Joe Devel Peak, Mount Hale, Mount Young, Mount Hitchcock, Mount Guyot
By: Mirna Roach
This was a nine-day backpack in the southern sierra to climb all the peaks on the list that area we "needed". Our trip went fine considering the weather situation. We climbed 5 out of 6 peaks; we still left Fern Point. Elaine and Dave Baldwin joined us fort the first two days of the trip.
Saturday: It was a beautiful cool day with some clouds. We went in over Cottonwood Pass and hiked 12 miles to Lower Rock Creek; it did not start raining until 4 PM just as we were getting to Lower Rock Creek.
Sunday: It turned out to be a beautiful day, and we were able to climb Joe Devel without any thunderstorms: We crossed Rock Creek at the Pacific Crest Trail and worked our way northeast staying above the wet meadows in the morning. We crossed Perrin Creek and climbed up the southwest side of Joe Devel looking for rocks to step on instead of sand. We reached the summit in time for lunch. After enjoying the view we took a more direct route down to the Pacific Crest Trail. There was time for fishing in Rock Creek after the climb. Greg caught 6 golden trout, I fried them, and they were very tasty.
Monday: Elaine and Dave Baldwin left to go back out over New Army Pass. We were supposed to head toward Guyot Pass and climb Guyot Mt; but unfortunately, Greg's toe swelled up and it was painful for him to walk. He soaked his toe in the creek all morning long, and I gave him 400 mg of Motrin throughout the day. Well, that afternoon he felt much better, and we spent the rest of the day resting, playing cards, and reading. Oh, by the way the clouds were building up by noon; Greg mentioned that the clouds' pattern were like those typical of a changing weather pattern. Well, about 2 PM it started raining and there was thundering and lightning over New Army Pass and Cottonwood Pass.
Tuesday: We decided. to go ahead and try to go over Guyot Pass and perhaps climb Mt Guyot. The weather did not look promising; it was cloudy, foggy, gloomy, and a very cold day. So, we decided to we kept walking bypassed Mt Guyot and headed to lower Crabtree Meadow; it was only a 6 mile day, but it was good that we went directly to lower Crabtree Meadow because it rained that afternoon. We found this beautiful huge tree with branches that served as an umbrella and gave us sufficient cover for lunch and shelter. It started to rain harder later on that afternoon. We even had to dig a trench around our tent. It just kept raining until we went to bed. That evening we were trying to decide whether to climb Mt. Hitchcock first or Hale & Young the next day. We left it up to the weather conditions.
Wednesday: We got up at 4:30 AM and the sky was crystal clear and we could see stars. So, we decided to climb Hale & Young today. We set off up the trail toward Mt. Whitney and picked up the John Muir Trail. About one half mile past Timberline Lake we left The John Muir Trail and hiked up the slope between Peak 38797 and Mt. Young. We got to Mt. Hale at 10:00 AM and spent half an hour at the summit then headed over to Mt. Young. By now, we saw thunder clouds on the eastern side of the Sierra Crest and to the north. In fact, the Owens valley was full of clouds. The clouds were also starting to build to the west. So, we headed down and had lunch at one of the tarns above Timber Lake. After lunch we headed back to camp, then around 3 PM we were about a mile from camp when it started to rain again. The rain didn't last for long and the clouds disappeared as the sun set.
Thursday: It turned out to be a clear day, again we got up early and headed to Mt Hitchcock. We took the trail to Crabtree Lakes but soon headed up the ridge after crossing the first meadow. The climb up the East Ridge was steep and sandy until we were near the summit. The climb to Mt Hitchcock only took half of the day; soon we were having lunch at the upper Crabtree Lake looking at the north sides of Mt. Chamberlain and Mt. Newcomb. This is really a beautiful spot the lake was crystal clear and the sky was really gorgeous today. It was a pleasant change from the " John Manure Trail": We continued back to camp following the stream down to the lower Crabtree Lake, and we found a good place to bathe and rinse our shirts. There was a sheltered spot on the north side of the lower Crabtree Lake and just had a wonderful time bathing and just enjoying the spectacular views. We got back to camp around 3 PM and no significant event happen afterward. We had the Crabtree Meadows area all for ourselves; a bunch of hikers that had been there the day before were gone. There were about four deer grazing in the-beautiful meadow and Greg did some fishing that afternoon. By the way, packers and hikers heavily use this whole area.
Friday: We started hiking around 7:30 AM heading back to Lower Rock Creek and planned to climb Mt Guyot on the way there. It looked like a nice day, but we saw some clouds down by the Kern trench and other clouds coming from the southwest. We got to Guyot Pass around 9:30 AM by now the clouds were all around but up above us there was still blue sky. The clouds on the western side of the Kern River looked ominous as we headed toward the peak. From the saddle to the peak it's about 1.5 miles with 1500' gain. We did not stop at any time and rushed to the summit; by now there were thundering sounds by the Whitney area, New Army Pass, and Cottonwood Pass, the clouds were surrounding us but still up above us it was clear. We hurried up to sign the register and ran back down the ridge back to the saddle where we left our packs. The clouds and fog kept creeping up both side of the ridge, by the time we reached our packs it started to hail. We got cover by putting the ground cloth between a rock and a tree where we had left our packs. It hailed for at least half an hour; we had lunch then but I got really cold. The hail turned into snow the next half-hour that made the whole area look like a winter wonder land. It was beautiful to see the snow falling, but I was getting worried because it did not stop. So, we decided to get out of the ridge and continue hiking toward Lower Rock Creek. The place looked fantastic, it felt like Christmas time. We got to Lower Rock Creek around 3 PM by now the sky was partially clear. The rest of day was windy, breezy, and cold.
Saturday: We only hiked about 5 miles, up Rock Creek passing Upper Rock Creek Lake on our way. Upper Rock Creek Lake is in a large open meadow and has a great view of the Sierra Crest. We continued up the trail and set up camp at Soldier Lake. Now we were up at timberline above the thick forest at a beautiful lake. We were happy campers. The fishing is good here too.
Sunday: We hiked 9 miles back to the cars over Cottonwood Pass and reached the trailhead about 2:30 PM. It turned out to be a great trip considering the weather.
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