Gray Peak, Mount Starr King
By: Patty Kline
Pat Christie and I met at 9:00 am on Thursday August 3 for this private trip to drive from LA to the Wawona Ranger Station in Yosemite. The goal was to pick up our reserved permit before the Ranger Station closed at 4:45 pm. This would save about 2 hours the next morning.
We left the Mono Meadows trailhead about 7:30am Friday to hike the approximate 5 miles out to a small stream a little over a mile south of Starr-King as the crow flies. This small stream crossing is near a major trail junction. We arrived at the trail junction at 10:30 am where we had lunch and hid our backpacks. The backpacks were very heavy on this 4 day trip with 165 foot ropes, a rack, helmets, rock shoes, seat harnesses, ATC's, assorted slings - and a couple of prusik loops. On the way out we crossed Illilouette Creek on a log a few hundred yards east of the trail. This log was much appreciated in this 140% of normal season of snow. The creek was so wide, it looked liked the log would be used almost any summer. Mono Meadows, for which the start of the trail was named, is only about In mile from the roadhead. The roadhead is 7200 feet and the trail descends to about 6400 and rises back to 7000 where we camped. That meant we had 800 feet of gain at the end of our trip. It was very hot as we went northwest, then northeast in a little over 2 miles to the peak. We decided to skirt around the north side of Starr-King rather than taking the 2-3 class loose and brushy route to the SE saddle below our low 5th class route. After passing by the north end of Starr King we traversed across the boulders and ledges on the east side of the peak to the saddle between Starr King and the dome to the southeast.
Pat led the first pitch, which was 5th class. The route led into a small right facing open book where she placed her first protection. Then she traversed back across a small ledge with an undercling for a hand hold and went up to a belay spot. I cleaned the pitch. Pat led the second pitch, which was rated as class 4. Then we walked on up to the top at 9092 feet to sign the register. By then it was about 4:00 pm. It had been a long, hot and dusty hike among killer mosquitoes to the base of the mountain. I'm glad the bugs didn't hang out on the peak. The climb was a lot of fun, most of it consisting of a friction climb.
We made our camp where we hid our packs that day. There was a nice established campsite, which we used. The next day we moved camp to the vicinity of Gray Peak at 8000 feet. There was another nice long crossing about 1 1/2 miles out from our last camp over the Clark Fork of Illilouette Creek. Right after the log crossing we went east cross country, staying between the Clark Fork and Red Creek for about 2-1/2 miles before setting up camp. We camped near Gray Creek, which was a roaring river with water colder than you could believe because of the snow runoff. The route finding was very difficult for us because we were using the Merced Peak 15 minute map. We observed some the rivers were in the wrong place. Help, we thought our navigational skills had left us until we compared Pat's Recreation Map of Yosemite and my 7 In Merced Peak map. They agreed, but not with the 15 minute one. That night as we were reading Wrinkles mentioned in R J Secor's book, The High Sierra. Peaks. Passes and Trails, where he mentioned the errors on the Merced Peak 15 minute map. It pays to read the Wrinkles.
The next day we climbed Gray Peak with about 5 miles cross country round trip to the peak and back to our camp. Most of the climb was heavily forested. The top had some class 2 on it with great views of Clark. Red Peak to the south was very nice with a frozen lake on its north side. Since this was a kicked back day, we spent 1 in hours on the 11,573 foot summit enjoying the view and warm weather. Monday we packed back out to my truck and drove home. It was a very enjoyable trip.
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