OverviewNew for the summer of 2004: Peter Croft and Dave Nettle put up 2 new routes on the Hulk, Airstream at 5.13? ( between Positive Vibrations and Sun Spot Dihedral), and Venturi Effect, 5.12?, both led free with no falls by Croft and few falls for Nettle. The Venturi Effect is just to the right of the classic 5.11b Positive Vibrations. Croft's story of the ascent was published in the October '05 issue of Rock 'n' Ice. The ante for back country rock routes in the Sierra is definitely being raised.
The summit of the Incredible Hulk is the culmination of many long granite ridges composed of striking spires and often difficult climbing. The name is more familiar as the location of some quality back country rock climbs ranging from class 4 to 5.10 A2. As good as these climbs are, they don't end up on the actual summit of the Hulk, and most climbers don't expend the considerable extra effort to finish on the true summit. The summit register has only been signed 11 times, and the 1st ascentionist's signatures are still there from 1936. Bestor Robinson, Florence Robinson, Carl Jensen, and Don Woods topped out at 5 p.m., September 6, for the 1st known ascent.
Additional info (and perspective) on the Hulk from Jack Daniels:
The name "Incredible Hulk" came into use many years ago and referred to the "large, west facing mass on the ridge north of Eocene Peak" (R.J. Secor, "The High Sierra"). Many rock climbers refer to a lesser bump at approximately 11,300' as the summit of the Hulk. According to John Moynier and Claude Fiddler, "the summit was not climbed until 1970 "when "Greg Donaldson, Joe Kiskis, and Bob Grow...followed the easiest line up the right side of the face" ("Climbing California's High Sierra"). Since then, numerous routes have been established on the west face and in the adjoining gullies/couloirs, many of which remain unpublished. The lesser summit has a register for the Incredible Hulk and it contains many entries (as well as a Hulk Superball).
Which is the "true summit"? It is admittedly a rather banal question, of concern primarily to bored internet posters and obsessive peak baggers alike. Let's look at the available guidebooks.
In "The High Sierra", R.J. Secor refers to the higher 11,500' bump as the true summit, but at the same time acknowledges that the name Incredible Hulk also refers to the west wall. Three Sierra rock climbing guides ("Climbing California's High Sierra" by Moynier and Fiddler, "The Good, the Great, and the Awesome" by Peter Croft, and "High Sierra Select Supertopos" by Chris McNamara) all unambiguously refer to the lower 11,300' bump as the summit.
Clearly, the distinction is a matter of perspective. From the point of view of the peak bagger, the highest point means everything. Although even the peak bagger has to make the distinction between point 11,500' and the even higher summit (Eocene Peak) half a mile to the south. From the point of view of the rock climber, the immediate high point above the west face is the obvious summit. To get to the 11,500' bump, one would have to drop into a deep gully before reascending to a summit which, afterall, is just another bump on the ridge north of Eocene Peak. It would be akin to saying that the summit of Lost Arrow Spire is actually on a higher point on the north rim of Yosemite Valley and not on the spire itself. Is calling the lesser summit the top really a matter of laziness on the part of rock climbers or simply a matter perspective?
The lesser bump on the north ridge of Eocene Peak sports wide support amongst many rock climbers as the summit of the Incredible Hulk. The greater bump on that ridge, although infrequently visited, also has a following, primarily amongst mountaineers. Choose your summit, call it what you want. But be careful about calling your choice the "true" one.
Getting ThereThe best trailhead to access this peak is the Barney Lake trailhead, also known as the Robinson Creek trailhead. The trailhead parking is at the south end of Upper Twin Lake, at the Mono Village Resort.
The best access to the area is from US 395. From the north, as you arrive in the tiny town of Bridgeport, watch for the first right hand turn just after the Shell filling station (rip-off fuel prices--see below). This is Twin Lakes Road. From the south, enter Bridgeport and proceed to the end of town and take the last left-hand turn, right across from Buster's Market. This is the same Twin Lakes Road. At the end of the road is Mono Village. If you are staying overnight, enter the Village and bear left, along the shoreline to the boat trailer parking and a large dirt turnaround. The trailhead parking is along the edge of the turnaround. Dayhiker parking is along the shoreline of the lake prior to the turnaround.
