My buddy Rich and I had plans for a 3 day fly fishing trip on Bridalveil Creek and I was hoping to solo Mt Starr King on Saturday. On Friday afternoon we arrived at Bridalveil and the creek was very low so we hiked up to Ostrander Lake, fished and camped overnight.
Saturday morning we hiked out and drove to Mono Meadow trailhead. We left the trailhead by 2.30pm and arrived at Illilouette Creek around 4.30pm. I had very tight time constraints for Sunday so I decided to push as far as I could that night, summit first thing in the morning, and hike back to the Illilouette where Rich was going to continue fishing in the evening and early morning.
I left the Illilouette at 5.30pm with about a 20lb pack consisting of a 50m rope, slings, climbing shoes, harness and a small rack, sleeping bag, bivy sack, thermarest, food and 2 liters water, and...... no watch.
I made it to the base of the 3rd class gully between the summit and the middle dome by (estimated) 7.30pm and decided I had enought light left to attempt the summit. I unpacked everything except my climbing gear, rope and bivy sack then started up the gully in my 5-10's. This is mostly steep friction climbing with a little bit of scrambling and took me a good hour with my pack. When I reached the saddle I figured about half an hour of light left.
I dumped my pack here and donned my harness and rack and rope. I soloed the face from the saddle to the summit, mostly following the route described on Summitpost in Bob Burd's second ascent. This route is all 5.0 accept for one committing move I considered 5.4. Ten minutes later I was standing on the summit watching the gorgeous sunset and taking a few photos. I hate to admit I was too exhausted to even open the summit register, so I took a photo of it!
I downclimbed past the first rappel station to a red sling over a horn (scottyb's? rap sling), which was tattered, added a new black sling and rapped the full length of my rope into a big right facing corner. I downclimbed the corner another 30 feet to another rap station with two pitons and good equalised slings, and rapped the full length of my rope again over a steep ledge to where I could walk off the easy bottom slope of the face to my pack.
A few minutes standing in the dusk with the cooling breeze convinced me to descend the gully and get back to my sleeping bag and thermarest. I donned my pack and headlamp and descended in light of a half moon and cloudless sky. It was a beautiful night. A half hour later I was at the base of the gully.
I found a flatish rock elevated about 5 feet from the gully base. My 3/4 thermarest fit on here and I could sleep in my sleeping bag with only my lower legs dangling over the edge. I was too exhausted to eat and fell into a deep sleep. Sometime during the night I awoke to the sound of a small critter scambling around my pack so i tossed a few pebbles in that direction but couldnt get back to sleep.
Sunday morning about an hour before dawn I packed my stuff, ate a muesli bar and dried fruit and was walking off just as the sky got light. I made it back to the Illilouette by about 6.45am. Rich awoke at 7am and I ate his leftover dinner (Thai Chicken and Noodles) then went swimming in the river until about 9am. We were back the car by 11.30am Sunday.
Footnote: The walk out from Illilouette Creek to Mono Meadows trailhead is a killer. This would be a much more fun trip if your car was in the valley and you caught a ride to Mono Meadows to start, then hiked back to the valley to end.
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