Sierra Challenge 2013
Completed 7 days this year with the tragedy of Pat Hadley's death on Day 7. Descriptions of each of the days follows and is also included in the first photo of each day.

Day 1: Mt Florence (8 photos)
Day 2: Clyde Minaret (24 photos)
Day 3: Mt Thompson, et al loop (26 photos)
Day 4: Pilot Knob (10 photos)
Day 5: Mt Prater (20 photos)
Day 6: Mt Baldwin (25 photos)
Day 7: Mt Baxter (23 photos)
Day 8: Pat Hadley Memorial Hike (14 photos)

Day 1 Mt Florence: (alternative challenge peak from Day 1 of the 2006 Challenge) This should have been a warm-up day coming from sea level but didn't turn out so much. The hike was JD's idea but because of ankle issues, he cancelled at the last second. After ten miles of trail, I finally started the 4 mile cross-country to Mt Florence. Sand and loose rock made the scramble ho hum but the views were outstanding. After reclimbing the 1000' to Vogelsang Pass 2 hours after I had planned to, I decided to postpone Vogelsang Peak to another outing. 14 hours; ~28 miles; 6200' el

Day 2: Clyde Minaret (alternative challenge peak from Day 3 of the 2002 Challenge) I joined Laura and Michael for this classic climb that Laura and I had attempted the previous year. Due to the low snow level, we got to leave our gear at home making this a quick and lighter adventure. After following the trail, we quickly climbed to the ledge and then started up the Rock Route. Sustained and amazingly fun Class 3 climbing ensued for the next 2000'. I talked the group out of moving into Starr's Chute early and so the climbing became even harder and more interesting. Finally, we moved over and climbed the the narrow ridge with a couple of spicy moves getting there. While Michael coached Laura along the wildly exposed ridge, I scurried ahead to the class 4 down climb and went for it. A bit harder to do with my left hand in a full brace still healing from a break 4 weeks earlier. Laura balked at this difficult and exposed down climb a mere 20' below the summit but we didn't have the equipment to make it safe and comfortable for her. After a great down climb, Michael took off with us slowly (although it felt fast) following him. 14 hours; 16 miles; ~4800' el

Day 3: Mt Thompson, et al loop (alternative challenge peak from Day 5 of the 2003 Challenge) It was supposed to be Laura and I but then Joan drove up from San Diego (always a welcome member) plus 4 others (Jim, Jeff, Carol, & Tommey) who had seen the peak listed next to my name as an alternative. What they didn't know was that I was going to reenact a major loop hike that I think Rick Kent pioneered 5-6 years ago. We got started quickly, motored up the Treasure Lakes trail out of South Lake and quickly hit the slabs up to Ski Mountaineers Peak. I think only Joan and I hadn't climbed this peak last year when it was a 1/2 pointer on the Challenge List. After visiting the summit, we dropped down and skirted a wicked gendarme superset to the saddle between Thompson and SMP. Now for the fabled North Ridge which I read was tricky and also scary. It turned out to be neither but an exercise in thinking (we used Tommey as the guinea pig) as the route stays religiously on the east side except for a quick jump over to the west for a 5 minute scramble. All 7 of us made it to the top for awesome views of the mountains ... and the nasty thunderstorm to the south that was drenching our friends on the Black Divide. Tommey headed to Pt Powell, the rest headed home, and I headed to the start of the loop. Crossing Thompson's plateau, I dropped down a nasty & loose class 3/4 chute on the SE side, crossed an even nastier boulder field, and huffed it up the only weakness (a sandy chute) on this side of Gilbert. I don't know if Rick knew it was here when he did his loop but he would have been really screwed if it hadn't been here. Getting to the top of the chute, I noticed I was surrounded by T-storms but still dry. I deviated from Rick's loop by skipping Mt Gilbert (only 300' above me but already climbed once) and headed for Treasure Col and Mt Johnson. This peak was lots of fun and tougher than I expected. As I was started to get hit with light rain, I quickly dropped off the top down a sandy face into the moraine of death. Not really but I was thinking about killing myself after rock hopping for 2 miles ( I have previously been up here only when there is snow covering all those horrible boulders). Hitting the trail, I scurried down to the car, found a note and a beer from Laura, and joined Joan, Jim, and Laura for dinner at the Pizza Factory. 12 hours; ~12 miles; ~6000' el

Day 4: Pilot Knob (alternative challenge peak from Day 3 of the 2005 Challenge) I met the big group at North Lake on Day 4 -- all of us heading for Piute Pass although they would have an easier day doing Keyhole Plateau while I was doing my "rest day" on Pilot Knob. I decided on this peak because it's on the SPS list and I wasn't interested in going up the ridge that I twisted my ankle on 5 years ago. Pilot Knob is easy. Pilot Knob looks close from Piute Pass with a flat approach but don't let that fool you. It's a long way away and there is plenty of vertical topography between you and the summit. But a pleasant hike that allowed me to get to the summit in 5 hours and supplied me with sublime views. After enjoying the top, I dropped quickly after observing the menacing clouds growing over the crest. On the return, I experienced some rain and some rather hard hitting hail (where was my helmet?). Once back on trail, it didn't take that long to return to the car. 10 hours, 21.5 miles, ~4500' el

