Mount Powell, Clyde Spires, Picture Peak
By: R.J. Secor
The Board of Geographic Names of the USGS named a peak in the High Sierra after John Wesley Powell in 1911. Unfortunately, the name was misplaced on the 1912 30-minute Mt. Goddard map and this error continued onto the 15-minute Mt. Goddard and the 7.5-minute Mt. Darwin maps. Thi error was discovered and corrected a few years ago with the latest edition of the Mt. Darwin 7.5-minute map putting the name "Mt. Powell" on the mountair originally intended by the BGN: Peak 13,364 a half mile to the west of the currently listed "Point Powell," recently re-named by the Keeper of the Lis to minimize confusion. Point Powell should remain on The List. It meets all of the criteria for List status: it is high, prominent, and it is a good climb from all directions. But what about the "new" Mount Powell? Should it be added to The List?
And that was the main purpose of this exploratory, as well as to explore two other nearby non-Listed peaks.
We hiked through gusty winds to an exposed campsite on the north shore of Echo Lake. Joe Stephens, Steve Eckert and I weren't going to sit around camp in the gusts and soon set out for Mount Powell. We crossed Echo Lake reciting the Lake Ice rhyme: "One inch: Stay Off. Two inches: One May. Three inches: Small Groups. Four inches: Okay!" The ice held and we climbed a steep (40') chute off of the lake and into the cirque on the north side of Mount Powell. Steve turned around at this point (hiking 8 miles through the snow and then climbing a 13,000-foot peak is a bit much) while Joe and I postholed our way up the 35' north face of Mount Powell, We turned left at the col on top of the face and traversed east across easy class 3 to the summit. We were impressed. The climb was slightly more difficult than the northeast chute of Point Powell. There was an impressive close-up view of the west side of Point Powell, we could look down into LeConte Canyon and across Sabrina Basin. Joe and I agreed that Mount Powell was worthy of being on The List. We found an empty Band-Aid can on the summit and we replaced this with a pair of nesting tin cans and a brand-new SPS register. And we then glissaded back down to Echo Lake to spend a windy night at our campsite. Asher Waxman and Tracy Sulkin climbed Mount Powell the next day. They were equally impressed, so much so that Asher said that he was thinking of leading another exploratory climb later this season. Steve Eckert and Bruno Geiger climbed Mount Powell the same day after our exploratory of Clyde Spires. They also thought that it was worthy of being added to The List.
But the most interesting climb turned out to be Clyde Spires. We recited our way across Echo Lake, crossed Echo Col, and traversed to the south ridge of the eastern Clyde Spire. The south ridge turned out to be mostly class 2 (as predicted), but we noticed a seemingly higher pinnacle about a hundred yards to the west of the slabby pyramid on top of the south ridge. We followed the class 2-3 ridge to this pinnacle (UTM 534115) and climbed it in a corkscrew fashion from right to left around its south and west sides to the base of an easy class 5 chimney on the north side. Ali Aminian was able to touch the top of this pinnacle from the top of this chimney and discovered a Sierra Register Committee PVC canister on top, proclaiming it the high point of Clyde Spires. We rappelled the south side of the pinnacle and traversed back to the slabby pinnacle. Most of us tried to climb it via slabs and cracks on its southeast side but Joe Stephens found a better route on its north side along flakes and ledges on the north side. We found an SPS canister and register book on the summit placed by Larry Tidball and Bill Oliver proclaiming it the eastern point of Clyde Spires (UTM 535115). Everyone found Clyde Spires to be an intriguing climb and I wouldn't be surprised if this peak will be proposed for addition to The List. There was more wind on Sunday night. A quart and a half of water anchored my "watamaka" (wate maker) pot but sometime during the night the lid blew away along with my spoon. Tracy also lost a pot lid. Secor's First Law of mountain weather: wind can take as much out of you as altitude. Despite this miserable night and morning we climbed Picture Peak via the central chute on its southwest side. This was a good climb up frozen snow with a short stretch of class 3 near its top. There was a splendid view of the east face of Mt. Darwin from the summit. While Picture Peak is certainly beautiful when viewed from Hungry Packer Lake, Mt. Darwin, Mt. Haeckel, Clyde Spires, and Mount Powell overwhelm it. We down climbed the chute and managed to keep most of our belongings together as we packed up in the gale that raged through our camp. And we then hiked out. This was a good trip doing what the SPS does best: exploring the Range of Light. RJ. Secor
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