By: Barbee Tidball
Spring in the Sierra and a group of SPS’ers with and without snow shoes headed in to climb Mt. Gilbert. The trip sheet had stated “Bring your usual backpacking gear, ice axe, crampons, and snow shoes” But some of the participants didn’t believe me and came sans snow shoes. At the start of the trip it looked like the snow shoeless climbers were the lucky ones — but once we were over 10,000’ the snow shoers won! Our shoeless climbers were valiant though, and post holing, waist holing and snow plowing they trudged on with the group.
Our plan had been to hike and snow shoe in an easy 4+ miles and 1,000 feet gain to camp near Treasure Lakes. We passed the small pond around 10,600’ avoiding the wet areas and worked our way through the snow towards the lakes heading more or less southwest and trying to pick a route the snow shoeless climbers wouldn’t die on. A ridge presented itself with possible better footing and up we went to plus/minus 11,000’. It was there that I looked down towards the lower Treasure Lakes and realized my error. We were West of our destination by a ridge.
Rather than turn back and plow through the snow further, loosing elevation that we’d worked hard to gain I studied the terrain ahead of us and the peaks in the distance — it didn’t look like we needed to turn back. The group headed on up and set camp around 11,300’ or 11,500’ near an open stream and exposed rocks. It was perfect campsite. Ahead of us we could see a chute that seemed to lead right up to the Sierra Crest and surely on towards Mt. Gilbert.
The next morning we put on crampons and headed out to try to obvious chute. It was a classic Sierra climb on snow. The weather was partly cool and the sky bright blue with a mix of clouds and sunshine. Perfect weather. The chute we climbed is about 210 degrees SW of the Southern end of South Lake. The notch or saddle we climbed up to is clearly visible for miles. Topping out at the notch we found the sloping western face of the Sierra Crest leading SE towards a ridge and Mt Johnson and an open direct route to Mt. Gilbert. We crossed the snow to the plateau south of Mt. Gilbert and then scrambled up the rocks to the summit at 13,106’. (Note this route my be similar to the route Matthias Selke took in October 1994)
Lots of time was spent on the summit enjoying the view — then it was time to head back and break camp for home. The route back was easier for the snow shoeless climbers — lots of glissades till it got way too wet and snow became patches. Back at the cars we changed into dry clothes and drove down to Rock-in Rhino for pizza and beer. It was Beer-thirty and time to celebrate our Spring Sierra snow outing.
Thanks to snow shoers — Scot Jamison (my carpool, tent sharer and co-leader) Jeff Ho, Patty Rambert and Paul Morash. Congratulations and thanks to the snow shoeless — Tom McDonnell and Gary Schenk.
It was a Great Trip!
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