Distance: 19.6 mi
Elevation Gain: 8463 ft.
We started up the trail just before 3 AM to try to set up camp and complete the climb before dark. We had read reports of 11-14 hours from camp to camp and were worried about our time. We managed to make it to the summit around 12:30 and back to camp by 5 PM for a total of 14 hours from car to summit to camp. There was a lot less snow in the glacier basin that last year around the same time, but the moat was still pretty wide open, making the east face direct route impossible.
After passing Pete Lake and joining the PCT hiking northbound, we passed through Lemah Meadows to where switchbacks start to ascend the ridge to the north. About 100 feet after the first switchback we left the trail to the left (uphill) until we got to more open forests where we turned left. We headed northwest, avoiding brushy areas, until we reached the creek at approximately 3,400′. There is a small log crossing here that was very useful. I built a large cairn with sticks for antlers and there is a bit of flagging marking the climbers trail from here. We followed what we could find of the climbers trail and followed what looked like the least steep terrain on our maps whenever we couldn’t follow the trail. We continued until we reached a talus field with a giant flat boulder in it at 4,800′, which would be our camp. We reached this point just before 7 AM and dropped all of our camping gear.
We continued up scree and talus following the path of least resistance; we kind of knew the best way to go from our failed attempt last year. We reached consistent snow at 5,800′ and put on crampons and our glacier gear. We easily traversed the glacier at 6,500′ until below the snow gully up to the U-Notch. It was easy going up this gully until the snow ended. We awkwardly removed our crampons and left our ice axes. This just meant we got to do some terrible loose scrambling. We accidentally kept too far left on the way up and found it a bit easier to scramble down the climber’s right of the main gully.
Once above the gully we had to traverse slabby scrambling northeastward until we reached the improbable ledge the traverses around the south peak of Chimney Rock. This scrambling required great care, as it was all very exposed. The ledge eventually took us around to an area of white rocks that we had to scramble up. This scrambling was steeper but the rock was much better, so it almost felt easier. Eventually the white rocks ended and we had to traverse to the right across two gullies with significantly worse rock. This would eventually take us to the ‘key ledge’ where there is a nice bivy spot.
At the far right side of the key ledge we roped up for the rock climbing. The climbing was quite easy, but sometimes partially vegetated and hard to protect. Rodrigo led the first and third pitches, while I took the second. The third pitch was the most difficult (awkward) but probably no more difficult than 5.6.
We finally arrived at the summit and enjoyed the views between clouds. The summit register was quite wet . I tried to dry it out, but didn’t dare try to write on it, as I would have probably just ripped it. We didn’t take long before setting up to rappel. We did 3 rappels down to the key ledge, scrambled back to the white rocks, where we did one more rappel and some scrambling back to the improbable traverse. We carefully scrambled back to the slabby bits, which seemed much worse on the way down. The scrambling down from the U-Notch was possibly the worst of the whole trip. We were very relieved to be back on snow for the relatively leisurely trip back to our camp.
We enjoyed our evening with some whiskey and Men In Blazers (soccer) podcasts. We were quite tired at this point and enjoyed the beautiful alpine camp, but really we could have just hiked all the way out that evening and made a day trip of it. Rodrigo was commenting just before bed how he hadn’t slept well lately and this was probably going to be one of his best sleeps ever…..and then he managed to pop his sleeping pad on some nearby twigs only to have a somewhat restless night.
We started hiking down the next day around 7 and were back at the car by 9. It was a great feeling to get back to town around lunch and have most of a day at our disposal.
(Download the free Gaia GPS app on your phone to view tracks and then get a Gaia GPS membership if you want offline access. Discount below!)
- ATC device
- Glacier glasses
- Locking Carabiners
- Mountaineering boots
- Sleeping pad
- Steel crampons
- Steel ice axe
- Summer sleeping bag
- Trad gear
- Trekking poles
- Water drops/filter