Monday, September 18, 2017

Mt. Williamson and Tyndall

Summits: Mt. Williamson – 14,379’, Mt. Tyndall – 14,017’, Mt. Versteeg – 13,470’, Polychrome Peak – 13,139’, and Mustang Peak (White Mountains) – 10,320’
Dates: 08/30/2017 – 09/04/2017
State(s): California and Nevada
Range(s) Sierra Nevada and White Mountains
Distance: Did not keep track (30+ miles)
Elevation Gain: Did not keep track: > 12,000’

Day 1:
I took off half a day from work and drove to Anchorite Pass on the California border where I decided to spend the night as dispersed camping is difficult to find in California. Looking for my first fourteener, Mount Williamson seemed like a good option as the permit was easy to obtain, and it was not hard too find out why.

Day 2:
Distance: 12.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 7,190’

After spending the night just north of Mono Lake, I picked up a few last minute groceries and my permit in Bishop before driving an hour south to the trailhead.  The last part of the road was slow going but not too bad.  I made the mistake of renting a bear canister to keep the rodents away but they are quite large.  I put most of my sleeping bag in it and it took up most of my pack.  The first mile was easy but after crossing the stream several times the switchbacks began.  After climbing nearly 3,000 feet the trail descended 600 feet before going back uphill.  At Mahogany Flats I grabbed water which seemed like a good idea after another group of hikers grabbed water.  Near Anvil Camp I ran into the same group of three guys with two of them from the Midwest.  I told them I planned to camp near Shepard’s Pass and they had the same idea.  The last few miles were brutal and after reaching Shepard’s Pass I was completely out of gas and ready for dinner.  At 12,000',  I decided to continue to the second lake. After a few steps I would stop to catch my breath but eventually I reached my campsite. It was a good thing I convinced myself the first day that the elevation gain was around 6,000 feet or I would have never made it.  Then I realized I was really out of gas when forgot to put the gas can for my stove in my pack after removing everything to fit the bear canister to keep the rodents away.  After a dry mac and cheese dinner (the food was not one of the highlights of the trip) it was off to bed but it took a while to get to sleep as a thunderstorm rolled in and put on quite a lightning show.  My main reason for selecting Mt. Williamson over Mt. Wilson in the San Juan’s of Colorado was to avoid the storms.  Luckily that storm was the only one I would encounter on this trip.

Day 3
Distance: Five-ish miles
Elevation Gain: 3700’
Summits: Mt. Williamson and Polychrome Peak

I slept in a bit after a long day hiking to the second lake above Shepard’s Pass I slept in a little bit before making my way into the Williamson Bowl at 7:45 am.  Originally I planned to lug my pack into the Williamson Bowl but I did not feel like lugging my pack any further so my campsite would serve as the basecamp for three nights.  Super Dave and Michael lugged their pack into the Williamson Bowl but I was not up for it.  Luckily the route into the Williamson Bowl was relatively easy to follow as I followed a small ridge in between a couple of lakes before walking around the eastern side of one of the lakes to reach the base of Williamson.  The “Black Stain” was easy to spot and led me to the long gully that would reach the chimney For the most part the routefinding was fairly easy until I reached the point where the gully forks.  I knew I had to veer right before the top so I took the right fork but after reading the directions I printed out I quickly realized I needed to continue straight.  There were cairns the whole way and I saw none in the right fork and I read the description of the route and decided to turn around and continue straight.  Sure enough I found more cairns and I followed the gully with some loose rock and ice practically to the top of the ridge.  From there I could spot the chimney I needed to climb and I started climbing a crack just to the left.  That quickly became sketchy so I went directly into the chimney and made it to the top without too much difficulty.  Luckily there were plenty of handholds but a fall would be unpleasant.   From there the rest of the scramble was easy and soon enough I reached the summit of my first fourteener.  The views were good to the west and a little to the north but the clouds were quite low obscuring part of view.  There was a register and I briefly looked at the entries describing the slog on the approach.  The descent through the chimney was not too bad and I took my time on the descent to grab photos and to enjoy the scenery of the Williamson Bowl.  I filtered water at Lake 12,247’ before heading out of the Williamson Bowl.  After grabbing a late lunch and filtering water during the middle of the afternoon I decided to check out Polychrome Peak as a short early evening hike.  Polychrome Peak was only 700 feet above my campsite and quite gradual.  I did some optional class 3 climbing at the top.

