Williamson/Tyndall dayhike

Williamson/Tyndall dayhike

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 8, 2016

Williamson/Tyndall dayhike

Ambition was the order of the day.

It all began well, this plan to summit both Tyndall and Williamson in a day.

I was accompanied by a young fellow (10 years younger than me) named Orion, who my cousin put me in touch with. We had driven to Onion Valley the afternoon of the 15th, and settled in to a decent sleep at Shepherd's Pass trailhead. Up at 2am, we began the push up the switchbacks to the saddle, and then up/down a few hundred feet (yes, the reports of curious trail-building are true, in this case), and then through a significant trail wash-out.

We reached Anvil Camp around 6am, pausing for 10 minutes to rest, hydrate and get some nourishment.

We headed for Shepherd's Pass.

There was a rather treacherous snowfield cutting the trail the final quarter mile to the top. There were old iced over footsteps leading across. I was in front, so steadying up-slope with trek poles, I carefully threaded across the icy angled pathway at a steady gait, the young Orion issuing words of caution as he followed close behind. We made it.

There were a few campers at the small lake just below the rise from the pass. They offered us coffee. Orion tried to strike up a conversation about why their attempt at acclimatizing was a waste of time. The kid was definitely a talker, as I had experienced the last few hours. But I was in no mood to shatter the kind camper's ideas about acclimatizing, or get bogged down in a long anecdotal convo, so I steered us clear with a "Let's hit it, time's a wasting!" 

It was 730am and partly cloudy; it was the kind of sky that made you think weather might emerge later in the day.

Rewind: about two hours into our push from the trailhead, I noticed a vague dull pain from my knee. I figured it was age, the mileage, maybe a mild hyperextension that would get worked out as we pushed on. About 6 hours later and entering the Williamson Bowl, my knee was causing me noticeable distress. It was throbbing, no swelling or bruising, just painful. I carefully lowered myself through the boulder field to the small lake below, determined to see how I felt with a few minutes rest. It was no use. I realized with my knee in this state, I could not risk a push up Williamson and invite a complicated evacuation scenario that I had no appetite for. My lungs were strong and cardio-wise my body felt terrific, and I knew these (and those precious trek poles) could see me back down (and up/down) to the trailhead. It was a tough call, but I decided to call it a day. I ended up remaining by the lake for an hour, taking in some sun.

Young Orion pushed on, and as he later told me, he connected with two climbers who were also headed to the top. One of the others was leading, and apparently took them too far to the north and they ended up having to back down off class 4 rock. Eventually they topped out following the traditional route up the chute, above the black stain. I was happy that one of us bagged the summit on this trip.

On my way to the Pass from the Bowl, I thought for a moment to throw caution to the wind and make a run at Tyndall. It was right there. I leaned on my poles and realized that, while I had the ambition, doing so with this inury wasn't a wise idea. If it was, why not do Big Willy instead! I do think age has made me a bit more conservative. So, I threw back some Advil to dull the knee pain and got into a steady 3mph pace down the trail. All in it was a 16 hour day for me, and I got into the Prius and passed out.

Driving back down 395 with young Orion at around 8pm, we paused for a few slices at a pizza joint in Lone Pine. 

It was raining outside, as young Orion began telling me how rain can negate the effort to acclimatize.

Post Script

One year after our climb, I received word young Orion had passed away at 36. Apparently, back when we did our climb he was carrying a bad back injury from a prior hang gliding mishap; he'd been healing for the better part of the previous year. But the injury had caused a blood clot, and it wasn't diagnosed in time. Orion was a good kid. RIP.


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