By: Tina Stough
We met at the Devil's Postpile hiker parking lot 7 a.m. Friday. Because of injured hand tendons, Dan Richter had turned over the leadership to Doug, and I became the assistant. After cancellations, our participants were Elena Sherman and Scott Sullivan. Our first challenge was crossing the San Joaquin River. True, we could have gone down the trail past the Postpile to a bridge that had not been washed away, but we didn't wish to add more than two miles to our day. We opted instead for the horse crossing beside the site of the former bridge. The water came up to our shorts (especially mine as the shortest in the group) and we knew it would not be pleasant when we were wincing from the cold damp dirt even before touching the water. But the footing was good on rounded stones, and the crossing wasn't difficult or dangerous. Despite forecasts for clearing weather, during our hike to camp at Minaret Lake we watched the scudding clouds with a bit of unease--storms several days before had flooded highway 14 at Red Rock Canyon and on 395 at Little Lake(l4 was still closed for our drive north and south) and wet lichen on Clyde Minaret was not something we wanted to cope with.
After lunch, Doug, Scott, and I scouted the route to the base of the Rock Route on the northeast face. The only problem was a steep snow field across part of the ramp leading to the base of the chute. The snow, however, was a good consistency for kicking steps, so Doug and I went across and back so that the nest morning would go well. Back in camp, we had a pleasant dinner despite the wind.
Saturday morning we were on our way to Clyde at 6:30, passing one fellow below the red rocks on his way to meet two others about to attempt a 5.8 route. We were relieved that they had no intention of climbing our route and creating more rock-fall potential. Having negotiated the snow without the slightest slip of our feet or ice axes. We climbed well up the chute and the face to the ridge, only using one short belay for a final awkward spot to get onto the summit ridge and then the short rappel down before the final scramble to the summit. We were on the summit before 11:00 and took a long break out of some wind, enjoying the summit registers and view. Because of the steepness of the mountain, we used the rope slightly more for the down-climb, rappelling or down-climbing on belay in several spots. The snowfield was still soft enough in the afternoon to give us secure footing and the flatter snow closer to Cecile Lake gave some glissades and gliding steps.
We investigated a tent at Cecile that we had seen both days without a sign of an occupant-rather spooky given the climbing in the area-but it turned out to be the ranger's tent. We talked to the slower climber for the 5.8 route. who had turned back-part of his excuse was that he was pushing forty. Heavens! We were back in camp at 4:30 and enjoyed another fine dinner and the contemplation of a fine climb safely accomplished. Later that night Doug saw headlamps coming back to the 5.8ers' camp.
Having said goodbye to Elena and Scott the night before, Doug and I started down the trail about 5:30 a.m. by headlamp. At the San Joaquin we didn't stop to take off our boots but plunged boldly ahead. A group about to ford from the other side saw how high the water came (my shorts were wet again) and decided to hike the extra miles. We were on our way home about 8:40. Thanks for a great trip!
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