ROMAIN WACZIARG

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EAST VIDETTE / SOUTH GUARD / NORTH GUARD / MOUNT BREWER / MOUNT GENEVRA / MOUNT ERICSSON


Ascents of East Vidette (East Ridge, class 3), South Guard (South Slope, class 2), North Guard (South Face, class 4), Mount Brewer (Northwest Slope, class 2), Mount Genevra (East Slope from Milly's Foot Pass, class 2), Mount Ericsson (West Ridge, class 2), with René Renteria, June 12 - 18, 2021.


Timeline:

June 12, 2021. We were off to a late start, as we spent the morning packing for our six night, seven day planned trip. We found an empty campsite at the Onion Valley campground to eat our sandwiches, then set out on the Kearsarge Pass trail at 14:22. Considering our 40lb packs, we made relatively quick progress to the pass, reaching it at 17:06. On the other side, I made a side trip to the largest of the Kearsarge Lakes to find Robert, who was there with a group of fathers and sons. He and René were finally able to meet. We continued on to Vidette Meadows, and found a nice campsite at 19:37 (the very same campsite where I had spent the last night of a hike along the southern portion of the JMT, with my daughter Claire, one year prior). (A 5:15 hour day, 10.10 miles, 2,850 feet of elevation gain).

June 13, 2021. Our plan for this day was to climb East Vidette and then move camp to East Lake. We left camp at 7:17 and hiked up the JMT toward the base of the East Ridge of East Vidette. We had little trouble crossing Bubbs Creek, and enjoyed a nice climb up the ridge, reaching the summit at 10:44. We did not find a register on any of the high points, so I left a notebook in a Ziploc near what seemed to be the highest block. We descended the Southeast Slope and headed back to camp, where we took a lunch break. We packed up and left at 15:05. We had a nice hike to East Lake, with an uneventful crossing of Bubbs Creek at Junction Meadow. We reached a comfortable campsite at the southern end of East Lake at 18:34. Mosquitos were present but not too fierce compared to what we were to encounter later. This was to serve as our base for the next three days. (A 10:08 hour day, 10.7 miles, 4,250 feet of elevation gain).

June 14, 2021. We packed food and bivy gear for one night, left camp at 8:58 and headed up toward Lake Reflection and then Longley Pass. We stopped for lunch at the largest lake East of Longley Pass (Lake 3,496), a superb location. We then hiked up to the pass, bypassing the snow by climbing class 2+ rock on the right-hand side. We were at the pass at 14:10, dropped some gear to lighten our packs and headed up the easy South Slope of South Guard, reaching its summit at 15:02. We were back at Longley Pass at 15:48 and headed down its western side, intent on finding a nice bivy site not too far from our next objective, North Guard. It took longer than anticipated to contour South Guard Lake (gorgeous, wild, and untouched) and then head up to the tarns just West of Brewer Col, at over 12,000 feet of elevation. At 18:40 we found a nice grassy patch, between the two main tarns, to lay down our sleeping bags for the night (at so-called "Cinder Col"). It was a windy evening, spent enjoying the untouched wilderness that forms this part of the Sierra. And there were no mosquitos ! (A 9:42 hour day, 7.9 miles, 4,400 feet of elevation gain).

June 15, 2021. This was to be a long day, with ascents of North Guard, Mount Brewer, and a descent along the latter's East Ridge back to camp at East Lake. We left our bivy site at 7:46 and hiked the 1.4 miles to the hanging valley between North Guard and Mount Brewer. We headed up talus slabs at the base of the South Face of North Guard, and soon encountered steeper terrain that seems like class 4. We roped up for two very short pitched of class 3-4 climbing that took us left into an easy class 2 gully. That led to the West Ridge of North Guard, and fun class 3 climbing started there. We reached the summit area at 11:18 and roped up again to protect our climb of the class 4 summit block. We then reversed our steps pretty much exactly, and stopped for lunch in the hanging valley before heading up the Northwest Slope of Mount Brewer. The center of the slope was filled with snow, which we avoided on the right side. This took us to the summit ridge of Mount Brewer, but some distance West of the summit. Some easy class 2+ scrambling got us to the base of the summit block at 16:19. This was my second time on Brewer, and the first time, being alone, I had not climbed the exposed summit block. This time, we did. We signed the register and enjoyed the amazing views in all directions (such a landscape!). I left a note in memory of John McMillan, a wonderful economist who had been my mentor at Stanford and passed away in 2007. John had visited the Kearsarge Pass area and undoubtedly had set his eyes upon Mount Brewer on one of those trips. The return down the East Ridge seemed interminable, and the last part had to be done with headlamps. We reached camp at 21:04, happy to have climbed North Guard and to have done a full traverse of Mount Brewer (up the Northwest Slope, down the East Ridge), and looking forward to resting on the following day. (A 13:18 hour day, 7.5 miles, 3,150 feet of elevation gain).

