Mount Williamson


By: Wayne Norman

Give the Republicans in Congress credit for one thing, the lifting of the federal 55 mph speed limit has been a real time-saver in getting to the Sierra! It's a joy doing 70 mph and not having to check the mirror for those annoying flashing red lights.

Our group stopped by the Sierra Cantina for a carbo-loading session before the hike. After dinner, on the drive to Shephard Pass trailhead, we stopped for a Kodak moment: the sunlit top of Mt. Williamson bathed in golden hues while the rest of the Owens Valley and surrounding peaks were in the cool light of the evening shadows.

"Just me and forty or fifty of my closest friends." That's how Matt described the conditions on this trip None of us had ever seen this many cars at this trailhead before. It was almost overflow parking conditions at the trailhead. (Did we park at Whitney Portal by mistake?)

We got a 7:30 start, late considering the temperature forecast for this long weekend. The wall to Anvil Camp was as long as I remembered it. So was the depressing downhill section. If the SPS wants my opinion for a great trail project, it would be rerouting the trail somehow to avoid the loss. At the very least set up a Tyrolian Traverse. At Anvil Camp Mark braved the icy water in the stream for a bath. We kidded him that we had never seen someone that was so purple before, outside of a corpse. None of the rest of us ventured forth to repeat his feat. Somehow during my own attempts to remove the trail dust I lost a pair of underwear, a clean pair. If anyone finds a size 32 pair of white briefs...uh, never mind.

The next morning we popped over the pass. There was still some snow covering the upper section of the trail, but it was possible to avoid most of it. There was nowhere near the amount of white stuff that was in the Sierra last year. Once over the pass we set up camp near the lake at about 12,300'.

After lunch Mark, Paul, and Alan climbed Tyndall via the North Rib. Matt and Dick were spending an extra day in the area and planned to climb Tyndall on Sunday. Mark's group had some problems when they hit some snow that was on the route. They were able to work through the difficulties and made the summit. On the way back they bypassed the snow and had an easier time of it.

Since I had already climbed it I decided to use the afternoon to do laundry. The largest container we had was my cooking pot so 1 used it to do my laundry. My partners were not happy when they found out. I tried to tell them that I had cleaned out the pot afterwards, but they were indignant that I had dared to soil our (my) cooking pot in this manner.

Saturday we got a 6:15 start on Williamson. By the time our group arrived at the lake below Williamson we could see that there was no reason to carry our ice axe and crampons any further. We followed the excellent directions from R.J.'s guide and the 'California Fourteeners' guide. We made our way up the 1000' chute to the crux chimney, staying to the right side of the chute to avoid the snow and stay on the better quality rock.

Since we had carried a rope all this way we decided to put it to good use and protected the 3rd class section. The rope wasn't really necessary on the way up, but it was nice to have on the descent. Once on top of the summit plateau we made the ridge run up to the summit. Clear blue skies, warm weather and a slight breeze greeted us on the top. After a few moments the other groups on the top headed down and our group of` six had the previously crowded summit to ourselves. We enjoyed a nice lunch watching hang gliders soar above us. A special treat was a sail plane that "wagged" its wings has it flew over us. The pilot was a friend of a climber from one of the other groups. We saw one group of climbers ascend the lower, but more spectacular eastern summit.

On our way back to camp, one of our group started to suffer from dehydration and altitude sickness and was extremely slow arriving in camp. He didn't make it back to camp until after 6:30 in the evening. We kept giving Paul fluids and encouraged him to eat some dinner.

Overnight he started to develop symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. (This was the second time he had suffered from HAPE.) Once we discovered this we hurriedly got ready and headed down towards the cars. We were slave drivers getting Paul down the mountain. He wanted to stop every five minutes and take a break. We would stop if he want something to eat (which he didn't) or if he wanted a drink, otherwise it was keep going, however slow, but keep going. When we did stop, if it was for more than a few minutes, he would fall asleep! I've hiked, climbed, and mountain biked with Paul for years and he always has fantastic endurance. This was the first time I've ever seen him this disoriented. Paul did begin to feel better once we made it over the saddle, that blasted (character building) uphill section. Still, we spent almost 11 hours getting back to the trailhead and our cars.

(Matt and Dick had stayed up at the pass to climb Tyndall on Sunday and they came out on Monday.)

Participants: Matt Bond, Dick Emmerson, Alan Pendley, Paul Sue. Special Thanks to Mark Calkins for his rope work.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section