By: Tina Stough, Randall Danta
Eight intrepid souls-Jim Hinkley, Matthew Richardson, Eileen Ricks, Elena Sherman, Nile Sorenson, Scott Sullivan, and the leaders--met at the North Lake parking lot, setting off slightly late at 6:38 a.m. What a gorgeous day we had—sunny clear skies with a bit of breeze (more at North Lake in the morning than on the peak), and glorious color in the aspens. True to my warnings, we took only one brief clothing break and one short break on the way to Piute Pass, then another break there before heading to the base of the peak where we took another break and met Rich Gnagy, who had backpacked in the day before. In telling, it seems like a lot of breaks, but we had now covered about eight miles. To keep up spirits and to bribe the participants into going along with this madness, I passed out Mr. Goodbars. Randall put his down, pretending to be searching, and asked what movie he was representing--oh my, what a day we had with puns and jokes !
Up went, then, to the class 1-2 ramp angling up to the notch, where we donned harnesses and had some bits of lunch. Leaving the notch a little after noon, we found some snow and ice lingering in the cracks in the chute from storms the week before: and the week before that, but none caused us any difficulty. We exited at the head of the chute and came around to the west ridge on its south side. I climbed up the exposed bit and set up a belay for the others, who climbed it quickly, especially since those below held onto one end of the 165 foot rope so I didn't have to throw it each time. From there we were almost on the summit, which we reached about 1:30--belaying eight people, though they all climbed well and quickly, still takes time! On the way down, we rappelled from the same spot directly to the ledge below the start of the climb up the ridge. We made another rappel into the chute to avoid hard snow at the head of it.
As we were tiring out, Humphreys Basin seemed to have an awful lot of uphill in it as we made our way back to the pass. At first we offered to carry some of Rich's gear from his full pack since we only had daypacks, but he refused and kept up with us with our little daypacks just fine. In fact, after a while we were thinking of loading him down with the rope or some of our gear! We took more breaks on the way out--we needed water, I claimed to have a rock in my boot, etc. We reached the pass at 5:20 and stoically marched on, down to the glowing aspens and then the darkening gloom of dusk. But did we break out the headlamps? No way! Thank goodness the road showed up when it did or we probably all would have broken our necks on dirt-camouflaged rocks and roots.
Alice met Randall at the road closure (the road to the campground had closed the previous week sometime), and they headed back to Glacier Lodge. Nile had to get back to Orange county, and the rest of us had to go to the Pizza Factory in Bishop to make up for all the food we didn't eat during the day. Rich headed to parts north and the remaining four joined me for a night's rest at my house in Independence.
It was an ambitious trip, perhaps, with about seventeen miles and 5,000 feet of gain for the day with some fourth-class climbing. But with a good group, though large, we still did it in fine style under thirteen hours. I heard absolutely no whining. And so, dear reader, this concludes my account of what I hope is my last provisional lead, ever!
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