From either parking area (they are quite close together), head into the campground through the main entrance. There are 3 roads branching off to the west from here. Take the middle road, and watch for a meadow on your left after a couple hundred yards . If you see it, you are on the correct road. Otherwise, backtrack and try again, there are many roads running through the campground area. When you see the meadow, continue on and you will pass a cable stretched across the road, and this is the recognized trailhead. Follow the road to the sign indicating the turnoff to Barney Lake.
For access to the climbers routes on the northwest face:
Follow the trail towards Barney Lake, pass the mouth of the Blacksmith Creek drainage, and before you arrive at the entrance to Little Slide Canyon, watch for a small rock buttress on your left (south). There is a use trail that goes up and over this buttress to avoid the marsh and beaver dam area on Robinson Creek. Once over the top of the buttress, you will join the main use trail up the drainage. Follow this up to the base of the Hulk.
Red TapeIf you intend to leave your vehicle overnight, you must buy a pass from Mono Village to park there, $10 per vehicle. The pass is purchased from the person in the building at the entrance to the campground. You may stay for as many nights as you wish for your $10, but if you leave and come back, you will be required to buy another overnight pass. If you are a dayhiker, Mono Village requests that you park alongside the shore of the lake rather than in the overnight parking area in the loop at the end of the road, and there is no cost.
If you wish to stay in the Hoover Wilderness, a wilderness permit is required. To get one, go to the Bridgeport Ranger Station , a USFS facility just southeast of Bridgeport along US 395.
When To ClimbSpring, summer, and fall are the main climbing seasons here, and the road is not always kept open in the winter, at least not to the end. The avalanche considerations are foremost in the decision to plow (or not plow) the road. Spring and summer mean lots and lots of hungry mosquitos in the area, and it gets better in the fall, even though the days are shorter.
CampingThere are pay campgrounds at Mono Village at the end of Twin Lakes Road, as well as the Paha Campground , Robinson Creek Campground , and numerous other pay campgrounds along the way to Twin Lakes. Personally, I hate to pay to lay in the dirt, so I camp along Buckeye Road, which is accessed by the turnoff to Doc 'N' Al's resort, another pay camping area a couple of miles north of Lower Twin Lake. Take the turn, and pass the resort on the left, and continue onto Buckeye Road, across the bridge over Robinson Creek, and onto public land.
Mountain ConditionsNo cams here, yet. The NWS weather is pretty reliable and detailed, and is worth checking out. The Bridgeport Ranger Station may be able to offer some insights.
Fred Claussen is still missing...Fred disappeared on August 1, 2003 while on a loop trip from Mono Village to Barney Lake, to Crown Lake, and on around the Sawtooth Ridge, descending Horse Creek Canyon back to Mono Village. He was last seen near Crown Lake. He was carrying a sizable load of camera and sound gear with the intent of recording the sights and sounds of forecast T-Storms.
If you come across any unattended gear, especially gear that looks a little weathered, call the Mono County Sheriff's Office at 760-932-7549 and they'll get the info to the Mono County SAR Team. He is likely still out there, and his wife cannot collect inheritance until either 7 years have passed, or some evidence of his demise is found. His wife has purchased a search dog, and is continuing the search along with periodic forays by the Mono County SAR Team. Keep your eyes open while traveling in this area.
GasolineCaution -- Extremely high fuel prices in Bridgeport! Price for regular unleaded as of 8/10/10 -- $399.9!
Unreasonably high fuel prices in Bridgeport motivated me to add this section. There are 2 filling stations in Bridgeport, and both are owned by the same shyster. The fuel prices are often a dollar or more per gallon higher than surrounding areas. With this in mind, I want to recommend to everyone using a trailhead in the Bridgeport area to fill up well before you arrive.
If arriving from the north, fill up in Minden/Gardnerville, or next best, at Topaz Lake. Coming in over Tioga, Lee Vining is also expensive, but (slightly) less than Bridgeport. From the south, Bishop is the best bet, but Mammoth is 40 - 50 cents per gallon less than Bridgeport. Coming over Sonora Pass, I guess you're out of luck unless you buy enough in Sonora to get over and back.
If you for some reason do find yourself in need of fuel in the Bridgeport area, Mono Village (at Upper Twin Lake) has fuel for 20-30 cents cheaper than in town.
While the fuel prices are a rip-off, other merchants in town are more reasonable, especially restaurants.
- SuperTopo of the Red Dihedral, the most well-known route on Incredible Hulk
This route is considered to be one of the 'Big Four' Sierra climbs by Peter Croft