Arriving at the Trailhead
Drove out to Sonora Pass starting at around 4:30am from the Bay Area and arrived at St. Mary's Trailhead around 8:30. As I drove along 108, I noticed that all of the parking areas were full and there were far more cars than usual parked along the road. The trailhead parking lot was packed solid, and I soon realized that it was the opening day of hunting season. Luckily, I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and my plans for the day involved mostly open trail. Heard frequent gunshots throughout the day, but didn't have any issues. Very hot today, with temps in the 80's.
From the trailhead, the path climbed quickly to St. Mary's Pass and I passed a group of early morning hunters dragging a kill down the trail. Once at the pass, I turned right and headed over a small ridge for a first glimpse of Sonora Peak. The trail petered out as it crossed the plateau leading to the peak, but a clear use trail began once on the slope of the peak itself. The slope of Sonora was an easy walk up to the top, and there was a very brisk wind on the summit. From the summit, there were great views of Sonora Pass, Blue Canyon, and Leavitt to the south and Stanislaus Peak to the North. I was the first to the summit in a couple of days (the last visit in the summit log was from a party from the nearby USMC training center a few days back). I hunkered down behind the rock wall on the summit to read the registry, but the wind was numbing my hands and I cut the perusal short.
Sonora to Stanislaus
From Sonora Peak, I had a clear view of my second objective: Stanislaus Peak. I contemplated following the ridge over to Stanislaus but this looked to be alot of needless up and down. Instead, I cut a cross country route to rejoin the trail between Stanislaus and St Mary's Pass. The trail traveled up to the end of the ridge just south of Stanislaus, but did not ascend the peak itself. (I didn't see a use trail climbing the peak at all). After following it to the end of the ridge I climbed the southeast slope of the peak, keeping about 10-20 feet from the edge. The slope was mostly loose gravel and maintaining footing was difficult, but it otherwise posed no difficulty. The last 20-30 yards required some class 2-3 scrambling up onto the summit.
No wind whatsoever on the peak and I spent an hour or so resting, eating, and reading the summit registry. A party had been on the summit earlier in the day, but I hadn't seen them on my way up. I took the southwestern slope back down, which didn't seem to be much different than the slope I had ascended. Alot of sliding on loose dirt. Once off the mountain, I crossed the small valley to the south and rejoined the trail. There was a party camping in the valley and their horses were grazing nearby. The trip back to the pass was uneventful, though the trail did cross a number of small springs. Made it back to the trailhead a little before 4 and began the long drive back home.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe