Independence Peak, Mount Bradley
By: Ret Moore
Five hopeful climbers met in the Onion Valley trail head parking lot Saturday morning. The weather forecast was “sunshine for the weekend”, and as it turned out, we did not see a cloud in the sky for the entire trip. The group consisted of Penelope May (co-leader), Brent Crookham. Alois Smrz and Vishal Jaiswal. I had reserved a walk-in camp site for Friday night and all but one of us stayed in the camp ground that night. But because of late arrivals and the fact that Brent and I slept in our vehicles, we did not all get together until we met in the trail head parking area the next morning.
After the usual ‘sign in” and introductions, we were on our way up the Robinson Lake trail a little before 8:00 AM. We dropped our packs at the lake and worked our way up a prominent chute to the ridge south of the Independence Peak. From here we ascended the moderate third class ridge to the summit. Because we had plenty of time, we spent a leisurely 30 minutes on the peak, then returned to the lake for lunch.
After lunch we make our way up the slope to a prominent stand of pines several hundred feet above the lake. This spot is next to the stream and has a number of level tent sites. After making camp we enjoyed an extended happy “hour”, the high light of which was a tray of fresh strawberries and whipped cream, which Penelope and Alois had packed up.
The next day, Sunday we knew would be a long day of climbing with better than 4700 feet of gain and most of it above 11 000 feet elevation. So we were up at first light and away by 7:00AM. We worked our way up the right side of the valley, mainly through boulders and glacial moraine to the base of the chute that goes up to University Pass. Vishal was lagging a little and I discovered that he was carrying his full pack (although it was relatively light because he had no tent, stove, day pack, or much food). I had him cache his sleeping bag and pad at the base of the chute and we continued over the pass and into Center Basin.
Once into the basin we traveled along the base of the eastern slope until we arrived at the prominent chute which is located directly below the peak. This chute leads to the minor saddle between the south peak and main summit to the north. You drop down 20-30 feet on the east side of the ridge and shortly go up what Secor calls a small chute, but is more like a large crack. I missed it as I was follow-ing another errant climber’s footprints, but Brent picked up the small duck at the entrance.
We were quickly on the summit and did not tarry long as our day was wasting and we had yet far to go. Back down into Center Basin and the rest of us relaxed while Alois and Brent detoured over to the lake to pickup additional water. We started up over University Pass again, only this time we went up a smaller chute to the south of the main chute that we had come down. About two thirds of the way up to the saddle it dwindles and you can get out on some third class rock and diagonal over to the low point of the pass. It avoids about half of the loose scree in the main chute directly below the pass.
By this time it was getting late and it was apparent that we would be getting back to camp well after dark. Vishal and to a lesser extent I were climbing slower. As Penelope and Alois were riding together and planning to hike out and return home that night, we decided to have them go on ahead to camp and Brent and I would follow with Vishal. When the three of us reached the bottom of the chute below University Pass it was dark. Vishal got his sleeping bag and pad that he had cached and we started down the valley to camp through the large blocky glacial moraine.
After about a half hour Vishal complained the he was so tired that he could not continue. We both urged him to go on, but he was adamant that he could not go on. He assured us that he would be back at camp by 8:00 AM in the morning. Both Brent and I were planning to go out Monday morning and since we knew where he was sleeping, we relented. Brent and I got back to camp about 10:30 PM and found that Penelope and Alois were still there. They decided to get up at 4 AM and go out Monday. Well, all turned out fine as Vishal showed up Monday morning exactly at 8:00 AM as he said he would. We had a leisurely breakfast and walked out to the cars somewhat the wiser from our experience.
The interesting thing about this two and a half day trip was that we went all the way into Center Basin, climbed Mt. Bradley and never needed a wilderness permit. The reason is that Robinson Lake, where we camped is not in the wilderness permit area and our entry was only on a day hike.
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