The night before I left was a rough one. Camping in the truck is usually really comfortable, not this night at the Mammoth Hot Springs. The winds were raging hard enough to shake my house. I woke up late and started questioning my plan, I brushed it off and headed south to the Shepherds Pass trailhead. I got packed quickly and headed up the trail for a few nights. The trail is a LONG one. 11 miles and 5,700 vertical, one way, just to the pass. I plodded along and made it to just above Anvil Camp. Along the way I ran into Dan and Kim. It was weird, on my way out here I was wondering what they were up to. Crazy how you run into people you’ve been thinking about. Perhaps there is magic in these Sierras.
After a really rough night freezing my ass off because I mistakenly brought my 25 degree bag, I woke up and made some oatmeal. I headed up to Shepherds Pass and then made my way below the North Face of Tyndall. This put me in Williamson Bowl. I should have done better research on the line because I really didn’t know what I was going for. I worked my way around the bowl giving up as little vertical as I could. I could see two chutes that looked pretty far removed from the summit. Finally, as I got to the base of the face it came into view; the wide couloir that led to the summit scramble, if that was the summit?
“Well what the hell, why not, I’m here.”
The line reminds me of the South Couloir of Crestone Peak. I plodded up the couloir to the top of the snow. I think this notch is the top of Giant Steps. At the top of the couloir it started to get really windy and a cloud layer arrived. The snow started to refreeze. I had a decision to make. The 3rd class summit climb looked like it would take some time and I really didn’t want to ski the couloir in ice. I was so close, above Tyndall, above 14k. Well at least I got all the snow. Safety first, the mountain will be there the next go around. The upper section was bulletproof with frozen chickenheads. Lower down I got a little bit of corn, which was nice above the icefall consequences below. From there I went back around the valley and pondered Tyndall. I’m sure it would have been frozen hard, like Whitney was. I blew it off and made for the pass. Skiing down from the pass may have been the firmest “snow” I’ve ever skied without ice skates.
Not wanting to spend another night freezing I broke down my bivy and milked the snow for another 1k. The hike out was a visit to zombie land. Plodding along with really no thoughts. A repetitive motion trance came upon me for most of it. The uphills killed me one step at a time. The switchbacks were a bear and the water crossings put stones in my boots and rubbed my open blister. I made it back to the trailhead just as the light was fading and the sunset colors were gone. It was a tough 35 hours on the mountain and I have to go back for more. Maybe next time I’ll go for the Bairs Creek line? 12k and about 30 miles for the trip and I get to do it again. Mount Keith looks really good as do Tyndall, Trojan and Junction. Such an amazing zone so going back won’t be too difficult. At least now I know what to expect.
This report will be logged into the 14ers list as a placeholder until I can tag the summit. Hopefully it will provide beta for people for their trips.