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2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Mon Aug 10, 2015 12:46 am

Day 3 - Robber Baron Peak

Unofficially named, this summit located in the heart of Pioneer Basin suggests all are not fans of the Big Four who financed and built the western half of the transcontinental railroad and went on to dominate the railroad business in California for many decades. Crocker, Hopkins, Huntington and Stanford all have summits around the basin named for them by the surveyors they sent to the range looking for routes across the Sierra Crest.

The hike out of McGee Creek is a pleasant one, at least until one reaches Steelhead lake some 6mi from the TH. A mile-long boulder-fest then follows as one climbs to the crest between Stanford and Crocker. Most of the vanguard group turned right to head to Crocker first, while Nick Clawson and I were the only ones to head directly to Robber Baron. Secor decribes a class 3 chute on the NE side, but that was completely free of snow and looked like utter crap. Instead, Nick and I climbed the East Ridge which turned out to be a good bit of class 3 fun, reminiscent of Russell's East Ridge. At the summit we could see two others in the distance on Crocker's summit. Looking for an easier way down, I went to the sandy saddle with Hopkins only to find cliffs leading down to Pioneer Basin. Nick and I split up here, he heading to Crocker (lots and lots of tedious-looking class 2) while I headed south to Hopkins. Karl had told us there were great sand descents off the east side of Hopkins and I was not disappointed. Down to the lake at the bottom in something like 15min, I paused to empty the sand from my shoes and decided to take a swim in the lake while I was at it. Delightful... I met back up with Nick and a few others back on the north side of the crest and five of us descended back to the TH together.

The boulder field north of the pass:
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The delightful Pioneer Basin:
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Robber Baron Peak (East Ridge in profile on right):
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Mason provides apre-hike beers:
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Mon Aug 10, 2015 12:48 am

I just got a call that Eric Su has hurt his hand today. Two other participants are walking him out over Mono Pass (all trail route), another is driving to Rock Creek to pick them up and he will be heading to Mammoth hospital. Hoping it's not too badly hurt...

Update: Eric had torn the pad on his middle finger. Daria and Chris walked out with him over Mono Pass after patching him up, then Daria and Mason drove him to Mammoth Hospital where he got 5 stitches to put it back together. He took Monday and Tuesday off, but will rejoin us Wednesday in the White Mtns.
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:00 pm

Day 4 - Wheeler Crest

For years I'd looked at the long stretch of Wheeler Crest from both US395 and from some of the higher peaks around it and finally decided we'd put it on the Challenge. To keep it from being too easy, we designated Round Valley Peak as 1/2 credit, and the northernmost point with prominence to be another 1/2 credit. Of the 15mi we'd travel, some 6.5mi would be cross-country, mostly along the crest. On the map it looks like a pleasant enough stroll, up and down over half a dozen other local highpoints. When we reached the first of these after a few hours, the ridgeline looked harder. In reality, it was somewhere in between. The various highpoints had some fun class 3 scrambling on heavily chicken-headed granite, but the portions in between were long stretches of sandy valleys and easy walking. Smoke from the various fired filled much of the Owens Valley obscuring views to the east, but not so much smoke where we were.

Of the 12 folks that started out, nine managed to find their way to both summits. Rob and Robert took the stage win with a time of under 7hrs. With Eric out of the running, Robert Wu is firmly in the lead for the Yellow jersey by more than 2hrs over the next closest participant. Michael Graupe and Chris Henry are tied for the Polka Dot jersey with a pair of bonus peaks each (not a lot of bonus action so far this year).

