Ascents of Colosseum Mountain (West Ridge, class 1), Mount Perkins (West Slope, class 2) , Mount Wynne (West Ridge from Pinchot Pass, class 2), Mount Pinchot (South Ridge from Mount Wynne, class 3), Arrow Peak (Southeast Slope to Southwest Ridge, class 3), Cardinal Mountain (County Line, class 2), with René Renteria, July 2-8, 2019.


July 2, 2019. We departed Mammoth early but had to drop off René's car at the Taboose Pass trailhead (our exit), which took a long time due to the poor condition of the access road. We then drove to the Sawmill Pass trailhead in my car. We started hiking at 10:40, later than expected. This is a long, arduous hike starting at 4,600 feet and climbing to 11,309 feet over 11 miles. It was one of two "Big Four" eastside passes that I had yet to undertake (the remaining one being Baxter Pass). We stopped for the night at Sawmill Lake, reaching camp around 18:00. It was a comfortable night at 10,000 feet. (a 7:20 hour day, about 9 miles, 5,400 feet of elevation gain).

July 3, 2019. We left camp at 6:55, heading toward Sawmill Pass (8:40) and then cross-country on to Colosseum Col (10:55). The abundant snow slowed us down considerably, as it would during the entire rest of the trip. We dropped our packs, and headed up the easy class 1 West ridge of Colosseum Mountain, reaching the West summit at 11:45. Not finding the register box there, we hiked to the lower East summit (12:05), where we found and signed it. I brought back the register to the West summit as it is apparently 22 feet higher and the SPS-sanctioned highpoint. We then descended back to our packs and proceeded to the lake basin immediately West of Mount Perkins, where we had trouble finding a dry spot to set up camp. We finally found a little ledge overlooking Lake 11,068 to pitch the tent (16:30). This was ideally set up for Mount Perkins the next morning. (a 9:35 hour day, 7.5 miles, 3,600 feet of elevation gain).

July 4, 2019. We left camp at 7:36, heading up the West slope of Mount Perkins, an easy if steep class 2 scramble. I reached the summit at 9:12 but did not find a summit register. We lingered for a few moments, taking in the outstanding views, before returning to camp (10:59). We packed up and proceeded at 13:40 to rejoin the John Muir Trail to climb up to Pinchot Pass (16:20). We found a nice campsite at 12,000 feet, on a rocky "island" in the snow close to Pinchot Pass, on its Northern side – again ideally suited for the Wynne-Pinchot traverse we would do the next day. We were in camp at 17:15. (a 7:00 hour day, 3.20 miles, 2,400 feet of elevation gain).

July 5, 2019. We set out to climb the West ridge of Mount Wynne at 7:32. We were on the summit at 9:00 and contemplated the steep, intimidating ridge separating it from Mount Pinchot. We started down from Mount Wynne and then climbed the blocky and loose rock on the ridge. This looked harder than it was, and while there were short bits that might qualify as class 4 (class 3+?), overall the class 3 rating seems correct for the Wynne-Pinchot traverse – notwithstanding the many comments in the summit registers to the contrary. It is important to stay on the very crest of the ridge, as recommended by Secor: some parts are narrow catwalks, and a lot of fun. We also found the ridge much shorter than expected, as it suddenly gave way to easy scree and talus at the base of Mount Pinchot. We were on the summit of the latter at 11:28. We spent a half hour there and then proceeded to Pinchot's West summit, where we would catch a class 2 chute leading directly to camp (the Southwest chute). Overall, a very aesthetic way to climb both peaks. We were back at the tent at 13:37. We took a nice break, packed up camp and departed at 15:19, heading down the JMT to its junction with the Bench Lake trail. We found a nice campsite at the Eastern end of Bench Lake at 18:45 and enjoyed the outstanding view of Arrow Peak – and of its famous reflection in Bench Lake. At approximately 20:19, we witnessed rock fall on the cliffs South of the Lake – coinciding with the 7.1 magnitude Ridgecrest earthquake which occurred at the same time. However, we did not feel the earthquake at all. (a 9:31 hour day, 6.51 miles, 1,900 feet of elevation gain).

July 6, 2019. By now we needed a rest day but did not realize it until it was too late. We left camp intent on climbing Arrow Peak. From camp, it was apparent that Bolton Brown's 1895 classic route up the Northeast Spur (class 3) was corniced in its upper reaches and thus unclimbable. 2019 really was an amazing year snow-wise. We opted instead to climb Pete Starr's 1930 class 2 route, the Southeast Face. This involved a rather arduous trip to Arrow Pass, through snow and steep slopes. Departing camp at 8:15, we reached Arrow Pass at 11:23. By then René had had enough and decided to forego Arrow Peak. I therefore left alone, at 11:45, and climbed the left side of the Southeast slope, which was snow free. This led me to the crest of the Southwest ridge, a fun class 3 knife-edge. I made good time climbing the 1,200 feet from Arrow Pass, and was on the summit of Arrow Peak at 13:04. The views from there are breathtaking in every direction, and the peak deserves its classification as an SPS "Mountaineer's Peak". I spent a little time on top and came down the same way I came up, rejoining René at Arrow Pass at 14:28. I had lunch there and took a break. We opted to glissade down from the pass. We were back in camp at 18:11. (a 9:56 hour day, 7.50 miles, 2,300 feet of elevation gain).

July 7, 2019. This was the rest day we needed. We merely commuted from Bench Lake to a camp on the Western side of Taboose Pass. We left Bench Lake at 9:40 and were in camp at 13:15. We spent the afternoon napping, playing cards, sorting gear, etc. (a 3:35 hour day, 3.7 miles, 650 feet of elevation gain).

July 8, 2019. We had intended to exit that morning, and woke up early to descend Taboose Pass before the Owens Valley got too hot (the Taboose Pass trailhead is at 5,400 ft). However, after breakfast, while packing up camp, René suggested that we climb Cardinal Mountain, a peak we had foregone on our 2011 trip up Taboose Pass, and that both of us wanted to climb. We quickly agreed this was a good idea, and set out at 8:24 up the County Line route. We made quick way up the 2,100 feet of elevation gain to the summit, reaching it at 10:37. The route is mostly class 1 with a few class 2 portions when one has to cross some gullies on the Southeast side of the peak, just before the final summit slopes. The route goes over solid talus and scree, and is quite enjoyable. The views from the summit were magnificent, and we enjoyed the trip's sixth peak for a good half hour. We then descended back to our camp (12:36), packed up the remaining items and snacked on our last scraps of food. At 13:20, we set out across Taboose Pass, toward René's rental car parked at the trailhead. We reached it at 17:39, and started the drive to retrieve my car at the Sawmill Pass trailhead. I was back in Mammoth Lakes at 8:15, René following  a few minutes later. (an 8:31 hour day, 11.7 miles, 2,400 feet of elevation gain).

Trip totals: 55:28 hours, 50 miles, 18,650 feet of elevation gain.


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