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SAN JOAQUIN MOUNTAIN - AND A TEAT MOUNTED FOR GOOD MEASURE
MAY 26, 2014
S J Mtn is a highpoint of one of California’s 147 wilderness
areas. Specifically, it is the high
point of the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness
Area, which is NW of Mammoth California and SE of Yosemite National Park. I recently discovered that I was one of the
frontrunners on that list, at least at Peakbagger.com. Hence, I began some work on that list, where
I stand at 5th on that list, now with 72. The California P2K’s is still my primary
passion, but I will seek out a Wilderness Area HP when convenient.
The peak is also on the SPS
and Western States Climber’s lists.
Things have changed a
little since Richard Carey’s 1994 report.
Specifically, camping is no longer allowed near the trailhead or Minaret
Summit area. I drove up there the eve
before and searched in vain for a little forest road or spur on which to hide
so I could camp close and for free. This
area is just too close to the burgeoning Mammoth Ski Resort area. I ended up going back down the hill and
camping in my usual haunts – the plentiful informal camp sites along the
numerous small forestry roads near Big Springs Campground east of highway 395
near the Owens River. Interestingly,
even though it was the end of May, the ski lifts were still open, and there
were hundreds of skiers on the slopes.
One nice thing is that the
turnoff for Minaret Summit is just before the toll booth and restricted access
area on Minaret Rd- 203. Once one turns
R north off 203 the main road goes to a lookout. You want to turn R east almost immediately
after turning off Rte 203 onto a dirt road, not well marked, at least in
relation to this side road going to the trailhead. Here I saw a county sheriff cruising through,
and the no camping signs. I think they
I was a bit confused at
first as to where the trail begins.
There is a trailhead, and I began to head down this trail until I
realized that it would not head north along the crest, but rather east and
downhill, likely to the town of Mammoth.
Rather, there is a road continuation which goes left or west from the
side road, and this is the way one wants to go.
There is no trail sign here to aide you, but there is a sign that
confused me – specifically one with symbols indicating that motorcycles and all
terrain vehicles are ok, but there is a symbol of a car with a slash through
it. I took this to mean that I couldn’t
drive my 4 WD vehicle past here, and I again wasted time as I parked here and
began (once again) walking, only to see a sign a quarter mile down the road
stating that 4 WD vehicles was mandatory past this point. As I am an inherently lazy person, I went
back and got my Jeep. This turned out to
be a good idea, as I ended up being able to drive 2.1 miles in along the crest
which is the Madera/Mono County boundary line.
This road, by the way, has dips, ruts and humps which truly make it a
4WD high clearance road. I could have
driven farther in if there was more snow melt.
By then I had already crossed 3 or 4 snow patches, the last of which
took me about a dozen passes before I was able to cross its 1-2 feet deep
snow. Finally I reached a formidable
snow bank and parked.
Once past this snow bank I
again was on good open road. This was a
pleasant walk. The views are first rate
as one walks along this ridge. The
Minarets, Ritter/Banner and Lyell dominate the view to the west. Having summited Ritter three times now, I
easily recognized Shadow and Ediza Lakes and the glacier and approach south of
Ritter. To the east of the ridge were
great views of Mono Lake and Bodie Mountain, the Glass Mountain range, the
Whites, the Mammoth ski area and my beloved Long Valley Caldera with its
glorious hot springs.
After summiting out at 3200
M+ the road ends and I began heading down to the low point, Deadman Pass at
9,996’ (my gps) which I reached in 36 minutes.
In summer this walk would
be trivial. I, however, had to contend
with some snow banks which became the theme of the day. Several had some risk of an uncontrollable glissade
and as I had only trekking poles and no crampons or ice axe, I opted on several
occasions to go through the difficult to traverse dwarf forests of what I
suspect is white pines. I still ended up
post holing dozens of times en route and by the time I reached S J Mtn my socks
and pants were soaked.
From Deadman Pass I
traversed over the knowl 10,900’, and 2 hrs into the hike I was still short of
the hump up toward the Two Teats, where I took a breakfast break at 10,850’.
I agree wholly with Bob Burd. The Two Teats are poorly named. I’ve seen a few pair in my day, and the shape
of this summit with a lower ridge/spur resembles NOTHING like my past
experience. Maybe something Picasso
drew. The east Teat is the higher, and a heck of a lot easier, being nothing
more than a quick walk up a class 2 slope.
I did this on my return, just to add it to my 2014 Peakbagger.com ascent
list, so it would look like I actually accomplished something this year. The lower west Teat looked like short but
serious class 4. There may be an easier
route up, but I did not explore this.
The squishing in my socks was already annoying me.
It was not much of a drop
after the Teats, and soon I was on San Joaquin Mtn. The views as previously described were great. There may be a register up there but I did
not find one. The summit rocks were
exposed, but everything in between had a foot or two of snow coverage. There are a couple of “contenders”, none more
than a minute walk and a couple feet high, so I foolishly walked around
touching them and pretending I cared.
I apologize as it has been
a month since this climb, and I am a little hazy as to the stats, as I wrote on
my map “5.7 miles one way”, yet also wrote “up total ascent 2119’, 4.11 miles”.
So its either a little over 4 miles, or almost 6 miles one way. I suspect this is secondary to my two false
walking starts. In any case I am more
certain re the climbing time, which I recorded at 3 hrs 17 minutes. You should easily beat my time, as my snow post
holing, and the diversions through the dense woods can be avoided if you climb
in a saner season. Plus I am a bird
watcher, and a lazy hiker, so I am slow.
Total ascent per my GPS
unit was 2119’