Approaching Wheeler Ridge
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Seven atop Round Valley Peak
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Tom Grundy atop one of the class 3 minor summits
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:32 am

Day 5 - Lamarck Col Peak

This unofficially named 13er lies a short distance east of Lamarck Col. It's one of a handful of CA 13ers I had yet to visit which got it on this year's list. It's a fairly easy summit to reach and really had no business being on the Challenge, but everyone seemed to appreciate a "rest" day. Our group of 14 at the North Lake start this morning were not all heading to this summit, at least three attempting some combination of Darwin and/or Mendel. Robert and Rob were in the lead by only a minute when they reached the unsigned turnoff from the Lamarck Lakes Trail to the Lamarck Col use trail. Tom and I were following closely behind when we spotted their indecisiveness. I quickly turned uphill into the trees to the left while Tom joined them and pointed to the continuing trail across the creek before passing them by. Tom had no idea I'd left him and the other two were lost on who to follow. Two minutes later Tom and I rejoined above and wondered where the others had gone. Despite a map and GPS they ended up wandering in the wrong direction and lost almost an hour. Robert had made a key Yellow jersey mistake - taking the lead on the trail without really knowing the route.

Tom and I reached the summit in about 2.5hrs with Sean Reedy. Chris, Michael and half a dozen others would reach the summit after the three of us had descended. We came across Rob and Robert on the trail near the back of the pack, now an hour behind. We all had a good laugh. Tom and I would make Robert work for his Yellow jersey by jogging the rest of the trail back to the TH, taking our first stage win with a time of 4hr10m before relaxing to wait for the others. Robert was the next person to return, some 55min behind us. With a 2.5hr lead at the start of the day he still had a comfortable lead, but perhaps a little more worried now...

Windy and cold at the summit
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Descending the north side of Lamarck Col Peak
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Tom greets Rob and Robert on the Lamarck Col Trail
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Thu Aug 13, 2015 3:36 am

Day 6 - White Mountains

Ok, not actually the Sierra, but there was another 13er north of White Mtn Peak I had yet to visit so I added it to the Challenge this year. A half dozen of us drove to the TH at the end of White Mtn Rd last night to take in the meteor shower and mostly because it seemed godawful to drive up that long, long road in the morning at something like 4am.

We got started at 6am with a fine sunrise and a biting, cold wind. It wasn't strong enough to knock us over, but it was consistently hard and relentless. Eric Su rejoined us, but his "winging it" without a car or a concrete plan caught up with him as he found himself starting without his backpack which was inconveniently still in Big Pine. With little more than shorts and two tshirts he was a sore sight to see hiking up the road with one bare hand holding a water bottle and his damaged hand tucked under his tshirt. He would accept no offers of additional clothing or help of any kind. How he managed without turning into an icicle is beyond me.

We reached White Mtn Peak in 2h20min. We climbed the building for extra credit, visited the nearby wilderness HP and mostly took a short break on the leeward side of the building to get out of the wind for a short while. Eric had enough by this and decided to head back. I offered my car keys to let him get warm inside, but he responded that he'd "hang out in the bathroom at the TH". Tough guy. Daria wasn't feeling too well either and headed back as well.

North of White Mtn is a fun bit of class 3 with a couple of short knife-edges that provided the only real scrambling on the day. Peak 13,615ft is located about 2mi north of White Mtn Peak, taking us another hour and change to reach. Jeff Moffat had started an hour earlier and timed it to reach the top at the same time as Rob, Robert, Tom and myself. By then the sun had warmed things a bit and the wind was no longer so biting.

On the way back I decided to make Robert earn his Yellow jersey by pushing the pace all the way back to White Mtn Peak and then down the switchbacks on its east side. Robert showed no weakness in keeping up and never let me get out of sight. He learned the previous day's lesson well. Back on the road with 5mi to go, he jogged off to add another 45min to his lead while I went over Barcroft for an easy bonus peak. Robert took the stage win in 6h25m. Meanwhile, Chris Henry had started early and was finishing late, presumably in order to add a handful of bonus peaks to take the Polka Dot jersey. No word from him this evening yet...

