Mount Ansel Adams, Foerster Peak, Sing Peak, Gale Peak
By: Reiner Stenzel
Participants: Mark Vogt, Rudy Fleck, Bahram Manahedgi, Leslie Hofherr, Mark Goebel, Reiner Stenzel
Mt. Ansel Adams, 11,760’, stands impresively at the headwaters of the Lyell Fork of the Merced River. The peak is located on the Yosemite Park border between Foerster Peak to the southwest, and Electra Peak to the northeast. We once passed the peak in spring on a Trans-Sierra Ski tour and got inspired to climb it (see http://skimountaineerssectionlachaptersc.org/trips/yosem03/yosem03.htm). While there are a number of routes to this area, we selected a southern approach, the Isberg Pass trail, only an 8 mile, 2000’ gain to base camp at Sadler Lake. This trailhead, just north of Clover Meadow Ranger Station, is probably one of the most obscure starting points in the Sierra. A 70 mile winding road, that leaves Hwy 41 30 miles north of Fresno.
After securing our permit on Friday morning, we signed in and were on our way by 9am. The trail winds through the forest almost the entire way to Sadler Lake, which we reached by mid-afternoon. The lake is beautiful, but is a popular destination for mule pack groups, and as a result, a great deal of horse manure contaminated the area and our campsite. We had the lake almost to ourselves, but of course, as soon as we arrived, a ranger appeared out of nowhere and asked to see our permit. While everyone else relaxed and swatted mosquitoes, Leslie and Reiner hiked up to nearby McClure Lake and successfully fished for their dinner. At night a full moon rose over Sadler Lake.
Saturday morning we started at 6:30 am, going over hill and dale numerous times. First we ascended the southeastern ridge of Long Mountain, dropped over the side, and traversed to another ridge where we could descend further to Rockbound Lake. This was followed by another ridge and drop to Blue Lake where climbed 1200’ to a saddle just east of Foerster Peak. At this point, we had our first view of the final route to Ansel Adams, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. It was 12 noon and time was running short. We faced another descent, and than a traverse of at least a half a mile across a jumbled glacial moraine to the base of the peak. Realizing this next section would require about 2-3 hrs and extra speed if we were to return to camp before dark, four opted to only climb the remaining 300’ of Forester Peak and then start the long hike back to camp. Reiner and Rudy turned on their turbos, dropped over the edge, and the next thing we heard was a dislodged boulder the size of a refrigerator rolling down the canyon. This is nothing unusual when climbing on a loose moraine and no problem when climbing in parallel with nobody else around.
Rudy and I (Reiner) descended on mixed rock and snow into the large cirque between Foerster and Ansel Adams. We enjoyed some fine standing glissades on red summer snow (after all, it was an SMS trip!). Then we ascended the south-facing chute into the prominent saddle on the East Side of Ansel Adams. From just below the saddle we entered a talus chute, which ascends to the right (N). After about 50’ we traversed into the next higher chute which also ascends to the right up on the north face. This is high class 3 territory with some class 4 ledges. The rock is loose and requires careful moves. But it is only a short 200’ climb to the summit, which we reached by 1pm. We found a glass jar with an original summit register from 1985 and signed in. It mentioned a newer SRC register, which was located on the approach side below the peak. Quite a few people have visited this beautiful peak but hardly anyone from the SPS since it is not on the “List”. Yet it would make a great addition as a mountaineers peak. We enjoyed the great views, from the summit and talked by radio to the rest of the group on nearby Foerster. After taking pictures and a snack we descended carefully, following our ducks set on the ascent. By 2:30pm we were back on the Foerster ridge and continued toward Blue Lake where we rejoined Bahram and saw everyone else on the roller coaster terrain home to basecamp.
Mark continues to write that from the summit of Foerster, we had great views including Mt. Lyell, Ritter, Banner, the Minarets, and Half Dome. Maintaining radio contact with Reiner and Rudy, we started back only after they down off the exposed 3rd class on Ansel Adams. We were all together again once southeastern ridge of Long Mountain, overlooking Sadler Lake. Then all downhill, and finally after 11 hours, we were back in camp. Approximate gain over and back from Ansel Adams was almost 5000’.
Sunday we were again up early and on our way back to the cars, which we reached in 4 hours, partially because mosquitoes prevented any lengthy rest stops. Although a long journey, this area of the Sierra is worthy of a visit, as it contrasts greatly with the popular Eastside routes.
Addendum for Sing, Gale, Pk 10,550:
This summer trip was partly motivated by an earlier SMS ski trip across the Sierras along Yosemite’s southern border. At that time we admired, but passed by, many fine peaks, planning to climb some in the summer. Among them was a group of peaks south of the Clark Range. Since we needed an extra wilderness permit, two of us (L.H., R.S.) came earlier and climbed Sing and Gale Pk on a private outing. We entered at Fernandez Pass trailhead and hiked past Vandenberg Lake, the Stanford Lakes and Chittenden Lake to Shirley Lake just east of Sing and Gale. After hiking in, we ascended in the afternoon Sing Peak (10,552’) via its southeast ridge. Great views of the Sierra panorama! The peak has a PVC register can and a booklet with many signatures except from SPS members.
The next morning we hiked northwest toward Gale Pk. We decided to make a detour over Peak 10,550’ 0.Smi NE of Gale, which had a more challenging class 3 East Ridge. To our surprise there was a peak register on the summit, but signed by at most one party per year. From this peak we ascended Gale Pk via the class 2 NE ridge. Similar to Sing, Gale has a register and is climbed quite frequently. From the 10,693’ summit one has a fine view of both the Sierra Crest and the Yosemite high country such as the Buena Vista Ridge that we skied before. There is much wildlife in this area: We saw an eagle, a snake swimming in a lake, butterflies on the summit, caught a big trout for dinner, and of course, enjoyed the beautiful wildflowers everywhere, in the afternoon we hiked out. It was a nice introduction to the upcoming Ansel Adams trip.
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