A Thoroughly Enjoyable Failure on Mt. Williamson

A Thoroughly Enjoyable Failure on Mt. Williamson

Page Type: Trip Report
Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 12, 2006
Activities: Mountaineering
Season: Winter
A little background:
September, 2005.-- I email Paul and Clint, saying, "It's so hot in
Queensland that I can't even move-- let's go freeze our butts off in the
mountains as soon as I get back!"
September-December 2005-- I order new gear (my favorite part...), and we
eventually plan to try to climb Mt. Williamson (14 thousand feet and
change- west of Independence, CA in the eastern Sierra) in January.

January 12, 2006 (thursday)- After finishing the week's physics homework, I
left Santa Cruz and headed north on Highway 1 and to pick up Paul from work
in So. SF. The first thing Paul said to me was, "don't get your hopes up--
the weather is going to be shit on Saturday." Nevertheless, we headed east
and collected Clint from his apartment in Sacramento. Clint and Paul split
the driving as we headed through Tahoe and down 395 to reach Independence
at around 2 am. I took over at the wheel, and we bumped and rattled our way up
the rough, snow-covered road to the trailhead for a couple of miles. Just
when the going got really tough, we came upon a Toyota 4-runner parked
across the road. A head popped out of the open tailgate, and the guy, who
turned out to be a backcountry skiier from Mammoth, responded to our
greetings with, "Dude, there's a deep drift right here; you can't go any
It wasn't too much farther to the trailhead anyway, so we parked and
prepared for a couple hours of sleep. Too lazy to unpack the bivy sacks, we
just threw everything out of the car, folded down the rear seats, and
snuggled in the trunk. After MUCH negiotiation, I slept to starboard, Paul
to port, and Clint sprawled athwartships across the transom (just like in
the photo, I swear). Clint hugged my legs and used my feet as a pillow. It
was cute.
Car Bivouac

Friday- We woke up, surprisingly well-rested, at around 7 am, and prepared
for the 8.5 mile hike into Anvil Camp. The trailhead is at 6,299 ft, and
Anvil Camp is above 10,000, so we were in for a long day. Fortunately, the
weather was ideal- sunny and clear, but with most of the steep parts in
Steep Slopes

We walked all day, finally halting at around 4:45 pm. Paul was egear
to push on a little more, but relented in the face of Clint's seriously
blistered feet, and my own single-minded desire to drop my pack. (One of
the concessions obtained from Paul in the planning process was a stipulation of "no death marches"). We found a likely-looking snow drift, and Paul and I started digging while Clint made dinner. The snow was ideal, and we were able to carve out blocks the size of igloo coolers.The cave got deeper, the sun sank lower, and the sky filled with clouds, heralding the arrival of the promised storm. After 3 hours of digging, the Anvil Camp Hotel (2.5 x 10^-4 stars) opened for business at 8 pm. The three of us moved in and crashed immediately and hard.
The snow cave

Saturday-- We awoke to snow and wind- pretty bleak weather that Paul was
sure was worse at higher evelations. He immediately scrapped the Williamson
plan, and we decided to attempt Mt. Keith (a hair under 14,000 ft) instead.
After only an hour and a half, the weather had deteriorated to the point
where we were in near white-out conditions with winds gusting to 50 mph.
Frozen Mustaches
Great Conditions
turned around, and resigned ourselves to a rest day. Various entertainments
were considered for the afternoon, but we settled on a boot-skiing
competition. The steep drift into which our snowcave was dug had a very
firm wind crust overlayed by a few inches of powder, and for a couple of hours played host to the World Boot-Skiing Championchips. Apparently, men with big feet are good boot skiiers; I roundly schooled Paul and Clint, claiming the title of Sasquatch: king of the Boot-Skiiers. Then we got cold and went inside. After adding a gear loft to the snow cave, we spent the afternoon reading and shooting the shit in our sleeping bags. At around 6 pm, they tricked me into leaving the warmth of my bag to make dinner and melt snow for water. Thus is the King of the Boot-Skiiers rewarded.
The moon was one day past full, and Paul really, really, really,
wanted to try an early morning summit attempton Mt. Tyndall, leaving camp at 1 am and returning around 8 am to hike out. Clint and I agreed with one caveat--perfect weather only! Failing that condition, we would just pack up and hike out under the light of the moon.

Sunday-- Paul's alarm went off at 1 am and he tried, unsuccessfully, to
wake us up. He tried again at 2, and this time succeeded. Clint performed a
combination urination/reconnaisance trip, and reported that Shepard's Pass
was still enveloped in cloud. We decided against a summit attempt, and
packed up our gear for the hike out.
We left at around 3.15 am, and began a truly beautiful hike out.
While it was stormy higher up, the skies over the valley were clear, and Saturday's storm had left a foot of fresh powder on the ground. The moon,
one day past full and looming large over Mt. Keith, lit up the valley so
brighlty that we turned off our head lamps and walked under moonshine
Clint and the moon

Sometimes following the meandering trail, sometimes following a more direct
route straight down the slope, we made our way back to the trailhead. At
around 6, the sun poked over the White Mountains, and we descended the last
couple of miles chased by the sunlight as it worked its way down the Sierra
peaks above us.
We reached my car at around 8 am, changed, and headed down to Bishop
for breakfast at Jack's. After informing our various contacts that we had
not died, we filled the gas tank and headed for home. At 5 pm, after an
hour and a half slog behind a snowplow outside Lake Tahoe, we dropped Clint at his folks' house. Paul and I got pizza and beer in Stockton, and then I
dropped him back at work in San Francisco, where he intended to sleep on
couch in the break room. Another hour and a half drive, and I arrived in
Bonny doon at 10.30. SLEEP!!!!



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