I hadn't heard of Mt. Williamson and Mt. Tyndall until my friend, Darryl, invited me on a trip to climb them. We camped at the Pothole the first night, climbed Williamson the second day, and climbed Tyndall the third day. I also climbed Mt. Keith that day. We hiked out on the fourth day. That was twenty years ago, and I've been back several times since.
In July 1990, I headed back up to climb Williamson and Tyndall in a single day. I started at 3:30 AM and staggered out at 10:30 PM, victorious, but trashed, and with one toenail no longer attached to anything.
A few years later, I got the bug to climb California's 14ers in the winter. My first Williamson/Tyndall attempt was in December 1994. I ended up soloing the north rib on Tyndall on New Year's Eve while my partner stayed at Anvil Camp because of mild AMS. That was the day I decided he wouldn't be a good partner for Denali.
A year later, right after Christmas, I attempted Williamson via George Creek. I had heard (and believed) horror stories about the bushwhack, but it was worse than I ever imagined. I had enough food and fuel for four days, but I had told my wife and my boss that I would be back in three. I ran out of time and had to give up at 11,300.
I was back for another Williamson Attempt on President's Day weekend (1996). My partner and I camped at Anvil Camp the first night. We summitted at 4:30 PM the next day, just as it started to snow. We had 6" when we got back to camp, and 12" the next morning.
I finished my winter 14er project and sort of drifted away from climbing. My aging parents needed assistance, we build a new house where we could keep our horses, and I discovered marathon running. Well, things changed again. After living long and fulfilling lives, my parents are gone. The house is complete, and I had to give up running because of an Achilles injury. The injury doesn't interfere with cycling, but I have to be careful when I hike or climb.
As I approached my 60th birthday (February 2009), I was thinking about projects and goals for the year. I decided to re-climb the California 14ers, plus Norman Clyde Pk. and Mt. Humphreys. I wondered whether I could still do Williamson and Tyndall in a single day, as I had done 19 years earlier. I decided to go for it, and set July 7 as the day.
I drove to the trailhead on Monday afternoon. The road was much better than I remembered. I hiked up the trail to check out the four stream crossings. I hadn't been there since 1996, and I didn't want to start a trip like this by getting lost or soaked in the dark. Then I ate a lot of spaghetti and went to bed. It was really hot, and then the wind rocked the camper for a few hours. Then it was time to get ready to go.
I hit the trail right at 3:00 AM. At 3:09, I stopped and yelled at myself: "You f*****g moron!" I had left my jacket in the camper! I hiked back down the trail to get my jacket. I started up for the second time at 3:17. Fortunately, the forgotten jacket was the only thing that went wrong the entire day.
I just marched up the trail until I got to Shepherd Pass. The steep section below the pass wasn't as long as I had remembered, but the trail was in terrible condition. It's mostly loose scree where there used to be a decent trail. That steep, loose, crap is really hard on my Achilles tendon, and I had to be very careful. The snow at the top of the pass was easy to cross with trail runners. It was 8:58.
I hiked over to Williamson bowl and dropped down to the first lake. I filtered some water, ate some food, put on hiking boots, and headed for Williamson with three climbers who had camped at the lake.
It was 10:30 when I was below the black water stains, 2,000 feet from the summit. I decided to try to make it before noon. I spent the next 1:29 at about 95% of my maximum cardio output, and summitted at 11:59 AM! After a short break, I started back down. The snow in the chute was a moderate obstacle going both up and down, since I didn't bring crampons or ice axe.
I made it back to the lake and retrieved some stuff I has stashed there. I hadn't seen the other climbers since 10:30, and I couldn't figure where they went. I headed up out of the bowl and really paid the price for climbing so hard on Williamson. I thought about blowing off Tyndall, but it is hard to pass up when you're that close.
I went up the north rib, reaching the summit at 4:02. I was still paying for pushing so hard on Williamson. I climbed back down the rib. There was a fair amount of snow near the route, but it was easy to bypass it. The detour up Tyndall had taken 2:20.
By the time I got to Shepherd Pass, it was 5:30, and the snow was icing up. It was a little dicey crossing the snow. I started feeling stronger, and made good time to Anvil Camp. I stopped to eat, filter some water, and change back into trail runners. After a 30-minute break, I headed back down the trail at 6:45.
The trip down the trail was as uneventful as the trip in. When I got to Mahogany Flats, I figured it was about time to get out the headlamp. My eyes adjusted as it got darker, and I could feel where the trail went when I couldn't see it. I made a game out of seeing how far I could go without the headlamp. I didn't get it out until I hit the first stream crossing at 9:30 PM! I got back to the camper at 9:56 PM.
Total time, car to car, was 18:39. That's 21 minutes faster than when I did the same climb 19 years ago. It feels really good to be able to do that at age 60!