Friday, September 20, 2019

Cathedral Rock, Etc. - 09/19/19

Charleston Peak from Cathedral Rock

Little Falls - Still Running

Cathedral Rock and Rabbitbrush

Hiking up the Echo Trail
The weather forecast promised wind gusts up to 40 mph! ๐Ÿ˜ฌBut, the wind was coming from the southwest and we would be on the northeast face of the mountain. Onward!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒAs it turned out, it was an absolutely gorgeous day for a hike up to the top of Cathedral Rock. Eleven hikers parked at the Echo Trailhead and started up the old road/trail. The morning sun had not quite filled in the shadows. When we neared the junction with the Little Falls Trail, we saw our first yellowed aspen. Here they come! ๐Ÿ˜The beautiful aspen colors of the autumn season. We turned right at the junction and began our climb up to the small waterfall slot.

Changing Aspen
Last spring, this waterfall was gushing with snow melt water. The photos were fantastic. Now, in September, we didn't expect anything but a trickle.

Climbing up to Little Falls
Lo and behold! The Little Falls is still running quite well on all four tiers. We all enjoyed our moment with the falling water then turned around and started back down the trail.

Fun Group!

Exiting Little Falls Slot
The group of strong hikers gathered at the Echo Trail junction sign then we continued over to the Cathedral Rock Trail. If you started hiking in the Spring Mountains after the new South Loop / Cathedral Rock Trailhead was built, you might be interested to know the area where this part of the trail comes close to the road at the Mt. Charleston Lodge is the old trailhead for Cathedral Rock. By the time they began building the new trailhead, this parking lot would fill fast and, sometimes, we had to park down the road. This is also when the Echo Trailhead became more popular! Another improvement here are the new restrooms. People! Remember the terrible condition of the old outhouse? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Little Falls Trail
So, we climbed the hill toward the Cathedral Rock Trail and decided to step back into memory lane and try out the old trail that connects with the new trail. After all, the new trail loses elevation after which you have to regain it.

Cathedral Rock Trail
It appears that the old trail has been worn into two or three different paths. We chose one for the ascent then, later chose another for the descent. Neither were in good condition.

Cathedral Rock from Approach

Echo Falls almost Dry
I strongly suggest to stick to the new trail and hike down to the signed trail junction where you would need to turn right. Next, we began our steep climb up to Echo Falls. The group spread out using their own speed up the incline. More yellow aspens could be found among the green ones. This wide canyon, called Mazie Canyon, is prone to avalanches and the aspens never seem to regain their old age. Nevertheless, the aspens created a trail tunnel around us. At the Echo Falls left turnoff, most of us went up to the waterfall to see if it was also still running. Nope! Moss had replaced the waterworks and a minimum trickle came down under it.

Heavy Snow? Or, Avalanche?
Returning to the Cathedral Rock Trail, we climbed up another couple of switchbacks. The aspens around us near the end of the hike through the canyon, were bent and chaotic.

Cathedral Rock from the Back Side
Last spring, we all thought that there had been another avalanche here. The snow was very deep and difficult to get through. But, the rangers assured us that it was only heavy snow that did the damage. ๐Ÿ˜Hmm. Okay.

Final Approach to the Top of the Rock

Balcony Seating - View down Kyle Canyon
The last of our group rounded the corner to the right after passing an unsigned fork and began the final ascent to the top of the rock. There are a lot of steps built into the trail here. At the top, everyone was enjoying a break and the view. To the right, we could see all the way down through lower Kyle Canyon. (See photo to the right.) To the left, we had a beautiful view of Charleston Peak and the North Ridge. (See first photo.) We shared the rock top with some other hikers. There was plenty of room. Then, we returned to the trail via the small loop around the rock top. There is a great artistic tree on the back corner of this loop. (Photo not good today!) We completed the little loop and descended the rock.

Turning onto the Manhole Cover Trail
A right turn, as seen above, put us on an old road that headed out to Manhole Cover #1. Yes, no longer a point of interest! But, there is a trail there that leads up toward the South Ridge. (Warning: only for strenuous and experienced hikers!) ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Mummy Mountain from Manhole Cover Trail
We returned back along the old road where boy scouts sometimes do campouts. Then, we turned right to go back down the Catherdral Rock Trail.

Hiking out to the Manhole Cover #1

South Ridge above Manhole Cover #1
We began passing several other day hikers who also chose to ignore the wind warnings. ... What wind? ... One group of hikers were carrying trash bags and picking up trash. There wasn't a whole lot of trash on this trail but their bags seemed to have something in them. Thanks! We turned left to return along the old trail path. The choice we made on the way up was better than the one we made on the way down. Again, just stay on the new trail. Anyway, we hiked down past the old trailhead area and continued up to the Echo Trail junction sign. Here, we helped out another hiker that had gotten separated from the trash pick-up group.

The Vatican to the Right
We turned right onto the Echo Trail where we had to climb the last significant hill. ๐Ÿ˜ง

One of the Old Benches
As we hiked along the last stretch, hikers drifted over to the construction fence on the right side of the trail. The fence is located at the top of the new high embankment that they have been digging out as of late.

