The big day is here! Sooz planned this trip specifically for the opportunity to climb Seven Gables. Although I originally joined without any specific goals, staring at this peak for the past couple of days had me raring to go – I needed to climb that thing!
Our alarms were set for sunrise with the intent to get moving before 7 am. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to get up the peak so we wanted to set the whole day aside for the climb. When my alarm went off I peeked out of my tent and took a photo of the early morning light on Seven Gables, thinking of how, if all went well, we would be standing on top of it in a few hours.
The route from camp took us down to Vee Lake via the path we followed the previous day. It took less time since we weren’t snapping as many photos or stopping to make ‘which way do we go?’ decisions as often – I’m glad we had taken the day to familiarize ourselves with the area. At Vee lake we followed the outlet down about 700 ft towards an unnamed lake below Stub Lake which we had identified on our scouting trip as a good beginning to the climb up Seven Gables.
From this unnamed lake we had thought it would be best to follow a green slope instead of steep rock, but on closer inspection the rock was slabby and grippy and a perfect angle for making progress without being too steep. We had to be careful, though, and not follow it too high or else we might be walled out. After about 500 feet of climbing we cut over to the green and saw a nice waterfall tumbling out of a snowfield along a jumbly rock wall and found our way up the slightly more complicated terrain until we popped out on the snow.
The route was clear from this point on – simply follow the chute to the low point on the ridge. We could now see the small patch of snow near the top of the chute was easy to avoid – nor was it as steep as it looked from a distance. The chute had a combination of large, solid talus hopping, snowfields, softball-sized ankle twisting talus, and steep sandy scree. The best part was the snow – we could walk right up it and it definitely made our progress faster.
Four hours after starting off from camp we made it to the top of the chute. We had gone a little over three miles and we were at about 12,200 feet. We found ourselves on a wide open plateau with a clear view of the final ~1000 feet of ascent to the summit. Though it was a mere 1/2 mile away, we knew it would take us a while to get there.
A long talus climb followed, and around 1:30 pm (almost seven hours after leaving camp) we finally popped out on the summit. I had a moment of concern when I thought we wouldn’t actually get on top. I knew there was a class 3 summit block, and we got to the top of the big talus pile only to see the summit tower slightly above us across an enormous huge void. It looked far worse than class 3. My heart sank. But Sooz mentioned reading something about going around to reach the summit, so we found a way to kind of contour around and suddenly the route was clear – a few quick moves and we were on the summit. Woo hoo!
We spent quite some time enjoying the views from Seven Gables. It sits in the center of things so our view in every direction was incredible. We could see all the way south to the Palisades and all the way north to Mt Conness in Yosemite. We had fun picking out easy landmarks like The Fin near Rae Lakes and Banner and Ritter near Mammoth. We signed the register, took pictures, and finally decided we better get moving if we wanted to get back to camp before dark.
Our descent was quick thanks to the snowfields – we did quite a bit of butt-sliding and boot-skiing (some people might call that glissading, but, well, it wasn’t quite that elegant). Occasionally the snowfields were interrupted with slow-going talus hopping but we made good time. Back at the waterfall we stopped to dunk our heads and refill our water straight out of the fresh snowmelt – it was lovely!
Eleven hours after our departure we returned to camp. What a day! I went to bed exhausted and quite satisfied with the day’s accomplishment.