Sunday, July 1, 2012

Jul 1st - The Great Mount Tyndall Adventure!!!

I am now officially on both the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and the JMT (John Muir Trail).  Met a family this morning that gave me loads of instant potatoes and some gorp.  Today was probably one of the absolute best so far!!!  First, I climbed Tawny Point.  After hiking into a high alpine flat plain surrounded by mountains and a barely visible small turquoise lake; I noticed a large rock pile centered in the plain.  Bet it would have a great view of the circle of mountains.  So, off I go up the rock scramble to a great view!  Turns out it was Tawny Point, a 12,332 foot peak with a register and really nice views. 

Then hiking on to the junction with the Shepherds path I left most of my gear in a bear box on the PCT and hiked the three and a half miles up toward Shepherds pass.  There I bushwhacked up a very steep scree and large boulder slope toward the summit of Mt Tyndall (another 14,000 foot peak).  As I finally got close to what I thought was the summit it opened up with steep rock slabs on all sides.  As I crested the top and saw the narrow knife edge to a 30 foot higher spire I started to lose my nerve.  I wasn't sure I could climb it with such exposure.  Just when I was getting nervous I saw a rock climbers helmet around the boulder appear.  There was another climber on the mountain.  Meeting the climber, John, gave me confidence and I climbed the steep scary rocks to the top of the 30 foot spire to find in horror that it was the start of 1000 foot class four rock climb on a knife edge of rock spires.  The summit was not even in sight over a step narrow knife edge climb over the ridge.

I managed to force myself beyond my comfort zone to follow for a 100 feet until John met a point where he wasn't willing to move on.  He down climbed a few dozen feet onto the steep slabs holding on to a few cracks and moved laterally across the steep slopes knocking loose a large rock fall avalanche.  At this point I lost my nerve and started climbing back and yelled to John that I was not willing to hike further.  John told me to just go lower, traverse a 100 feet then climb back up to the dreaded ridge line tightrope walk.  It was easier on the other side.  I can't believe I did it but, crawling along the rock face with my feet and hands jammed in rock cracks I made it over, then back up onto the scary narrow ridge.  I dropped down a few feet off the ridge on the other side where I felt a little safer in the huge boulders.  Then climbed the narrow exposed last 100 feet to the true summit.  Unbelievable feeling of accomplishment!  Ricky, you would be proud!  And the views - FANTASTIC, if not scary!  My legs were like jello. 

I did find a slightly less scary way back off the ridge - first down climbing on one side, traversing, then climbing back up on the ridge for a while and then down climbing the slabs on the other side; instead of returning on my longer but boulder and rock slide prone original approach I came up on.  Watching for rock slides and sliding down steep slabs I quickly made it down the worse parts.  Rumors of a possible class 2 route to the summit sure don't seem true - or at least I never saw how.  Now that I was on the other side of the mountain I stopped to visit John 's high camp by the lake at the brink of Shepherds pass and look over the lip of the pass.  Very  neat place.  John asked if I wanted to join him on another 14,000 foot peak next door in the morning but my jello legs (was it stress or exhaustion?) said not this trip.  

Then the long hike back to my gear stored in the bear box.  At 8pm, I had started on the Shepherd's path at 1pm, I found a note in the bear box that the Tyndall Creek Ranger had taken all my gear back to the ranger station at least a mile back on the trail.  I tried to hold my anger wondering WHY?  Then the hike backward on the PCT and down to the ranger station as darkness fell.  Turns out I had dated my note wrong.  I left a note in the bear box with my gear saying I was solo climbing the 14,000 trailess peak and that I would be back that evening.  I started to date it June 31st but realized there were probably only 30 days in June and corrected it to the 1st.  The 1st of JUNE that is.  The range had thought I was missing for over a month!  She took my gear and called in the start of what she calls a wellness check to find out if anyone had heard from me in the last 30 days before they started a search for my body on the slopes of Mt Tyndall.  Well, Guess I can't get too mad because she was concerned for my safety but really?  Anyway, she apologized, gave me a hot chocolate and kept my trash for me.  I then had the hike back a mile in the dark, actually a nice full moon, and set up camp with a small group of JMT hikers.   A very very long day, 10 miles of PCT following yesterdays Whitney summit, and a 12,000 foot climb and 14,000 foot climb with lots of extra miles in between.  My very best day on the trail so far with views and memories to drink in for days!  I'll stop talking about all the deer and marmots sights which are now a daily occurrence.

Scrambling up 12k ft Tawney Point

Tawney Point Register

Shepherds Pass from the slopes of Mt Tyndall

Mt Tyndall Knife Edge

Looking back down the knife edge

Summit of Mt. Tyndall

Summit of Mt. Tyndall

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