Sierra Challenge 2007 Day 3
There weren't the 40+ people that signed up for today's event, a fact that surprised and relieved me. Instead of the rabbit tempo of yesterday's start to Rodgers Peak, the dozen or so of us started up at a more leisurely pace. Michael, leading the advance party of three, slowly pulled away from us during the 5+ mile winding trail up to Piute Pass. At the pass, this group didn't stop but pressed on to their objective as the rest of us looked for shelter from the surprising cold wind we found at the top (something that wasn't evident the day before). Bob left us within minutes to pursue his “dream” of climbing Pilot Knob while the rest of us broke into smaller groups.
I found myself climbing with Chris and Patrick again, two very strong climbers from our Whorl adventure on the first day. Chris, in fact, had set the blazing speed up (and back from) Rodgers the day before and was looking for something a bit easier for today (as was I). Patrick had enjoyed climbing Cathedral and some of the Echo Peaks by himself and so was somewhat refreshed. We quickly made our way around the east side of Muriel Lake and ascended the talus into the Lost Lakes basin. The basin marks the approach to the Keyhole (pass) and the NE ridge to Muriel Peak, our "shortcut" to today's challenge peak, Mt Goethe. After playing around in a mostly scree chute (Chris kept trying to find a more enjoyable class 3 route but without success), we made it to Muriel's plateau and hiked over to the high point where Patrick placed a summit log.
Mt Goethe's NE Ridge
The real fun began here as we descended Muriel's SW ridge (nice class 3) to Alpine Col and began the long ridgeline ascent to Mt Goethe. The first part of the climb is an uninspiring talus grind but we soon found ourselves on the knife edge section of the ridge. Weaving back and forth along the ridge line, I think we all found the reason why we got up this morning. We soon hit the crux which Secor labels as class 4. After exploring a couple of routes that easily put you into the class 5 arena, we chose to descend a spicy class 3 ledge (I guess the exposure might make it class 4) around the crux obstacle and quickly moved back onto the wind-blown knife edge ridge. Soon, we were back on the talus NE slope dodging gendarmes and false peaks by staying left.
Climbing towards the peak, we espied the lead team heading down the class 1/2 slope to the east heading for, what we assumed, a tough climb up to Lamarck Col. We made the summit about noon and enjoyed the spectacular views of Darwin and Mendel to the southeast and Mt Humphrey to the north. (we also saw how far the Hermit was from the trail head making it an easy decision to change the goal for Day 4.) We followed the lead team's route down the mountain but chose to cut back north by the unnamed lakes and head for Alpine Col. Climbing the col from the southeast, we ran into Mike who patiently waited for a couple of fellow climbers to descend the ridge. Mike mentioned that Rick, enjoying a late start, was on Goethe's NE ridge already heading towards the summit.
Back to Piute Pass
Although we had been warned about Alpine Col's NW side, we dropped down quickly into the house sized boulders that guard the col's western approach. Already tired, we weaved in and out of these massive obstacles and then bounced around Goethe Lake's talus laden eastern banks until we could cross over to the friendlier western side (of the smaller unnamed lake). Following an on-again, off-again use trail, we descended to the western side of Muriel Lake where we picked up an excellent use trail. Along the way, we met several groups of SAR personnel (Fresno Sheriffs and Inyo volunteers) all looking for an older gentleman who had wandered off a couple days ago in the vicinity. We also met Bill from the lead group who decided against returning via Lamarck Col.
Back at Piute Pass, we descended the trail at approximately the same speed that we had hiked up in the morning. The 7 hours of talus had hammered our feet and finding Dave and Ryan at the trailhead with cold beers certainly cheered us up. We also found that Michael's lead party had beat us back by the longer and higher route over Lamarck Pass. Maybe missing all of those house size boulders was the ticket after all. The total time for the 17 mile trip was about 11.5 hours, not exactly the easy day we had planned on.