San Joaquin Mountain 11,601′

I made no specific plans for the day after my Cloudripper climb since I wasn’t sure how I would feel. I woke up early with no lingering aches and pains, but I didn’t feel up to a complicated mental (i.e. route finding) challenge. I decided to choose an easy peak on the SPS list – San Joaquin.

San Joaquin is the high point of a ridge that runs between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake, far above the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin river far below. To the west, the Ritter Range dominates the view for the entire hike, and once towards the summit one can even see some of the famous lakes along the John Muir Trail such as Thousand Island Lake.

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Cloudripper (13,525′) and Vagabond (13,374′)

In 2004 I climbed one of my first Sierra summits, Chocolate Peak. It sits among the lakes of Bishop Creek, a small bump compared to the surrounding ranges. From Chocolate’s summit I studied the jagged west face of the Inconsolable Range and was amazed that people actually climbed those summits. The most prominent point was Cloudripper. I thought it was one of the best names I’d ever seen for a mountain.

Me on Chocolate Peak in 2004, with Cloudripper towering above.
Me on Chocolate Peak in 2004, with Cloudripper towering above.

Someone recently asked me how I picked peaks to climb. As a data nerd I love to study lists and feel the natural human instinct to work on completing those lists, as arbitrary as some of them might be. Lists can include geographic lists (based on prominence or isolation), club lists such as the SPS and DPS lists from the Sierra Club, or books such as the peaks in Desert Summits.

Then there is my personal list. I tend to be drawn towards mountains that I have seen from somewhere else, be it another summit or a trail or a campsite. I love to spend my trailside breaks studying the ridges and peaks in eyesight, picking out climbable lines. Impossible looking ones, such as Cloudripper from the above perspective, get put on a mental list for further map study – is there a route that I am capable of doing that will get me to that summit? After the hike to Chocolate Peak, Cloudripper became the first of many peaks to take up a spot on that personal list.

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Cirque Peak (12,900′) Attempt…and More Storms

Having kicked off my two week trip by being chased off of a peak by storms the previous day, I was looking forward to the long term forecast of clear and warm weather. However, when my alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning on Tuesday, August 12 I was disappointed to see quite a few clouds still lingering over the peaks. I studied the latest forecast and it had a similar prediction as the day before: storms clearing out throughout the day, leading to a week of clear skies. So, once again, I decided to trust the forecast and headed up Horseshoe Meadows road to the New Army Pass trailhead. My goal of the day was Cirque Peak, and not just the summit – I was planning on doing a loop over the peak via New Army Pass and Trailmaster Peak.

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Leavitt Peak (11,572) and Some Lightning

Day 1 of my two week Sierra adventure!

I had been diligently watching the weather forecasts for weeks. Crazy storms had been chasing people off of summits and the trails for weeks. The normally predictable summer monsoon season wasn’t behaving rationally, and that had me worried. Fortunately, as the time for my trip grew closer, the forecast called for clearing skies and wonderful conditions. My departure date of August 11 looked good – in fact, the storms were predicted to move out that morning.

So, after playing tetris with the two weeks of supplies I wanted to fit in my Outback, I hit the road early on Monday morning with the intention to drive out via Sonora Pass with a warmup hike to Leavitt Peak.

A gorgeous sunrise during my drive to herald in two weeks of peak bagging.
A gorgeous sunrise during my drive to herald two weeks of peak bagging.

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Bloody Mountain, 12,552 ft

I recently returned from a fantastic two week peak bagging trip to the Sierra. While I try to sort through the massive amounts of content I created on that trip (photos, GPS tracks, and journal entries), I thought I’d do some housecleaning by revisiting a climb I did back in July. I posted the pictures a while ago but never got the chance to write about it here, so here we go!

Laurel and Bloody Mountains are situated on the eastern side of the Sierra just south of Mammoth Lakes. Their rock is among the oldest in the range, and the colors and textures found in their landscape differs from elsewhere in the Sierra. Together, they make for a great double-peak day, and that’s exactly what we intended to do a few years ago when we started up Laurel. Unfortunately, rather violent storms decided to build up and we barely got off of Laurel after tagging the summit, let alone start on Bloody, before the skies opened up.

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