Shortcut Trail

Climbing last hill on Echo Trail
This could be a great overlook for the future! The view is straight down through lower Kyle Canyon and right above the hairpin curve of Kyle Canyon Road. And, last, as we made our final descent back to the trailhead, we saw two young bucks. Nice antlers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Always a great hike. A gorgeous fall is in the works! ๐Ÿ˜

6 miles; 1525 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Site of Future Overlook - Maybe

Echo Community - Cockscomb Ridge Above

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mt. Whitney, CA (with 4 club members) Photo Essay - 9/12/19

Mt. Whitney from the Eye of Alabama Arch in the Alabama Hills (Lone Pine, CA)

The Permit Tag

Dawn on the Peaks

Rocky Trail
 Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m). It is located in East–Central California, on the boundary between California's Inyo and Tulare counties, 84.6 miles (136.2 km) west-northwest of the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The west slope of the mountain is in Sequoia National Park and the summit is the southern terminus of the John Muir Trail which runs 211.9 mi (341.0 km) from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. The east slope is in the Inyo National Forest in Inyo County.

The summit of Mount Whitney is on the Sierra Crest and is the highest point on the Great Basin Divide. It lies near many of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The peak rises dramatically above the Owens Valley, sitting 10,778 feet (3,285 m) or just over two miles above the town of Lone Pine 15 miles to the east, in the Owens Valley.

The mountain is partially dome-shaped, with its famously jagged ridges extending to the sides. Mount Whitney is above the tree line and has an alpine climate and ecology. Very few plants grow near the summit: one example is the sky pilot, a cushion plant that grows low to the ground. The only animals are transient, such as the butterfly Parnassius phoebus and the gray-crowned rosy finch.  ~Wikipedia

View Back down toward Owens Valley

Sun is Rising

Near Trail camp looking towards Trail Crest

Last water, near Trail Camp

Looking back down some of the 99 switchbacks to Trail Camp
The granite that forms Mount Whitney is the same as the granite that forms the Alabama Hills, thousands of feet lower down. 

On August 18, 1873, Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Lucas, all of nearby Lone Pine, were the first to reach this summit. As they climbed the mountain during a fishing trip to nearby Kern Canyon, they called the mountain Fisherman's Peak. 

In 1881 Samuel Pierpont Langley, founder of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory remained for some time on the summit, making daily observations on the solar heat. Accompanying Langley in 1881 was another party consisting of Judge William B. Wallace of Visalia, W. A. Wright and Reverend Frederick Wales.  ~ Wikipedia

An Icy part of the 99

Nearing the Top of the 99
Wallace later wrote in his memoirs that "The Pi Ute [Paiute] Indians called Mt. Whitney "Too-man-i-goo-yah," which means "the very old man." They believe that the Great Spirit who presides over the destiny of their people once had his home in that mountain." The spelling Too-man-i-goo-yah is a transliteration from the indigenous Paiute Mono language. Other variations are Too-man-go-yah and Tumanguya.

In 1891, the United States Geological Survey's Board on Geographic Names decided to recognize an earlier name Mount Whitney. Despite losing out on their preferred name, residents of Lone Pine financed the first trail to the summit, engineered by Gustave Marsh, and completed on July 22, 1904. Just four days later, the new trail enabled the first recorded death on Whitney. Having hiked the trail, U.S. Bureau of Fisheries employee Byrd Surby was struck and killed by lightning while eating lunch on the exposed summit. In response to this event, Marsh began work on the stone hut that would become the Smithsonian Institution Shelter, and completed it in 1909.  ~Wikipedia

Trail Crest Above

View over Trail Crest on the back side…toward JMT Junction

View Back along the Crest Trail

Looking back.  Yes, there’s a long trail across that talus.

A small patch of snow only…but it was deep.
Today's Story

Back in February, three club members put in multiple entries to the Mt. Whitney day permit lottery…and in April found that one was a winner, obtaining four permits.  So Larry Shahan, Chuck Stinnett, Laszlo Heredy and Brian Dodd left the Whitney Portal Trailhead at 0428 on September 12 to climb the mountain.  The Mt. Whitney trail is ~22 miles round trip going from about 8,000 ft. up to 14,508 ft., but involves nearly 7,000 ft. of gross gain. (Think 1.5 times Mt. Charleston peak.)  

While the trail is pretty good up to the area requiring permits (Lone Pine lake, about 2.5 miles in), the rest has significant difficult sections with rock and talus, as well as some hands needed.  Once past the permit area, there are climbs to the Outpost camp and Mirror lake, then on up to Trail camp which is the site of the last water.  From there, it’s a steep climb up 99 switchbacks to Trail Crest.  Unfortunately, then there’s a downhill to the junction with the John Muir trail before the final two-mile slog to the top.  For the most part the exposure is not too bad, but one very icy section thankfully has a guard rail. Anyone thinking of trying for a day or overnight permit is welcome to chat with any of us to get the nitty-gritty.  ~Brian

These photos were taken by Brian and other members of the group. The narrative was written by Brian. Thanks Brian for giving us a peek at what it's like up there.

Brian (upper left), Laszlo (right), and Chuck (lower left) (Larry must have been shy.)

Smithsonian Institution Shelter (1909) on Summit

More of the Icy Section