Day 3:
Distance: ~5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,130’ according to Strava and probably around 1,000’ in and out of the Williamson Bowl.
Summits: Mount Tyndall – 14,017’ and Mount Versteeg – 13,470’

After waking up and getting a leisurely start around 7:40 am, I decided to take on the north rib of Mount Tyndall.  The northwest ridge is much more gradual and clearly looked like the better option.  However I had researched Munt Tyndall and knew the north rib was passable and had less routefinding.  I thought to myself “here goes nothing” as I made my way uphill boulder hopping.  Some of the slabs looked difficult, but once I reached the ridge it was an easy scramble to the top.  After spending 20 minutes to half an hour taking in the views I headed down.  The descent probably took longer than the ascent on the steep slabs as I stayed on the left side of the rib.  I ran into a hiker who was coming up from Anvil Camp and told him about my route.  Closer to my campsite I ran into another hiker who was just behind his partner headed up Williamson.  After grabbing some bacon bits and dry potatoes at my campsite, I decided to attempt Versteeg.  Once in the Williamson Bowl I ran into a couple of parties on their way towards Mt. Williamson from Anvil Camp.  Both were running late and I told them about the standard route.  They could not see the famous “Black Stain” but I told them it would be more obvious once closer to it.  The south ridge of Versteeg looked daunting but I decided to attempt it anyways since Super Dave did the peak a year ago.  Super Dave was certainly right about the class 4 terrain which would keep my adrenaline going with the exposure, but the handholds were good.  After crossing some scree I went up a rotten gully which was loose and unpleasant.  After climbing out of the gully, the rest of the route was not too difficult and the rest of the climbing was no more than class 3.  The views were great and I could spot numerous peaks in the area including Mt. Whitney and superb views of Williamson and Tyndall.  According to the register, Super Dave was the last visitor to the summit of Mt. Versteeg.  Apparently the fourteeners are the only objective in the Shepard’s Pass area for most hikers.  I took a more direct route down to the Williamson Bowl and it required some class 3 climbing to reach the loose scree.  Once on the scree I made my way down to the lake.  On the way out I ran into one of the groups of hikers I met earlier.  They decided to turn back at 13,900’ since they had a long hike back to Anvil Camp.  I asked them if they would attempt Mt. Williamson tomorrow and they said “we will never attempt this one again!” A little later I heard some shouting and the other group reached the summit of Williamson around 3:20.  While the bowl is tedious and there was a snow patch that I avoided by veering to the left, it was not that difficult to climb out and back down to my campsite as the rock was quite stable. 

Day 4
Summits: None
Distance: 12.3 miles
Elevation Gain: Did not keep track, probably 700’

After a leisurely start, I got started a little before 8:00 am and back to the pass and ran into one of the hikers I saw on their way to Mt. Williamson the day before.  They were successful but his partner had altitude sickness.  I ended up passing a few hikers on the way down and provided route info when asked.  The 600’ foot climb was tiring with a full pack but once above the 9.000’ mark it was all downhill.  At the parking lot there was a group headed to Tyndall.  After dropping off the heavy bear/rodent canister in Bishop, I turned south shortly after crossing the Nevada border.  After almost getting stuck turning around on a rough side road, I found a suitable campsite.  I noticed a small peak on my topo map and I decided to go for it the next day.  While I decided to forgo Boundary Peak as it was too far with a long drive back, the small peak looked easily doable.

Day 5
Summits:  Mustang Mountain: 10,320’
Distance 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,750

After doing four  peaks and the long slog up to Shepard’s Pass, Mustang Peak fit the bill.  I decided to ascend the mountain via the road and then walk along the ridge.  I left the road below Kennedy Point and made my way over Kennedy Point and bushwhacked my way to the summit.  Surprisingly there was a register on this obscure peak.  I took a more direct line down through the thick sagebrush.

This trip was certainly memorable and I really enjoyed the spectacular scenery and camping above 12,000’, except for the storm on the first night.  Mount Williamson was an incredible climb capped off by the chimney and both Mount Tyndall and Mount Versteeg were challenging climbs too.  For a first fourteener, Mt. Williamson was a good choice and was definitely well-earned.  For those looking for a less crowded California fourteener than Whitney,  Williamson is a good choice.  I saw no children or anyone above 60 on the trail (most hikers were likely under 30!.

Super Dave's TR from 2016:

Mount Williamson from Lake 12,247

Mt. Williamson Summit

View to to the north

Williamson Chimney 

Tyndall Summit

Mount Versteeg Summit with a view of Trojan Peak

Lake next to campsit

View towards Shepard's Pass 

Mount Versteeg

Williamson Bowl

Boundary Peak from Mustang Mountain