Mount Brewer, North Guard, South Guard
By: Greg & Mirna Roach
We met Saturday morning at 6:45 a.m. at the Kings Canyon ranger station; it is located at the end of the Kings Canyon road near the Bubb's Creek trailhead. The ranger station opened at 7:00 a.m., and after listening to the ranger's talk about the rules and regulations of the park we received our permit. Our group was on the way by 7:30 a.m. in excellent spirits. The morning sun reflected off the glacier polished rock walls of Kings Canyon. It felt good to be back in the Sierras again. We reached the Sphinx Lakes and Bubb's Creek trail junction at 9:00 a.m.; took a five-minute break, ate a snack, and crossed the bridge to the Sphinx Lakes trail. This trail goes south on a granite mountain with polished dark gray rocks. At this point the trail gets steep and the elevation gain starts. You could see the Sphinx mountain throughout the trail. Barbee spotted gooseberries, blueberries, and currants, and identified some flowers all along the trail. At noon we stopped for lunch in a meadow that was full of wild strawberries. The berries were a tasty addition to our lunch. The route to Sphinx Lakes turns southeast from this meadow on a cross-country route following Sphinx Creek. The route traverses some white slabs and continues up the canyon. We arrived at the upper Sphinx Lake at 3:30 p.m.. Dan immediately took a refreshing swim at the lake. He was the only brave person to really take a plunge and enjoy the icy water; the rest of the group looked for a good campsite. Greg and Barbee went fishing and the rest of us enjoyed the scenery. For dinner Barbee fixed an excellent salad, bean dip and trout. The day ended peacefully.
Sunday -- we were up at 5:00 a.m. and on our way an hour later. The first peak to climb was North Guard. From Sphinx Lake, point 10520, we continued up the Sphinx Creek drainage above the lakes to a predominate saddle northeast of point 12393. From the saddle there is a tremendous view of Mt Brewer and South Guard. From the saddle i~ we dropped to an elevation of about 1 1920 and contour around the ridge between the saddle and Mt. Brewer. We followed this contour-line up the canyon toward the saddle between N. Guard and Mt. Brewer. Looking at the south face of N. Guard there are many chutes; the correct chute is the second chute from the saddle between N. Guard and Mt. Brewer. It is the larger of the two chutes with big slabs of granite at the bottom. We climbed the slabs until we were able to traverse west to the next chute, which is behind a ridge that comes down off the western ridge of N. Guard. The chute you traverse into is sandy at the bottom. Climb this chute toward the west ridge of N. Guard and angle over toward the summit block. The high point is above the east face. This peak is a challenging boulder scramble and a good Class 3 climb. We reached the summit at 11:00 a.m. Some of the group climbed this rock to touch the top of the summit block that extends out over the eastern face, while the rest of the group took photos. After a half hour we descended the mountain and headed to Mt Brewer. We had lunch just below the North Guard and Brewer saddle and were under way at about 12:30 p.m. The route to Brewer is straight forward, we reached the summit at 1:30 p.m. The view was super! However, the clouds to the north and west concerned us as there was some uncertainty as to how fast they were moving toward us. Dan pulled out his favorite chocolate cookies as we helped him celebrate his 10th emblem peak. We spent 15 minutes at the summit of Mt Brewer admiring the grand view. We descended south to the saddle between Mt. Brewer and South Guard with the clouds getting thicker and darker as we hiked down to the saddle heading toward South Guard. Many in the group had mixed feelings about climbing South Guard with the storm approaching our direction. As the clouds continued to move in and thinking safety first we decided to descend and headed back to camp. We dropped down to about 300 feet to the lakes above Brewer Creek. Dan and Eric were determined to climb South Guard by the northwestern slopes. At this point they signed out and headed to South Guard. After a while they disappeared into the clouds. The clouds were hanging on the top of the peaks and ridges. However, no rain, lighting or thunder appeared. While the main group headed for camp, the clouds continued to roll in accompanied by a gentle cool breeze. The panoramic view of the canyons and mountains were majestic. By the time we reached camp at 6:30 p.m., the clouds had all disappeared. The alpen-glow shone at the top of the mountains. We had a quiet dinner and our thoughts were on Dan and Eric. By 8:30 p.m. two dim lights appeared on the upper left side of the lake; to guide them to camp we shone our flash lights toward them. Upon the safe return to camp, Dan and Eric were greeted with congratulations for making the third peak. We had a good time on this climbing day. This was a hard day for all of us and everyone slept soundly.
Monday -- We slept in late Monday morning and did not get started hiking out until 8:00 a.m. Eric, Dan, Asher, and Rex took off while Barbee, Mirna and Greg took the morning stroll, stopped for pictures, and kept an eye out for gooseberries. Barbee and Mirna picked up three full water bottles of berries. Barbee promised to make jelly. We stopped at Bubb's Creek and Sphinx Lakes' junction where Rex joined us for lunch. Eric, Asher and Dan headed out to get chicken fried steak and pie on the way home.
Participants: Barbee Hoffmann, Rex Hyon, Daniel Richter, Greg and Mirna Roach, Erik Siering, and Asher Waxman.
Thanks to all the participants for making this weekend an enjoyable trip.
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