Merced Peak, Red Peak
By: Bob Wyka
The Los Angeles Times weather forecast for Yosemite called for smoke and that is what greeted us as we drove toward Mono Meadows Friday afternoon. There had been several lightning caused forest fires reported near Yosemite so we had some trepidation about what to expect for the next three days. Our fears were unfounded however as the winds went back to a prevailing easterly direction keeping the smoke 30 miles north of us.
The eleven climbers were underway before 8:30 a.m. for the 8 hour trail hike along the Illilouette to a fine camping area a mile below Lower Ottoway Lake where the trail crosses Ottoway Creek. Greg Gerlach kept the evenings campfire under control without burning my nearby tent and the balmy evening kept most of us up until 930. Merced was our first goal on Sunday morning. We left the trail just east of Lower Ottoway Lake circumventing Upper Ottoway Lake on its south shore before heading to the saddle between Ottoway Peak and Merced Peak. We were on the summit in four hours from camp. From the high slopes the fires were quite evident with the largest billowing smoke that mushroomed over a significant area of the Yosemite Park.
On the descent the part); split into two distinct groups as we tried to stay high and head for a flat broad slope (elevation 10,800') above the visible cliff southwest of peak 11354. We intersected with the Red Peak Pass trail in time for lunch before hiking up to the Pass. There we ran into some young volunteers from a government sponsored conservation camp who had their own ideas on how to climb Red. We elected to traverse due west from the pass then angle slightly downhill to just below the south facing gendarmes then straight up to the summit. The kids seemed to fly up the peak getting to the summit about 10 minutes before anyone in our group. It took almost three hours hiking time from summit to summit. We dropped down due west of the summit (class 2) descending through both talus and scree before coming upon a beautiful campsite near the northwest corner of Lower Ottowav Lake. The camp is just to the west of where the trail sign says "Lower Ottowav Lake Elevation 9700". The campsite is in a shaded and large isolated grassy area with plenty of overhanging trees and a large flat rock for cooking. Since it is above 9600 feet campfires would not be permitted.
After a dip in the lake most were back to camp about two hours after leaving Red Peak. On Monday it took us about six hours to get back to the cars with few wanting to stop long for lunch. Thanks go to Allan Conrad for another able assist. Besides Allan and Greg the participants were Peter Christian. Scott Sullivan, Elena Sherman, John Fisanotti. Karl Kraves. Virgil Popescu. Lasta Tomasevkh and Dennis Hiipakku.
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