chatted with him and mentioned we were to meet someone at the pass. Rob said, "Is his name Eric?", and told us that Eric was waiting at the pass. On Thursday Eric had climbed Joe Devel and Pickering, and on Friday had climbed Guyot and then waited at the pass for us. He had arranged with Ann Kramer to meet us Sunday afternoon at the Portal to give us a ride back to Horseshoe Meadow, so we were happy to hook up with him, thereby avoiding a long hike back to Horseshoe Meadow.
We continued on to Crabtree Ranger Station, and decided to keep on going further to put us in a better position to do the peaks Saturday, and to hike out Sunday. Since camping isn't allowed at Timberline Lake, we went a little past it and found a nice spot to the south of the trail, at about 11,200 feet. We got the tent up just before it started raining moderately hard for about a half hour. After backpacking seventeen miles that day, we decided that the next day climbing the peaks would be considered a rest day.
Saturday dawned with light clouds, which soon cleared out, and we headed up the trail, past some low cliffs to the north, leaving the trail before reaching Guitar lake, at a point where the cliffs petered out, at about 11,400 feet. We first went NW for a way, then NE up to a broad saddle between Young and the point marked 3879T on the Mt. Whitney 7.5 map, and then continued on up to the top of Hale. We had all day, and the morning weather was good, so we had no need to push the pace. The slope was gradual enough that it was never a slog. Hale is in a spectacular setting, and the view from the top is exhilarating, with impressive cliffs to the north and east, with Wales and Wallace Lakes below, an unnamed peak (4245T) to the east, and Russell beyond that, and then the bulk of Whitney looming to the southeast. To the south, Hitchcock Lakes and Peak dominate the view, and numerous peaks were visible to the west and north. With powerful binoculars, you might be able to see what users of the open fronted outhouse on Whitney were reading.
We lingered for a long time on Hale, then descended to the saddle between Hale and Young, and climbed about 400 feet up to Young. The route we followed wasn't class 1, as it involved some boulder scrambling, but you could easily drop down further and find a class 1 route if you were so inclined. We had lunch on Young and lingered for a long time, until we were driven off by the increasing clouds, which caused quite a chill when they blotted out the sun. A quick descent down talus and sand and less than a mile back down the trail brought us to camp. The stats for the day were about 2,700 feet of gain and four miles round trip. Upon return to camp, Eric discovered some nice pools and a granite sundeck nearby, which we enjoyed. That evening, it rained lightly, with some thunder. The Kaweahs were really socked in, and the top of Whitney was in mist.
Sunday morning, Eric got up early and motored up Whitney, and Barbara and I left an hour and a half later. As we climbed above Guitar Lake, we wondered if there were any bass in the lake, and if so, should it be named Bass Guitar Lake, and if someone threw nickel-cadmium batteries in the lake, would it be known as Heavy Metal Guitar Lake? (You had to be there.) As we switchbacked up to Trail Crest we could smell the remains of a pack animal (actually two) which had been blown up after a mortal injury. The stench was overpowering, and pieces of hair and hide were splattered all over the rock for some distance. Apparently, dead pack animals are either cut up and carried out, or blown up for disposal (they do temporarily close the trail). This reminded me of the movie, They Dynamite Horses, Don't They? As we reached the junction to the top of Whitney and Trail Crest, we saw Eric's pack, and left him a note that it was 10:00. We then ran into the usual horde of hikers coming up. A short distance after we had passed Trail Crest Eric caught up to us and said that the ink on the note was still wet, as he had arrived back at his pack at 10:05. He continued on down.
When we reached Trail Camp, and smelled the all pervasive odor (which was not coming from the outhouse), we decided to rename it Urine Camp. Perhaps instead of the green Whitney Zone stamp on the permit, the USFS needs to affix a yellow Urine Camp stamp on the permit, giving permission to pee at Trail Camp. All kidding aside, this is a serious issue. No one expects Trail Camp to be a wilderness experience, but it shouldn't have to smell like a bus station populated by winos. We continued on down and met Eric at the Portal store. Ann, who had been on a Kern Peak trip, came by at 4:00 to give us a ride back to Horseshoe Meadow. The stats for the day were about 2,500 feet of gain, 5,300 feet of descent, and thirteen miles. The three of us agreed it had been a successful trip, but it was certainly not the easiest way to reach Hale and Young.
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