White Mtn Peak in view
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Tom Grundy atop White Mtn Peak
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Portion of the class 3 traverse
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:08 am

Day 7 - Crater Mountain

Crater Mtn lies well west of the Sierra Crest and about a mile west of Pinchot Pass. I'm not sure exactly how it made it on the Challenge other than it was a named summit we hadn't been to yet. Good enough! It also made for the hardest day this year, some 26mi and over 9,000ft of gain. There were about 8 when we started in the dark at 5am. I expected it to be pretty routine so I set a goal of beating my previous Taboose Pass time of 3hr and see if I couldn't get back before 10hrs. It was a pretty hefty pace going up from the TH, 8mi and 6,000ft to Taboose Pass. After about 2hr, with only Robert on my tail, he said something like, "This is harder than I thought..." before starting to fall back. It was the first time I'd seen Robert break and when Eric passed him and caught up with me we talked about how to take advantage of this unforeseen development. We went over Taboose Pass 8min before the 3hr mark and jogged down the trail on the west side to get out of sight into the trees before Robert could spot us. We never did see Robert or anyone else once over the pass, making our way to the PCT and up past Lake Marjorie on our way to Pinchot Pass before leaving the trail. we climbed a saddle between O'Burley Peak and Crater Mtn, reaching the summit in 5h20m. All this time Eric was being amused by the situation, wishing he had some popcorn to watch how it unfolded. He was climbing with only one hand and was easily keeping up with the guy in front of him who was breathing heavily. I turned and asked him, "Are you even breathing hard?!" to which he replied, "Not really..." He's pretty amazing even while injured.

I left Eric at the summit after taking a few photos and eventually came across Robert on the ridge traverse back to the saddle. He was only about 45min behind me (with a 60min lead in the Yellow jersey) and looked a little concerned. I thought he had a much bigger lead than he really did and told him he had little to worry about. Somehow I missed all the other participants heading to Crater (Michael Graupe, Tom Grundy, Chris Henry, Sean Reedy, perhaps other) and never saw another soul on the way back. I wanted Robert to work for his jersey so I kept up a good pace, getting back to the TH in 9h54m. I was surprised to see Robert come running in only 3min behind me. Because we round to the nearest 5min, we ended up with the same time today. Well done, Robert!

Sunrise in Taboose Canyon
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Eric and I alone on the west side of Taboose Pass
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Eric one-handing it to the summit of Crater
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby patacap » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:22 am

Internet's a little dodgy at where Bob's staying in Independence so an update might have to wait until tomorrow. Hopefully Jim can save the day with his savvy troubleshooting skills.

Here is my update for Day 8:

Numbers were a bit low today because a few of the regulars instead went out to try to bag East Vidette instead. A group of ten or so of us started from Sawmill TH at 6am. The pace was mellow, which was a nice respite for a change because yesterday was pretty brutal with Bob/Eric going consistently 3mph uphill for +9k feet. Getting to Sawmill Point was a bit of a slog. A lot of gain on a sandy slope with lots of manzanita, other brush, and rocks. Had to think about whether it's better to stay high on rocks or traverse through shrubbery. Today was definitely the day to wear long pants instead of shorts much to Tom's and my chagrin. We split off into two groups of there. Bob/Eric/Scott ahead by a few minutes, and Tom/Bill(?)/me in close pursuit. Once we gained the ridge, there was a bit of interesting class 2-3 scrambling to spice things up. I'd take that over the prior sandy slog any day of the week. Bob, Tom, Eric, Scott, and I took a summit photo together atop Sawmill Point. Bill (?) was behind us on the ridge but for some reason we couldn't see him. Bob/Scott pulled away on the descent from Sawmill Point, while Eric stayed at the summit to take photos. Pretty crazy how much scrambling (and how easy he makes it look!) Eric can do with one hand. Tom and I bootskied down the south chutes and hit a deer trail that took us crosscountry back to the main trail. Tom pointed out Bob's shoeprints in the sand so we knew we were behind. The ascent to Lookout Point was just more of what made today somewhat miserable: sandy ascending on steep slopes with manzanita and loose rocks. Tom and I weren't moving too fast up to Lookout Point when we ran into Chris who had already tagged the peak and was descending so he could tag Sawmill Point next. Tom and I saw Bob descending from Lookout Point when we were still ~300ft from the summit. In typical wily Burd fashion, he tried not to make a noise as he bootskied down an adjacent sandy slope so we wouldn't notice him, but his red longsleeve Sierra Challenge shirt is hard to miss. That put me maybe 40min behind Burd, so I quickly tagged the summit with Tom, chatted with Matt on the summit briefly, and started descending to make up time. I made quick work of the descent from Lookout Point. Bob and a few others had kindly left some tracks for me to follow. Once I hit Sawmill Meadow, I was off to the races on the sandy trail. After grabbing water from a creek, I ran into Sean Reedy and Daria who were on their way up to Lookout Point. They told me that Bob was long gone, but I held out hope that my young legs could at least minimize the damage of losing yellow jersey lead time today. High winds, while blowing against the direction I was jogging, were a welcome respite from the suffocating heat. The lower I descended, the hotter I got. I passed Matt and Eric along with a few other backpackers on the long, sandy, and boring switchbacks. The cool breeze I had along the Hogsback was replaced by ridiculously hot and dry air. Once I got close to the cars, I took out my phone, checked the time, and determined I needed to gun it so I wouldn't lose an extra five minutes from roundoff. Ended up finishing 20min behind Bob in 7h30m. Temperature was 104F at the trailhead. The yellow jersey lead is 40min with two days to go. Bob's going to make me earn it. And as of yesterday, Michael leads Chris by one peak for the Polka Dot Jersey.
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:05 am

