We met at the Twin Lakes Resort trailhead shortly before 6:00 am for Day 1 of the Sierra Challenge. Some of us were planning Whorl and Matterhorn, some only Whorl, some only Matterhorn and about 6 were doing The Doodad (which was the challenge peak of the day). We all started off at a good clip at 3 mph, some of us taking the long switchbacks and others taking the shorter, steep trail along the waterfall. Shortly after leaving the established horse creek trail, Bob and his group broke away for The Doodad. There were 5 of us in the group heading to Whorl; Patrick, Chris, Adam, Tom, Bill and myself. The trail is difficult to follow, weaving in and out of boulders, trees and heavy bush. We leave the creek and navigate towards Horse Creek Pass. Now the trail is mainly boulder hopping and a little tedious. "The secret of this kind of climbing is like Zen. Don't think. Just dance along. It's the easiest thing in the world, actually easier than walking on flat ground which is monotonous. The cute little problems present themselves at each step and yet you never hesitate and you find yourself on some other boulder you picked out for no special reason at all, just like Zen."
Adam and Bill choose the lower pass over a snowfield whereas the rest of us followed Tom and took the higher pass. We all appeared to arrive above the pass at the same, and were all taken in by the beautiful scenery. Once above the pass it opens up into a grassy meadow with streams flowing down to a serene lake next to a snow field. I figured this is where Japhy, Morley and Smith camped in the Jack Kerouac’s Novel the Dharma Bums. This novel was actually my inspiration to climb Matterhorn Peak later today (as it was Patrick’s). We took a break and then saw Adam taking off for Whorl and we all followed him. Bill started to fall a little behind at this point, and Patrick and Chris took the lead. We followed the route description we all had read in Secor as well as Bob’s trip report. Staying low, crossing the bench along the east face Whorl, we found the 3 chutes that are key to a class 3 ascent. I had read that a common mistake is to start up too soon, so I stayed low until I could see the 3 chutes. These chutes are not obvious, but there is really nowhere else to go that would be class 3. Make sure you start up the 3rd chute to the west. Patrick and Chris where leading the route, followed by me, Adam and Tom. Bill had stopped to put on some safety gear and was a ways back. We climbed a ways up the first chute until it ended, then traversed over to the 2nd chute marked in both chutes with a cairn. Then we continued up the 2nd chute near the top then traversed over to the 1st chute (again marked with cairns). Once into the 1st chute you can see the chock stone and can either traverse a small ledge into the chute, or more easily is to climb up the ridge 50 ft to a long chimney that leads to a large ledge just below the chock stone. From here we crawled up through the chock stone and up to the ridge. At this point Patrick and Chris were ahead of me and the others behind, so I continued without the beta of a class 1 ledge. I ended up climbing class 3 to the false summit just to the south, and then Tom saw me and corrected my mistake. It was fun traversing the ridge and hooking back up with the ledge just in time to meet Tom and Adam for the short hike to the summit. The views were great. We hung out for a bit, signed the register dating back to 1981. Took a short video and some pictures and then headed down. We were still a bit nervous that some of the clouds were going to build into a thunderstorm and still wanted to hike Matterhorn today.
On to Matterhorn Peak
Final Ascent of Matterhorn
The descent of Whorl was straightforward. This time we cut to the east a little sooner, cutting off a little extra mileage that I took by staying low during the ascent. We made short work of it and soon started to ascend back up towards Matterhorn. At this point Chris decided to head back to the trailhead as he had already previously climbed Matterhorn and wanted to save his energy for Rodgers tomorrow. Patrick took off up the tedious south east slope of Matterhorn. Having already climbed 5000 ft I was running out of energy. Tom soon caught up with me and passed me. We slogged our way to the summit, meeting up with Bob Burd and his Gang on their descent. Patrick took the direct route to Matterhorn (class 3 or 4) while Tom and I took south west ridge class 2 route. I made it! Whereas the south east slope route might not be worthy of the name of the peak, the views and exposure to the north and west might come a little closer. I first wanted to hike to this peak after reading Dharma Bums 3 years ago. At the time, I had never hiked any Sierra Peak or any peak harder than class 1. I actually wanted to live the experience as related in the novel so bad that I researched guided trips, thinking it was so far beyond my abilities to consider ascending myself. Well, here I am 3 years later thinking this peak was simple (which it was) and I day hiked it along with a much more technical peak (Whorl). Makes me wonder what I will be climbing in another 3 years. I thought of the Zen Saying "When you get to the top of a mountain, keep climbing". Trying to relate that to where I was in my life. Well, enough of the Zen. On the summit we took in the views, recorded a short video from the summit, signed the summit log and headed back down. Patrick wanted to hang out a bit longer. We had met 2 others on the summit and he was chatting with them.
Back to Twin Lakes Trailhead
Beautiful Meadow above Horse Creek Pass
The descent was quick; many sections of loose sand were soft enough to plunge step down. I felt like yodelaying while running down. I headed directly over to the ridge to check out the pass higher than the one we crosses. It looked like it would possibly lead all the way down, but definitely not worth risking to see if it does. So I angled over to hook up with the pass we crossed on the ascent. From there Tom and I made our tedious descent; often losing the trail as we did on our ascent. After much boulder hopping, traversing talus, sliding down scree, whacking through bushes and cairn following we made our way back to the trailhead. A total of 10 hrs 20 minutes, 16 miles and 6500 feet elevation gain. A great hike. Maybe Matterhorn did not quite live up to my expectations, but Whorl more than made up for it. I loved the 3 chute ascent of Whorl and the chock stone. Now to eat and figure out where to camp and get to bed early for tomorrow's hike.
Video from Horse Creek Pass, Whorl and Matterhorn summits
Day 2 of Sierra Challenge - Rodgers Peak
Day 2 of the challenged involved day hiking Rodgers Peak out of Rush Creek Trailhead. This was a total marathon of over 26 miles and 7000 feet gain. Bob Burd’s trip report will go over the details of this excellent hike.