Kearsage Pass & Mount Gould
From Rt 395 - Independence, CA take the road to Onion Valley. Drive all the way to the end. The entire road is asphalt. Once at the parking area look for the trail head. It is easy to find. I am not really sure of the exact distance to Kearsarge Pass. I read anywhere from 4 to 6 miles. My GPS showed me 11.5 miles roundtrip to the top of Mount Gould and back to the car.
I had an afternoon to kill since all my other hiking plans were ruined by flash floods. A ranger suggested to hike to the Kearsage Pass and from there to make sharp right and directly up the hill until I reach Mount Gould - 13,011 ft. The hike to the Pass is a nice hiking trail, well defined, lots of nature, flora and fauna. The troubles started when climbing the Gould Summit: dark clouds, heavy thundering around, slight rain. From the Pass I was not able to see the summit although it is not more than 1/3 mile away. I remember the ranger telling me there is a false summit, so keep going. There is no trail to go to the Summit of Mount Gould. It’s an ugly scramble, big rocks, small rocks and gravel. As I keep going up, no seeing where I was going, I starter to get really concerned about the thundering and rain that started developing. In that mess I saw another hiker struggling ahead of me, going up. Everyone made his own trail so I passed him and soon couldn’t see him at all. I made it to the summit just to realize that was the “false summit”. Through clouds I could mostly guess the real summit further away. So I kept going ahead, rain, wind and thundering plus by now hail as big as a corn seed starting coming down on me. Both valleys to the East and to the West were echoing with thunders. I was shaking in my boots and getting as closed as possible to the big boulders thinking, if a mighty lighting hits, alt least will not hit me first. I realized even then how stupid it was of me to be pushing through, but I did not stop. In all fairness, I did no see any lighting. I made it to the boulder on top of the boulder on top of the boulder called Summit of Mount Gould. I did not stand on top of it. I was too afraid. I just pulled myself up, laid on my chest, with the rest of my body hanging down not reaching the rock underneath
me, for a split of a second. I called it a grab and I rushed down. I made it to the false summit as fast as possible, going around boulders in heavy clouds. I got lost a couple of times and came to edges where it would have been impossible for me to climb down.
I finally got back to the scramble and I could hear the thundering all above me. I started rushing down the hill so fast, I was mostly on my butt. Tons of gravel was getting in my shoes but nothing would have stopped or slowed me down from going to a lower elevation. I did not see the hiker I passed on my way up. He was probably still up there somewhere. I hope he came back all right. I made it to the trail that goes to the Kearsage Pass, probably ¼ mile downhill from the Pass in my direction of descending. I stopped there and emptied the 2lb of gravel and sand from my shoes and socks. Although I did not want to stop, I realized that walking on the trail with all that sand it would have been impossible. Besides, at this elevation, probably a bit over 11,000 ft, there was no rain, no hail and no clods. I was away from the thundering and the wind was not as strong anymore.
From here down the hike was uneventful except realizing that while I was rushing downhill on that scramble I cracked my cell phone. Eh, al least I was fine. I took a lot of pictures along the way up, summit and down but unfortunately the next day I hiked Split Mountain. I got into the same type of weather, even worst, since rushing down that mountain I lost my camera and consequently I have no pictures of Mount Gould. This was a nice hike. On a good weather day this is a nice 13,000 ft summit to grab. Good luck.
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