Arrow Peak, Cardinal Mountain, Goodale Mountain, Marion Peak, Pyramid Peak #1, Mount Ruskin, Striped Mountain
By: Jim Potter
As an occasional participant in weekend SPS-WTC trips, I had never taken a week-long trip with SPS or any trip with the Death-March Due, Dave Dykeman and Nancy Gordon. Friday night at the Taboose Pass trailhead a bright, full-moon told me I had picked a great introduction. The warm presence of SPS regulars Dianne Fried and Herb Buehler was confirmation. By all measures, the trip was a great success.
The less said about the walk up to Taboose Pass, the better. Anyone who wants to know more about this 8-mile, six thousand foot trudge can read about it in any guidebook. Check the index under Talus R' Us. We reached Taboose Pass at 3:30 pm and quickly set up camp. One of us, acting on the heretical notion that it would be nice to enjoy the beautiful mountain meadow and the peace of having left the world behind, offered to stand marmot watch. The rest, hating to waste three perfectly good hours of daylight shot up Cardinal Peak. I'm told they had a nice climb.
On Sunday we climbed the other two peaks by Taboose Pass, Goodale and Striped. The top of Goodale is split and it is hard to tell which side is higher. One side is a walk-up with lots of space to stretch out, the other is the peak. Actually, the peak itself is also split and again it is hard to tell which side is higher. Don't expect the cannister to jump up and say hello. Striped Mountain is in fact, striped, but, more importantly, we had a great glissade down.
On Monday we broke Camp and headed down to the South Fork of the King's River to reach Ruskin and Marion. In this year of big snow the river was fast and high; crossing it had been one of the great uncertainties in planning the trip. Fortunately, a friendly ranger who had breezed by us on the way up to Taboose Pass directed us to a log bridging the river. "But," she warned, "it is too wet and slippery to walk, you'll probably want to Shimmy." She was right. It was a great scene, Dave, who was wearing shorts at the time-come to think of it, all the time-sacrificed the inside of his legs to the river tree God, while Dianne Hi-Ho-Silvered Away. The rest of us just blessed our dry-socks.
Across the river we walked down river on a no-longer-maintained trail. Pursued by hordes, hordes! Of angry mosquitos we crashed a few bushes and a few talus fields, before turning to the thousand foot climb to a lake just below Cartridge Pass. At the lake we pulled on our day packs and headed for Ruskin. A climb up a steep talus field brought us to a set of maybe parallel, maybe converging chutes, at least one of which was supposed to lead to the peak. Ever dutiful, we investigated each chute, chute-by-chute. It was a test of faith for Herb, Dianne and I, standing on a saddle to nowhere while Dave and Nancy scouted and plotted. Only Dianne, entertaining not a doubt believed we would make the peak that day. Herb and I, well never mind. Dianne's faith was rewarded and no one was upset when we realized that the first chute that we had examined (and rejected) leads to the peak. From the top of the chute, we took a short trip on the summit ridge including a couple of class three moves to the peak. We made fast work getting back to camp and fired up our dinner stoves before the sun went down. Ruskin is a great peak and well worth the trip across the river.
If it is Tuesday, this must be Marion. Getting there we had a choice--we could go over Cartridge Pass, a really long way around, or go through the notch on the Cirque Crest southwest of the pass, which had an unknown amount of snow on the back side. We took our chances with the notch and found almost no snow on the backside. (Of course throwing away a thousand feet isn't always the way to start your day.) Once down, we walked a mile or so along a level, narrow valley before heading up a steep snow field. Herb kicked steps at something approaching the speed of sound and before we knew it, we had gained the ridge. The final assent was mostly on large rocks and straight-forward. Easily the best part of the day was the long glissade back down to the valley. We headed back with big smiles and hardly noticed the thousand foot climb back up to the notch. Sadly, we never did remember the tune to Marion the Librarian.
On Wednesday, getting back down to the King's River was no trouble. I wish I could tell you that our shared travails along the river--the mosquitos from hell and the prospect of jumping back on the tree-inspired a sense of togetherness, but that would be wrong. Suffice it to say that we all made it across river and to Bench Lake. The togetherness came when we decided to take the afternoon off. Horizontal and motionless. the five of us solved all the world's problems.
Thursday was another story. We got an early start and tiptoed past other campers before dropping a few hundred feet to reach the base of Arrow Peak. From the saddle it is no trouble getting to the peak, nothing too fancy at the top. The views from Arrow are fantastic. In every direction, the Sierra's emblems stand out. Back on the saddle Pyramid Peak looks close, but it is a long way down. From deep in the basin between Arrow and Pyramid, we took a nice chute up to gain the Pyramid ridge. The much-promised ridge trail indeed leads to the peak, which is just where we found it. We made it back to the Arrow saddle while there was still day light leg but not much. Did I mention that the route from Bench lake to the base of Arrow was cross-country, through the woods? Did you know that it can be hard to find a lake in the woods after dark?. But hey, we made it back by 9 pm or so and our stoves never knew the difference.
On Friday, dirty, tired and happy, we walked up to Taboose Pass and down to the desert. From the trailhead Herb headed to Mammoth for more climbing. The rest of us went to Lone Pine for Pizza and then on to LA. Herb and Dianne calculated that we had climbed over 25,000 feet in total. We stepped on at least that many rocks, everyone a friend.
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