Day 5: Mt Prater (alternative challenge peak from Day 6 of the 2006 Challenge) I had twisted my other ankle the day before in 2006 so missed out on this fun hike. I was lucky to have Michael joining me (or I was joining him) although he's a much stronger hiker than I am. Fortunately, he was still suffering from the Black Divide superhike and would be going my speed today. This is a wicked trail, both from the drive (thx for Michael's 4WD) and the unrelenting steepness of the trail. Onward and upward in humid, monsooney conditions we went first on trail and then moraine. We got to the "pass" (actually a point on Mt Split's north slope) before dropping down to the saddle between Prater and Split. I looked over at this year's Challenge, Twin Peaks, and couldn't fathom who would want to and be physically able to go over there (but at least 4 did). Michael and I hoofed it up to Prater's summit to find Tommey and JD there and to also learn that Eric had not only been there an hour and 40 minutes before us, but that he continued on to Bolton Brown and then Twin Peaks. He is only 17 but I've never seen someone so young with this kind of ability. I had wanted to climb Bolton Brown but both Michael and I were beat so we headed back down (and part way up to the pass) before dropping back down to the trail. Michael then engaged his descent hiking pace which forced me to alternate between jogging and walking fast. Eric, Jonathon, and Bob all came screaming by running full tilt down the trail. I was just happy enough to get back to the trailhead. 10.25 hours; ~15 miles; ~7300' el

Day 6: Mt Baldwin (bonus peak in 2010) I was tired and sore and wanted to sleep in. The crazy people were headed over to Taboose Pass to climb some obscure mountain west of Pinchot Pass. Have fun with that. I was originally going to do two non-Challenge SPS peaks out of Rock Creek Lake but Laura talked me into Mt Baldwin in Convict Canyon. Other than climbing Mt Morrison, I had never been up this trail before and soon realized how much I was missing. With the exception of the fun but steep scramble up to Bright Dot Lake off the main trail, this is an easier hike that allows you to climb almost all of the way to Mt Baldwin on an old miners trail. Amazing geology, a calcite mine, a bit of rain here and there, and good company made this the rest hike I needed. Topped off by a great dinner at Tom's Place and I was ready for the big hike on Day 7. 9.5 hours; ~13 miles; ~5600' el

Day 7: Mt Baxter . Finally, a real challenge peak from this year .. kind of. Bob gave everyone the choice of any of the peaks around Baxter Pass to climb and I had picked Mt Baxter (another SPS peak) as my choice. I had previously climbed everything else on the SPS list in the area so this naturally made sense. Of course it was the furthest and most elevation gain of any of the peaks. Michael, fresh from a beating on Taboose Pass, also decided on Baxter so away we went. About 20 people started with Pat and Eric running up another of these steep trails that starts in the desert. Michael and I slowly plodded our way up to Baxter Pass -- an 8 mile and 6000' gain. Most people headed towards Diamond North which looked very easy from the pass while I ruefully gazed over at Mt Baxter with the 1000' drop to Baxter Lake before the 2000' climb up. So off we went. After filling up with water, we headed up and Michael picked an exceptionally disagreeable talus chute to climb up. I get to pick next time, Michael! After topping out, we headed for what was marked as the high point only to find that it was on the west end, right next to the easy ridge. After another great Von's sandwich, we headed down and climbed up Acrodeetes before taking a treacherous descent back down to the lake and crawling back up to the pass. At this point, I told Michael to take off because there was no way I was going to try to keep up with him on the descent. So I shuffled down listening to a book on tape and stopping to soak my burning feet in the stream. I was sure that I would have the last car in the parking lot because we had the toughest day of everyone or so we thought. Surprised to find a dozen cars still, I drove over to Bob's motel only to hear about Pat's tragic fall and that there were still quite a few people out on trail (one person didn't get back until 7AM). At that point, it became an evening of sorrow and reflection and the fun surrounding the Challenge quickly evaporated. After we decided to have a memorial hike and eulogy for Pat on Mt Gould, I headed up to Onion Valley to try to get some sleep. 13 hours, ~20 miles; ~11,000'+

Day 8: Pat Hadley Memorial Hike. Wow, this was a tough one as we lost one of our own. The only other serious injury that has ever occurred on a Challenge was in 2006 when Joyce grabbed a loose rock and fell breaking both arms and getting concussed. That one had also been traumatic for me as it was my first Challenge and I was new to the scrambling scene. We gathered in the parking lot for a rather poignant eulogy before starting the hike up to Kearsarge Pass and Mt Gould. At the pass, we talked some more before climbing the additional 1200' to the summit and writing some remembrance words in the log. We all than broke apart -- my goal for the day was a scant mile away on a crappy ridge but I just wasn't interested in doing anything else. So I headed over to the SEKI antenna farm (used to communicate with the backcountry rangers) and took some pictures of the Rae Lakes basin that we would be backpacking in about 7 days. And then off the east side on a descent that I knew nothing about but turned out to be ok. Saying goodbye to Laura and Bob at the motel, I headed home early to spend a couple of days with my wife's family (visiting from Hawaii) before we headed off to do the Rae Lakes Loop.
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