Day 9 - George Creek
George Creek is described by Secor thusly: Any enthusiastic Sierra mountaineer should climb up George Creek at least once. It is one of the classic bushwhacks of the High Sierra.
Until recently the route up George Creek was only open for a month around December and another month around Apr/May. But with the removal of the restrictions last year, we were able to use this route during the Challenge for the first time. There are five summits accessible from George Creek - Williamson, Trojan, Barnard, Barnard East and Carl Heller, all of which were acceptable targets for today's outing. It's not a very long outing - 16mi round trip for the longest, but the elevation gain exceeds 7,000ft for all of them.
Unbeknownst to me and most of the others, the driving route starting from the north end of Manzanar was washed out sometime in the last year, making this the crux move of the day. Jonathan ran into trouble finding this out, getting a large dent on his back bumper and a driver's side door that no longer closes for his efforts last night. Rick Kent showed up to help him out and find the southern route around Manzanar. Others used the climber.org directions that go past the Shepherd Pass and Blair Creek THs, bypassing Manzanar altogether. We had ten folks out of 30 that had signed up for the 5am start.
The bushwhacking all takes place in the first mile and a half and we accomplished much of it by headlamp. Others (Michael, Rick) had been up several times and myself four times previously, which helped some in knowing approximately where to cross the creek. Still, downfalls and conditions change each year, making it a new adventure each time. I got behind near the end of the bushwhacking by staying too long on the north side of the creek, thinking I'd found a good trail the others had missed. It ended badly and I had to retrace my steps back and spend 15 minutes catching up with the others. Sean fared even worse, getting lost in a morass of willow and heavy brush and was almost an hour in catching up with us. He was very unhappy about the adventure at this point, declaring no peak was worth such trouble.
We were three hours in reaching the main fork in the canyon. Sean, Tom and Jen took the left fork to head for Carl Heller, the rest of us taking the right fork for Trojan and Barnard East. From the fork at 9,000ft we still had more than 4,500ft of climbing - this was not an easy day. We climbed another 1,500ft up from the fork (and the only good camping area in the canyon) through forest, talus and boulders to the unnamed lake. We went up the sand/talus funnel leading to the large cirque between Barnard East, Barnard and Trojan. Michael and I curved left and climbed 2,000ft of boulders to Barnard East's summit, the others (JD, Paul, Pat, Jonathan and Rick) heading right to Trojan.
There was a tiny film cannister register on Barnard with a single entry from 2006 by Brian French. The Trojan register was reported to back only a few years, supplemented with the requisite Trojan condom. The weather today was most cooperative, much like yesterday. We had little sun for most of the morning as clouds gathered slowly overhead. By the time we reached the summit they were gray and growing darker. The top 200-300ft of Mt. Whitney were in the clouds. We did not spend much time at the summit as it looked like rain might start anytime. There were a few drops that fell periodically on the descent, but not enough to wet the ground at all.
Pat was the first to summit today and was well down the canyon before I caught sight of her hours later. It was only because she was unsure of the route that I caught up to her at all. Along with Michael, the three of us finished between 2:15pm and 2:30pm. Jonathan made his way out of the jungle another ten minutes later, the others later still (we left shortly after Jonathan returned). All in all, a good day. Tomorrow we venture up to Shepherds Pass, with various folks going after Tyndall, Tyndall West, Junction, Keith and possibly others. It'll be good to rest up after the last day. If you're in Independence tomorrow, feel free to stop by Rays Den and join us for beers on the veranda around 6pm.