ROMAIN WACZIARG

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CIRQUE PEAK / MOUNT MCADIE / MOUNT PICKERING / JOE DEVEL PEAK / MOUNT CHAMBERLIN / MOUNT NEWCOMB / MOUNT LANGLEY


Ascents of Cirque Peak (from New Army Pass, class 1), Mount McAdie (from Arc Pass, class 3), Mount Pickering (East Slope, class 2), Joe Devel Peak (traverse from Mount Pickering, class 2), Mount Chamberlin (Southwest Slope, class 1), Mount Newcomb (traverse from Mount Chamberlin, class 3), Mount Langley (South Slope from New Army Pass, class 1), with René Renteria, June 16-21, 2020.


Timeline:

June 16, 2020. We left Mammoth late. To compound the delay, the gate to the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead and campground area was closed due to the pandemic, adding 1.2 miles to the approach. We set out from the car at 11:24 and hiked along the road with crowds of people, to the trailhead. We stopped for lunch near a stream, and made good progress to New Army Pass despite heavy packs, reaching there at 16:38. We dropped our packs at the pass and hiked up the easy class 1 slopes to the summit of Cirque Peak, reaching the summit at 17:56. This afforded a nice view South toward Olancha Peak, North towards Mount Langley, Mount Russell and Mount Whitney and West toward the Kaweah Range. We were back at the packs at 18:53, and proceeded down the trail for about 2.2 miles on the west side of New Army Pass to find a camp in the trees. We found a suitable camp at 19:54. (An 8:30 hour day, 15.25 miles, 3,400 feet of elevation gain).

June 17, 2020. We left camp at 8:32 and proceeded toward the lower Soldier Lake (9:04) and on into the Rock Creek drainage. This afforded easy cross-country terrain over mostly flat terrain. We reached Sky Blue Lake at 11:13, with plenty of time left to spare that day. We pitched our tent, organized our camp, had lunch and decided to climb Mount McAdie that afternoon. We left camp at 12:40 and made our way over a shoulder of The Miter, and into the area leading to Arc Pass. We were at Arc Pass at 14:14, and hiked up the talus toward Mount McAdie. We ascended a variation of the Arc Pass route that avoids an ascent of the middle summit, instead traversing the gully leading to the notch between the middle and North summits. This was a bit loose, involved a few class 3 moves, and put us right in the requisite notch. There, we spotted a series of cairns leading around the West side of the North Peak (class 3), to the summit. The climb was uneventful, but worthy of the peak's standing as a Mountaineer's Peak. I was happy that this peak was my 124th SPS peak, marking the completion of over half of the list. We were on top at 15:35, and enjoyed the great views in all directions. The descent went without problems, and we were back at Arc Pass at 17:12, and in camp at 18:38. A great afternoon of mountaineering. (A 10:06 hour day, 8 miles, 3,000 feet of elevation gain).

June 18, 2020. This was to be the first day of a traverse of Mount Pickering, Joe Devel Peak, Mount Guyot, Mount Chamberlin and Mount Newcomb. We set out from camp at 9:15 with bivy gear, contouring Sky Blue Lake on its eastern shore and gaining the small tarns to its West. From there we ascended a steep North-facing slope to a saddle at the base of the East slope of Mount Pickering. All this went at class 2, and after a couple of false summits, we were on top of Mount Pickering at noon. After half an hour on the summit, we followed the ridge separating it from Joe Devel Peak (class 2) and were on the summit of the latter at 14:35. After another half hour on top, we descended the sandy West slope/ridge of Joe Devel, aiming to set up camp near Perrin Creek and within close range of Mount Guyot. However, we found Perrin Creek to be dry, despite the early time of year. So we hiked to a nearby tarn, but found it to be full of brown, dirty water – not fit for consumption since we lacked the means to purify it. On we went, toward Guyot Creek, which thankfully was running nicely. This search for water cost us Mount Guyot, as we wasted quite a lot of time. But we found a very nice spot to bivy for the night, in a forest close to the stream. We were in camp at 18:45 and spent a restful evening and night. (A 9:30 hour day, 7.3 miles, 2,600 feet of elevation gain).

June 19, 2020. I woke up early and briefly toyed with the idea of running up Mount Guyot, but relented. It was going to have to wait for a future trip. We left our camp at 7:50, and headed toward the SW ridge of Mount Chamberlin. We hiked up a low-angle valley leading to a saddle NW of Mount Chamberlain, then turned right up the class 2 NW slope of the peak. We were on the summit at 10:33 and contemplated the knife-edge ridge separating it from Mount Newcomb. Both Secor and Bob Burd suggest dropping about 1,000 feet on the southeast side of the ridge to traverse between the two peaks, and we did this. This involved some steep down climbing to sandy ledges (some class 3). From there I spotted a nice rock ramp on the left side of the slope, leading back up to the easy Southwest Slope of Mount Newcomb. We ascended this ramp (some easy class 3). We reached the summit of Newcomb at 13:45, and spent a long time there having lunch and taking in the views. We left at 14:40, facing what we expected to be the crux of the traverse: the descent back to Sky Blue Lake. At first, we followed the NE ridge of Mount Newcomb toward Crabtree Pass (class 3), but after a little while we spotted a feasible diagonal descent toward Lake 3,697. This went well, and we were on the shores of that lake around 16:00. Things took longer from there, as we had to find a way through a maze of little lakes and steep buttresses on the way to Sky Blue Lake. We were back in camp at 17:55, happy to have completed the traverse without problems. (A 10:10 hour day, 7.8 miles, 3,800 feet of elevation gain).

June 20, 2020. This was to be a rest day. We lounged around camp in the morning, and took almost 3 hours to hike to and spend time at Iridescent Lake. Iridescent Lake has to be one of the most scenic lakes in the Sierra, with The Miter rising steeply to its West, Mount LeConte to its Northeast, and the spires of Mount Corcoran to its East. We spent lots of time there sitting on rocks, dipping our feet in the lake, and generally daydreaming. We saw a lone hiker, but he was not very communicative. I regretted not bringing more gear to climb up the North Notch route on Mount Corcoran – a class 3 route listed in Secor, which seemed quite straightforward from my vantage point. This summit too will have to wait. We returned to camp at 12:13, had lunch and packed up. The hike back toward the Western side of New Army Pass went without problems, and we found a camp about 1,200 vertical feet below the pass at 16:15. (A 5:50 hour day, 6.7 miles, 1,200 feet of elevation gain).

June 21, 2020. We expected this last day to be a long one, as we intended to climb Mount Langley on the way back. I had already climbed this peak in May of 2002, but René never had, and I was happy to accompany him. We left camp at 6:55 and hiked back up to New Army Pass. We dropped our packs shortly before the pass, and started hiking the South slope of Langley. I was surprised to see a trail almost to the summit, lined with gigantic stupa-like cairns on the way (neither had been there in 2002). This made routefinding rather obvious, and we were on the summit at 10:00. There, we met a party of three Frenchmen living in LA. We stayed on the summit for a while, and for the return I decided to run back to the packs. That went fast, and it took me 45 minutes from the summit to my pack, running all of the trail portion. I waited for René, we hiked back up to New Army Pass and met the Frenchmen there, descending the East side of the pass in their company. That was the beginning of the interminable 9-mile return to the car. We were low on food, only a few nuts and bars left, but we made good time down the trail, and reached the car at 15:55. We were in Mammoth around 18:00, ready for a long period of rest after an intense trip. (A 9:00 hour day, 16.3 miles, 3,100 feet of elevation gain).

Trip totals: 53:06 hours, 61.35 miles, 17,100 feet of elevation gain.

Photos:

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