patacap wrote: In typical wily Burd fashion, he tried not to make a noise as he bootskied down an adjacent sandy slope so we wouldn't notice him, but his red longsleeve Sierra Challenge shirt is hard to miss.


The paranoid think I'm being wily. The climb-safe crowd might recognize I was trying to descend without knocking rocks down on my unsuspecting companions. 8)

Scrambling on Sawmill Point
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby colinr » Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:42 am

Bob Burd employs route finding strategy to get from Sawmill Point to Lookout Point quickly:


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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Sun Aug 16, 2015 3:50 am

Day 9 - Forester Pass Peak

Another day, another CA 13er I needed to visit, this one just west of Forester Pass on the Kings-Kern Divide. Not as hard as our Crater Mtn day, but the second hardest this year with 19mi and 8,000ft+ gain. JD, Robert, Tom and a few others got a fast start up the Robinson Lake Trail and were 20min ahead by the time they reached the start of University Pass. Ugh, ugh, lots of loose sand and unstable boulders characterize this tough climb over crest, the shortest path into Center Basin and to Forester Pass. I managed to catch up to all but JD and Robert before I had descended the west side of the pass, then lost them somewhere in the forest traverse around the north side of Center Peak to reach the JMT/PCT. I didn't know if I was ahead or behind the two when I reached the trail, but about an hour later I found Robert not far behind as we climbed towards Forester Pass. We ended up climbing the peak together, reaching the summit in just under 5hrs. JD was not far behind us. Tom, Michael, Chris, Sean, Matt and Rob also reached the summit over the next several hours.

Robert returned several hours before me to get a lock on the Yellow Jersey as I went to visit another minor peak on the east side of Forester Pass and then took a more relaxing stroll back down the JMT and across Center Basin. Michael went on to climb Junction Peak while JD added both Junction and Caltech to a long day's agenda (he did Darwin and Mendel on the Lamarck Col day, for another impressive outing). A few others went to University Peak and a pair did Center/Bradley. Michael has a two peak lead for the Polka Dot jersey over Chris which will be hard (but not impossible) to beat tomorrow on the last day. We'll be hiking to Johnson Peak out of Horseshow Meadows, likely to be a long, warm day.

Robinson Lake before dawn
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Forester Pass Peak
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Robert and Bob atop Forester Pass Peak
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby Bob Burd » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:01 pm

Day 10 - Johnson Peak

This is not the higher Mt. Johnson on the Sierra Crest out of South Lake, but the more modest version in the Golden Trout Wilderness. I'm not sure how exactly I settled on this summit, but it turned out to be quite enjoyable despite its location more than 7mi west of Cottonwood Pass. Normally we would have a good crowd on Sunday for the last day of the Challenge, but there were only six of us for an early 5am start. Others slept in (by accident or design) and started later, a few others headed to Muah, Langley and other destinations out of Horseshoe Meadow.

