Mount Baxter

28-Apr-90 (California Mountaineering Club)

By: Dale Van Dalsem

Our first CMC trip in March had 3 of us; this trip had 2 of us, Rick Beatty and me. At this rate I'Il solo the next trip [no insurance problems then, eh?/ We left the Oak Creek roadhead at 6 AM and reached the camping area at 10,000' on the Baxter Pass Trail well before 10 AM. We were planning that Rick would go and attempt Diamond and Black that day while I lounged in camp; then we would go for Baxter at 5 AM Sunday. Instead, we both talked each other into doing Baxter Saturday afternoon, probably a mistake!

We left for Baxter just before 11 AM, climbing straight up, northwest from camp, to the ridge rather than follow the circuitous, and partly snow covered, Baxter Pass Trail. After the 2,000' climb up from camp, we angled some 500' down on the west side of the crest and contoured north to the word 'Park' on the Kearsarge Peak 7.5' topo, then angled up north-northwest toward the peak. We had about 60% snow coverage west of the crest, mostly sinking in a tolerable 3-9", but with the occasional plunge-through. Fierce winds buffeted us; on the summit plateau we were airborne occasionally. Ice axes were a must. We had left crampons in the truck, snowshoes in camp. Snowshoes would have aided progress on the west side about as much as carrying them would have slowed us down.

A few snowflakes fell, horizontally, as dark clouds scudded across the sky and our water bottles started to freeze as we slogged up a rocky slope to the summit plateau. We reached the 4,004 meter spot on the topo, poked around in the ridge-top snow cornice vainly for a register, and headed back. It was 5:17 PM and had taken us 6.5 hours of grueling slog from our warm camp at 10,000'! We topped the crest in last light just before 8 PM and headed down a gully we had not come up. We plunge-stepped down hardening snow, scree and talus as the ferocious winds blew us over and whipped my $30 O. R. Goretex hat off into Owens Valley, despite chin strap. Somehow we stumbled down and found camp, after some wandering, at 10:20 PM, and an 11.5 hour round trip from camp! Nearly 8,000' gain, 4,000' loss, for the day, with winds as strong as I can remember anywhere.

Sunday we were off at the crack of 9 AM, truck by 11:30 AM, lunch at the Mexican food buffet place in Lone Pine (recommended - barely) and home in time for a shower before "60 Minutes".

Summary: a dumb way to do Baxter! -- Dale

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