San Joaquin Peak


By: Ron Jones

It began when I climbed Half Dome, my first SPS peak, two days after graduating from high school in 1950. During the 10 days a friend and I spent hiking in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows I imagined I was following in the foot steps of John Muir. Years later I wanted to join the Sierra Club. I obtained the endorsements of Frank Sanborn and John Robinson (two members to vouch for you was required in those days) and I qualified for membership. Jim Gorin, a well known climber, was Chapter Chair when I joined, and the outings and social programs were what the Sierra Club was all about at that time. During the fall of 1963 I went on my first SPS backpack led by Tom Amneus and Barbara Lilley who led Smith Mountain and the unlisted Jackass Peak. I was hooked and I began climbing with friends (more later) and on Section trips and shortly I was leading for the Section.

During the l970s Elton Fletcher finished climbing all the peaks on the SPS list, and became the oldest member to finish The List at about 54 years of age (the year and the age are only guesses). I was only in my 40s then and I thought that would be my goal - - to become the oldest list finisher. Well, Rich Gnagy was next to hold the record, followed by Norm Rohn. My goal was not getting any closer. Then George Toby finished the list in 1992 on Alta Peak at 71 years and one day. In the meantime I was kind of standing by...marking time...waiting for my turn. I climbed peak #244 (Tunemah) in 1992 with Igor and Tanya Mamedalin. I climbed Triple Divide Peak twice (#245) 8 years later in September of 2000 with Jeff Solomon and again with Doug Mantle, followed by a solo climb of Junction Peak (#246) in the same month. That left me with only San Joaquin Peak remaining. But I was only 67 years old in 2000 and had four years to wait in order to surpass George Toby.

I hoped that no class 4 peaks, or long back packs would be added to the list. In the mean time I had an operation for stomach cancer, followed by a hip replacement, then an operation for an abdominal cancer and finally the second hip was replaced. I kept active, training in the San Gabriels (102 ascents of Mt. Baldy), with a few Sierra and Desert repeats. I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and hiking became more difficult. I was slower but I had chosen an easy, non-technical peak, San Joaquin, on which to finish.

Then, in September of 2003, Ret Moore shattered the old-timer record by finishing at 79 years and 362 days. I am happy for Ret and I can’t wait another 8 years. I was 71 years and 269 days on September 25, 2004 when I was joined by 9 friends and we made a routine hike along the ridgeline use trail from the end of the 4 WD road near Minaret Viewpoint to reach my final SPS summit. Perhaps I qualify as the oldest to finish on two titanium hip replacements. Participants were my youngest son, Keith Jones, Igor and Suzanne Mamedalin, Bruce and Terry Turner, Sylvia Sur Kinney, Steve Smith, Jeff Solomon and Burt Falk. Burt is working on the SPS list himself and he is another AARP candidate. He finished the DPS list earlier this year in grand style. Burt was generous and let us use his condo in Mammoth for our celebration party, organized by my wife Leora. Thanks to these longtime supportive friends.

While hiking along the ridge to San Joaquin I was thinking about some of the people I’ve hiked with over the years, friends who have supported my efforts, who have taught me and those who have inspired me. These include John Robinson and Frank Sanborn who lived near me in Orange County in the ‘60s, Arky Erb and Gordon Macleod, Andy Smatko and Neko Colevins, Tom Amneus and Barbara Lilley. A little later there was Dick Sykes, Ken McNutt, Bill Hunt, Art Wester, Roy Ward, Norm Rohn, Maris Valkass, “Campy” Camphausen, Dick Beach, Igor Mamedalin and Jeff Solomon. These friends, and many others, are very special folks to me.


SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section