Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hurd Peak Loop

Hike track link

Bird Lists:
South Lake
Treasure Lakes
Margaret Lake
Long Lake

Hurd Peak at sunrise on the left
The top of Hurd Peak is a little above our climbing ability, so instead we did a hiking loop around the summit with some class 2 scrambling and incredible views. The route starts at South Lake following the Treasure Lakes trail until it plays out. From there it's cross-country to Hurd Col just below the summit and down to Margaret Lake. We stayed cross-country down the length on the west side of the overly popular Long Lake to the outlet. From there it was easy trail back to the car. Getting up and over Hurd Col takes some route-finding to avoid the abundant granite cliffs, but it isn't difficult. The views from the col are simply amazing: the west the Treasure Lakes basin and surrounding peaks; to the east the incredible Inconsolable Range including the peak we bagged last week - Cloudripper. We really enjoyed the unique views of Chocolate Peak with it's fascinating geology and beautiful colors. We'll have to tag that peak top in the not too distant future.

On the trail to Treasure Lakes with Hurd Peak beyond

Nearly to Treasure Lakes

The lowest Treasure Lake

One of the upper Treasure Lakes with Hurd Col in the center

Hurd Col is in the center of the ridgeline above the lake

Looking back across the upper Treasure Lake as we start the ascent to the col

Some talus to cross

And some granite ramps to navigate

Looking down at the upper Treasure Lakes from the col

The Inconsolable Range to the east from the col. The Bishop Pass trail passes up the valley below

The highest peak in this view is Cloudripper

Looking back at the col after we found our way down

Margaret Lake and Cloudripper

Margaret Lake

Chocolate Peak and the unique geology

Hurd Peak from near Long Lake

Chocolate Peak and Cloudripper

Long Lake and Chocolate Peak

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mount Hoffmann

Hike track link

eBird list 1
eBird list 2

Bob, Hikin' Bill and I headed out for a repeat adventure.  We first hiked to Mt Hoffmann in Yosemite back in 2010.  This time I had a goal -- complete the summit.  Last time I looked at the sheer fall near the top and decided I would rather live than summit; this time I found an alternate route to the top.  More on that later.

Mt Hoffmann

Our original plan for the day was to head to Mt Gibbs, but the smoke forecast did not look favorable, so it was plan B -- Mt Hoffmann, but with a twist.  The twist was a bonus four miles that Bob threw in to make it a "real hike".

We headed off to Yosemite along 395 and found the smoke at Lee Vining.  Fortunately, when we reached Tuolumne, it was clear, or as clear as it is going to get this year.  Our bonus four miles occurred between Highway 120 and the May Lake parking lot.  This was an easy stroll along a little used horse trail with plenty of trees and chickadees. 

May Lake and the lovely Mt Hoffmann ridge

From May Lake we took the use trail and wandered a bit past the direct route to Hoffmann, but eventually we were on a trail that I recognized and were huffing and puffing up to the rock outcrop that is Hoffmann.  It is not a classic peak, but since it has a name it gets peak-baggers who think they will get to sign a register.  They are disappointed on that account.  The last one hundred feet or so to the top is a nearly vertical rock outcrop.  Knowing that the right edge, which looks easiest, has an exposed drop, I choose to work the center of the formation.  I was rewarded with a route that took me up granite ledges to the top and had no sheer drop-offs. 

Getting closer
The drop off is on the right

We had nice views from the top including Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks, and more distant peaks including Dana and Gibbs.  And yes, the smoke forecast was accurate and we would not have been happy on Gibbs.  We will save that for a day when we will be able to see Mono Lake as our reward.

Clouds Rest and Half Dome

Bill and Bob heading up

Susan on the summit block

Bob summits a nearby mound
Bob does stupid shit and stands on a rock with thin air below
Hikin' Bill and Bob
A smoky Dana and Gibbs in the distance

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Hike track link

Bird lists:

South Lake

Brown Lake
Green Lake
Grunion Plateau

Another bucket list item. We've seen this mountain from about every possible side, off in the distance and close up, from previous hikes. After discovering the summit was within the reach of us hikers, and not as roped up mountaineers - and doable in a day - we decided to go for it. Our friend Chris came along for the ride; it was also a much wanted experience for him. And besides, who wouldn't want to bag a peak with a name as cool as Cloudripper?!

The first part of the hike we had done many times before: from the South Lake trailhead up to Brown and Green Lakes, then up the switchback trail to the plateau near The Hunchback. We had been a little farther before, to an intermediate high point labeled on the map as 12,406. This was all straight-forward hiking, from there it would be new territory for us.

Green Lake

Green Lake from the plateau

Hiking the plateau

There is some talus as you move across the plateau toward higher ground

Looking down at Green Lake and South Lake drainage from the plateau

Alpine Gold still in bloom at elevation
We reached the edge of the plateau, and before climbing up the intermediate ridge forming Vagabond Peak, we stopped at the cliff edge for a magnificent view west.

The Bishop Pass drainage below, with many spectacular peaks of the Goddard Divide and Evolution Range beyond
 A quick crossing of the Vagabond ridge (we saved that summit for the return) and we were descending into another plateau between the two peaks.

Chris crosses the intermediate plateau with Vagabond behind
Cloudripper summit from the intermediate plateau
Gaining another 500 feet elevation to the Cloudripper ridge, we navigated the short Class 2 section and the final very short Class 3 ascent to the summit block. 

Chris and Susan navigate the Class 2 ridge blocks

Chris looks up at the final summit

The fearless crew gains the summit!
 As expected, the 360 degree view from the 13,525 foot summit was spectacular, even with the abundant smoke from all the nearby forest fires.

The view west - Bishop Pass drainage below and the Sierra Crest beyond

To the east, Big Pine Lakes below, Palisades Crest on the right

Susan and Chris from just below the summit blocks, Big Pine Lakes and Sky Haven Peak beyond

To the north, South Lake far below. Mts. Tom and Humphreys, and many more beyond
 Next up on the return was gaining the summit block of Vagabond Peak (13,374 feet elevation), since we had to pass within a hundred yards of it anyway.

Vagabond summit from Cloudripper

Thunder and Lighning Lake is directly below Vagabond

Looking back across at the Cloudripper summit from Vagabond
My personal favorite Sierra flower, Sky Pilot (Polemonium eximium), only grows at very high elevation in talus

Our only real fear for the day was getting caught high and open by an afternoon thunder storm. So when the clouds started getting thick, and the thunder started booming out near Mt. Darwin a few miles away, we made a hasty retreat for lower country. Pretty much retracing our route, we made it to Green Lake and the relative protection of the trees before the lightening moved overhead and the first raindrops fell. Thankfully we hustled back down and made it to the trailhead without any significant rain. What a day!

Susan recrosses the plateau as the clouds move in