June 16, 2021. This was our rest day. We lounged around camp in the morning, eating, hydrating and playing cards. At 14:35 we left East Lake and headed up toward the Kings-Kern Divide with our full packs. Our plan was to set up a new camp just northwest of Milly's Foot Pass, near some lakes. The few miles to that spot were teeming with mosquitos – this was my third time coming to this part of the Sierra, and the third time finding some of the fiercest mosquito conditions I have ever encountered. Things were a little better at the high tarns below Milly's Foot Pass, which we reached at 17:21. We enjoyed a nice evening in this beautiful basin. A small pool with warmer water afforded the opportunity for a welcome bath, this day and the next. (A 2:46 hour day, 2.5 miles, 1,700 feet of elevation gain).

June 17, 2021. Our plan for the day was to climb Mount Genevra and Mount Jordan after crossing the King-Kern Divide at Milly's Foot Pass. Alas, this was not to happen, due to weather. We left camp at 7:30 and were on the other side of the pass at 8:44. This pass involves solid class 3 climbing on very poor rock, so it is not to be underestimated (while we climbed it unroped on the way up, we did use a belay on the way down, since we had the gear for the summit block of Mount Jordan). At the pass, we headed up the West ridge of Mount Genevra, and reached its summit at 10:08, under a gathering storm. The storm was particularly bad over Mount Jordan, under a thick set of black clouds. So we decided to forego this ascent. This was probably a wise decision, since the black clouds would hang over this area for the remainder of the day. As we descended the Southeast slopes of Genevra, it started to rain, and we found refuge under a large rock for a time. The rain subsided, and the sky over Mount Ericsson seemed to open up, so we headed in the direction of Lucy's Foot Pass. We stopped for a snack at the large lake that sits at the base of this pass, at around 12,000 feet, as I contemplated an ascent of Mount Ericsson. By then René had had enough climbing, so I set out alone at 12:26. The West Ridge of Mount Ericsson, first climbed on August 1, 1896 by Lucy and Bolton Brown, was quite easy, and I was on the summit at 13:35. I took in the great views in all directions, enhanced by the dramatic stormy weather, and headed back to rejoin René (14:32). We then headed back to Milly's Foot Pass under very iffy weather, and were back at our tent at 17:00, taking the long way home to visit the tarns above camp. (A 9:30 hour day, 6 miles, 3,800 feet of elevation gain).

June 18, 2021. We had a long way to go on our last day – 17 miles or so back to Onion Valley. It did not help that there was a powerful storm all night, with strong gusts of wind and steady rain. Morning came with more rain, raising concerns that our descent back to Lake Reflection would be both wet and slippery. We packed our gear inside the tent, hoping for a lull. This came around 7:45, and we quickly departed at 8:00, without having breakfast. The descent to Lake Reflection was quick, and we decided to push on toward Junction Meadow without stopping, concerned that the bad weather might return. After the Bubbs Creek crossing, we set up the tent, made coffee, finished off much of our remaining food, and took a quick nap. Then started the long march back to Kearsarge Pass (17:11) and the car (19:17). We went for barbecue at the Copper Top in Big Pine, and on to Mammoth. (An 11:17 hour day, 17 miles, 3,800 feet of elevation gain).

Trip totals: 61:56 hours, 61.7 miles, 23,950 feet of elevation gain.

Photos:

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