Our route to Johnson went over Cottonwood Pass around sunrise, then down to Big Whitney Meadow (we were very surprised to see no sign of grazing in this large area). After about 11mi on trail, the last two miles are relatively easy cross-country through forested terrain save for the final 1,000ft climb up Johnson. We had nine folks in all reach the summit anywhere from 4 to 5hrs from the TH. Eric and I decided to head north to wander across the Boreal Plateau and Siberian Outpost to tag a few minor summits and explore this unusual terrain on boundary with SEKI NP. Our cross-country trek was more than 9mi, but some of the easiest cross-country to be found in the High Sierra - well worth a visit.

Brother Jim had a cooler full of drinks waiting for us upon our return to Horseshoe Meadow and afterwards we finished up at the Pizza Factory before heading separate ways. We were lucky to enjoy ten days with very good weather, somehow avoiding most of the smoke that was plaguing portions of the range throughout the time. We had five folks finish ten Challenge peaks this year: Robert Wu, yours truly, Michael Graupe, Chris Henry and Sean Reedy. Robert Wu took the yellow jersey by more than three hours in the end (I had to capitulate on day 9 when I failed to get any sort of lead to Forester Pass Peak). Michael took the polka dot jersey with 19 summits, beating out Chris Henry and JD Morris with 17 each. For those that care, the stat sheet.

A big thanks to everyone that participated in this year's 15th Challenge. Once again it was a great pleasure to meet up with some outstanding mountaineers of all ages, many returnees and lots of new faces, too. I'll be resting up at home shortly and will have a version 16 ready before next year rolls around...

Big Whitney Meadow
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Johnson Peak
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Eric Su atop Peak 11,557ft overlooking Siberian Outpost
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Robert Wu and Michael Graupe watch Sean Reedy in a final dash to finish his 10th Challenge peak
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby colinr » Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:59 am

:lol:
Yelling at Chris and I to sprint after all those miles made for a memorable ending! Getting to water and beer a few seconds faster certainly didn't hurt.

Here is a Google Photos Iink to some of my images. Hopefully anyone interested finds it easy to view the full captions and best image quality, otherwise let me know if there are images you are interested in seeing in a different format and I may be able to help on SP or through e-mail:

https://goo.gl/photos/Ry69n3UAAxDLgQWN9
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby clmbr » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:45 pm

SeanReedy wrote:. . .
Here is a Google Photos Iink to some of my images. Hopefully anyone interested finds it easy to view the full captions and best image quality, otherwise let me know if there are images you are interested in seeing in a different format and I may be able to help on SP or through e-mail:

https://goo.gl/photos/Ry69n3UAAxDLgQWN9

A very nice presentation. But your legs? Man, that must be painful! This challenge is definitely not for me. Congratulations to all who completed it. Very impressive!!! :D
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby labgloves » Thu Aug 20, 2015 6:22 pm

Very nice album Sean! Thanks for sharing it.

My feet/ankles had very similar swelling on Monday and Tuesday. They are back to normal now though. Of course, my legs didn't look nearly as nice as yours (long pants).

- Chris
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Re: 2015 Sierra Challenge Aug 7-16

Postby colinr » Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:57 pm

clmbr wrote:

...But your legs? Man, that must be painful! This challenge is definitely not for me. Congratulations to all who completed it. Very impressive!!! :D


As I think I heard Chris say more than once, "You don't have to be able to walk after day ten!"
https://goo.gl/photos/AzUtaTkMpAJk2yVi7
My feet were looking good by day thirteen. Just a handful of us did ten big days in a row. It's all about the feet! My leg muscles hurt more than those silly scratches from bushwhacking and scrambling in shorts.

Come on, clmbr, we need some summit calisthenics and unroped crevasse jumping next year! Plus, we do tend to have beer around. :wink: Oh, well, maybe I'll run into that crazy guy up on Shasta next spring.
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